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Arrangement of Clauses (Contents)

Freedom of Information Bill
 
 

 
 
A

B I L L

[AS AMENDED ON REPORT]

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.

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:-
 

  PART I
  ACCESS TO INFORMATION HELD BY PUBLIC AUTHORITIES
 
Right to information
General right of access to information held by public authorities.     1. - (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".
 
Effect of the exemptions in Part II.     2. - (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.
Public authorities.     3. - (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.
Amendment of Schedule 1.     4. - (1) The Secretary of State 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 Secretary of State 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 Secretary of State 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.
 
Further power to designate public authorities.     5. - (1) The Secretary of State 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 Secretary of State 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.
 
Publicly-owned companies.     6. - (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.
 
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