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Freedom of Information

Constitutional Affairs written question – answered on 16th February 2006.

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Photo of Andrew Gwynne Andrew Gwynne PPS (Rt Hon Baroness Scotland of Asthal, Minister of State), Home Office

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs if she will take steps to ensure that the minutes of the board meetings of external organisations operating public services on behalf of local authorities are made available for public scrutiny.

Photo of Harriet Harman Harriet Harman Minister of State (Department of Constitutional Affairs), Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

Under section 5 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the FoI Act), external organisations operating public services on behalf of local authorities can be brought within the FoI Act. This would give the public a right to request the board meeting minutes where they related to the provision of the public services.

Information relating to the provision of public services by local authority contractors is already available for public scrutiny. For example, the terms of the contract and performance of the contractor are open to inspection and inquiry by those authorities' overview and scrutiny committees. Meetings of, and documents considered by, a local authority committee are open to public access by virtue of provisions of the Local Government Act 1972. All information held by a local authority, including that provided by a contractor, is subject to the provisions of the FoI Act.

No organisations have yet been brought within the FoI Act using section 5 of the FoI Act. We will assess whether the current levels of accountability enable sufficient public scrutiny of local authority contractors before considering whether a legislative approach is appropriate.

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