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FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 2000

UK Public General Acts

Version 01/10/2002

2000 CHAPTER 36

Default Geographical Extent: E+W+S+N.I.


  • Part I. Access to information held by public authorities
    • Right to information
    • Refusal of request (P)
    • The Information Commissioner and the Information Tribunal
    • Publication schemes
  • Part II. Exempt information (P)
  • Part III. General functions of Secretary of State, Lord Chancellor and Information Commissioner
  • Part IV. Enforcement
  • Part V. Appeals
  • Part VI. Historical records and records in Public Record Office or Public Record Office of Northern Ireland
  • Part VII. Amendments of Data Protection Act 1998
    • Amendments relating to personal information held by public authorities
    • Other amendments
  • Part VIII. Miscellaneous and supplemental
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  • Version 15/06/2017
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  • Version Prospective

Introductory Text

Freedom of Information Act 2000

2000 CHAPTER 36

An Act to make provision for the disclosure of information held by public authorities or by persons providing services for them and to amend the Data Protection Act 1998 and the Public Records Act 1958; and for connected purposes.

[30th November 2000]

Be it enacted by the Queen’s most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:—

Annotations:

Modifications etc. (not altering text)

C1 Act: functions of Secretary of State transferred to the Lord Chancellor (26.11.2001) by S.I. 2001/3500, arts. 3, 4, Sch. 1 para. 12

Act (except ss. 15, 23, 24, 36, 46, 65, 66 and s. 53 for certain purposes): functions of the Lord Chancellor transferred to the Secretary of State, and all property, rights and liabilities to which the Lord Chancellor is entitled or subject in connection with any such function transferred to the Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs (19.8.2003) by The Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs Order 2003 (S.I. 2003/1887), art. 4, Sch. 1 (with art. 6)

C2 Act: enforcement and appeals provisions applied (with modifications) (1.1.2005) by The Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (S.I. 2004/3391), reg. 18 (with reg. 3)


Part I
Access to information held by public authorities



Right to information


1 General right of access to information held by public authorities. (PROSPECTIVE)

(1) Any person making a request for information to a public authority is entitled—

(a) to be informed in writing by the public authority whether it holds information of the description specified in the request, and
(b) if that is the case, to have that information communicated to him.
(2) Subsection (1) has effect subject to the following provisions of this section and to the provisions of sections 2, 9, 12 and 14.

(3) Where a public authority—

(a) reasonably requires further information in order to identify and locate the information requested, and
(b) has informed the applicant of that requirement,
the authority is not obliged to comply with subsection (1) unless it is supplied with that further information.
(4) The information—

(a) in respect of which the applicant is to be informed under subsection (1) (a) , or
(b) which is to be communicated under subsection (1) (b) ,
is the information in question held at the time when the request is received, except that account may be taken of any amendment or deletion made between that time and the time when the information is to be communicated under subsection (1) (b) , being an amendment or deletion that would have been made regardless of the receipt of the request.
(5) A public authority is to be taken to have complied with subsection (1) (a) in relation to any information if it has communicated the information to the applicant in accordance with subsection (1) (b).

(6) In this Act, the duty of a public authority to comply with subsection (1) (a) is referred to as “the duty to confirm or deny”.

2 Effect of the exemptions in Part II. (PROSPECTIVE)

(1) Where any provision of Part II states that the duty to confirm or deny does not arise in relation to any information, the effect of the provision is that where either—

(a) the provision confers absolute exemption, or
(b) in all the circumstances of the case, the public interest in maintaining the exclusion of the duty to confirm or deny outweighs the public interest in disclosing whether the public authority holds the information,
section 1(1) (a) does not apply.
(2) In respect of any information which is exempt information by virtue of any provision of Part II, section 1(1) (b) does not apply if or to the extent that—

(a) the information is exempt information by virtue of a provision conferring absolute exemption, or
(b) in all the circumstances of the case, the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information.
(3) For the purposes of this section, the following provisions of Part II (and no others) are to be regarded as conferring absolute exemption—

(a) section 21,
(b) section 23,
(c) section 32,
(d) section 34,
(e) section 36 so far as relating to information held by the House of Commons or the House of Lords,
(f) in section 40—
(i) subsection (1) , and
(ii) subsection (2) so far as relating to cases where the first condition referred to in that subsection is satisfied by virtue of subsection (3) (a) (i) or (b) of that section,
(g) section 41, and
(h) section 44.

