From the archives we can see that on 12 November 2008 the ACAS website included the ACAS Publication Scheme this document stated that:
“The Acas publication scheme is drawn up under Section 19 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (opens in a new window).”
Section 19 of the Act states that “It shall be the duty of every public authority to adopt and maintain a scheme” – it would appear that ACAS considered itself to be a public authority for the purposes of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 at the time the publication scheme was published (especially given the reference to Section 19 of the Act).
In November 2008 the ACAS website also included the following: “If you would like to request information from Acas under the Freedom of Information Act, write to us at:”
As late as February 2010 ACAS advised a requester of his right to Appeal to the Information Commissioner.
It appears that by 29 March 2010 they changed their mind:
“On a strict reading of the provisions of the FoIA, Acas is not a ‘public authority’ and as a consequence any information which Acas holds is not susceptible to FoIA disclosure. However, as a mainly publicly funded body, Acas seeks generally to act as if it were subject to the FoIA and to comply with obligations on public authorities subject to the Act, as long as to do so would not breach any reasonable expectations of confidentiality individuals and organisations with whom Acas deals in its dispute resolution and other work might have, or where the release of information would be prejudicial to the conduct of public affairs, or where it was obtained in confidence.”
response 29 March 2010
This is especially confusing as the Information Commissioner has issued a decision notice (FS50086170) in which a complaint against ACAS was upheld – the Commissioner has no power to issue decision notices against bodies not subject to the Act. Further more the ICO specifically considered whether or nor ACAS is a public authority in this decision notice:
“Given the uncertainty as to whether or not ACAS was in fact covered by the Act, the Commissioner made an enquiry of the Department for Constitutional Affairs (DCA, now the Ministry of Justice (MOJ)).Having consulted with the Department for Trade and Industry (DTI), DCA confirmed in an email to the Commissioner that ACAS was covered by the Act by virtue of its relationship with the Department of Trade and Industry (now Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR)).The Commissioner subsequently confirmed this in writing to ACAS on 19 January 2007.”