Freedom Of Information Act 2000

April 2009

Part 1 - Freedom of Information and The Insolvency Service

81.02  Background and purpose

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) gives a general right of access to all types of recorded information held by public authorities and places a number of obligations on public authorities in making information available.

The intention is to encourage a culture of openness and accountability in public service and to facilitate better public understanding of how public authorities carry out their duties, why they make the decisions they do and how they spend public money. The FOIA applies to the public authorities specified in schedule 1 to the Act, designated by order under section 5 of the FOIA or publicly owned companies, as defined in section 6 of the FOIA.

Public authorities specified in the Act include the armed forces (with some exceptions), the National Health Service, the police, the education service, local government and central government departments, their related offices and agencies. In addition the FOIA amended the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) which has an important effect on the way some requests must be dealt with by The Service.

In general terms the following table provides an overview of the sections of the FOIA.


Section 1

Establishes the right to be informed whether the information

is held and, if so, to be provided with it.


Section 2

Categorises the exemptions in Part 2 of the FOIA into

absolute exemptions and qualified exemptions which are

subject to the public interest test.


Section 8

Specifies the form of requests.


Section 9

Provides for a charging regime.


Section 10

Sets out the timescales for response.


Section 11

Allows the applicant to state how they would prefer the



Sections 12



Explains the exemption from disclosure where a request

exceeds the appropriate costs limit


Section 14

Sets out rules for vexatious or repeated requests.


Section 16

Establishes the duty to provide advice and assistance.


Section 17

Sets out the requirements when refusing requests.


To view the full ICO guidance on the lifecycle of an FOIA request click HERE. 

81.03  The Insolvency Service commitment

(Amended December 2010)

The Service has a commitment to providing full, open and transparent communication and the disclosure of information where it is able to do so under the law. Subject to relevant legislation and the constraints imposed, the aim of The Service is to provide information wherever possible. The Service has appointed a Freedom of Information and Data Protection Liaison Officer within Technical Section (currently the post is held by Richard Sibun). Generally, requests for information will be dealt with by the Directorate holding the information. The Service’s liaison officer will provide guidance and assistance in responding to requests. Recording and monitoring FOIA requests received by The Service is the responsibility of the FOI & DPA Compliance Manager within Technical Section.


81.04  The Insolvency Service obligations

(Amended December 2010)

The Act creates two primary obligations for public authorities, from which other obligations then stem:

The Service must adopt and maintain a publication scheme, setting out details of the information it will routinely make available, how the information is to be published, how it can be obtained and whether there is any charge for it. Full details of the publication scheme are covered in Part 5.

The Insolvency Service publishes information that is routinely available under its publication scheme on The Service’s Website.

Anyone can request information under FOI regardless of age, nationality or location. A request can also be made by businesses, corporate bodies and organisations. Further details about dealing with requests may be found in Part 2. The Service must comply with requests for information that it holds within 20 working days. [note 1]

The Service is required to collect statistical information about requests received and has therefore agreed a policy to record and report all FOIA requests.

All requests received by any part of The Service should be copied to The Service’s Compliance Manager (Jim Digby) at as part of Service policy procedure.

All disclosures arising under the FOI Act must be agreed by the Information Asset Owner (IAO) for the directorate that holds the information. Generally IAOs are the nominated Director within each CBS directorate and the Director of CAD for teams under his or her authority (ORBS, PIU, NDU, P&T, RSU). Each directorate has an appointed FOI liaison officer who will be responsible for ensuring releases of information are agreed with the IAO before the response is issued.


81.05  The right to know

Any person making a request for information to a public authority is entitled:

  • to be informed in writing by the public authority whether it holds information of the description specified in the request, and
  • if that is the case, to have the information communicated to them.

All information held by The Insolvency Service (except information which is held by the official receiver in his/her capacity as a statutory office holder), see paragraph 81.19, can potentially be disclosed under FOIA, and any request will extend to cover BIS where the Department holds or is likely to hold relevant information. [note 2]

Requests can be made by any person from anywhere and because the right is not limited to information regarding the individual making the request, journalists and lobbyists, for example, make extensive use of FOIA for research purposes. As the term ‘person’ also includes corporate bodies, a company would be able to rely on the FOIA as well as an individual.

Information means ‘information recorded in any form’ and can therefore include written information (on paper or in electronic form), drawings, photographs or film.


81.06  Information held by third parties

(Amended December 2010)

The right to information under FOIA also includes any information held by a third party on behalf of The Insolvency Service. If a request for information is received, it will be necessary to consider whether any information held on behalf of The Service is relevant to the request and, if so, whether any of the exemptions under FOIA will prevent its disclosure. Where the information can be disclosed, it will be for Insolvency Service staff to obtain the relevant information and provide it to the applicant.

Requests under FOIA (unlike those made under DPA) need not be separate requests for information to the official receiver and other parts of The Service as FOIA covers all of the information held by BIS and its Agencies, regardless of where it is held or by whom. All requests should be forwarded to The Services FOIA/DPA Compliance Manager (Jim Digby) at


81.07 Information provided by third parties

In addition to information that is generated by The Service, the legislation applies to information that has been received from others and is held by The Service. This includes other public authorities, companies, organisations and members of the public. In general terms it will be necessary to consult the originators of the information about the prospect of disclosure, and while their views will be important if it is necessary to assess the balance of the public interest, it should be noted that they do not have a veto (except under certain exemptions). The final decision on any disclosure rests with The Service.

Further information on when information falls within FOIA may be found in the ICO awareness guidance HERE. 


[Back to introduction] [On to Part 2 - Dealing with requests]