Last edited 28 Feb 2015

Public authority

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) defines a public authority as any body which, any other person who, or the holder of any office which:

  • Is listed in schedule 1, or
  • Is designated by order under section 5, or
  • A publicly-owned company as defined by section 6.

Schedule 1 suggests that public authorities include:

  • Government departments.
  • Legislative bodies.
  • The armed forces.
  • Local government.
  • The National Health Service.
  • The Police.
  • Maintained schools.
  • Further and higher education institutions.
  • Other public bodies, including individually named non-departmental public bodies.

Section 4(4) of the Act permits certain additions to and removals from schedule 1.

Section 5 permits the Secretary of State to designate bodies as public authorities if they appear to be carrying out functions of a public nature or are contracted to provide a service which is a function of a public authority.

Section 6 suggests that a company is publicly-owned if:

  • It is wholly owned by the Crown,
  • It is wholly owned by the wider public sector, or
  • It is wholly owned by the Crown and the wider public sector.

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