The Freedom of Information Act 2000 (c.36) is an Act of Parliament of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that creates a public "right of access" to information held by public authorities. It is the implementation of freedom of information legislation in the United Kingdom on a national level. Its application is limited in Scotland (which has its own freedom of information legislation) to UK Government offices geo-located in Scotland. The Act implements a manifesto commitment of the Labour Party in the 1997 general election, developed by Dr David Clark as a 1997 White Paper. The final version of the Act is believed to have been diluted from that proposed while Labour was in opposition. The full provisions of the act came into force on 1 January 2005.
The Act is the responsibility of the Lord Chancellor's Department (now renamed the Ministry of Justice). The Act led to the renaming of the Data Protection Commissioner (set up to administer the Data Protection Act), who is now known as the Information Commissioner. The Office of the Information Commissioner oversees the operation of the Act.
A second freedom of information law is in existence in the UK, the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (asp 13). It was passed by the Scottish Parliament in 2002, to cover public bodies over which the Holyrood parliament, rather than Westminster, has jurisdiction. For these institutions, it fulfils the same purpose as the 2000 Act.
Around 120,000 requests are made each year. Private citizens made 60% of them, with businesses and journalists accounting for 20% and 10% respectively. Journalists' requests took up more of officials' time than businesses' and individuals' requests. The Act cost £35.5 million in 2005.
|Freedom of Information Act 2000|
|Long title||An Act to make provision for the disclosure of information held by public authorities yes 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.|
|Citation||2000 c. 36|
|Territorial extent||England and Wales; Scotland; Northern Ireland|
|Royal assent||30 November 2000|
|Commencement||30 November 2000 (part)|
30 January 2001 (part)
14 May 2001 (part)
|Relates to||Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002|
Status: Current legislation
|Text of statute as originally enacted|
|Text of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 as in force today (including any amendments) within the United Kingdom, from legislation.gov.uk.|
The act implements what was a manifesto commitment of the Labour Party in the 1997 general election. Before its introduction, there had been no right of access to government by the general public, merely a limited voluntary framework for sharing information.
The act was preceded by a 1998 White paper, Your Right to Know, by Dr David Clark. The White paper was met with widespread enthusiasm, and was described at the time as being "almost too good to be true" by one advocate of freedom of information legislation. The final act was substantially more limited in scope than the initial white paper.
A draft Bill was published in May 1999; the Bill was extensively debated in the House of Commons and the House of Lords, and received royal assent in November 2000.
The Freedom of Information Act creates a statutory right for access to information in relation to bodies that exercise functions of a public nature, three different kinds of bodies are covered under the act. Public Authorities, publicly owned companies and designated bodies performing public functions.
In principle, the freedom of information act applies to all "public authorities" within the United Kingdom, a full list of "public authorities" for the purposes of the act is included in Schedule 1. Government departments, the Houses of Parliament, the Northern Ireland Assembly, the Welsh Assembly, the armed forces, local government bodies, National Health Service bodies, schools, colleges and universities, police authorities and Chief Officers of Police are included within this list, which ranges from the Farm Animal Welfare Council to the Youth Council for Northern Ireland. A few government departments are expressly excluded from the scope of the act, principally Intelligence services.
As government departments are closed and created, the act must be continually updated. s4 of the Act empowers the Secretary of State for constitutional affairs to add a body or officeholder to Schedule 1 as a public authority if they are created statute or prerogative; and its members are appointed by the government.
