Freedom of Information

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 (c. 36) is an Act 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 located in Scotland. The Act implements a manifesto commitment of the Labour Party in the 1997 general election, developed by David Clark as a 1997 White Paper. The final version of the Act was criticized by freedom of information campaigners as a diluted form of what had been proposed in the White Paper. The full provisions of the act came into force on 1 January 2005.

The Act was the responsibility of the Lord Chancellor’s Department (now renamed the Ministry of Justice). However, the freedom of information policy is now the responsibility of the Cabinet Office.[5] The Act led to the renaming of the Data Protection Commissioner (set up to administer the Data Protection Act 1998), 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 fulfills the same purpose as the 2000 Act.