The Freedom of Information Act places various requirements on public authorities
in their dealing with requests. This includes the requirement to comply with
requests promptly, and at the latest with twenty working days.
With regard to the twenty day rule, this can prove difficult for particular authorities,
none so more than schools and the armed forces. The result has been the introduction
of the Freedom of Information (Time for Compliance with Request) Regulations
The effect of these Regulations is to extend the time limits in which
schools and the armed forces have to respond to requests. Given the fact that
schools may be on holiday when requests are received and therefore no-one will
be on hand to deal with such requests, any day which is not a school day will
not count for the purposes of calculating the twenty days.
Similarly, the Information Commissioner will have discretion to extend
a time limit to up to sixty working days if a public authority is incapable
of meeting the twenty day deadline due to obtaining information from someone
either preparing for military operations or who is directly involved in military
operations. This extends to any requirement to obtaining information from abroad,
including information from foreign governments or its own staff.
A further ten day extension is granted to the National Records Office
for requests made for records held in the national archives. This is to cater
for public records which have not been designated as open information and where
a decision is needed as to whether that information is exempt information.
While the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act provides powers for such
extensions to be granted to Scottish public authorities, so far that power
has not yet been utilised.