Guidance

Cabinet Office and Freedom of Information

The Cabinet Office plays a vital role in ensuring compliance with the Freedom of Information Act across Government, providing assistance on complex FOI requests while also making sure sensitive information is handled appropriately.

Documents

The Clearing House Remit

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Cabinet Office FOI Referral Criteria

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The Clearing House Referral Form

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Letter from the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster to the Guardian

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Letter from the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster to the Society of Editors

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Details

The Cabinet Office plays a vital role in ensuring compliance with the Freedom of Information Act across Government, providing assistance on complex FOI requests while also making sure sensitive information, including that related to national security, is handled appropriately.

A Clearing House function was established in 2004 and has operated in different forms since the Freedom of Information Act came into force in January 2005. In 2015 Freedom of Information (FOI) Policy moved from the Ministry of Justice to the Cabinet Office.

These coordination functions remain in place and are carried out by a small number of staff members, who have a range of wider responsibilities. They extend to ministerial and non-ministerial departments; non-departmental public bodies are not normally covered, although it may be that requests to those bodies are referred to the Cabinet Office through sponsor departments.

Areas which can lead to a referral may include where the information sought relates to national security matters, the Royal Household (where specific exemptions apply within legislation), significant live policy development and/or implementation issues and ‘round robins’ (i.e. those requests made to more than one department that have repeat characteristics and where it is important to ensure requesters receive a consistent and coherent approach to requests). The criteria for referral are set out in Cabinet Office FOI Referral Criteria (PDF, 24.9KB, 1 page).

The Cabinet Office has robust processes in place to ensure that the handling of FOI requests comply with the UK General Data Protection Regulation and the Data Protection Act 2018. All requests are considered applicant-blind and the occupation of the requestor is not used as an identifier.

Published 18 March 2021