Freedom of information and public contracts
Freedom of information and public contracts

The following Public Law guidance note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Freedom of information and public contracts
  • Publicly owned companies
  • Information held by or on behalf of public authorities
  • Information provided in confidence
  • Information which is a trade secret or which if disclosed would, or would be likely to, prejudice commercial interests
  • Public procurement rules
  • Freedom of Information Code of Practice—transparency and confidentiality in public contracts
  • Transparency by design
  • The case for expanding freedom of information to increase accountability and transparency in public services

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FIA 2000) confers a general right of access to information that is held by a public authority. By virtue of this right, any person who makes a valid request for information to a public authority is entitled:

  1. to be informed in writing by the authority whether it holds information of the description specified in the request, and

  2. if that is the case, to have that information communicated to them

The rights and obligations under the freedom of information regime have significant consequences for public authorities and can also impact third parties sharing information with an authority in the context of entering a public sector contract. Unless an exemption applies to the information in question, then the authority is obliged to disclose it, hence contracting authorities will need to take these duties into account when entering public contracts. For general background reading, see Practice Note: Introduction to freedom of information.

A public authority may not need to comply fully with a request for information made under the FIA 2000 if:

  1. the estimated cost would exceed an appropriate limit

  2. the request is vexatious

  3. the request is repeated, or

  4. an exemption applies

FIA 2000 contains a number of exemptions which permit an authority to withhold the requested information and in some cases they may also decline to confirm or deny whether