The Freedom of Information Act 2000, came into force in January 2005. The FOI gives an
individual the right to ask any public body for all the information they have on any subject
they choose. Also, unless there’s a good reason, the organisation must provide the information within a month. The individual can also ask for all the personal information that is held on them.
The Freedom of Information Act applies to all ‘public authorities’ including: government
departments, local authorities and councils, health trusts, hospitals and doctors’ surgeries,
schools, colleges and universities, publicly funded museums, the police and other non-departmental public bodies, committees and advisory bodies.
Any person can make a request for information under the Act – there are no restrictions on age, nationality, or where a person lives. A person can ask for any information at all - but some information might be withheld to protect various interests which are allowed for by the Act. If this is case, the public authority must tell the individual why they have withheld information. If an individual asks for information about themselves, then the request will be handled under the Data Protection Act instead of the Freedom of Information Act.
Requests can be sent in writing (or email) to the public authority that you think holds the
information you want. Public authorities must comply with the request promptly, and should provide the information within 20 working days (around a month). If they need more time, they must write and tell the individual when they will answer, and why they need more time.
Most requests are free. A small amount maybe requested for making photocopies or postage. If the public authority thinks that it will cost them more than £450 (or £600 for a request to central government) to find the information and prepare it for release, then they can turn down the request. They might ask the individual to narrow down their request by being more specific in the information they are looking for.
When a request is made, the individual may ask for the the information be given to them in a particular form. However, a public authority may take into account the cost of supplying the information in this form before complying with your request. The individual should be able to receive the information in a permanent or summary form or by permission to inspect records containing the information. The individual may also be able to receive it in Braille, audio format, large type or translated into another language.
If the request for information is refused, the individual should first ask the public authority for an internal review of their decision. Someone in the authority who was not connected with the initial decision should carry out this review. If you have already done this, or the public authority refuses to review their decision, an appeal can be made to the independent Information Commissioner. He has the power to investigate the way the public authority handled your request and the answer they gave. If he agrees that they have wrongly withheld information, he can order them to disclose it to the individual.
Further information contact:
Information Commissioner’s Office - Wales
2nd Floor, Churchill House
Cardiff CF10 2HH
Tel: 029 2067 8400