The right to request access to information is enshrined by three different laws according to the type of information to be accessed.
- Requests from an individual to look at his or her personal data should be dealt with under the Data Protection Act.
- Requests for environmental information should be dealt with under the Environmental Information Regulations.
- Any other written request for information should be dealt with under the Freedom of Information Act.
Members of Parliament (MPs) and Members of the House of Lords are not public authorities under the Freedom of Information Act or the Environmental Information Regulations and are not obliged to respond to requests under these laws.
MPs are subject to the Data Protection Act and requests for your own personal data that is held by an MP should be sent directly to that MP and not to the House of Commons.
The Act places a duty on public authorities to adopt and maintain a publication scheme, which identifies classes of information held by the authority. A public authority must:
- Identify information that it holds under the classes of the scheme.
- Proactively make this information publicly available.
- Note the form in which the information will be made available.
- Specify any charges that apply to access this information.
- Review and update the scheme on a regular basis.
- Make the scheme available to the public.
The publication schemes for both Houses were updated from 1 January 2009 in order to adopt the approved new model publication scheme produced by the Information Commissioner.