Freedom of Information Bill - continued        House of Commons
PART I, ACCESS TO INFORMATION HELD BY PUBLIC AUTHORITIES - continued
Right to information - continued

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Means by which communication to be made.     10. - (1) Where, on making his request for information, the applicant expresses a preference for communication by any one or more of the following means, namely-
 
 
    (a) the provision to the applicant of a copy of the information in permanent form or in another form acceptable to the applicant,
 
    (b) the provision to the applicant of a reasonable opportunity to inspect a record containing the information, and
 
    (c) the provision to the applicant of a digest or summary of the information in permanent form or in another form acceptable to the applicant,
  the public authority shall so far as reasonably practicable give effect to that preference.
 
      (2) In determining for the purposes of this section whether it is reasonably practicable to communicate information by particular means, the public authority may have regard to all the circumstances, including the cost of doing so.
 
      (3) Where the public authority determines that it is not reasonably practicable to comply with any preference expressed by the applicant in making his request, the authority shall notify the applicant of the reasons for its determination.
 
      (4) Subject to subsection (1), a public authority may comply with a request by communicating information by any means which are reasonable in the circumstances.
 
Exemption where cost of compliance exceeds appropriate limit.     11. - (1) Section 1(1) does not oblige a public authority to comply with a request for information if the authority estimates that the cost of complying with the request would exceed the appropriate limit.
 
      (2) Subsection (1) does not exempt the public authority from its obligation to comply with paragraph (a) of section 1(1) unless the estimated cost of complying with that paragraph alone would exceed the appropriate limit.
 
      (3) In subsections (1) and (2) "the appropriate limit" means such amount as may be prescribed, and different amounts may be prescribed in relation to different cases.
 
      (4) The Secretary of State may by regulations provide that, in such circumstances as may be prescribed, where two or more requests for information are made to a public authority-
 
 
    (a) by one person, or
 
    (b) by different persons who appear to the public authority to be acting in concert or in pursuance of a campaign,
  the estimated cost of complying with any of the requests is to be taken to be the estimated total cost of complying with all of them.
 
      (5) The Secretary of State may by regulations make provision for the purposes of this section as to the costs to be estimated and as to the manner in which they are to be estimated.
 
Vexatious or repeated requests.     12. - (1) A public authority is not obliged to comply with a request for information if the request is vexatious.
 
      (2) Where a public authority has previously complied with a request for information which was made by any person, it is not obliged to comply with a subsequent identical or substantially similar request from that person unless a reasonable interval has elapsed between compliance with the previous request and the making of the current request.
 
 
Discretionary disclosures
Discretionary disclosures.     13. - (1) This section applies in relation to a request for information received by a public authority, if and to the extent that the request relates to information whose disclosure to the applicant by the public authority-
 
 
    (a) would be required by section 1(1) but for the fact that-
 
      (i) the information is exempt information by virtue of any provision of Part II other than section 19, 21, 30, 38(1), 39, 42 or 43(2), or
 
      (ii) section 11 applies,
 
    or would be required but for that fact if it were held by the authority, and
 
    (b) is not otherwise required by law.
      (2) If the duty to confirm or deny does not arise, the public authority shall consider in accordance with this section whether, in the exercise of the authority's discretion, to inform the applicant that it does or does not hold information of the description specified in the request.
 
      (3) If the public authority-
 
 
    (a) holds information of the description specified in the request, and
 
    (b) has informed, or intends to inform, the applicant that it does so,
  the authority shall consider in accordance with this section whether, in the exercise of the authority's discretion, to communicate the information to the applicant.
 
      (4) In making any decision under subsection (2) or (3), the public authority shall have regard to all the circumstances of the case and to the desirability of-
 
 
    (a) informing the applicant whether it holds information, and
 
    (b) communicating information to him,
  wherever the public interest in disclosure outweighs the public interest in maintaining the exemption in question.
 
      (5) In making any decision under subsection (2) or (3) in a case where the information is exempt information by virtue of section 33(1)(a), the public authority shall also have regard to the desirability of communicating to the applicant factual information which has been used, or is intended to be used, to provide an informed background to decision-taking.
 
      (6) A decision under subsection (2) or (3) must be made within such time as is reasonable in the circumstances.
 
      (7) This section does not apply in relation to information to which a certificate under section 34(6) relates.
 
Fees for discretionary disclosure.     14. - (1) A public authority may charge for-
 
 
    (a) the provision in pursuance of a decision under section 13(2) of information as to whether any information is held, or
 
    (b) the communication of any information in pursuance of a decision under section 13(3),
  such fee as may be determined by the public authority in accordance with regulations made by the Secretary of State.
 
      (2) Regulations under this section may, in particular, provide-
 
 
    (a) that no fee is to be payable in prescribed cases,
 
    (b) that any fee is not to exceed such maximum as may be specified in, or determined in accordance with, the regulations, and
 
    (c) that any fee is to be calculated in such manner as may be prescribed by the regulations.
      (3) Subsection (1) does not apply where provision is made by or under any enactment as to the fee that may be charged by the public authority for the disclosure of the information to which the request for information relates.
 
 
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Prepared 19 November 1999