3 Public authorities.

(1) In this Act “public authority” means—

(a) subject to section 4(4) , any body which, any other person who, or the holder of any office which—
(i) is listed in Schedule 1, or
(ii) is designated by order under section 5, or
(b) a publicly-owned company as defined by section 6.
(2) For the purposes of this Act, information is held by a public authority if—

(a) it is held by the authority, otherwise than on behalf of another person, or
(b) it is held by another person on behalf of the authority.
Annotations:

Modifications etc. (not altering text)

C3 S. 3 modified (29.9.2008 at 8.00 a.m.) by The Bradford & Bingley plc Transfer of Securities and Property etc. Order 2008 (S.I. 2008/2546), art. 41

C4 S. 3 modified (7.10.2008 at 9.30 a.m.) by The Heritable Bank plc Transfer of Certain Rights and Liabilities Order 2008 (S.I. 2008/2644), art. 29

C5 S. 3(1)(b) modified (30.3.2009 at 8.00 a.m.) by The Amendments to Law (Resolution of Dunfermline Building Society) Order (S.I. 2009/814), {art. 8(1)(a)(2)}

C6 S. 3(1)(b) modified (22.2.2008) by The Northern Rock plc Transfer Order 2008 (S.I. 2008/432), art. 18(2)(a)

C7 S. 3(2) modified (1.4.2012) by Budget Responsibility and National Audit Act 2011 (c. 4), ss. 22, 29(3), Sch. 3 para. 13(2) (with Sch. 4); S.I. 2011/2576, art. 5

C8 S. 3(2)(b) modified (30.3.2009 at 8.00 a.m.) by The Amendments to Law (Resolution of Dunfermline Building Society) Order (S.I. 2009/814), {art. 8(1)(b)(2)}

C9 S. 3(2)(b) modified (8.10.2008 at 12.15 p.m.) by The Kaupthing Singer & Friedlander Limited Transfer of Certain Rights and Liabilities Order 2008 (S.I. 2008/2674), art. 31

C10 S. 3(2)(b) modified (22.2.2008) by The Northern Rock plc Transfer Order 2008 (S.I. 2008/432), art. 18(2)(b)


4 Amendment of Schedule 1.

(1) The [F1 Lord Chancellor] may by order amend Schedule 1 by adding to that Schedule a reference to any body or the holder of any office which (in either case) is not for the time being listed in that Schedule but as respects which both the first and the second conditions below are satisfied.

(2) The first condition is that the body or office—

(a) is established by virtue of Her Majesty’s prerogative or by an enactment or by subordinate legislation, or
(b) is established in any other way by a Minister of the Crown in his capacity as Minister, by a government department or by the National Assembly for Wales.
(3) The second condition is—

(a) in the case of a body, that the body is wholly or partly constituted by appointment made by the Crown, by a Minister of the Crown, by a government department or by the National Assembly for Wales, or
(b) in the case of an office, that appointments to the office are made by the Crown, by a Minister of the Crown, by a government department or by the National Assembly for Wales.
(4) If either the first or the second condition above ceases to be satisfied as respects any body or office which is listed in Part VI or VII of Schedule 1, that body or the holder of that office shall cease to be a public authority by virtue of the entry in question.

(5) The [F1 Lord Chancellor] may by order amend Schedule 1 by removing from Part VI or VII of that Schedule an entry relating to any body or office—

(a) which has ceased to exist, or
(b) as respects which either the first or the second condition above has ceased to be satisfied.
(6) An order under subsection (1) may relate to a specified person or office or to persons or offices falling within a specified description.

(7) Before making an order under subsection (1) , the [F1 Lord Chancellor] shall—

(a) if the order adds to Part II, III, IV or VI of Schedule 1 a reference to—
(i) a body whose functions are exercisable only or mainly in or as regards Wales, or
(ii) the holder of an office whose functions are exercisable only or mainly in or as regards Wales,
consult the National Assembly for Wales, and
(b) if the order relates to a body which, or the holder of any office who, if the order were made, would be a Northern Ireland public authority, consult the First Minister and deputy First Minister in Northern Ireland.
(8) This section has effect subject to section 80.

(9) In this section “Minister of the Crown” includes a Northern Ireland Minister.

Annotations:

Amendments (Textual)

F1 Words in s. 4(1)(5)(7) substituted (26.11.2001) by S.I. 2001/3500, art. 8, Sch. 2 Pt. I para. 8(1)(a)


5 Further power to designate public authorities.

(1) The [F2 Lord Chancellor] may by order designate as a public authority for the purposes of this Act any person who is neither listed in Schedule 1 nor capable of being added to that Schedule by an order under section 4(1) , but who—

(a) appears to the Secretary of State to exercise functions of a public nature, or
(b) is providing under a contract made with a public authority any service whose provision is a function of that authority.
(2) An order under this section may designate a specified person or office or persons or offices falling within a specified description.

(3) Before making an order under this section, the [F2 Lord Chancellor] shall consult every person to whom the order relates, or persons appearing to him to represent such persons.

(4) This section has effect subject to section 80.

