PL&B FOI E-news, Issue 17
1. Select Committee does not support changes in FOI fees
The House of Common Select Committee on Constitutional Affairs does not see any reason to change the FOI fees regulations. In particular, it says that raised fees would not be the correct way to deal with frivolous requests. The Committee recommends that the Department for Constitutional Affairs (DCA) publish the results of its internal fees review once it is finished, and conducts a public consultation before deciding on any changes.
The Committee also recommends that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the DCA work together to prepare a shared Code of Practice for the Environmental Information Regulations (EIR) and FOI, as there has been some confusion on which regime applies.
The Committee published its seventh report on 13th June. Find the document at http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200506 or read extracts in PL&B’s July/August UK Newsletter, published this week.
2. DCA publishes guidance on frivolous requests
The Department of Constitutional Affairs (DCA) published, on 28th June, guidance on how to deal with frivolous requests. These requests must not be refused simply because they are resource intensive to deal with. Instead, public authorities should try to establish what information is being sought, and whether it is possible to narrow the scope of the request.
Frivolous requests include:
- Requests for file lists followed by requests for large numbers of entire files
- Requests for information without any serious purpose or value
- Persistent requests which have the effect of harassing a public authority.
Frivolous requests may sometimes, but not always, be treated as vexatious requests.
3. Tribunal decision on applying EIR
The Information Tribunal’s decision of 4th July clarifies when public authorities should deal with requests under the Environmental Information Regulations (EIR) rather than FOIA.
The request, which was submitted to Thanet District Council (TDC) in January 2005, relates to the legal advice that TDC sought regarding the night flying policy of Kent International Airport.
The Council, which dealt with the request under the FOIA, refused the information claiming that there was a very substantial public interest in maintaining the confidentiality of legal proceedings.
The Tribunal finds that the request relates to land, air and atmosphere, and factors such as noise and emissions, which in turn, could affect health and safety, and falls under the EIR. The ICO had dealt with the request under the FOIA.
Although the requester did not specify under which regime he was making his request, he mentioned to both the ICO and TDC that the issue might have to be dealt with under the EIR. There is no obligation for the requesters to state under which regime they are sending their request.
See the decision at www.informationtribunal.gov.uk.
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Copyright Privacy Laws & Business 2006