Freedom of Information Act

Constitutional Affairs written question – answered on 13th October 2005.

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Photo of Oliver Heald Oliver Heald Shadow Secretary of State (Justice), Shadow Secretary of State

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what assessment she has made of improvements achieved by the Freedom of Information Act 2000 over the former Code of Practice on access to Government information.

Photo of Harriet Harman Harriet Harman Minister of State (Department of Constitutional Affairs), Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

The Code of Practice applied only to central Government, the Freedom of Information Act applies to over 100,000 public authorities right across the public sector.

The Act also requires public authorities to prepare and maintain publication schemes which must be accredited by the Information Commissioner. These schemes set out the information which the public authority makes available as a matter of course, and thus to maintain accreditation, public authorities are required to publish information proactively.

The Freedom of Information Act provides a statutory right of access to official information, matched by a statutory enforcement mechanism. The FOI Act allows those requesting information to appeal to the independent Information Commissioner, while the Code required complaints to be made through an MP submitting a complaint to the Parliamentary Ombudsman. The Information Commissioner is independent of government, and has powers to require public authorities to release information.

The implementation of FOI has resulted in more requests for information than were made under the Code, and far more information being released. Since 1 January, central Government has released more than 10,000 pieces of information in response to FOI requests.

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