What issues can generate complaints?
The majority of complaints are likely to relate to the right of access to information, such as:
how the request was handled, including failure to meet deadlines and to supply information in the preferred format
the refusal to supply some or all of the information requested, including the application of the public interest test.
The administration’s complaints procedure may also be used by any person who perceives that the Administration is not complying with its publication scheme.
What constitutes a complaint?
Any written reply from the applicant expressing dissatisfaction with the Administration’s response to a valid request for information should be treated as a complaint, as should any written communication from a person who perceives the Administration is not complying with its publication scheme.
How do we deal with complaints about a decision not to disclose information?
If an applicant is dissatisfied with a decision not to disclose information or with the fact that we have stated that we do not hold the requested information he/she can seek an internal review. Applicants must be advised of this right at the time their request is refused.
If you receive a complaint/request for an internal review you should immediately refer it to the FoI team. Complaints will be acknowledged by the FoI team in all cases and the complainant informed of the target date for determining the complaint
The FoI team will determine who the most appropriate person to deal with the review might be and invite them to conduct it.
The reviewer must be someone who was not involved in the original request and should normally be a person more senior than the peson who originally responded.
The reviewer will then carry out the review supported by the Freedom of information team and legal advisers, where appropriate.
The Administration aims to respond to all complaints and requests for review within 20 working days. If the reviewer feels that detailed enquiries are needed which will take longer than 20 working days, the FoI team must be consulted so that the complainant can be kept informed of progress.
The reviewer should always inform the complainant as to the outcome of his or her complaint. If the decision to refuse to disclose information is upheld the complainant must be advised that he/she can appeal to the Information Commissioner's Office. Where the outcome of a review is that information which was previously withheld should be disclosed, the information in question should be disclosed as soon as practicable and the FoI team must be informed of the decision and provided with copies of the response and the information disclosed.
How do we handle complaints related to the publication scheme?
The publication scheme advises members of the public to write or send an email to the Freedom of Information team if they have a complaint about the operation of the House’s publication scheme.
The Freedom of Information team will either deal directly with a complaint regarding the scheme (e.g. issues relating to the structure or wording of the scheme) or refer the issue to the relevant office (e.g. where specific information has not been made available in accordance with a commitment in the scheme).
The complainant must be advised that he/she can write to the Information Commissioner if he/she remains dissatisfied with the way the matter has been handled.
Records should be kept of all complaints and of their outcome