Lord Falconer revealed that local authorities have released information about a wide range of issues from pension schemes, car park contracts and repairs to
council buildings to restaurant hygiene inspection reports and attacks on teachers in schools.
Central government had received more than 4,000 requests for information in January from the background to major constitutional changes to NATO agreements.
Lord Falconer said:
'This is a new era in the relationship between the citizen and the
state. After just one month, the Freedom of Information Act has
already been seen to make a real impact.
'Across the 100,000 public bodies covered by the Act, a huge amount
of information has been released. Government has responded
positively to the challenge with my own department actively
publishing a great deal of new information.
'We have sown the seeds of cultural change towards a government at
all levels that is more open, transparent and accountable. But we
must remember this is not a free for all. There will always be areas
- like national security - where it is necessary for information to
be withheld to allow government to act effectively.'
The legislation allows public authorities 20 working days to respond
to requests. The first deadline, for requests received on 4 January
2005, was reached on January 31.
Of 4,000 requests received across central government about half have
been made by people identifying themselves as reporters. Campaigning
organisations and individual members of the public have also made
wide use of the new powers.
The National Archives has received the most requests, more than 600,
followed by the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign and Commonwealth
Office. Requests include applications for information about artwork
loaned from national collections to cabinet ministers' offices and
The Department for Constitutional Affairs received about 144 requests
for information in January, 76 of those within the first three days
of the act coming into force. Of these early requests 55 have been
answered, 19 are on target to be answered within the 20 working days.
Two requests have had their deadline extended beyond 20 working days
to allow consideration of where the public interest lies.
A three-monthly statistical report covering requests made to central
government from January to March 2005 is due to be published in June.
1. Further information about freedom of information can be found at:
2. The Freedom of Information Act was passed on 30 November 2000 and
covers 100,000 public authorities.
3. The Freedom of Information Act 2000 applies to England, Wales and
Northern Ireland. See the Scottish Executive website for The Freedom
of Information Act Scotland 2002:
4. The independent Information Commissioner monitors and supervises
the implementation of the Act. Information Commissioner's Office