PL&B FOI E-news, Issue 24

1. ICO’s first practice recommendation

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has issued a FOI practice recommendation for Nottingham City Council, which was, earlier this year, forced to take part in Information Tribunal proceedings following serious misconduct relating to the FOIA. The Council mislaid both the FOI applicant and the ICO during its investigation.

The practice recommendation, which is the first of its kind, sets requirements on the provision of advice and assistance, transferring requests, and complaints procedure.

The ICO has also asked the National Archives to conduct an assessment of the records management capabilities of the Council. This assessment will take place later this year, and will form the basis of a separate practice recommendation to be issued by the ICO.

Whilst practice recommendations cannot be directly enforced by the ICO, a failure to comply with then may lead to a breach of the Act.

The Practice recommendation was issued on 13th February 2007.

For a full report on the Tribunal case, see PL&B UK Newsletter Feb 2007, p.14-15.

2. ICO upholds a decision on vexatious requests

The ICO has supported a public authority in its decision not to respond to a FOI request which was deemed vexatious. The same individual had made 15 requests to the West Midlands Passenger Transport Executive (Centro) concerning the authority’s financial relationship with four bus companies. Centro first provided the information, but decided not to release more information when it received the 14th and 15th requests on the same issue.

3. Campaign says no to private member’s FOI Bill

The Campaign for Freedom of Information has written to the members of a committee that is considering David Maclean’s private member's Bill to remove the Houses of Parliament from the scope of the Freedom of Information Act. The Bill would also exempt MPs' correspondence from public access.

The Campaign points out that if the purpose of the Bill is to protect the personal data of constituents, this information is already exempt under section 40(2) of the FOI Act. If MPs consider that they have had to release personal details of constituents enquiring about health care, social services, education, probation, policing, housing, pensions or benefits etc, then they probably have wrongly released exempt information, and breached the Data Protection Act. If the reason behind the Bill is just reluctance to release MPs’ correspondence on matters of public policy, there is no justification in making this correspondence exempt.

Copyright Privacy Laws & Business 2007