Freedom of Information news, Issue 10
- First Tribunal decisions widen FOI rights
- Council forced to disclose restaurant hygiene inspection reports
- Personal data exemption the most used
- Freedom of Information – One year on
1. First Tribunal decisions widen FOI rights
A recent Information Tribunal decision regarding FOI requests for deleted information overturns the guidance previously issued by the Information Commissioner and the Department of Constitutional Affairs. The Tribunal’s view is that simple restoration of deleted information, for example from a back up tape, should normally be attempted.
Another decision confirms that criticism towards a public authority, and the language used, cannot invalidate a FOI request.
The third decision relates to a FOI request for court transcripts. The Tribunal found that the exemption for court documents S32(1)(c) has a more limited scope than previously thought.
Full decisions are available at www.informationtribunal.gov.uk.
2. Council forced to disclose restaurant hygiene inspection reports
A local council has been ordered to disclose restaurant hygiene inspection reports as a result of a FOI request, and the subsequent ICO decision. The Bridgend Borough County Council had originally refused to release the information, as it claimed that releasing this information would be detrimental to the relationship between the Council's inspectors and businesses. This, in turn, would result in prejudice to the exercise of the Council's regulatory functions under the Food Safety Act, and would therefore not be in the public interest. The ICO argued that this was unlikely to happen.
The decision is available at www.informationcommissioner.gov.uk (press releases).
3. Personal data exemption the most used
The FOI exemption that is most often applied, among central government bodies, is S(40) on personal data, closely followed by the confidentiality exemption. The statistics on the use of exemptions, among other FOI performance indicators, have recently been published for the third quarter of 2005 by the DCA. The statistics show that the total number of requests is in decline, and that 90 per cent of requests were processed during the 20-day deadline, or were subject to a permitted deadline extension.
For the full report, see www.foi.gov.uk
4. Freedom of Information – One year on
A survey carried out among 500 public authorities by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), as part of its review of the first year of the Act, has revealed that the majority of public authorities say that the Act is beneficial and is helping to create a culture of greater openness. The survey, published on January 13, highlighted the benefits of the Act, such as increased transparency, improved accountability, and better records management.
The research is available from the ICO. See www.ico.gov.uk.
Copyright Privacy Laws & Business 2006