Public money and private companies - Can confidentiality clauses be relied on?

The confidentiality clauses that private companies have relied on in the past when contracting with public bodies may no longer be valid now that the Freedom of Information Acts have come into force north and south of the border. And one aspect that many private companies may have overlooked is that the legislation is also retrospective - contracts entered into before 1 January 2005 could be made available on request by public bodies.

A great deal of information about private businesses that has been revealed to public sector bodies over the years may be up for grabs by anyone that asks for it under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act. This could include any piece of information that a public body holds on a private company where that company has tendered for a slice of £5 billion of public sector business. Any information a public body holds about a private company could be the subject of a Freedom of Information request, possibly by a company's fiercest competitor. Information requests could involve contracts, tender documents, minutes of meetings, e-mails, and CCTV footage.

Business community must wake up to effects of new law (Sunday Herald, 23 January 2005)

No Hiding Place (Sunday Herald, 23 January 2003)