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Roles of the Information Commissioner and DCA

This page contains information about the respective roles of the Information Commissioner, DCA, and other government departments in the way the Freedom of Information Act operates.

The Information Commissioner is the independent authority with responsibility for administering and enforcing the Freedom of Information and Data Protection Acts. His staff deal with appeals made under the Acts, and can take action against non-compliance.

More about the role of the Information Commissioner

The DCA is the government department with responsibility for government policy on Freedom of Information and Data Protection. The DCA also promotes compliance with the Acts within central government.

More about the role of the DCA


How the Information Commissioner and DCA work together

Although the DCA and the Information Commissioner's Office have distinct roles, they have a common aim of promoting the Act across the bodies covered by the Act and of ensuring that the public is aware of and able to exercise its new rights. Wherever appropriate, therefore, both organisations will continue to work closely together in furtherance of the overall objective of effective operation of FOI and will continue to communicate their respective roles to the wider public.

The Information Commissioner and government departments have made an agreement (a 'Memorandum of Understanding') about the procedures that will apply when complaints are made to the Information Commissioner about departments, under sections 50 or 51 of the FOI Act.

The Information Commissioner

The Information Commissioner enforces and oversees the Data Protection Act 1998 and the Freedom of Information Act 2000. The Commissioner is a UK independent supervisory authority reporting directly to the UK parliament and has an international role as well as a national one.

In the UK, the Commissioner has a range of duties including the promotion of good information handling and the encouragement of codes of practice for data controllers. (A data controller is anyone who decides how and why information about identifiable, living individuals is processed).

Role of Department for Constitutional Affairs

The Department for Constitutional Affairs (DCA) is the government department responsible for policy on freedom of information and data protection, including secondary legislation made under the Acts, statutory codes of practice under the Freedom of Information Act and for promoting compliance within central government.

Secondary legislation covers, amongst other matters:

Within government, the DCA has a specific (non-statutory) role for leading and co-ordinating the FOI work of government departments. In this role the DCA:

In addition, DCA has oversight of the Act as it relates to the public sector as a whole and it will provide advice to the public sector, outside central government, working through the lead government departments for each sector.

In addition to the roles outlined above, the DCA, is also the sponsoring department for the IC as a non-departmental body and for the Information Tribunal.


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