Duty to Provide Information
All public authorities holding environmental information have a duty under the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIRs) or the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004 to give the information to any member of the public who asks for it unless they can claim an exemption (see Refusal to grant information).
There's a list of the public authorities in England and Wales that are covered by the EIRs in Schedule 1 to the Freedom of Information Act 2000. The Regulations also apply to organisations such as private companies and public private partnerships that carry out 'functions of public administration'. If you are in doubt about whether an organisation is a public authority, please seek professional advice.
The Scottish Information Commissioner has published guidance on which public authorities are covered by the Scottish regulations.
Both sets of regulations require public authorities not only to respond to requests but also to be proactive in disseminating and publishing environmental information, helping the public to access it more quickly. The Freedom of Information Act 2000 and the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 both require public authorities to produce publication schemes setting out how they actively publish information. Although the Environmental Information Regulations do not require publication schemes as such, the Scottish Information Commissioner expects Scottish public authorities to include environmental information in their publication schemes required under the Scottish Act, while the Information Commissioner’s Office recommends that public authorities should adopt a publication scheme for environmental information, containing the following:
- the category or class of environmental information to be published
- the manner or format in which the information will be published
- any charges that will be made for the published information.