Freedom of information in the United Kingdom

Freedom of information legislation in the United Kingdom is controlled by two Acts of the United Kingdom and Scottish Parliaments respectively, which both came into force on 1 January 2005.

Certain information can only be obtained under the Environmental Information Regulations 2004.

As a large number of public bodies in Scotland (for example, educational bodies) are controlled by the Scottish Parliament, the 2000 Act would not apply to them, and thus a second Act of the Scottish Parliament was required. It should, however, be noted that the scope of the two Acts is effectively identical - the types of public bodies covered in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are also covered in Scotland - and the requirements are almost identical, though the Scottish Act has slightly stronger phrasing in favour of disclosing information.

The 2000 Act does not extend to public bodies in the overseas territories or crown dependencies. Some of these have contemplated implementing their own legislation, though none is currently in force.


FOI legislation in the UK is the result of a series of incremental reforms. The 1966 Fulton report recommended the elimination of 'unnecessary secrecy.' The 1974 Labour manifesto promised a future FOI Act and the repeal of the 1911 Official Secrets Act.

In 1977, a draft "Freedom of Information and Privacy Bill" was circulated; this was shorter and simpler than the later Acts, and also included privacy legislation. Later versions were occasionally suggested by opposition parties, and it became a manifesto commitment for the Labour Party at the 1997 general election.[1] This promised to introduce some form of freedom of information legislation in line with other western nations.

A schedule for compliance was arranged at the time of the 2000 Act, and then for the 2002 Act, with timescales arranged so that both would come into full force on the same date - 1 January 2005. This reduced confusion and ambiguities, but the delay in passing an Act in Scotland pushed back the final implementation by some time. As a result, a manifesto promise from the 1997 election was finally fulfilled just in time for the 2005 election.

In 2007, the Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill was introduced as a private members bill in the House of the Commons by the Conservative MP David Maclean. The bill proposed to exempt MPs and Peers from the provisions of the 2000 Act, but whilst it successfully completed its passage in the Commons,[2] it failed to progress through the House of Lords after failing to find a sponsor.[3]

See also


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