Heathrow Airport Ltd v Information Commissioner

28 Jun 2021

Information Law, Public Law and Judicial Review

A company sent Heathrow Airport Ltd (“HAL”) what it claimed was a request for information under the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (“EIR”). HAL refused to respond on the basis that it was not a “public authority” within the meaning of the EIR and therefore outside the reach of the EIR. The company made what it said was a complaint to the Information Commissioner (“ICO”). The ICO decided that HAL was a “public authority” on the basis that it was a body that carried out funcitons of public administration: see reg 2(2)(c). HAL appealed to the FTT which upheld HAL’s appeal.

The FTT held:

(1) That it has jurisdiction to determine a jurisdictional precedent fact (in this case, whether or not there had been a “request for information” such as to trigger the application of the EIR).

(2) That in order for a body to be captured by the definition of “public authority” in reg 2(2)(c), that body must both be an enstrustment of the body by national legislation with public administrative functions in relation to the environment and be vested with special powers for the purpose of performing those functions: the two requirements are distinct.

(3) HAL had not been entrusted with public administrative functions in relation to the environment: the statutory provisions relied upon by the ICO were limited and for the purpose of facilitating the operation of the airport.

(4) Applying a cross-check and looking at the wider picture, the business of HAL was not an organic part of what the State does.