Public Authorities open their records

Freedom of Information Act 2000 comes into force

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 came into force today.  Under the Act, anyone may request recorded information on any topic from any public authority exercising functions in England, Wales or Northern Ireland.

Applications may be made simply by writing to the relevant body.  Applicants then have two separate rights: to be told whether the information exists and to have it communicated to them.

The Act includes numerous exemptions, under which authorities can refuse requests for information.  These include that complying with the request would be too expensive, that the information constitutes legal advice, was obtained during an investigation by the police or prosecuting authorities, or that its disclosure would be a breach of confidence.  Many of the exemptions are subject to a public interest test.

5RB‘s Jonathan Barnes gave a talk on the new act to the CLT Conference in November 2004. Click here to be taken to the 5RB news item and notes from the talk.