Annotations:

Amendments (Textual)

F2 Words in s. 5(1)(3) substituted (26.11.2001) by S.I. 2001/3500, art. 8, Sch. 2 Pt. I para. 8(1)(b)


6 Publicly-owned companies.

(1) A company is a “publicly-owned company” for the purposes of section 3(1) (b) if—

(a) it is wholly owned by the Crown, or
(b) it is wholly owned by any public authority listed in Schedule 1 other than—
(i) a government department, or
(ii) any authority which is listed only in relation to particular information.
(2) For the purposes of this section—

(a) a company is wholly owned by the Crown if it has no members except—
(i) Ministers of the Crown, government departments or companies wholly owned by the Crown, or
(ii) persons acting on behalf of Ministers of the Crown, government departments or companies wholly owned by the Crown, and
(b) a company is wholly owned by a public authority other than a government department if it has no members except—
(i) that public authority or companies wholly owned by that public authority, or
(ii) persons acting on behalf of that public authority or of companies wholly owned by that public authority.
(3) In this section— “company” includes any body corporate; “Minister of the Crown” includes a Northern Ireland Minister.

7 Public authorities to which Act has limited application.

(1) Where a public authority is listed in Schedule 1 only in relation to information of a specified description, nothing in Parts I to V of this Act applies to any other information held by the authority.

(2) An order under section 4(1) may, in adding an entry to Schedule 1, list the public authority only in relation to information of a specified description.

(3) The [F3 Lord Chancellor] may by order amend Schedule 1—

(a) by limiting to information of a specified description the entry relating to any public authority, or
(b) by removing or amending any limitation to information of a specified description which is for the time being contained in any entry.
(4) Before making an order under subsection (3) , the [F3 Lord Chancellor] shall—

(a) if the order relates to the National Assembly for Wales or a Welsh public authority, consult the National Assembly for Wales,
(b) if the order relates to the Northern Ireland Assembly, consult the Presiding Officer of that Assembly, and
(c) if the order relates to a Northern Ireland department or a Northern Ireland public authority, consult the First Minister and deputy First Minister in Northern Ireland.
(5) An order under section 5(1) (a) must specify the functions of the public authority designated by the order with respect to which the designation is to have effect; and nothing in Parts I to V of this Act applies to information which is held by the authority but does not relate to the exercise of those functions.

(6) An order under section 5(1) (b) must specify the services provided under contract with respect to which the designation is to have effect; and nothing in Parts I to V of this Act applies to information which is held by the public authority designated by the order but does not relate to the provision of those services.

(7) Nothing in Parts I to V of this Act applies in relation to any information held by a publicly-owned company which is excluded information in relation to that company.

(8) In subsection (7) “excluded information”, in relation to a publicly-owned company, means information which is of a description specified in relation to that company in an order made by the [F3 Lord Chancellor] for the purposes of this subsection.

(9) In this section “publicly-owned company” has the meaning given by section 6.

Annotations:

Amendments (Textual)

F3 Words in s. 7(3)(4)(8) substituted (26.11.2001) by S.I. 2001/3500, art. 8, Sch. 2 Pt. I para. 8(1)(c)


8 Request for information.

(1) In this Act any reference to a “request for information” is a reference to such a request which—

(a) is in writing,
(b) states the name of the applicant and an address for correspondence, and
(c) describes the information requested.
(2) For the purposes of subsection (1) (a) , a request is to be treated as made in writing where the text of the request—

(a) is transmitted by electronic means,
(b) is received in legible form, and
(c) is capable of being used for subsequent reference.

9 Fees.

(1) A public authority to whom a request for information is made may, within the period for complying with section 1(1) , give the applicant a notice in writing (in this Act referred to as a “fees notice”) stating that a fee of an amount specified in the notice is to be charged by the authority for complying with section 1(1).

(2) Where a fees notice has been given to the applicant, the public authority is not obliged to comply with section 1(1) unless the fee is paid within the period of three months beginning with the day on which the fees notice is given to the applicant.

(3) Subject to subsection (5) , any fee under this section must be determined by the public authority in accordance with regulations made by the [F4 Lord Chancellor] .

(4) Regulations under subsection (3) may, in particular, provide—

(a) that no fee is to be payable in prescribed cases,
(b) that any fee is not to exceed such maximum as may be specified in, or determined in accordance with, the regulations, and
(c) that any fee is to be calculated in such manner as may be prescribed by the regulations.
(5) Subsection (3) does not apply where provision is made by or under any enactment as to the fee that may be charged by the public authority for the disclosure of the information.

