Privatisation and public access to information in the united Kingdom

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

Abstract

This thesis examines the relationship between privatisation and public access to official information in the United Kingdom. Through a combination of theoretical and empirical analysis, it addresses two main questions: (1) How does privatisation, broadly defined to include outsourcing, affect information access under freedom of information legislation (FOI) and the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIR)? (2) If privatisation negatively affects access to information, then which legal mechanisms are most effective in preserving information rights?The research is grounded in a theoretical framework that considers the historical development and conceptual underpinnings of open government and access to information (ATI) legislation within the UK. This framework provides the context for two case studies and sets out a democratic-expansive vision for extending ATI obligations to private bodies delivering public services or performing ‘functions of a public nature’. To that end, the thesis is situated within the wider scholarly literature on the public-private distinction in administrative law.The two case studies focus on the water industry within the UK and the free schools programme in England. These empirical investigations demonstrate the different ways in which different forms of privatisation affect information access. Through a combination of stakeholder interviews, FOI/EIR requests, and doctrinal analysis, the findings of the case studies indicate that privatisation affects both the scope and the operation of the ATI legislation. The thesis concludes, based on the normative claim that information rights should be preserved in privatised public services, that both legislative reform and amendment to the UK’s ATI laws are needed.
Date of Award7 Jul 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University Of Strathclyde
SponsorsUniversity of Strathclyde
SupervisorMary Neal (Supervisor) & Christopher McCorkindale (Supervisor)

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