Freedom of Information Act

Under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, most information held by public authorities has to be made available to anyone who requests it in writing. The Act applies to information held by most publicly funded organisations, but not to information held by individuals.

The Act requires and encourages public authorities to prepare a publication scheme, a guide to how information is routinely available to the public without a formal request. Applicants for information that is available through a publication scheme should be referred to the scheme. Oral history collections that are available to the public in a library or archive should be described in the catalogue, and the catalogue should be referred to in the publication scheme.

The Act provides for exemptions to public access in specified circumstances, such as that disclosure would be a breach of confidence. Thus an FoI request for access to closed or restricted interview material can be denied on these grounds alone. The authority holding the information is responsible for assessing the information and deciding whether an exemption applies. Depositors of oral history collections thus need to ensure that they have provided all necessary details to justify any closures for the periods specified.

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