The code of practice that underpins the Freedom of Information Act will be updated next year, the govnerment has confirmed.

In a document published as part of the UK’s Open Government Partnership, the Cabinet Office has confirmed the guidelines under Section 45 of the transparency law are being reviewed.

In “early 2017” a public consultation on a new Code of Practice will be issued. The Section 45 code has not been updated since the FOI Act was enacted in 2005.

The rewriting and the new Code will give those who say FOI should be wider reaching to extend obligations of public authorities responding to requests for information.

The current Section 45 Code of Practice lays out what FOI officers should do to help provide requesters with ‘advice and assistance’ under Section 16 of the FOI Act. “Authorities should, as far as reasonably practicable, provide assistance to the applicant to enable him or her to describe more clearly the information requested,” the code says.

The code also covers how authorities should transfer requests when they have not been sent to the correct place; confidentiality discussions: third parties and responses; as well a complaints procedures for FOI requests.

A well-revised, requester focussed Code of Practice could include timelines for public authorities to handle internal reviews, clarification on the time needed to process public interest test considerations and more. 

The government has previously said it will clarify how private contractors getting public money are to interact with FOI within the code.

Earlier this year the recommendations of government’s FOI review mentioned a revised Section 45 Code of Practice. “That the government reviews section 45 of the Act to ensure that the range of issues on which guidance can be offered to public authorities under the Code is adequate,” the recommendations said.

“The government should also review and update the Code to take account of the ten years of operation of the Act’s information access scheme.”

The review particularly singled out the Code of Practice should describe how authorities should use the vexatious (Section 14) provision within the FOI Act.

Matt is a digital journalist, freelancer and has written a book on the Freedom of Information Act for journalists. He runs this site in his spare time aiming to help raise awareness of the Freedom of Information Act and its uses. He can be found tweeting @mattburgess1.

6 COMMENTS

  1. not before time either from these lazy gits. Top Priority is to kick this Dransfield Vexatious BS into the long grass after Magyar Helsinki Case

  2. The following three Ministries have jumped onto the Dransfield Vexatious Band Wagon in the last 5/6 weeks
    1.The Home Office
    2.MOD
    3. Ministry of Justice.
    Wouldn’t you think the MoJ and the Home Office would know about the Magyar Helsinki Bizottsag case.

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