It is important to note that for some public authorities listed under Schedule 1, the act has limited effect. For example, the BBC is subject to the act only for information which is not held for the purposes of journalism, art or literature, to prevent its journalistic activities from possible compromise. The scope of this provision was considered in the recent High Court decision of BBC v Sugar an internal BBC document examining the BBC coverage of the Middle East for potential bias. The appellants in that case argued that the document had been produced for both operational and journalistic reasons, and so should not be covered by the partial exemption provided in the act. The High Court rejected this argument; Mr Justice Irwin considered that the meaning of journalism within the act meant that any information held for such purposes was covered by the exemption:
My conclusion is that the words in the Schedule mean the BBC has no obligation to disclose information which they hold to any significant extent for the purposes of journalism, art or literature, whether or not the information is also held for other purposes. The words do not mean that the information is disclosable if it is held for purposes distinct from journalism, art or literature, whilst it is also held to any significant extent for those listed purposes. If the information is held for mixed purposes, including to any significant extent the purposes listed in the Schedule or one of them, then the information is not disclosable.
A 4:1 majority (Lord Wilson dissenting) of the Supreme Court upheld this decision, stating that the disclosure of any information held for the purposes of journalism, art or literature was to be excluded - even if the information was predominantly held for other purposes.
Companies that fall within the definition of a publicly owned company under s6 of the Act automatically fall within its grasp. S6 provides that a company is publicly owned if:
Under s5 of the act the Secretary of State may designate further bodies as public authorities under the act, provided that those bodies are exercising a function of a public nature or contracting to provide a service whose provision is a function of a public authority. The first order under section 5 (in November 2011) extended the list of public authorities to also include the Association of Chief Police Officers, the Financial Ombudsman Service and UCAS.
The act creates a general right of access, on request, to information held by public authorities. On receipt of a freedom of information claim a public authority has two corresponding duties. First, a duty to inform a member of the public whether or not it holds the information requested (s1(1)(a)), and second, if it does hold that information, to communicate it to the person making that request (s1(1)(b)). As the corollary to this, the Act thus grants the equivalent rights to a confirmation or denial and communication of relevant information to an individual making a request under the act. The basic duty is supplemented by an additional duty to aid individuals in making requests and ensuring that they frame their FOI requests appropriately. (s.16(1))
However, there are numerous exemptions. Some of these are absolute bars to disclosure; some are qualified, which means the public authority has to decide whether the public interest in disclosing the relevant information outweighs the public interest in maintaining the exemption. An applicant for information who considers that a request has been wrongly rejected may apply to the Information Commissioner, who has the power to order disclosure. However, such orders can be appealed to a specialist tribunal (the Information Tribunal) and in some circumstances the Government has the power to override orders of the Information Commissioner.
Any person can request information under the act; this includes legal entities such as companies. There is no special format for a request. Applicants do not need to mention the Act when making a request. Applicants do not have to give a reason for their request.
Although the Act covers a wide range of government information, the act contains a variety of provisions that provide for the exemption from disclosure of certain types of information. The act contains two forms of exemption. "Absolute" exemptions that are not subject to any public interest assessment, they act as absolute bars to the disclosure of information and "qualified" exemptions where a public interest test must be made, balancing the public interest in maintaining the exemption against the public interest in disclosing the information. The original Freedom of Information White Paper proposed only seven such exemptions, but the final Bill included 24.
Exemptions designated "absolute exemptions" have no public interest test attached. The act contains eight such exemptions:
If information falls within a qualified exemption, it must be subject to a public interest test. Thus, a decision on the application of a qualified exemption operates in two stages. First, a public authority must determine whether or not information is covered by an exemption and then, even if it is covered, the authority must disclose the information unless the application of a public interest test indicated that the public interest favours non-disclosure. Qualified exemptions can be sub-divided into two further categories: class-based exemptions covering information in particular classes, and harm-based exemptions covering situation where disclosure of information would be liable to cause harm.
Under these exemptions the exemption applies (subject to the public interest test) if complying with the duty under s.1 would or would be likely to:
A public authority is not obliged to comply with a request for information if the request is vexatious.(s14(1)) A request is considered vexatious if it is ‘obsessive or manifestly unreasonable’, harasses the authority or causes distress to its staff, imposes a significant burden, or if the request lacks any serious value.
