Transparency code for public authorities(draft)

From FOIwiki
Jump to navigationJump to search

What is this page about?

Some of's volunteers feel that the UK's Freedom of Information law does not currently go far enough to ensure real transparency. This is a draft of what good practice for public bodies might involve.

Public authorities

The definition of a body that is a public authority for the purposes of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 ought be extended to include:

  • any body that receives the majority of its funding from public funds
  • a company owned two thirds or more by public authorities
  • bodies with substantial public responsibilities

Voluntary compliance

Public authorities not subject to the FOI act should make clear how they intend to respond to requests for information. ie. if they are willing to voluntarily comply with the act they should make this known.

If they are to impose additional restrictions eg. a lower cost limit then they should explain and justify this.

Preemptive disclosure

Public authorities should move towards a system where there is no need for far fewer Freedom of Information requests, because nearly all information is public anyway.

At a simple level, this means looking for patterns of common or regular requests, and changing processes to routinely publish the information. At a deeper level, it can involve changing IT systems, to make it easier to publish documents. Ultimately, all documents should be public by default(XXX add Estonian example here)


All public authorities should acknowledge that the content of their responses to FOI requests are in the public domain.

ie. they ought follow the example of Bedfordshire Police who have attached the following statement to FOI responses:

"I am required by the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (The Act) to handle all requests in a manner that is blind to the identity of the requestor. Any information released in response to a request is regarded as being published, and therefore in the public domain without caveat."

Commercial confidentiality

Authorities should never use the commercial confidentiality exemption. XXX give reasons why they are being too legally conservative here

If there are genuine legal difficulties with existing contracts, then authorities should have a policy of no commercial confidentiality for all future contracts.


Responses to Freedom of Information requests are privileged XXX Add details here.

Authorities should make this clear on their website. XXX Or something else?

Publication scheme

  • Publication schemes ought be published on the organisation's website.
  • As much information as possible should be made available, as a matter of routine, on the organisation's website.
  • Public authorities without a publication scheme should respond to requests for details of the types of information they hold within 5 working days of a request being received.

Contact details

Public authorities ought be required to make an email address, to which requests for information can be sent, available to the public. This ought be publicised on the organisations website. It should not be an individual's address, but a generic or role address so that requests sent to it can be properly dealt with in the absence of particular individuals.

FOI Advice

Authorities are encouraged to link to to offer those requesting information the ability to do so in public, via a service which will permanently archive any response.

Disclosure logs

Authorities should publish all FOI requests and responses on online in a searchable manner. If any request cannot be published an explanation ought be given.


The FOI Act requires responses to requests to be made within 20 working days. It provides no time limits for cases where internal reviews or public interest tests are carried out. Therefore we believe authorities ought:

  • Complete internal reviews within 20 working days of a review being requested.
  • Usually complete public interest tests within the usual 20 working day time frame permitted for responses; but in exceptional circumstances, they should notify the requestor of the reason an extension is required within the 20 working days, and reply substantively within 30 working days of the request being made.

Authorities should not be afraid to show the inner workings of their handling of requests. For example, by briefly explaining who they are consulting with and why when there is a delay. This reassures the requester that the request is being processed, shows the hard work that goes on behind answering requests (it isn't just magic!), and can be done in a very light and informal way.