The UK’s Freedom of Information Act has been in place for 12 (coming on 13) years. When the Act was first implemented, in 2005, it was published with a set of guidelines that detailed how public authorities should respond to requests.
The Section 45 Code of Practice – catchily named Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs’ Code of Practice on the discharge of public authorities’ functions under Part 1 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 – has largely remained untouched for the lifetime of the FOI Act.
This is now changing, with the government planning a re-write of the code. A consultation on a new code of practice has been opened. It is due to run from November 15 until February 2018. The consultation is being overseen by the Cabinet Office, the department in charge of FOI policy.
The code of practice is looking for responses from anyone who is interested in the FOI Act. This can be individuals, groups, or public authorities who respond to requests. A document outlining the consultation has been proposed and there’s also a 43-page redraft of the Code of Practice.
The consultation document sets out seven main questions the process is trying to answer. These are:
1. Is the guidance in chapter 1 of the Code clear and helpful for public authorities to understand the right of access to information in the FOI Act and how to manage requests on this basis?
Are there any other areas where it would be helpful for this guidance to be more detailed or where it could be clearer?
2. Does the guidance about publication of FOI compliance statistics provide enough detail for public authorities to start publishing their own compliance statistics? If further guidance on this would be helpful what should this cover?
3. Is the guidance about the publication of information about senior pay and benefits clear and helpful? Are there any areas of this guidance where further detail would be useful?
4. Does the proposed guidance on vexatious and repeated requests provide the right level of detail about the circumstances in which public authorities might want to consider using section 14? If further guidance on this would be useful what should this cover?
5. Is it helpful to merge the datasets Code of Practice with the main section 45 Code so that statutory guidance under section 45 can be found in one place?
6. If you agree the datasets Code should be merged is it helpful to split the datasets guide into a section on release of datasets and a section on guidance on re-use of datasets?
7. Are there any other areas in Part I of the Act where it would be helpful to have additional guidance in the Code? If so, what do you think the additional guidance should cover and why?
People wanting to submit applications can do so to the email: firstname.lastname@example.org. A full blog post on the proposed revised code of practice will be published at a later date.