UK Freedom of Information E-news - March 2010
- FOI Act extended
- Supreme Court adds up secrecy exemptions for less transparency
- Scottish Commissioner: advice on unclear requests
The Ministry of Justice announced on 30 March that the Freedom of Information Act will be extended to cover four more public bodies. The bodies covered by the change are: the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS), the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) and Academy Trusts – the bodies responsible for Academy Schools.
The changes are expected to come into force in October 2011 and are in response to a consultation held in 2007-08. The Government is still considering extending the scope of the FOI Act to include additional bodies, such as Network Rail and utility companies.
On 27 January the Supreme Court ruled that separate secrecy exemptions can be added together to justify withholding information, even if each one taken alone would not justify secrecy. But it has asked the European Court of Justice (ECJ) if that is the right interpretation of the European Union Environmental Information Regulations (EIR).
For more information on this topic, see the April issue of the PL&B UK newsletter.
On 27 January, the Scottish Information Commissioner issued new guidance that deals with invalid requests. The Commissioner says that the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA) provides a right of access to information and not a right of access to copies of specific documents. Public authorities should not automatically refuse requests for copies of documents, as long as it is reasonably clear from the request that it is the information recorded in the document that the applicant wants.
The guidance explains the practical effects for public authorities and applicants of the Opinion of the Court of Session in Glasgow City Council v Scottish Information Commissioner. The Court found that, in the particular circumstances of the case, the requests were invalid. The guidance provides practical advice on the interpretation of information requests, alongside the important duty to advise and assist applicants.
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