FREEDOM of INFORMATION ACT 2000

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An Act to make provision for the disclosure of information held by public authorities or by persons providing services for them and to amend the Data Protection Act 1998 and the Public Records Act 1958; and for connected purposes.

[30th November 2000]

 


 

BE IT ENACTED by the Queen's most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:-

 

Freedom of Information Act 2000

2000 Chapter 36

 

 
ARRANGEMENT OF SECTIONS

PART I
ACCESS TO INFORMATION HELD BY PUBLIC AUTHORITIES
Right to information
Section  
1. General right of access to information held by public authorities.
2. Effect of the exemptions in Part II.
3. Public authorities.
4. Amendment of Schedule 1.
5. Further power to designate public authorities.
6. Publicly-owned companies.
7. Public authorities to which Act has limited application.
8. Request for information.
9. Fees.
10. Time for compliance with request.
11. Means by which communication to be made.
12. Exemption where cost of compliance exceeds appropriate limit.
13. Fees for disclosure where cost of compliance exceeds appropriate limit.
14. Vexatious or repeated requests.
15. Special provisions relating to public records transferred to Public Record Office, etc.
16. Duty to provide advice and assistance.

Refusal of request
17. Refusal of request.

The Information Commissioner and the Information Tribunal
18. The Information Commissioner and the Information Tribunal.

Publication schemes
19. Publication schemes.
20. Model publication schemes.

PART II
EXEMPT INFORMATION
21. Information accessible to applicant by other means.
22. Information intended for future publication.
23. Information supplied by, or relating to, bodies dealing with security matters.
24. National security.
25. Certificates under ss. 23 and 24: supplementary provisions.
26. Defence.
27. International relations.
28. Relations within the United Kingdom.
29. The economy.
30. Investigations and proceedings conducted by public authorities.
31. Law enforcement.
32. Court records, etc.
33. Audit functions.
34. Parliamentary privilege.
35. Formulation of government policy, etc.
36. Prejudice to effective conduct of public affairs.
37. Communications with Her Majesty, etc. and honours.
38. Health and safety.
39. Environmental information.
40. Personal information.
41. Information provided in confidence.
42. Legal professional privilege.
43. Commercial interests.
44. Prohibitions on disclosure.

PART III
GENERAL FUNCTIONS OF SECRETARY OF STATE, LORD CHANCELLOR AND INFORMATION COMMISSIONER
45. Issue of code of practice by Secretary of State.
46. Issue of code of practice by Lord Chancellor.
47. General functions of Commissioner.
48. Recommendations as to good practice.
49. Reports to be laid before Parliament.

PART IV
ENFORCEMENT
50. Application for decision by Commissioner.
51. Information notices.
52. Enforcement notices.
53. Exception from duty to comply with decision notice or enforcement notice.
54. Failure to comply with notice.
55. Powers of entry and inspection.
56. No action against public authority.

PART V
APPEALS
57. Appeal against notices served under Part IV.
58. Determination of appeals.
59. Appeals from decision of Tribunal.
60. Appeals against national security certificate.
61. Appeal proceedings.

PART VI
HISTORICAL RECORDS AND RECORDS IN PUBLIC RECORD OFFICE OR PUBLIC RECORD OFFICE OF NORTHERN IRELAND
62. Interpretation of Part VI.
63. Removal of exemptions: historical records generally.
64. Removal of exemptions: historical records in public record offices.
65. Decisions as to refusal of discretionary disclosure of historical records.
66. Decisions relating to certain transferred public records.
67. Amendments of public records legislation.

PART VII
AMENDMENTS OF DATA PROTECTION ACT 1998
Amendments relating to personal information held by public authorities
68. Extension of meaning of "data".
69. Right of access to unstructured personal data held by public authorities.
70. Exemptions applicable to certain manual data held by public authorities.
71. Particulars registrable under Part III of Data Protection Act 1998.
72. Availability under Act disregarded for purpose of exemption.

Other amendments
73. Further amendments of Data Protection Act 1998.

PART VIII
MISCELLANEOUS AND SUPPLEMENTAL
74. Power to make provision relating to environmental information.
75. Power to amend or repeal enactments prohibiting disclosure of information.
76. Disclosure of information between Commissioner and ombudsmen.
77. Offence of altering etc. records with intent to prevent disclosure.
78. Saving for existing powers.
79. Defamation.
80. Scotland.
81. Application to government departments, etc.
82. Orders and regulations.
83. Meaning of "Welsh public authority".
84. Interpretation.
85. Expenses.
86. Repeals.
87. Commencement.
88. Short title and extent.
 

SCHEDULES
    Schedule 1 - Public authorities.
    Part I - General.
    Part II - Local government.
    Part III - The National Health Service.
    Part IV - Maintained schools and other educational institutions.
    Part V - Police.
    Part VI - Other public bodies and offices: general.
    Part VII - Other public bodies and offices: Northern Ireland.
    Schedule 2 - The Commissioner and the Tribunal.
    Part I - Provision consequential on s. 18(1) and (2).
    Part II - Amendments relating to extension of functions of Commissioner and Tribunal.
    Schedule 3 - Powers of entry and inspection.
    Schedule 4 - Appeal proceedings: amendments of Schedule 6 to Data Protection Act 1998.
    Schedule 5 - Amendments of public records legislation.
    Part I - Amendments of Public Records Act 1958.
    Part II - Amendment of Public Records Act (Northern Ireland) 1923.
    Schedule 6 - Further amendments of Data Protection Act 1998.
    Schedule 7 - Disclosure of information by ombudsmen.
    Schedule 8 - Repeals.
    Part I - Repeal coming into force on passing of Act.
    Part II - Repeals coming into force in accordance with section 87(2).
    Part III - Repeals coming into force in accordance with section 87(3).

