asked Her Majesty's Government:
What procedures are in place to ensure that Freedom of Information requests, and doubts on the part of the receiving government department over the meaning of such requests, are addressed promptly and efficiently. [HL6008]
The Freedom of Information Act, and supporting guidance on the Ministry of Justice website, states that public authorities are obliged to respond to requests for information promptly and no later than 20 working days following the date on which the request is received.
Section 16 of the Act requires public authorities to provide advice and assistance to people who have made or who propose to make requests for information, particularly where their request does not sufficiently identify the information required. Detailed guidance on the provision of advice and assistance, with examples of where the duty may arise and how public authorities might comply, is contained in the Section 45 code of practice for the discharge of public authorities' functions under the Act. The code may be viewed on the Ministry of Justice website at www.foi.gov.uk/reference/imprep/codepafunc.htm and is also available in the Libraries of both Houses. The Ministry of Justice also issues guidance on these points which can be found at www.justice.gov.uk/guidance/foi-procedural-assistance.htm.