The Act affects over 100,000 public bodies including government departments, schools and councils. The Act came into force in phases, with the final "general right of access" to public information under the Act coming into force on 1 January 2005. As well as the "general right of access", the Act places a duty on public authorities to adopt and maintain pro-active "publication schemes" for the routine release of important information (such as annual reports and accounts). These publication schemes must be approved by the Information Commissioner. In general, public authorities have 20 working days to respond to an information request, though this deadline can be extended in certain cases and/or with the agreement of the requester. Under the Act, public authorities are encouraged to enter into a dialogue with the requester to better determine the information they want, and the format they want it in - in itself, a change in the way UK authorities interact with the public. Requests can be refused if they cost more than £600, including time spent searching for files. The UK Government established the Access to Information Central Clearing House in order to ensure consistency across Central Government in the way requests are handled.
Three features of the UK Freedom of Information Act deserve special mention, as they differ from the position in many other countries.
At the time of the passing of the Act, advocates of freedom of information legislation were critical of the bill for its complexity, limited scope and the inclusion of a ministerial veto. Lord Mackay criticised the bill in the House of Lords as "toothless" for its inclusion of provisions allowing ministers to veto applications.
By contrast, the former prime minister (Tony Blair) responsible for passing the Act regards it as "One of the biggest mistakes of his career". He says that "For political leaders, it's like saying to someone who is hitting you over the head with a stick, 'Hey, try this instead', and handing them a mallet. The information is neither sought because the journalist is curious to know, nor given to bestow knowledge on 'the people'. It's used as a weapon." Labour peer Lord Falconer has criticised the use of the act by journalists for "fishing expeditions" into salacious stories, arguing that "FoI is not for press[,] it is for the people. It needs to be properly used in order to promote good Government. Information needs to be handled responsibly, and I strongly believe that there is a duty of responsibility on behalf of the media as well."
In the article Freedom of Information: A sheep in wolf's clothing? Rodney Austin offers the following criticisms of the substance of the Act:
The legislation has also been criticised for "loopholes" that allow authorities to avoid disclosing information in certain situations. Companies owned by one public authority are generally subject to the Act but companies owned by two or more public authorities are not covered.
Facts that have been brought to light by this Act include:
The Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill was a private member's bill introduced to the British House of Commons in 2007 which failed to become law. Conservative MP David Maclean introduced the bill to ensure that MPs' correspondence was exempt from freedom of information laws. The then leader of the Liberal Democrats, Sir Menzies Campbell, said there should not "be one law for MPs and a different law for everyone else" and that the Bill might make it appear as though "Parliament has something to hide". However, this failed to pass the first reading in the House of Lords.
Further to this, Lord Falconer made comments suggesting that time spent deciding whether or not information fell under an exemption clause should be included in the £600 cost limit. Consultation was carried out, with the government saying the change would cut costs and discourage requests for trivial information, although critics said that it was to keep embarrassing information secret.
The administration of justice is the process by which the legal system of a government is executed. The presumed goal of such administration is to provide justice for all those accessing the legal system. The phrase is also used commonly to describe a University degree (as in: a BA in Administration of Justice), which can be a prerequisite for a job in law enforcement or government.Banking (Special Provisions) Act 2008
The Banking (Special Provisions) Act 2008 (c 2) is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that entered into force on the 21 February 2008 in order to enable the UK government to nationalise high-street banks under emergency circumstances by secondary legislation. The Act was introduced in order to nationalise the failing bank Northern Rock after the bank was supported by Bank of England credit and a private-sector solution was deemed "not to provide sufficient value for the taxpayer" by the UK government.
