Freedom of information

Introduction

From January 2005, information access rights under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) external link and the Environmental Information Regulations external link (EIRs) came into force.

The legislation gives any person, of any nationality, anywhere in the world the right to request official information from the Department for Employment and Learning and other public authorities.

In general the FOIA gives you the right to access policy and administrative information we hold and the EIRs provide the right of access to environmental information.

Accessing Information

Since the 1st January 2005 you have:

·A right to know if the Department hold the information requested; and

·A right of access to that information, subject to certain exemptions.

The reason for the request, if provided, is not taken into account in deciding whether information is released or withheld. Similarly the Department cannot question why information is being requested by an individual.

The Department has adopted a positive approach to the release of information, based on the assumption that information will be made available unless it is specifically exempt under the legislation or where disclosure is not in the public interest.

The Act is fully retrospective. This means that you can ask for information held by the Department irrespective of its age. For example, a document or report created in 1999 can be requested under the access to information provisions of the FOIA even though those provisions did not come into force until 1st January 2005.

Access to Personal Information

The Freedom of Information Act does not extend to the provision of personal information held, by the Department, about yourself. Such requests will continue to be handled under the provisions of the Data Protection Act (DPA) 1998. You can get further information about the DPA from the Information Commissioners Office external link