Freedom of Information Act 2000

Freedom of Information Act 2000
Long titleAn 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.
Citation2000 c. 36
Territorial extentEngland and Wales; Scotland; Northern Ireland
Dates
Royal assent30 November 2000
Commencement30 November 2000 (part)[1]
30 January 2001 (part)[1]
14 May 2001 (part)[2][3]
Other legislation
Relates toFreedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002
Status: Current legislation
Text of statute as originally enacted
Text of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 as in force today (including any amendments) within the United Kingdom, from legislation.gov.uk
document

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 (c.36) is an Act of Parliament of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that creates a public "right of access" to information held by public authorities. It is the implementation of freedom of information legislation in the United Kingdom on a national level. Its application is limited in Scotland (which has its own freedom of information legislation) to UK Government offices geo-located in Scotland. The Act implements a manifesto commitment of the Labour Party in the 1997 general election, developed by Dr David Clark as a 1997 White Paper. The final version of the Act is believed[by whom?] to have been diluted from that proposed while Labour was in opposition. The full provisions of the act came into force on 1 January 2005.

The Act is the responsibility of the Lord Chancellor's Department (now renamed the Ministry of Justice). The Act led to the renaming of the Data Protection Commissioner (set up to administer the Data Protection Act), who is now known as the Information Commissioner. The Office of the Information Commissioner oversees the operation of the Act.

A second freedom of information law is in existence in the UK, the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (asp 13). It was passed by the Scottish Parliament in 2002, to cover public bodies over which the Holyrood parliament, rather than Westminster, has jurisdiction. For these institutions, it fulfils the same purpose as the 2000 Act.

Around 120,000 requests are made each year.[4] Private citizens made 60% of them, with businesses and journalists accounting for 20% and 10% respectively.[4] Journalists' requests took up more of officials' time than businesses' and individuals' requests.[citation needed] The Act cost £35.5 million in 2005.[5]

Background

The act implements what was a manifesto commitment of the Labour Party in the 1997 general election. Before its introduction, there had been no right of access to government by the general public, merely a limited voluntary framework for sharing information.

The white paper

The act was preceded by a 1998 White paper, Your Right to Know, by Dr David Clark. The White paper was met with widespread enthusiasm,[6] and was described at the time as being "almost too good to be true" by one advocate of freedom of information legislation. The final act was substantially more limited in scope than the initial white paper.[7]

Parliamentary debate

A draft Bill was published in May 1999; the Bill was extensively debated in the House of Commons and the House of Lords, and received royal assent in November 2000.