Annotations:

Amendments (Textual)

F4 Words in s. 9(3) substituted (26.11.2001) by S.I. 2001/3500, art. 8, Sch. 2 Pt. I para. 8(1)(d)

Commencement Information

I1 S. 9 wholly in force at 1.1.2005; s. 9 in force at Royal Assent to the extent that it confers power to make regulations, see s. 87(1)(m)(3); s. 9 otherwise in force at 1.1.2005 by S.I. 2004/3122, art. 2


10 Time for compliance with request.

(1) Subject to subsections (2) and (3) , a public authority must comply with section 1(1) promptly and in any event not later than the twentieth working day following the date of receipt.

(2) Where the authority has given a fees notice to the applicant and the fee is paid in accordance with section 9(2) , the working days in the period beginning with the day on which the fees notice is given to the applicant and ending with the day on which the fee is received by the authority are to be disregarded in calculating for the purposes of subsection (1) the twentieth working day following the date of receipt.

(3) If, and to the extent that—

(a) section 1(1) (a) would not apply if the condition in section 2(1) (b) were satisfied, or
(b) section 1(1) (b) would not apply if the condition in section 2(2) (b) were satisfied,
the public authority need not comply with section 1(1) (a) or (b) until such time as is reasonable in the circumstances; but this subsection does not affect the time by which any notice under section 17(1) must be given.
(4) The [F5 Lord Chancellor] may by regulations provide that subsections (1) and (2) are to have effect as if any reference to the twentieth working day following the date of receipt were a reference to such other day, not later than the sixtieth working day following the date of receipt, as may be specified in, or determined in accordance with, the regulations.

(5) Regulations under subsection (4) may—

(a) prescribe different days in relation to different cases, and
(b) confer a discretion on the Commissioner.
(6) In this section— “the date of receipt” means— (a) the day on which the public authority receives the request for information, or (b) if later, the day on which it receives the information referred to in section 1(3) ; “working day” means any day other than a Saturday, a Sunday, Christmas Day, Good Friday or a day which is a bank holiday under the M1 Banking and Financial Dealings Act 1971 in any part of the United Kingdom.

Annotations:

Amendments (Textual)

F5 Words in s. 10(4) substituted (26.11.2001) by S.I. 2001/3500, art. 8, Sch. 2 Pt. I para. 8(1)(e)

Commencement Information

I2 S. 10 wholly in force at 1.1.2005; s. 10 in force at Royal Assent to the extent that it confers power to make regulations, see s. 87(1)(m)(3); s. 10 otherwise in force at 1.1.2005 by S.I. 2004/3122, art. 2

Marginal Citations

M1 1971 c. 80.


11 Means by which communication to be made. (PROSPECTIVE)

(1) Where, on making his request for information, the applicant expresses a preference for communication by any one or more of the following means, namely—

(a) the provision to the applicant of a copy of the information in permanent form or in another form acceptable to the applicant,
(b) the provision to the applicant of a reasonable opportunity to inspect a record containing the information, and
(c) the provision to the applicant of a digest or summary of the information in permanent form or in another form acceptable to the applicant,
the public authority shall so far as reasonably practicable give effect to that preference.
(2) In determining for the purposes of this section whether it is reasonably practicable to communicate information by particular means, the public authority may have regard to all the circumstances, including the cost of doing so.

(3) Where the public authority determines that it is not reasonably practicable to comply with any preference expressed by the applicant in making his request, the authority shall notify the applicant of the reasons for its determination.

(4) Subject to subsection (1) , a public authority may comply with a request by communicating information by any means which are reasonable in the circumstances.

12 Exemption where cost of compliance exceeds appropriate limit.

(1) Section 1(1) does not oblige a public authority to comply with a request for information if the authority estimates that the cost of complying with the request would exceed the appropriate limit.

(2) Subsection (1) does not exempt the public authority from its obligation to comply with paragraph (a) of section 1(1) unless the estimated cost of complying with that paragraph alone would exceed the appropriate limit.

(3) In subsections (1) and (2) “the appropriate limit” means such amount as may be prescribed, and different amounts may be prescribed in relation to different cases.

(4) The [F6 Lord Chancellor] may by regulations provide that, in such circumstances as may be prescribed, where two or more requests for information are made to a public authority—

(a) by one person, or
(b) by different persons who appear to the public authority to be acting in concert or in pursuance of a campaign,
the estimated cost of complying with any of the requests is to be taken to be the estimated total cost of complying with all of them.
(5) The [F6 Lord Chancellor] may by regulations make provision for the purposes of this section as to the costs to be estimated and as to the manner in which they are to be estimated.

Annotations:

Amendments (Textual)

F6 Words in s. 12(4)(5) substituted (26.11.2001) by S.I. 2001/3500, art. 8, Sch. 2 Pt. I para. 8(1)(f)

Commencement Information

I3 S. 12 wholly in force at 1.1.2005; s. 12 in force at Royal Assent to the extent that it confers power to make regulations, see s. 87(1)(m)(3); s. 12 otherwise in force at 1.1.2005 by S.I. 2004/3122, art. 2