The Freedom of Information Act 2000 was an Act of Parliament that created a public “right of access” to information that is held by public authorities. It implemented a manifesto commitment of the Labour Party during the 1997 general election. The Act was given Royal Assent in 2000 but came fully into force at the start of 2005.
As part of the Act, which is the responsibility of the Ministry of Justice, the Data Protection Minister was renamed the Information Commissioner. Around 120,000 requests are made each year under the Act, with private citizens making 60% of them, businesses 20% and journalists 10%.
Examples of facts that have been brought to light by the Act include a bailout of troubled academy schools, details of MPs’ expenses claims, possible crimes committed by foreign diplomats, the criminal records of policy officers, and implants made available to girls as young as 13 to try to cut teenage pregnancies. There has also been more transparency about the historic actions of the British Government, including complicity in torture in post-war Germany and support for the Israeli nuclear weapons programme.
The relevance of the Freedom of Information Act works to protect rights and freedoms by providing transparency on the workings of public bodies and more accountability on the Government – theoretically improving civil liberties in the UK.
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