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Freedom Of Information

Privy Council Office
Freedom of Information Publication Scheme
November 2006

Contents

  • Introduction
  • Purpose of the Scheme
  • Obtaining Information from the Privy Council Office
  • Exemptions
  • Comments and Complaints

 

Introduction

The Privy Council Office (PCO) operates this publication scheme which has been approved by the Information Commissioner. With some 70 members of staff, the PCO is the smallest government department.

The PCO has three distinct responsibilities:

  • To support the President of the Council and Leader of the House of Lords in both her roles, and to provide administration support for the Office of the Leader of the House of Commons, and his Deputy.
  • to act as the Secretariat of the Privy Council, a term which simply means "Ministers collectively".  For historical and other reasons certain items of Government business fall to "the Privy Council" rather than to an individual Secretary of State or Minister. Further details can be found in the publication scheme.
  • to support the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council which comprises the Law Lords and certain other senior judges (including judges from Commonwealth countries) who sit as a court of final appeal. The main business is appeals from Commonwealth countries and United Kingdom overseas territories but some domestic appeals are also heard, notably appeals raising devolution issues under the devolution legislation of 1998.

Ceri King, Director of Corporate Services, has overall responsibility for the scheme and Fred Meech is responsible for maintaining the scheme on a day to day basis. This scheme was last reviewed on 4th April 2006.

The Purpose of this Scheme

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 received Royal Assent on 30 November 2000. It gives a general right of access to all types of recorded information held by public authorities as defined in the Act, sets out exemptions from that right and places a number of obligations on public authorities. Any person who makes a request to a public authority for information must be informed whether the public authority holds that information and, subject to exemptions, supplied with that information.

Individuals already have the right of access to information about themselves under the Data Protection Act 1998. The Freedom of Information Act extends this right to public access to all types of information held by public authorities subject to certain exemptions.

Every public authority is required to adopt and maintain a publication scheme setting out the classes of information it publishes or intends to publish, the manner in which it intends to publish the information and whether a charge will be made for the information. The purpose of a scheme is to ensure a significant amount of information is available, without the need for a specific request. Schemes are intended to encourage organisations to publish more information pro-actively and to develop a greater culture of openness.

This scheme has been developed by a group of PCO staff from the three areas listed above. The group reviewed the information already published by the PCO and considered requests for information from the public in determining what new items should be included in the publication scheme.

In the interests of fostering a culture of openness, the PCO will publish material on the Judicial Committee and University Visitor which is not required under the statutory scheme as it relates to bodies which, though serviced by the PCO, are not themselves part of it.

Obtaining information from the Privy Council Office

The PCO website contains information on the following topics:-

About the Privy Council Office
Aims and Objectives
Departmental Plan
Standards and Statistics
Organisation
Minister
Cabinet Committees
Accounts
Management Board
Health and Safety
Audit and Risk
Complaints

Privy Council Office Business
Privy Council Members
Orders
Royal Charter

Higher Education
High Sheriffs
Professional Bodies

Judicial Committee
Judgments
Jurisdiction
Legislation
Membership
Appeal Statistics

Privy Council Meetings
Dates of meetings
Latest Orders


The content of this website is reviewed from time to time and additional material is added. The Privy Council Office is also responsible for the publication scheme of the Office of the Leader of the House of Commons.  Further information can be found at www.commonsleader.gov.uk

All the material included in the publication scheme will be available both as paper and electronic documents. Material can also be downloaded free of charge from this website.  As a small department it is not feasible for the PCO to make material available routinely in other formats, such as Braille, or in other languages. However, individual requests will be considered sympathetically.

When the access rights under the Act came into force on 1st January 2005 anyone is entitled, on making a request for information to this Department (unless the information falls under one of the specific exemptions in the Act):

  • to be informed in writing by the Department whether it holds information of the description specified in the request, and
  • if that is the case, to have that information communicated to you.

The Act provides for a time limit for dealing with a request for information - that is, within 20 working days. The Act also provides for an appeal mechanism whereby you may apply to the Information Commissioner for a decision as to whether we dealt with a specified request in accordance with the Act.

The PCO may charge a fee for any FOI requests. This fee will cover the costs of:-

  • photocopying or printing material, this is charged at 10 pence sterling per sheet
  • postage
  • producing material in an alternative format at the request of the applicant, such as putting it onto CD-Rom, video, or audio cassette
  • allowing the applicant reasonable opportunity to inspect a record containing the information

If the cost of the FOI request comes to less than 5 then the PCO will not charge a fee.

If the PCO is making a charge for answering a request it will issue a fees notice to the applicant. The fees notice will be issued in advance of the request being answered, giving an estimate of the costs involved. When a fees notice is issued, the applicant has three months to pay. If payment is not forthcoming, the PCO does not have to answer the request (section 9(2) of the FOI Act).

To request any information under the Freedom of Information Act or obtain a copy of the Publication Scheme please contact:-

Fred Meech
Freedom of Information Officer
Privy Council Office
2 Carlton Gardens
London SW1Y 5AA.
E-mail: foi@pco.x.gsi.gov.uk


Under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act any request for information must:-

  • Be in writing either by post or by e-mail
  • State a name and address for correspondence
  • Describe the information requested


Exemptions

Some information held by public authorities is regarded as exempt information under Part II of the Freedom of Information Act. There are 24 such exemptions and they can be applied to information held for a variety of purposes. The exemptions include material related to national security, law enforcement, formulation of government policy, information provided in confidence, commercial interests, and personal data (individuals already have the right of access to information about themselves under the Data Protection Act 1998). These exemptions have been considered when determining the content of our Publication Scheme.

A full list of these exemptions are available at-
http://www.informationcommissioner.gov.uk

Comments and Complaints

If you have any comments about our Publication Scheme or if you think we have not supplied information in accordance with it then you should write, in the first instance, to:

Ceri King
Privy Council Office
2 Carlton Gardens
London SW1Y 5AA.

We aim to deal with the investigation of complaints within 15 working days and we aim to complete internal reviews also within 15 working days.

Anyone who is dissatisfied with the outcome, or the handling, of the internal review and the formal complaint conducted by the PCO, may seek an independent review from the Information Commissioner. Requests for a review by the Information Commissioner should be made in writing directly to:

The Information Commissioner
Wycliffe House
Water Lane
Wilmslow
Cheshire SK9 5AF
Tel: 01625 545 700
Fax: 01625 524510
e-mail: mail@ico.gsi.gov.uk

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