Line to take - LTT26 - Reasonably accessible information and publication schemes

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  • FOI/EIR: FOI
  • Section/Regulation: s21
  • Issue: Reasonably accessible information and publication schemes
  • Source: Policy Team
  • Details: Agreed by GS
  • Related Lines to Take: LTT25, LTT27
  • Related Documents: Awareness Guidance 6
  • Contact: EW
  • Date: 21/05/2007
  • Policy Reference: LTT26
  • © Copyright Information Commissioner's Office, re-used with permission
  • Original source linked from here: LTT


Line to take

Information is reasonably accessible to the applicant, irrespective of their individual circumstances, if it is included in the public authority’s publication scheme, or if it is information which a public authority is obliged by law to communicate (except where the means of communication is making the information available for inspection).

Further Information

Section 21 provides that information is exempt if it is reasonably accessible to the applicant. In some cases this means that, unlike all other exemptions (except s40(1)), the circumstances of the applicant can be taken into account when considering whether or not the exemption applies. This may relevant where, for example, where the public authority knows that the information being requested is already held by the applicant.

It also states, however, that certain information is reasonably accessible to the applicant, by definition. This is irrespective of the applicant’s circumstances. Information which is necessarily and by definition reasonably accessible is:

  • information which a public authority is obliged by law to communicate (except where the means of communication is making the information available for inspection), whether or not this is in the public authority’s publication scheme [subsection (2)(b)]; and
  • information which is made available in accordance with the public authority’s publication scheme (by whatever means, and whether or not it is legally obliged to communicate it [subsection (3)*]

Whether or not information which a public authority is obliged by law to communicate by making it available for inspection is reasonably accessible to the applicant wIl be dependent on the circumstances of the applicant.

Subsection (3) also provides that information is not reasonably accessible to the applicant just because it is available from the public authority on request, unless it is in a publication scheme. This means that public authorities cannot ‘opt out’ of the FOIA by claiming that information exempt by virtue of s21 because it would have made the information available anyway.

Information is reasonably accessible to the applicant, even where payment is required. Where information is made available in accordance with a publication scheme, however, that payment must also be specified in, or determined in accordance with, the scheme.

(*) Subsection (3) applies to all information which does not fall within subsection (2)(b). This is:

  • Information which a public authority is not obliged by law to communicate
  • Information which a public authority is obliged by law to communicate by making it available for inspection