Page last updated at 05:31 GMT, Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Home Office reveals FOI policies

Document folder
FOI requests are often looked at by government ministers

An email sent by mistake from the Home Office to the BBC has revealed that freedom of information requests are often first reviewed by ministers.

The document also shows how such requests are first assessed for their controversy level.

A final decision is then made on whether or not to disclose information.

The Information Commissioner's Office says it intends to remind the Home Office of its obligation to comply with Freedom of Information legislation.

The document sent to the BBC separates requests into those that have to be seen by a minister before information is released, and those that do not.

It lists Freedom of Information requests made in September and makes clear whether the request has come from the media.

This is despite the Freedom of Information Act stating that applicant's identities should not affect decisions.

Next to one of the of the applications listed is confirmation that the Labour Party is happy for information regarding the number of work permits it has issued to be disclosed.

Another, whose controversy level was assessed as medium, asked for the cost of bonuses made to the executive team of the Criminal Records' Bureau to be made public.

In that case, only a partial disclosure was recommended.

The Home Office says the procedures revealed by the email keep ministers properly informed about what is being made public, and that the identities of applicants never affect FOI decisions.

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