Letter to ICO re FOI requests to ministers
Dear Information Commissioner
I am writing in a personal capacity to seek clarification about the ICO’s approach to requests to specific Government Ministers.
It has come to my attention that the ICO has stated in a letter that “the Ministers for Health” and the “Prime Minister” are not public authorities for the purposes of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 FS50173182 . Is this the ICO’s official position?
“Any government department” is included in the list of public authorities in schedule 1. In Section 84 of the Act defines the term “government department” is define to include “any other body or authority exercising statutory functions on behalf of the Crown”.
The Prime Minister exercises a number of important statutory functions on behalf of the Crown for example the PM has the power to make emergency regulations under section 20 of the Civil Contingencies Act 2004.
In fact, all ministers exercise statutory functions on behalf of the Crown for example the “Power of Ministers and departments to offset greenhouse gas emission” under section 87 of the Climate Change Act 2008.
Even if however the Commissioner takes the view that individual ministers are not public authorities is it not the case that the information they hold in their capacity as ministers is information held by a Government Department or by another person on behalf of a Government department?
Schedule 1 of the Act lists public bodies as oppose to listing employees, directors, agents or officers of such bodies. I consider that this supports my view that one can make a valid FOI request to the Prime Minister or any other Minister.
To be clear I am not interested in information held by ministers in their capacity of being an MP. I am only interested in information they hold by virtue of being a minister.
I would be most grateful if you could provide clarification on this point.