The Freedom of Information Act gives a general right of access to all recorded information held by public authorities, sets out exemptions from that right and places a number of obligations on public authorities. Any person who makes a request to a public authority for information must be informed whether the public authority holds that information and, subject to exemptions, supplied with that information.
Individuals already have the right of access to information about themselves under Data Protection Legislation, known as subject access.
The Act is policed by the Information Commissioner, a post that combines regulation of both the Freedom of Information and Data Protection Acts.
What is the Legal Framework for a Publication Scheme?
Section 19(1) provides that it shall be the duty of every public authority to adopt and maintain a publication scheme, to publish information in accordance with its scheme and, from time to time, to review its publication scheme.
A Publication Scheme is the means by which a public authority can make a significant amount of information available routinely, without waiting for someone to specifically request it.
Section 19(2) of the Act sets out the requirements for a publication scheme as follows:
A publication scheme must:
- Specify classes of information that the public authority publishes or intends to publish;
- Specify the manner in which information of each class is, or is intended to be, published; and
- Specify whether the material is, or is intended to be, available to the public free of charge or on payment.
Section 19(3) states that "in adopting or reviewing a publication scheme, a public authority shall have regard to the public interest in allowing public access to information held by the authority and in the publication of reasons for decisions made by the public authority".