PL&B FOI E-news, Issue 21

1. Call for consultation on FOI costs

The Campaign for Freedom of Information says that the Government’s proposals on how to calculate FOI costs in the future would seriously flout the spirit of the Act, and should be the subject of consultation. The Government’s proposal is that time spent reading information, consulting others about it, and considering whether to release it or not, should be counted. The current £600 or £450 limits would thus be reached more easily, and many requests that are currently replied to, would be denied on grounds on cost.

The Government is now only consulting the 'Information Rights User Group' formed by the Department of Constitutional Affairs. However, the Campaign is urging anyone wishing to comment on the proposals to write to Lord Falconer at the Department for Constitutional Affairs, Selborne House, 54 Victoria Street, London SW1E 6QW.

For more information, see the December issue of the PL&B UK newsletter.

2. Tribunal decision on ‘duty to assist and advise’

A recent Tribunal decision gives public authorities an idea of what is meant by FOIA S16 ‘Duty to assist & advise.’

The Tribunal considers that perhaps either the S45 Code of Practice, or ICO Awareness Guide no 2, or both, should clarify that if a request is ambiguous, then the public authority should invariably seek not only further details of the request, but also seriously consider formulating its own questions designed to extract the true and precise nature of the request.

Dr C Lamb v Information Commissioner (16th November 2006)

3. Noise data at airport must be made public under the Environmental Information Regulations

The Information Commissioner has ordered Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council (Doncaster MBC) to release specified details of aircraft noise levels for November 2005 resulting from aircraft movements at Robin Hood Airport, under the Environmental Information Regulations 2004.

Doncaster MBC originally refused requests for information on aircraft movements stating that they did not “hold” the relevant information as it could “only be accessed by a phone line to a third party’s computer.”

The Information Commissioner ruled that Doncaster MBC did “hold” the information and that it should have made it available within 20 working days, as required by the Environmental Information Regulations 2004. Furthermore, Doncaster MBC “failed to provide adequate advice and assistance to the complainant.” Therefore, the Information Commissioner issued a decision notice on 21st November which requires Doncaster MBC to comply with the original requests within 35 days.

For further details on the Privacy Laws & Business UK Newsletter, please click here.

Copyright Privacy Laws & Business 2006