We’ve produced a briefing for MPs for the second reading of the Advanced Research and Invention Agency Bill on Tuesday 23rd March 2021.
The government is proposing to exclude ARIA from the FOI Act altogether, on the grounds that the ‘bureaucracy’ of dealing with FOI requests will undermine is ability to do its job. But the bureaucracy which affects science funding bodies has recently been identified by the Science and Technology Committee as resulting from internal government constraints on funders.
The government says ARIA is based on a US model, but the US equivalent of ARIA is covered by the US FOIA and was the subject of just 48 requests in 2019 - a volume of requests which could not conceivably be regarded as an obstacle to ARIA’s success.
With a budget of £800 million, ARIA will be vastly better resourced to answer FOI requests than thousands of small bodies which already comply with the Act, including parish councils, town councils, nursery schools, primary schools, GPs, dentists, opticians and pharmacists police and crime commissioners, internal drainage boards, local healthwatch bodies and many others.