The Upper Tribunal has decided in Fish Legal v Information Commissioner and others  UKUT 0052 that private water companies are public authorities for the purposes of the Environmental Information Regulations. It also decided that Tribunals (not the High Court) have jurisdiction to decide the question whether or not bodies are public authorities.
Although the question will still have to be decided on a case by case basis, the Tribunal’s decision is based on the fact that water companies have “special powers” which are more than private law rights.
On that basis the decision is important and welcome. Other private organisations running public utilities or services should now expect to provide environmental information to the public.
Harrison Grant represented an interested party, Michael Bruton. He is the successful applicant in the decision that the Duchy of Cornwall is a public authority (Bruton v Information Commissioner and another (EA/2010/0182). The Duchy’s appeal against that decision was stayed pending the determination of the questions for the European Court and their application in the case of Fish Legal which, provided there is no appeal in Fish Legal, will now be heard soon.