PL&B FOI E-news, Issue 34

1. FOI model publication scheme now available

The Information Commissioner has published a model publication scheme to aid public sector organisations comply with the FOI Act’s requirement to adopt and maintain a publication scheme. The model scheme may be adopted by any public authority from 1 January 2009 without any modification. No further approval is necessary, and will be valid until further notice.

It lists classes of information for publication:

  1. organisational information,
  2. financial information,
  3. strategy,
  4. performance information,
  5. reviews and assessments,
  6. decision making,
  7. policies and procedures,
  8. lists and registers, and
  9. the services offered.

In addition, organisations should provide details of the method under which they publish information, any charges they make, and how to apply for more information in writing. The ICO has also produced a series of definition documents for each sector which identify the type of information they would expect to see included in each class.

Speaking at the 2008 FOI Live conference on 3rd June, Richard Thomas, the Information Commissioner, said: ‘Since FOI was introduced in January 2005 it has made a huge impact on public life. Freedom of Information means a presumption of openness, where secrecy must be reserved for situations when it really is necessary. Secrecy should not be the default position, whether in Whitehall or elsewhere. I am pleased that more and more government departments, local authorities, police bodies, NHS organisations and other public authorities are seeing the benefits of greater transparency and disclosing official material as a matter of routine. I encourage all public authorities to see that transparency as the norm should result in improved administration and fewer requests.’

The introduction of a model scheme follows an ICO review in 2005 which concluded that there was a need to develop and improve the proactive dissemination of public sector information, and adopt a consistent approach. Approval of all existing schemes has been extended until 31 December 2008. The Information Commissioner has written to public sector Chief Executives to urge them adopt the new model publication scheme.

To see the model publication scheme, go to the ICO website.

There will be 5 sessions on the UK Freedom of Information Act at Privacy Laws & Business’s 21st Annual International Conference, July 7-9th at St. John’s College, Cambridge.  

Speakers are Richard Thomas, Information Commissioner, Graham Smith, Deputy Commissioner, John Angel, Chairman - Information Tribunal, Maurice Frankel, Director - Campaign for Freedom of Information, and Belinda Crowe, Head of Information Rights Division - Ministry of Justice


2. Scottish Commissioner launches new enforcement strategy

The Scottish Information Commissioner, Kevin Dunion, has warned Scottish public authorities of his intention to take action against organisations that persistently fail to comply with their responsibilities under Scotland’s FOI Act.

The new Enforcement Strategy makes it clear that if there is no agreement between the Commissioner and the organisation, or if the failings are sufficiently serious, the Commissioner will use his powers to make a practice recommendation or to issue an Enforcement Notice. These documents will generally be published on the Commissioner’s website, with additional media publicity where appropriate. Appropriate information concerning ongoing practice assessments, and the outcomes of completed practice assessments, will also be made publicly available.

The Strategy, launched in May 2008, can be downloaded.

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

Copyright Privacy Laws & Business 2008