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PUBLIC AUTHORITIES URGED TO PREPARE FOR THE FREEDOM FOR INFORMATION ACT

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The countdown to compliance has begun. On 1 January 2005 the right of access to information comes into force bringi...
The countdown to compliance has begun. On 1 January 2005 the right of access to information comes into force bringing new responsibilities for public authorities under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOI Act).

The information commissioner's role is to ensure that public authorities observe the requirements. He has published guidance - 'Freedom of Information Act 2000: An Introduction' - to assist public authorities in understanding the actions and measures to be taken to ensure compliance.

Many public authorities have already had their first taste of the FOI Act, which comes into force in January 2005, through the production of their Publication Schemes.

Richard Thomas, the information commissioner, said:

'The Freedom of Information Act 2000 will be an essential tool to encourage public authorities to shed more light on what they are doing with public money and to discourage unnecessary secrecy. As a consequence, I recognise that public authorities will also face new challenges, not least having to balance a spirit of transparency with other competing public interests.

It is my intention to continue to develop this guidance, increasing its detail and authority as my office gains practical experience of applying the new legislation. I trust that this guidance will go some way towards answering some of the most frequently asked questions and that it will be a valuable starting point in helping public authorities to achieve compliance with the Act.'

Notes

1. The role of the information commissioner is to be the independent champion of public openness and personal privacy with various specific responsibilities set out in the Data Protection Act 1998, the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and other legislation.

2. Information about the information commissioner is available on the main website: www.informationcommissioner.gov.uk

3. A copy of the guide can found at www.informationcommissioner.gov.uk

4. Publication schemes are a guide to the information a public authority routinely publishes or intends to publish.

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