The Freedom of Information Act may be extended to charities, it has been claimed.

It has been reported that government officials are considering increasing the scope of the FOI laws to cover charitable bodies.

The Times has said the highly controversial Independent Commission that’s reviewing FOI laws is thinking about the extension to the charitable sector.

The Times wrote: “Proposals to charge more for requests and to make it easier to refuse requests on costs grounds, are likely to be scrapped.

“Ministers are also going cold on extending the exemptions to make it easier to rule out the disclosure of internal cabinet discussions — a key focus for the head of the civil service Sir Jeremy Heywood.The story follows a Christmas Day article from the Telegraph that claims Cabinet Office minister Matt Hancock wants to see FOI powers covering charities.

The idea comes in the wake of the Kids’ Company scandal, which saw the charity collapse after receiving more than £50m across its lifetime.

Charities, generally, aren’t covered by the FOI Act as they are not classed as public authorities in the legislation (and no consideration is taken as to how much public funding is received). The Charity Commission, which relates charities, is covered by the Act though.

However, the paper also reports that the government is likeminded to continue in its attempts to increase the power of the ministerial veto to help politicians block publication of information.

It’s likely that the small concession around increasing transparency provisions for charities is well placed spin by officials.

The Commission has come under such heavy criticism for its loaded proposals that any pro-transparency position that can be portrayed will be a minor victory for its Cabinet Office-based PR manager.

In reality any proposal for charities to be included under the Act – rightly, or wrongly – will most likely be opposed (on a cost burden, for one thing) by charities themselves.

I am a journalist and author. I am a journalist at the UK edition of WIRED magazine. In 2015, my first book Freedom of Information: A Practical Guide for UK Journalists, was published. My second book Reed Hastings: Building Netflix, was published in March 2020. I created FOI Directory in 2012 and have maintained it in my spare since ever since.