The Freedom of Information Act 2000 gives a general right of access to all types of recorded information held by public authorities, sets out exemptions from that right and places a number of obligations on public authorities. A ‘public authority’ is defined in the Act, and includes but is not restricted to central and local government, non-departmental public bodies, the police, the National Health Service, and schools, college and universities. 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 the Data Protection Act 1998. As far as public authorities are concerned, the Freedom of Information Act will extend this right to allow public access to all types of information held. New legislation came into force in 2008 requiring that Town/Parish Councils adopt a mandatory publication scheme to be operational from 1st January 2009. Further details are available from the Information Commissioner’s Office web site.