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Freedom of Information Act 2000

Section 1: Right to information

22.Section 1 confers a general right of access to information held by public authorities. An applicant has a right to be told whether the information requested is held by that authority (the duty to confirm or deny whether it holds information) and, if it is held, to have it communicated to him. Provisions limiting an authority’s duty under section 1 appear in sections 1(3), 2, 9, 12 and 14 and in Part II. The grounds in sections 9, 12 and 14 relate to the request itself and the circumstances in which an authority is not obliged to comply with it. The provisions of Part II relate to the nature of the information requested.

23.Subsection (3) provides that where an authority reasonably requires further information in order to identify and locate the requested information and it requests this from the applicant, it need not comply with section 1 until the further information is supplied. There are no formal requirements on applicants to describe the information in a particular way, but the description would have to be sufficient for a public authority to be able to identify and locate the information requested. The applicant is not required to describe a particular record.

24.Subsection (4) provides that, although the information communicated to an applicant must be the information held at the time the request was received, account may be taken of amendments or deletions that would have been made in the normal course of events. This is intended to help ensure that requests for information under the Act do not interfere with the other day-to-day work of an authority or with sound record management.

25.Subsection (5) provides that where a public authority has communicated information to an applicant, the authority shall be taken to have complied also with its duty to inform the applicant whether or not it holds that information.

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