The access provisions of the Freedom of Information Act came fully into force in January 2005. The Act replaced the access provisions for UK public records set out in the Public Records Act 1958-1967. The Act also governs access to information held by most public sector bodies. Scottish bodies are covered by the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.
A full list of bodies covered by Freedom of Information (FOI) is available on the Ministry of Justice website. The website also contains general guidance on implementing and using the Act.
Freedom of Information and records management
The Lord Chancellor has issued two Codes of Practice under the Act.
The section 45 Code sets out good practice in handling requests for information. It also includes a section on Freedom of Information and public sector contracts.
The section 46 Code (PDF, 0.39 MB) is in two parts:
- part I sets out good practice in records management and applies to all FOI authorities and other bodies subject to the Public Records Act 1958 or the Public Records Act (Northern Ireland) 1923
- part II applies only to bodies subject to the Public Records Act 1958 or the Public Records Act (Northern Ireland) 1923 and sets out how records should be transferred to records offices
The Information Commissioner and the Chief Executive of The National Archives have signed a Memorandum of Understanding setting out how they will work together on promoting and monitoring the records management code:
The Memorandum is under review. An updated version will be available later this year in line with data protection reform.
Guidance for records managers
The National Archives is working to promote compliance with the Code of Practice on the Management of Records in all public authorities. Our guidance for records managers includes:
- a set of guides to each aspect of the Code
- an evaluation workbook to help authorities in the wider public sector assess their records management against the Code
- a programme to assess levels of risk faced by government departments through failure to comply with the Code
Guidance for archive services and places of deposit
Freedom of Information has affected archive provision by both public records and private collections held in public institutions and places of deposit. The National Archives has produced guidance for archivists on how Freedom of Information has affected the management of these records and how to handle access requests:
All our guidance on Freedom of Information can also be found in our guidance A-Z.