 


 

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HMSO Guidance Notes

Information Asset Register and Freedom of Information - a co-ordinated response to information access

This guidance details the role that the Government's Information Asset Register (IAR) plays within Freedom of Information (FOI) Publication Schemes and how the IAR can manage some of the demand that FOI will generate.


Purpose

 

1. This Guidance Note explains how the IAR, and specifically departmental IARs, should contribute usefully to Freedom of Information Publication Schemes and the broader management of information requests under FOI.

 

Background

 

2. The Government's decision to create an Information Asset Register (IAR) was announced in the White Paper The Future Management of Crown Copyright (Cm 4300, 1999) and was subsequently adopted as a recommendation in the UKOnline Action Plan. This initiative responded to widespread frustration by re-users of government information unable to find material. An IAR policy steering group supported by Departmental IAR officers have fleshed out the original proposal to create a working tool that has some 2020 records to date. Details of the current progress of the IAR can be found in the latest IAR Progress Report.


Seminars and Newsletters are produced to keep all those with IAR responsibilities informed about IAR activity and developments.

3. The IAR is a catalogue of unpublished information resources that anyone with web access can search through its web interface inforoute http://www.inforoute.hmso.gov.uk/ in order to identify

  • what information the government holds

  • how useful that information is, and

  • importantly, a contact point to whom requests for the underlying information may be made; requests would be subject to the Open Government Code and, in future, the FOI Act.

Users do not need to know which department may be responsible for a particular subject. Using the inforoute search engine, they will be able to identify which department holds information on a particular subject, some explanations about that information, the format in which it is held and the contact details within the department.

 

4. Each government organisation is responsible for creating the records within its own departmental information asset register. All these separate IARs, collectively, form the Government's Information Asset Register.

 

5. IAR records are created using a template provided by HMSO. This ensures records are in a consistent format regardless of their origin and conforms to the Government Metadata Standard (e-GMS) and Government Category List (GCL), being developed by the Office of the e-Envoy.

 

6. Further information on the role of IAR can be found on the HMSO website at http://www.inforoute.hmso.gov.uk/ or from :

Information Asset Register
e-Services Division
Room 1.30
Admiralty Arch
North Side
The Mall
London
SW1A 2WH

Tel: 020 7276 5202
Fax: 020 7276 5207
e-mail: inforoute

 

Freedom of Information

 

7. The Freedom of Information Act 2000 was passed on 30 November 2000. It gives a general right of access to recorded information held by public authorities, sets out exemptions from that right and places a number of obligations on government departments amongst other bodies.

 

8. Subject to the exemptions, any person who makes a request to a department for information must be informed whether the department holds that information and if so, that information must be supplied. In general, a response must be provided within 20 working days.

 

9. Every department will be required to adopt and maintain a Publication Scheme, by 30 November 2002, setting out how it intends to publish the information it holds, including:

  • the classes of information the department publishes;

  • the manner in which the information is published, and;

  • whether it is free of charge or on payment.

 10. Where information is already accessible because it is covered by a department's Publication Scheme, the department will not then be required to provide the information in response to an individual request. In this way Publication Schemes should reduce the burden on departments in dealing with information requests..

11. Further information on Freedom of Information is available from the Office of the Information Commissioner. Their website at http://www.dataprotection.gov.uk/ is a useful starting point for such enquiries, or you can e-mail them at mail@dataprotection.gov.uk.

 

Environmental Regulations 1992

 

12. The Environmental Information Regulations 1992 (SI 1992 No. 3240) require the release, on request, of a wide range of information, including all information on all aspects of the environment and any activities, measures, plans, policies, programmes or decisions likely to affect the environment.

 

A Co-ordinated Approach - FOI and IAR

 

13. Departments are required to prepare both an IAR and a FOI Publication Scheme. These two initiatives are complementary.

 

14. While much departmental effort has focused on Publication Schemes and the need to meet this first requirement, it is apparent that FOI and the Environmental Information Regulations will create a demand for information that may not be covered by the departmental Publication Schemes. When used appropriately, the IAR can help to manage the demand for information beyond that which is covered by the Publication Schemes.

 

15. Publication Schemes aim to reduce the number of individual requests by publishing proactively the information most likely to be requested. However, many information resources may not be included in Publication Schemes. This may be because the material could not be made widely available without considerable cost, or there is thought to be limited interest in it. However, such information resources should already be included in departmental IARs, which detail information that may be of interest, yet is not published.

 

16. By highlighting the IAR and inforoute within a departmental Publication Scheme, users will be able to further their enquiry beyond information that is published. By doing so, it should be possible for users to identify the department that holds the information they require. This will eliminate the need for users to make trawling enquiries of a number of departments and reduce the burden on staff.

 

17. Moreover, detailing unpublished information holdings within an IAR allows and encourages users to make a request for a specific information resource and will spare departmental effort. The department will also be able to identify which other department might hold the information requested and the response to the enquirer can be more helpful and provided much more quickly. In this way, comprehensive IARs may contribute considerably to the management of information requests.

 

18. Common standards adopted by IAR, such as the e-Envoy's Government Metadata Standard (GMS) ensure information is presented in a consistent and useful way that brings benefits for both information users and providers. Similarly the Government Category List (GCL) provides common terms and categories across government activity for the benefit of users unfamiliar with the machinery of government.

 

19. When developed appropriately departmental IARs provide a resource beyond the scope of Publication Schemes to identify information users require. In this way IARs can further reduce the burden of implementing FOI within departments.

 

The Role of the United Kingdom Official Publications Bibliography

20. Further guidance on the arrangements for maintaining the complete catalogue of UK official publications, enabling search of and access to all official publications, is set out in the HMSO Guidance Note No.17 - Maintaining the Bibliography of UK Official Publications 

 

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