Legislation gives us guidance on how to make information available to the public.
Freedom of Information Act
Under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, which came into force on 1 January 2005, anyone may request information from a public authority which has functions in England, Wales and/or Northern Ireland.
The intention is to promote a culture of openness and accountability across the public sector. However, in some circumstances, certain types of information may be withheld if there is a very good reason for doing so, for example if releasing the information might present a risk to national security or public safety, or if to do so would breach the Data Protection Act.
The Information Commissioner's website contains more information on the legislation including when we can refuse.
Environmental Information Regulations
The Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIRs) came into force at the same time as the Freedom of Information Act 2000. They clarify and extend previous rights to environmental information.
The public has a right of access to environmental information held by public authorities and some other organisations. The definition of 'environmental information' is wide and covers elements of the environment, such as land, water, biological organisms etc, but also measures and activities which may affect these, including economic analysis of such measures and activities.
More information about EIRs and how to make a request can be found on the Defra website.
Data Protection Act
The Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) governs how we manage personal information about living, identifiable individuals. Managing personal information includes, its collection and use, its accuracy and relevancy, its retention, and its security and disposal. It provides individuals with a right to request a copy of the personal information held about them, and have it provided within a statutory time limit. The DPA applies to personal information held both in computerised and manual form, which includes audio and video, microfilm, paper records etc