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ICO - Plain English Guide to FOI launched

The Information Commissioner has recently published a new plain English Guide to Freedom of Information to help public authorities better understand what the Act says and how to apply it. The guide takes a straight-forward look at the law and explains in simple terms what organisations need to do to comply, including how to respond to requests and deciding what information they should routinely publish.

Speaking at Capita’s Transparency and the Public Sector seminar, the Information Commissioner, Christopher Graham, said:

“Applying the Freedom of Information Act correctly can be a challenge and matters of interpretation can be complex. But we shouldn’t make the Act appear more complicated than it is by resorting to arcane terms and obscure references in hard to find guidance notes and reference books.

“The new Guide to FOI is about demystifying the Act by making the legislation more user-friendly and intelligible. We’ve done away with legalistic terms in favour of plain and simple language and, for the first time, all of the basic information and advice now lives in one place. I am sure the guide will be an invaluable resource for FOI officers when considering requests.”

The Information Commissioner also addressed the conference with his thoughts about the start of the review of the Freedom of Information Act by the House of Commons Justice Committee. Mr Graham said:

"I hope that the review of the first seven years is going to be based on evidence, not emotion, fact not fantasy. We need careful analysis and calm debate to arrive at an FOI settlement that is truly fit for purpose."

The ICO’s Guide to FOI displays the Clear English Standard logo. Martin Cutts, research director of the Plain Language Commission, which runs the Clear English Standard scheme said:

"This guide explains the Freedom of Information Act in a clear, logical and straightforward way. It uses familiar language and everyday examples to help public authorities make sense of and apply this important area of law in their own organisations."

Read the Guide to Freedom of Information

Notes to Editors

1. The Information Commissioner’s Office upholds information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals.

2. The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) provides individuals or organisations with the right to request official information held by a public authority. The Environmental Information Regulations (EIR) provide access to environmental information. The  ICO’s policy on enforcing public access to official information and the powers at its disposal are set out here.

3. The ICO is on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Read more in the ICO blog and e-newsletter.

4. If you need more information, please contact the ICO press office on 0303 123 9070 or ico.gov.uk/press