Opposition to the Act by the Conservatives was based on: the Bill providing an exemption to the Freedom of Information Act 2000, the large liabilities to the taxpayer and the alleged lack of independence from the government. The Bill was also sufficiently widely drawn to allow the nationalisation of any financial institution, leading to the concern that other banks might be in financial difficulty.After the nationalisation of Northern Rock, the Act allowed for the nationalisation of the mortgage and personal loan book of Bradford & Bingley on 29 September 2008.On 8 October 2008, the Treasury announced that an order under the Act was being used to transfer all retail deposits with Heritable Bank, a UK-based banking subsidiary of the failing Icelandic bank Landsbanki, and Kaupthing Edge to ING Direct. However section 2(8) of the Act provides that the Treasury may only make Transfer Orders under the Act for a maximum of a year after its passage. The Act therefore expired on 21 February 2009, when it was superseded by the Banking Act 2009.Campaign for Freedom of Information
The Campaign for Freedom of Information is an advocacy group that promotes and defends freedom of information in the UK. It seeks to strengthen the public’s rights under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and related laws and opposes attempts to weaken them. It does this through campaigning, the publication of briefings and other reports and research. The Campaign also provides advice to the public, assistance to people challenging unreasonable refusals to disclose information and runs training courses on freedom of information.
The Campaign is a not-for-profit company, unaffiliated to any political party, (registration number 1781526) governed by a board of non-executive directors. It is funded mainly by grants from charitable foundations, donations and income from training. Maurice Frankel has been its director since 1987.Corporate Officer of the House of Commons v Information Comr
Corporate Officer of the House of Commons v Information Commissioner  EWHC 1084 (Admin) was the legal case which resulted from the attempt to prevent the disclosure of the expense claims of Members of Parliament of the United Kingdom under the Freedom of Information Act 2000. The House of Commons lost the case.Elizabeth Cross
The Elizabeth Cross is a commemorative emblem given to the recognised next of kin of members of the British Armed Forces killed in action or as a result of a terrorist attack after the Second World War. It bears the name of the current British monarch, Queen Elizabeth II.Environmental Information Regulations 2004
The Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIR) is a UK Statutory Instrument (SI 2004 No. 3391) that provides a statutory right of access to environmental information held by UK public authorities. The regulations came into force on 1 January 2005. The regulations were made by the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs under the authority provided by the European Communities Act 1972, entering into force on 1 January 2005, along with the Freedom of Information Act 2000. The Regulations covers UK Central Government and public authorities in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Scottish public authorities are covered by the Environmental Information Regulations (Scotland) 2004 (EISR).Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002
The Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (asp 13) was an Act of the Scottish Parliament passed in 2002. It covers public bodies over which the Scottish Parliament has jurisdiction, fulfilling a similar purpose to the UK-level Freedom of Information Act 2000. It, too, came into force at the beginning of 2005.
Not all public bodies situated in Scotland fall under this remit - Scottish-based departments of the Ministry of Defence, for example, are not subject to the Scottish Parliament, and thus would be covered by the 2000 Act not the 2002 Act. Similarly the Scottish parts of UK-wide bodies such as the Forestry Commission (which is headquartered in Scotland) are subject to the 2000 Act rather than the 2002 Act, even though they fall within the remit of the Scottish Parliament. The Act also created a Scottish Information Commissioner, whose duties were similar to those of the Information Commissioner, but limited to the bodies covered by the 2002 Act.
Whilst the two Acts are similar in principle, there are some significant differences in implementation; as a rule, the Scottish Act is more strongly worded. For example, the Scottish test for public interest is stated in terms of "substantial prejudice" rather than "prejudice", which is clearly a higher standard, and imposes a stricter time limit in cases where public interest has to be considered. It contains explicit mention of disability access rights and the duties incumbent on a body which does not have the information requested, both of which are lacking in the 2000 Act, and provides for an objective test (rather than "the reasonable opinion of a qualified person") to determine if the public interest means information should be withheld.
The 2002 Act established a Scottish Information Commissioner, but no tribunal; any appeals against the Commissioner would go to the Court of Session.Freedom of Information Act
Freedom of Information Act may refer to the following legislations in different jurisdictions which mandate the national government to disclose certain data to the general public upon request:
Freedom of Information Act 1982, the Australian act
Freedom of Information Act (United States) of 1966
Freedom of Information Act 2000, the UK act
Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002
Freedom of Information Act in PakistanSee Freedom of information laws by country for similar laws in other jurisdictions.Freedom of information in the United Kingdom
Freedom of information legislation in the United Kingdom is controlled by two Acts of the United Kingdom and Scottish Parliaments respectively, which both came into force on 1 January 2005.
Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the "2000 Act")
Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 ("the 2002 Act" or "the Scottish Act")Certain information can only be obtained under the Environmental Information Regulations 2004.
As a large number of public bodies in Scotland (for example, educational bodies) are controlled by the Scottish Parliament, the 2000 Act would not apply to them, and thus a second Act of the Scottish Parliament was required. It should, however, be noted that the scope of the two Acts is effectively identical - the types of public bodies covered in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are also covered in Scotland - and the requirements are almost identical, though the Scottish Act has slightly stronger phrasing in favour of disclosing information.
The 2000 Act does not extend to public bodies in the overseas territories or crown dependencies. Some of these have contemplated implementing their own legislation, though none is currently in force.Information Commissioner's Office
The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO; stylised as ico.) in the United Kingdom, is a non-departmental public body which reports directly to Parliament and is sponsored by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). It is the independent regulatory office (national data protection authority) dealing with the Data Protection Act 2018 and the General Data Protection Regulation, the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003 across the UK; and the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and, to a limited extent, in Scotland.Information Tribunal
The Information Tribunal was a tribunal non-departmental public body in the United Kingdom. It was established as the Data Protection Tribunal to hear appeals under the Data Protection Act 1984. Its name was changed to reflect its wider responsibilities under other freedom of information legislation, as it then heard appeals from notices issued by Information Commissioner under two Acts of Parliament, the Data Protection Act 1998 and the Freedom of Information Act 2000, and two related Statutory Instruments, the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003 and the Environmental Information Regulations 2004.
In 2010 the tribunal became part of the General Regulatory Chamber of the First-tier Tribunal, referred to as the First-tier Tribunal (Information Rights), as part of the reform of the structure of the UK system of tribunals.
The last Chairman of the tribunal was lawyer John Angel, formerly of Clifford Chance, and now a consultant with Jomati and a Visiting Professorial Fellow at Queen Mary, University of London. There were nine Deputy Chairmen, all of whom were experienced solicitors or barristers.Jeremy Hayes (radio editor)
Jeremy Hayes is a news editor who works for the British Broadcasting Corporation. Until April 2012 he was Senior Output Editor of the BBC Radio 4 current affairs programme The World Tonight.In May 2009 Mr Hayes produced a report for the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism on the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and its implementation by journalists and government, entitled " A Shock to the System ". From 2012-2013 he was Editor, Rural Affairs, BBC Audio and Music. From January 2014-June 2014 he was an Assistant Editor, The World at One on BBC Radio 4. He is currently Senior Editorial Adviser to the Director of News, BBC.Members' Expenses Committee
The Members' Expenses Committee, until July 2011 called the Members' Allowances Committee, is a select committee of the British House of Commons, the lower house of the United Kingdom Parliament. The committee advises the Members Estimates Committee and the Leader of the House of Commons on any potential developments in the allowances system for members of the Commons.
The committee was established on 22 January 2009 as one of several motions put forward by the government attempting to deal with the issue of MPs' expenses which were due to be released under the Freedom of Information Act 2000. The committee was also asked to propose an interim system of expenses and allowances for MPs shortly after the MPs' expenses scandal broke in May 2009.The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) was created in answer to the expenses scandal, and the Speaker's Committee on IPSA to oversee it. As a result, the committee lay dormant from the May 2011 general election until July 2011. The committee was renamed, with the expectation of new members being appointed, amid marked dissatisfaction with the expenses scheme developed by IPSA. Its task was to report back to the House on the operations of the Parliamentary Standards Act 2009 (which established IPSA) with due consideration to the following:
value for money for taxpayers
public confidence in Parliament
the ability of members to fulfill their duties effectively
fairness for less well-off members and those with families
whether members are deterred from submitting legitimate claimsNottinghamshire Police
Nottinghamshire Police is the territorial police force responsible for policing the shire county of Nottinghamshire and the unitary authority of Nottingham in the East Midlands of England. The area has a population of just over 1 million.
