The Freedom of Information Act 2000 came into effect on 1 January 2005.
In summary, the Act:
- places an obligation on public authorities to adopt and maintain a publication scheme. The term "public authority" has a broad definition and includes central and local government, non-departmental public bodies, the police, the health service, schools, colleges and universities, and the public functions of named private companies.
- provides a general right of access to all types of recorded information held by public authorities and sets out exemptions from that right.
- places a number of obligations on public authorities about the way in which they provide information. Subject to the exemptions, anyone making a request for information must be informed whether the public authority holds the information and, if so, be supplied with it - generally within 20 working days.
- creates a duty to provide advice or assistance to anyone seeking information (for example in order to explain what is readily available or to clarify what is wanted).
- creates the role of the Information Commissioner with responsibility for overseeing the operation of the Act. The Information Commissioner is an independent public official responsible directly to Parliament. As well as approving Publication Schemes and promoting compliance with the Act generally, the Commissioner has powers of enforcement.
The Bank is designated as a public authority and falls within its scope except in respect of certain excluded functions which are specified within the Act as:
- monetary policy
- financial operations intended to support financial institutions for the purposes of maintaining stability, and
- the provision of private banking services and related services.