Thursday, 18 November 2010

Law lecture notes Week 8

Freedom Of Information Act

130,000 bodies covered by the act
100,000 requests a year - cost £34m
Journalists requests only accounts for 12%

Politicians claim the FOI has a "chilling effect" on government as they don't feel safe or free to discuss issues that could become  damaging to them if they found their way into a document.

Tony Blair, who brought in the act - "FOI was not a good idea... makes it hard for government to have confidential conversations."

Basic principle of the FOI act;

"Any person making a request for information to a public authority is entitled to have that information communicated to him."

An FOI request must be in writing, email included and it is free.

If it costs more than £600 (£450 for smaller authorities) or if the information is EXEMPT. But you do not have to accept this decision.

Absolute (eg security services, court records)
Qualified (eg ministerial communications, commercial confidentiality)
Where the information is covered by a qualified exemption, you should still be given it if the balance of the 'pubic interest' favours disclosure.

Public interest - within the publics interest, not just interesting to the public.

The public authority has to respond to an FOI request within 20 days unless there is a public interest consideration then they can take a further 40 days.

What if they say no?
Internal review
Information Commisioner
Information Tribunal
High Court

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