The force headquarters are found at Arnold. As of March 2013 the force had an establishment of 2,095 police officers, and 381 Special Constables. The Chief Constable is Craig Guildford who has held the position since February 2017.Nottinghamshire Police Authority was disbanded on 15 November 2012 when the first Police and Crime Commissioners were elected. Paddy Tipping was named as Nottinghamshire Police and Crime Commissioner on 16 November 2012.On Expenses
On Expenses is a 2010 British television film directed by Simon Cellan Jones and starring Anna Maxwell Martin as Heather Brooke and Brian Cox as Michael Martin.
The film documents the true story of American journalist Heather Brooke's attempt to get expenses claims of Members of Parliament released under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and Speaker Michael Martin's battle to prevent it.Heather Brooke herself appeared in the production in a non-speaking role playing the part of an unnamed MP sitting on the government benches in a scene where Michael Martin is elected to the position of Speaker of the House of Commons.Public Records Act 1958
The Public Records Act 1958 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom forming the main legislation governing public records in the United Kingdom.
It established a cohesive regulatory framework for public records at the Public Record Office and other places of deposit. It also transferred responsibility for public records from the Master of the Rolls to the Lord Chancellor. The Act stipulated that records would be transferred to the Public Record Office 30 years after creation and that most would be opened 50 years after creation. Subsection 3(4) of the Act allowed government departments to retain records that were either still in use 30 years after creation or were of special sensitivity, such as intelligence agency materials and weapons of mass destruction information. The time of opening was subsequently reduced to 30 years by the Public Records Act 1967 and then access was completely redefined as being on creation, unless subject to an exemption, by the Freedom of Information Act 2000.
The Australian Constitution (Public Record Copy) Act 1990 was passed in 1990 on the request of Australia to allow the original copy of the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act 1900 to be permanently removed from the Public Records Office and given to Australia. The UK government agreed as a gift to celebrate the bicentenary of British settlement in Australia.South East England Regional Assembly
South East England Regional Assembly (SEERA) was the regional chamber for the South East England region of the England. Regional Chambers were established by the Regional Development Agencies Act 1998 and their function of consultation was shown in Section 8 of the Act. It was based at Guildford until it was dissolved on 31 March 2009, with its functions being assumed by the South East England Partnership Board, which comprises members of SEEDA board, the Regional Development Agency and the South East England Leaders’ Board, the executive body of South East England Councils.Welsh Government sponsored bodies
Welsh Government sponsored bodies (WGSBs) (Welsh: Corff (plural: Cyrff) a Noddir gan Lywodraeth Cymru, CNLC) are non-departmental public bodies directly funded by the Welsh Government. Under the Government of Wales Act 1998 they were sponsored by the National Assembly for Wales and were known as Assembly Sponsored public bodies, and this was changed by the Schedule 3 of the Wales Act 2017 which amended the Government of Wales Act 2006.Welsh Government sponsored bodies undertake various functions on behalf of Welsh Ministers, but operate independently of the Welsh Government. Corporate governance is performed by a Chair and Board for each sponsored body, who are appointed by Welsh Ministers, in accordance with governance code established by the Commissioner for Public Appointments. The role and governance of sponsored bodies was made stated by Ken Skates (Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Infrastructure), in a written statement to the National Assembly,
Sponsored bodies have expertise and experience in specialist areas, and are valued partners who support and contribute towards many Welsh Government strategic initiatives and programmes. In terms of governance, they have separate Chairs and Boards appointed in accordance with the Code of Practice for Ministerial Appointments to Public Bodies.
Sponsored bodies are subject to the Freedom of Information Act 2000, under Section 83, and have been given guidance by the Information Commissioner's Office on they should exercise this responsibility.
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