Network Rail to Be Blocked From UK FOI

21 August 2014

By Mathew Burgess

The author writes the blog FOI Directory where this article first appeared Aug. 15. Since publication, the Train Drivers’ Union issued a statement.

Network Rail is due to be reclassified as a public body on 1st September however it is being reported that David Cameron will block its inclusion in the Freedom of Information Act.

The Telegraph and the Financial Times have both reported that Freedom of Information Laws will be opened up to the biggest energy companies in the country, while Network Rail’s potential inclusion in the Act will be scrapped.

The Minster responsible Freedom of Information, Lib Dem Simon Hughes, spoke to both of the papers as well as other unnamed sources, one of which named David Cameron as being responsible for the U-turn.

A ‘Whitehall figure’ told the Financial Times:

“[David] Cameron is blocking the Network Rail extension. This is another barnacle that No 10 sees on their ship, even though it is hugely popular and in the public interest.”

Campaigners have been fighting for Network Rail, who took control of the rail services in 2002, to be subject to the Act for many years.

Three years ago a government committee said that the organisation should be subject to FOI laws.

In the build up to the 2010 General Election the Conservatives said they would extend FOI to Network Rail.

It appears that there is some internal conflict on Network Rail as the Telegraph report:

Mr Hughes said he hoped to sign off the extension of FOI to Network Rail yesterday but that “as of this minute somewhere in Tory central command there is a ‘we don’t want to go there’ with Network Rail, surprisingly and disappointingly”.

Consultation(s) coming

Hughes, in speaking to both of the papers, has indicated that consultations on changing the Act will begin in coming weeks.

Earlier this year he announced that there would be two consultations into the Act one, which has been alluded to, looking at who the Act applies to and the other looking at the scope of the Act.

The latter could be looking at limiting what can be disclosed under the Act.

The FT say a consultation could be announced very soon:

He signalled his determination to press on with a wider review of the FOI law in the run-up to next year’s election, and hoped to publish the consultation next month. 

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