The Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the Act) gives the public the right of access to all types of recorded information held by public authorities, but also sets out exemptions from that right. The term ‘public authority’ is defined in the Act and includes all public bodies and Government departments in the United Kingdom (UK).
The purpose of the Act is to make the work of public authorities in the UK more open and transparent to the general public and to ensure greater accountability.
Individuals already have the right of access to information about themselves under the Data Protection Act 2018. As far as public authorities are concerned, the Freedom of Information Act 2000 extends this right to allow public access to all types of recorded information held by public authorities.
The main features of the Act and the duties placed on NILGOSC are:
- a general right of public access to recorded information held by NILGOSC, subject to certain conditions and exemptions.
- a duty to confirm or deny to an applicant whether NILGOSC holds the information requested and to communicate this information, except in the case of applied exemptions.
- a duty to provide advice and assistance to a requestor, even in cases where NILGOSC does not hold the information requested.
- a statutory duty to adopt and maintain a Publication Scheme, approved by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), which sets out the kinds of information NILGOSC should make readily available to the public, without the need for specific written requests.
NILGOSC is fully committed to the implementation of the provisions of the Act.
Key facts about the Act:
- encourages an organisation to be open and transparent.
- applies to Public Authorities.
- affects everyone in the organisation.
- statutory duty to implement.
- allows anyone, no matter who they are or where they live to make a request for information.
- is retrospective in nature.
- works in conjunction with the Data Protection Act.
- 20 working days to respond to request.
- specifies exemptions covering information that does not have to be released.
- requires NILGOSC to set up and maintain a Publication Scheme that tells the public what information is held.
- is regulated by the Information Commissioner’s Office.