The Freedom of Information Act 2000 and the Environmental Information Regulations 2004

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Freedom of Information Act?

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) came fully into force in January 2005 when full rights of access to information held by public authorities were provided. The Act is part of the Government’s commitment to greater openness and transparency in the public sector and aims to enable members of the public to question the actions and decisions of public authorities more closely. What this means in practice is that you can request information from any public authority and, in the majority of cases; they will have to give it to you.

A second piece of legislation is also relevant and came into force at the same time as the FOIA. This is called the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIRs) and this provides a right of access to environmental information. The regulations are very similar to the FOIA and we will deal with requests for environmental information in a similar way to those for other information.

What is environmental information?

The definition of environmental information includes:

How is the FOIA related to the Data Protection Act?

The Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) provides a right of access to personal information held about you. Personal information is exempt under the FOIA, which means that someone else could not make a request to see what information we hold about you.

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Who does the legislation apply to?

The FOIA applies to all public authorities in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It also applies to any company that is wholly owned by a public authority.
The EIRs apply to all these public authorities as well as bodies under the control of any public authority which has public responsibilities or provides public services in relation to the environment.

Who can request information under the new legislation?

Anyone can request information, regardless of age, nationality or location.

What information is already available to me?

You can access all the information we make routinely available via our Publication Scheme. This includes information about the Trust, how it is organised and it's policies, organised into the classes of information available. It will also tell you how to get more detail if necessary.

What information can I request?

All the information we hold is eligible for release. However, a number of exemptions may be applied to protect information that must be kept confidential.

How do I make a request for information?

If you wish to make a request for information under the FOIA or EIRs you must:

You should then send this to our Information Request Handler. Alternatively you can complete our Information Request Form, the receipt of which will constitute an official request for information.

Please note that to access personal information, such as your health records; you will need to make a request under the Data Protection Act 1998.

What happens when I make a request?

When we receive your request we will consider it and then reply. Our reply will confirm or deny whether or not we hold the information, and either provide the information you have requested, or explain why it has not been provided, quoting an exemption under the Act.

If your request is unclear we will contact you to clarify what it is that you want.

If your request is for information which may be exempt it will be referred to our group of Freedom of Information ‘experts’ who will make the decision.

We will respond to your request as soon as is possible, and not later than 20 working days after receiving it.

What does it cost?

If you are requesting information contained in our publication scheme, the scheme will also give details of whether (and how much) we will charge for providing it.

If you are requesting information not contained in our publication scheme, we will not charge a fee in the majority of cases. We may charge a fee if it costs us more than the £450 to provide the information or if you request information that falls under more than one access regime. If there is a fee and you refuse to pay it, we can refuse to supply the information.

Why might my request be refused?

Your request may be refused for one of three reasons:

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What can I do if my request is refused?

If you are not happy with either the decision we have made or how we have handled your request you are entitled to make a complaint.

How can I use the information I receive?

The FOIA does not place restrictions on how the information supplied under it may be used. However, it does provide exemptions for commercially sensitive information, information intended for future publication or information related to investigations, law enforcement and court records. The Act does not transfer copyright in any information supplied under it.

Can I ask for the information in a different format?

You may request that the information be supplied in any form. In particular, you may ask for information in permanent form, in summary form, or for permission to inspect records containing the information. However, we may take into account the cost of supplying the information in this form before complying with your request.

Where can I find out more information on the FOIA and EIRs?

You may find the following websites useful if you wish to read up more about the relevant legislation:

North Hampshire Primary Care Trust Publication Scheme (PDF)

Repeated

“…where a public authority has previously complied with a request which was made by any person, it is not obliged to comply with a subsequent identical or subsequently similar request from that person unless a reasonable interval has elapsed between compliance with the previous request and the making of the current request.” (The Act)

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Vexatious

“causing annoyance or worry” (Dictionary definition)
“…designed to subject a public authority to inconvenience, harassment or expense.” (Case of Attorney General v Barker (2000))
“Effect will need to considered as well as intention…if a reasonable person would conclude that the main effect of the request would be disproportionate inconvenience or expense, then it would be appropriate to treat the request as being vexatious.” (Information Commissioner’s guidance)

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