FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REQUEST
The government first published proposals for freedom of information in 1997. In the white paper Your Right to Know, the government explained that the aim was a more open government based on mutual trust.
"Openness is fundamental to the political health of a modern state. This White Paper marks a watershed in the relationship between the government and people of the United Kingdom. At last there is a government ready to trust the people with a legal right to information."
Public authorities spend money collected from taxpayers, and make decisions that can significantly affect many people’s lives. Access to information helps the public make public authorities accountable for their actions and allows public debate to be better informed and more productive.
"Unnecessary secrecy in government leads to arrogance in governance and defective decision-making." - Your Right to Know
Access to official information can also improve public confidence and trust if government and public sector bodies are seen as being open. In a 2011 survey carried out on behalf of the Information Commissioner’s Office, 81% of public bodies questioned agreed that the Act had increased the public’s trust in their organisation.
WHAT ARE THE PRINCIPLES BEHIND FOI
The main principle behind freedom of information legislation is that people have a right to know about the activities of public authorities, unless there is a good reason for them not to. This is sometimes described as a presumption or assumption in favour of disclosure. The Act is also sometimes described as purpose and applicant blind.
- everybody has a right to access official information. Disclosure of information should be the default – in other words, information should be kept private only when there is a good reason and it is permitted by the Act;
- an applicant (requester) does not need to give you a reason for wanting the information. On the contrary, you must justify refusing them information;
- you must treat all requests for information equally, except under some circumstances relating to vexatious requests and personal data (see When can we refuse a request? for details on these). The information someone can get under the Act should not be affected by who they are. You should treat all requesters equally, whether they are journalists, local residents, public authority employees, or foreign researchers; and
- because you should treat all requesters equally, you should only disclose information under the Act if you would disclose it to anyone else who asked. In other words, you should consider any information you release under the Act as if it were being released to the world at large.
This does not prevent you voluntarily giving information to certain people outside the provisions of the Act.
More detailed information here