Freedom of Information
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1. The Privy Council Office (PCO) is an independent office within Cabinet Office. Although the Cabinet Office has its own publication scheme, to which the PCO adheres, the PCO has prepared the attached to assist members of the public find information.
2. The PCO supports the Lord President of the Council and acts as the Secretariat to the Privy Council, a term which simply means “Ministers collectively”. For historical and other reasons certain items of Government business fall to “the Privy Council” rather than to an individual Secretary of State or Minister.
3. Ceri King, Head of Secretariat and Deputy Clerk, has overall responsibility for this scheme and for maintaining the scheme on a day to day basis. This scheme was last reviewed on August 2019.
4. The Privy Council Office is a public authority, although the Privy Council itself is not.
The Purpose of this Scheme
5. The Freedom of Information Act 2000 gives a general right of access to all types of recorded information held by public authorities as defined in the Act; sets out exemptions from that right; and places a number of obligations on public authorities. Any person who makes a request to a public authority for information must be informed whether the public authority holds that information and, subject to exemptions, supplied with that information.
6. Individuals already have the right of access to information about themselves under the Data Protection Act 1998. The Freedom of Information Act extends this right to public access to all types of information held by public authorities subject to certain exemptions.
7. Every public authority is required to adopt and maintain a publication scheme setting out the classes of information it publishes or intends to publish, the manner in which it intends to publish the information and whether a charge will be made for the information. The purpose of a scheme is to ensure a significant amount of information is available, without the need for a specific request. Schemes are intended to encourage organisations to publish more information pro-actively and to develop a greater culture of openness.
Obtaining information from the Privy Council Office
8. The PCO website contains information on the following topics:
- Privy Council Office Business
- Royal Charters
- Higher Education (including information on how to petition the University Visitor)
- High Sheriffs
- Professional Bodies
- Privy Council
- List of current members
- Meeting Business
9. The content of this website is reviewed from time to time and additional material is added.
10. Documentation submitted to this Office will be subject to the Freedom of Information Act 2000.
11. All the material included in the publication scheme will be available both as paper and electronic documents. Material can also be downloaded free of charge from this website. As a small organisation (currently eight staff) it is not feasible for the PCO to make material available routinely in other formats, such as Braille, or in other languages. However, individual requests will be considered sympathetically.
12. Under the FOIA, anyone is entitled, on making a request for information to the PCO, (unless the information falls under one of the specific exemptions in the Act):
- to be informed in writing by the PCO whether it holds information of the description specified in the request, and
- if that is the case, to have that information communicated to you.
13. The Act provides for a time limit for dealing with a request for information – that is, within 20 working days. The Act also provides for an internal review process if you are dissatisfied with the response to your request and an appeal mechanism, should you remain dissatisfied, whereby you may apply to the Information Commissioner for a decision as to whether we dealt with a specified request in accordance with the Act.
14. To request any information under the Freedom of Information Act please contact:-
The Privy Council Office
1 Horse Guards Road
15. Under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act any request for information must:-
- Be in writing either by post or by e-mail
- State a name and address for correspondence
- Describe the information requested
16. Some information held by public authorities is regarded as exempt information under Part II of the Freedom of Information Act. There are 24 such exemptions and they can be applied to information held for a variety of purposes. The exemptions include material related to national security, law enforcement, formulation of government policy, information provided in confidence, commercial interests, and personal data (individuals already have the right of access to information about themselves under the Data Protection Act 1998). These exemptions have been considered when determining the content of our Publication Scheme.
17. A full list of these exemptions can be found on the ICO Website (Exemptions Page).
Comments and Complaints
18. If you have any comments about our Publication Scheme you should write, in the first instance, to:
The Head of Secretariat
Privy Council Office
1 Horse Guards Road
We aim to deal with all correspondence within 20 working days.
Internal Review of handling of Freedom of Information Requests
19. As part of our obligations under the FOIA, the Privy Council Office has an independent review process. If you are dissatisfied with this response, you may write to request an internal review. The internal review will be carried out by someone who did not make the original decision, and they will re-assess how the Department handled the original request.
If you wish to request an internal review, please write or send an email to the Clerk of the Privy Council within two months of the date of the response, at the following address:
The Clerk of the Privy Council,
Privy Council Office
1 Horse Guards Road
20. If you remain dissatisfied after an internal review decision, you have the right to apply to the Information Commissioner’s Office under Section 50 of the FOIA. You can contact the Information Commissioner’s Office at the following address:
Information Commissioner’s Office,