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The Freedom of Information Act 2000 gives people the right to request information held by English, Welsh and Northern Irish “public authorities”.

Anyone has the right to ask for information – people living abroad, non-UK citizens, journalists, political parties, lobby groups and commercial organisations.

Public authorities are required to comply with requests within 20 working days of receipt, although there are circumstances when this time limit can be extended. A request must be complied with, unless one or more of the exemptions in the Act are relevant. Most of the exemptions are subject to a public interest test.

The 2000 Act is enforced by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). The ICO website explains how to make an FOI request.  The ICO has also published Guidance for public authorities (August 2017).

The Cabinet Office is responsible for freedom of information law and policy in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It has published a Code of practice for public authorities (July 2018).


The 2000 Act covers UK-wide public authorities based in Scotland. However, Scotland has its own legislation that applies to Scotland only public bodies – the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002. The legislation is not identical, but the differences are generally minor. The Act is enforced by the Scottish Information Commissioner.

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