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Freedom of Information Act 2000


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									                                                                         RMO Guidance Series No.1

                       Legislation and Information: A Brief Guide
                                                               Freedom of Information Act 2000
                                                     Environmental Information Regulations 2004
                                                                           Data Protection 1998

The Information Jigsaw Puzzle                             information that identifies a living
There are three key pieces of legislation
that govern access to information held by                 Qualified exemptions: This is a category of
public authorities, which includes                        exemptions that require the conducting of
universities. These are:                                  a “public interest test” before any
                                                          exemption/s are applied. The test is
       Freedom of Information (FOI) Act                  whether the public‟s interest in the
        2000                                              University disclosing the information
                                                          outweighs the public‟s interest in the
       Environmental Information                         University not disclosing the
        Regulations 2004                                  information. Examples of qualified
                                                          exemptions include: information intended
       Data Protection Act 1998                          for future publication, information subject
                                                          to legal proceedings, information affecting
                                                          commercial interests of the University,
                                                          information affecting the health and safety
Freedom of Information Act 2000                           of staff.

What is the Act?                                          FOI: Publication Scheme

The Freedom of Information Act 2000                       In accordance with the FOI Act the
(FOI) came fully into effect on 1 January                 University has published an approved
2005. It applies to all “public authorities”              Publication Scheme. This scheme lists
including The University of Manchester.                   readily available sources of information
                                                          already produced by the University. It is
The Act allows any individual the right to                envisaged that many requesters will be
request any recorded information held by                  referred to these documents. The scheme
a public authority. Anybody can apply for                 can be found at:
information (including the general public,
those living overseas, journalists and                    www.manchester.ac.uk/aboutus/
persons from other universities or
commercial bodies).                                       FOI: Appeals against the withholding
                                                          of information
FOI requests must be in „permanent‟ form
(e.g. letter, email or fax). They do not                  If the University applies an exemption and
need to state that they are FOI requests.                 refuses the release of information, the
FOI enquiries must be answered within 20                  requester may make an internal appeal.
working days of receipt.                                  If the information requested is still
                                                          refused, he or she may appeal externally
FOI: Exemptions                                           to the Information Commissioner. The
                                                          Information Commissioner has the power
There are some exemptions which the                       to enforce compliance with the Act.
University can apply to information it does
not wish to disclose. These come in two                   Any information not falling under an
types:                                                    exemption and not on the Publication
                                                          Scheme must be divulged in response to
Absolute exemptions: This is a category of                a request. Information can no longer be
exemptions under which the University                     assumed to be confidential if this is not
can refuse to supply information.                         backed up by the Act.
Examples are: information which is
available elsewhere, information affecting
national security, and most personal

                               Records Management Office (August 2005)
                                                                        RMO Guidance Series No.1

                       Legislation and Information: A Brief Guide
                                                              Freedom of Information Act 2000
                                                    Environmental Information Regulations 2004
                                                                          Data Protection 1998

Environmental Information                                We can protect the identity of any third
Regulations 2004                                         parties mentioned in paperwork if a duty
                                                         of confidentiality is owed to them rather
The FOI Act does NOT cover requests for                  than to the individual concerned - an
environmental information. These                         example of this would be references.
requests are dealt with by Environmental                 Therefore, it is important to review files
Information Regulations 2004. Unlike the                 before allowing individuals access to them
FOI Act, requests may be made verbally                   in order to assess whether any
as well as in „written‟ form. As with FOI                information needs amendment/removal
there will usually be 20 working days to                 prior to inspection. Any queries should be
handle the request, but there are a                      directed to the Records Management
different set of exceptions / exemptions                 Office.
that it might be possible to apply when it
is not appropriate for the University to
release the information.                                 Further Guidance

                                                         Advice and guidance on the Freedom of
Data Protection Act 1998                                 Information (FOI) Act 2000,
                                                         Environmental Information Regulations
What is the Act?                                         2004 and the Data Protection Act 1998
                                                         can be obtained from:
The Data Protection Act 1998 came into
force on 1 March 2000 to strengthen the                  Records Management Office
protection of citizens' personal information             Room G.29
while recognising the legitimate need of                 John Owens Building
businesses and other organisations to                    The University of Manchester
process that information. Therefore, the                 Oxford Road
provisions of the Act apply to any                       Manchester
information from which a living individual               M13 9PL
can be identified.
                                                         Tel: 0161 275 5782 / 8400
Under the Act, individuals can submit a                  Fax: 0161 275 8402
Subject Access Request to see information                Email: foi@manchester.ac.uk
processed by the University. This can be
done by completing a Subject Access                      www.intranet.man.ac.uk/rsd/ssc/data/ind
Request form, which is available on the                  ex.htm
following website:


Completed forms should be sent to the
Records Management Office along with
payment of £10 (the maximum charge
allowed by the Home Office). However, it
is The University of Manchester‟s policy
that current students can see their
personal file free of charge and current
members of staff can see their personnel
file free of charge. Previous students and
members of staff must pay the £10 fee.

                              Records Management Office (August 2005)

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