Below is an extract from a recent (3 Mar 2009) ICO opinion, case
reference ENQ0234673 that I have been forwarded. The opinion suggests a valid request for information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) as an ‘applicant’ is a request which:

“* “is in writing,
* states the name of the applicant and an address for
correspondence, and
* describes the information requested.”

The FOIA does not seek to place restrictions on who can make a request for information and thus the word ‘applicant’ is not defined within the Act. An ‘applicant’ can be a private individual, an company or any other body such as an unincorporated association.”

This appears to be quite a liberal interpretation of who can make a request under the Act but it may reflect what the ICO does in practice. Up until now I had assumed that the ICO would only accept appeals from natural persons (people), companies, limited liability partnerships, public authorities and bodies formed by statute, Royal Charter or similar. I thought that only ‘legal persons’ could make requests.

It would be great if the ICO could publish some guidance on the website about this.

Justice Secretary Jack Straw has vetoed the publication of minutes of key Cabinet meetings held in the run-up to the Iraq war in 2003.

Jack Straw said “There is a balance to be struck between openness and maintaining aspects of our structure of democratic government,”

The fact is though that the Freedom of Information Act contains a public interest test which required the Information Tribunal to consider that balance.

I would rather that crucial decision whether or not disclosure is in the public interest was taken by an independent person rather than someone who might be embarrassed by the information.

Scrap the ministerial veto procedure!