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United Kingdom/ 5.1 General legislation  

5.1.10 Other areas of general legislation

The Freedom of Information Act (FOI) enables anyone to request information from a public authority which has functions in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (Scottish public authorities are subject instead to the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002). The Acts provide a general right of access to information held by the authorities and obliges all public bodies, including government departments, Arts Councils, public culture services (British Museum, British Library, British Council, National Lottery Commission, etc) to disclose information within 20 working days of a request, providing there is no specific exemption. There are no requirements of residence, domicile or citizenship in order for a person (which can include a company) to be entitled to make a request. All types of recorded information, e.g. electronic or paper-based, are included in the disclosure requirements.

Following on from the 2002 publication Private Action, Public Benefit, the government's wide-ranging review of charities and the voluntary sector, the Charities Act 2006 made the Charity Commission responsible for assessing the public benefit of charities and ensuring they are "charitable". Charities need to prove that all their activities conform to the principle of "providing public benefit" and have to register with evidence of this. If charities (including arts companies) are found to be failing in the delivery of public benefit, the Commission is empowered to enforce change, even as far as directing organisations' assets towards charitable purposes.

The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA), introduced in 1997, continues to be revised and updated in order to protect disabled people from discrimination in a wide range of areas such as accessing education services, public transport and gaining physical access to premises, as well as legislation to ensure equal access to employment. Extensive legal guidelines came into force in May 2004 to ensure that new and existing non-domestic buildings are designed to be accessible to, and useable by, people with mobility and sensory impairments.

The Equality Act 2006 is the latest amendment to the DDA and transferred the role of the Disability Rights Commission to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), which has powers to issue guidance on and enforce all the equality enactments (race, sex, disability, religion and belief, sexual orientation and age). See:

Regulations banning smoking in premises that serve food to the public are in force.

Chapter published: 15-04-2011

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