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1. The Freedom of Information Act 20001 (“FOIA”) imposes a general duty on public authorities2 to disclose information on request, but qualifies this duty with a wide range of exemptions3. As with the Data Protection Act 1998, the FOIA covers information kept in both manual and electronic form4.
2. Where a person makes a ‘request for information’5 to a public authority, the authority’s general duty is to6:
3. The request must generally be complied with promptly and in any event within 20 working days following receipt7. Where a public authority requires further information from the applicant to locate and identify the request, and it has informed the applicant of this, the authority is not obliged to comply with the request until the applicant has supplied the further information8. However, the authority has a duty to advise and assist the applicant regarding their request9.
4. The duty to provide information under the FOIA is also subject to a number of exemptions for a range of governmental (including law enforcement and regulatory) activities10.
5. Some exemptions are ‘absolute’ while others involve the application of a ‘public interest’ test to determine whether the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information11.
6. If you receive a request for information, you should, in the first instance, consult your divisional FOI officer.
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