Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Waterways Minister pre-empts BW consultation and says Canal & River Trust will be subject to FoI Act

Waterways Minister Richard Benyan: Picture by Bob Naylor©
The Waterways Minister, Richard Benyon has made it clear in a statement to Parliament that despite the protests of the eight Transition Trustees that the Freedom of Information Act would place an unfair and discriminatory burden on the charity they will, nonetheless, be bound by the legislation.

Eleven days before the closing date of the consultation Chippenham MP Duncan Hames asked Waterways Minister, Richard Benyon what plans he had to ensure the new Trust's decision-making is transparent and accountable and would he consider applying to it the Freedom of Information Act?

Richard Benyon responded, saying: "I am grateful for the opportunity to point out that all the provisions that currently exist for British Waterways in that regard will follow through to the new charity. If the new charity is to have the credibility that it must have, it is important that we assure all those who really mind about this matter that we are protecting those rights.”

BW Vice Chairman John Bridgeman
Picture by Bob Naylor©
But a few days after the Minister's announcement in Parliament, the Vice Chairman of British Waterways, John Bridgeman, who is one of Transition Trustees for the new charity,  said: "The new charity will not be 'precious' about information. We will disclose as much as we possibly and reasonably can, but that does not mean we should be bound by the Freedom of Information Act... it is a heavy cumbersome tool intended for the public sector — and we are coming out of the public sector. This new charity has a hell of a challenge anyway keeping the waterways open — we don't think it is fair to bind us to the cumbersome bureaucracy of the FOI Act."

Also read: Exemption from Freedom of Information Act a benefit of charity status says BW Vice Chair

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