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Freedom of Information

Freedom of Information

The Freedom of Information Act (2000) is designed to establish a new culture of openness and transparency in public administration. 
 
Freedom Of InformationThe Act provides a general right of access to all types of recorded information held by public authorities, subject to certain exemptions, and imposes obligations on these authorities as to how they should respond to written requests for information. It also establishes the office of Information Commissioner with responsibility for ensuring compliance with the requirements of the Act. 
 
 Under the Act all public authorities are obliged to adopt and maintain a Publication Scheme. The purpose of the Scheme is to ensure that information is readily available to members of the public without the need for specific consideration under the Freedom of Information Act and to inform the public of the extent of the material available. 

 

The Northern Ireland Tourist Board’s Commitment

The Northern Ireland Tourist Board is subject to the Act and has put processes in place to ensure that it fulfils its obligations.  We will work with applicants so that we clearly understand what information they are seeking, to ensure that it can be provided in the format sought and as speedily as possible. 

While we will endeavour to provide information as speedily as possible, in some circumstances it may require the full twenty working days stipulated under the Act. (This does not include time taken to translate a request into English should this be required.) 

While normally there will be no fee for providing information, NITB reserves the right to charge in accordance with the terms of the Act. This will apply if the provision of the information will take more than two staff days to provide. In this case a fee of £450 will be charged. 

All requests must be submitted in writing to: 
Business Planning & Improvement 
Northern Ireland Tourist Board 
St. Anne’s Court 
59 North Street 
Belfast 
BT1 1NB

Tel: 028 9044 1655 
Fax: 028 9024 0960 
E-mail:
foi@nitb.com  
 
 
If you believe that we have not made information available in the manner described under the Act, please write to: 
Kathryn Thomson 
Chief Operating Officer 
Northern Ireland Tourist Board 
St. Anne’s Court 
59 North Street 
Belfast 
BT1 1NB

Tel: 028 9044 1603 
Fax: 028 9044 1634 
E-mail:
k.thomson@nitb.com  
 

The Chief Operating Officer (COO) has overall responsibility for Freedom of Information within NITB.  The COO will investigate your complaint and reply to you within 15 working days. If we have not resolved the issue to your satisfaction you are entitled to refer your complaint to the Information Commissioner at: 
The Information Commissioner’s Office – Northern Ireland 
51 Adelaide Street 
Belfast 
BT2 8FE

Tel: 028 9026 9380 
Fax: 028 9026 9388 
E-mail:
ni@ico.gsi.gov.uk  
 
 

Making a request for Information under the Freedom of Information Act

What is a FOI request?

Any written request for information held by the Northern Ireland Tourist Board (NITB) which is outside that of normal/routine business requests will be considered as a Freedom of Information request. 

However, environmental information and subject access requests (the right of individuals to have access to data about themselves) are exempt under the FOI Act as these kinds of information have their own access regimes. If your request relates to environmental information it will be handled under the Environmental Information Regulations (EIR) 2004.  If you are seeking information about yourself that is held by NITB, you should make a subject access request under the Data Protection Act 1998. 

What are you entitled to?

You are entitled to be told whether or not we hold the information you have requested. This is sometimes referred to as the duty to “confirm or deny”. If we do hold it you are entitled to have the information communicated to you. The Act is fully retrospective and gives you a right to request any recorded information held by NITB. However there are some exemptions to these rights. 
 

Why is some information not available?

Whilst the FOI Act creates a right to request information it also creates a number of exemptions from that right, in recognition that certain types of information may need to be protected from disclosure. This means that we may withhold some information requested. Exemptions fall into two categories, absolute and qualified. 
  

Absolute and Qualified Exemptions

Some exemptions are absolute, which means that information falling within the terms of these exemptions does not have to be disclosed under the FOI request process. Where an exemption is qualified, NITB must also decide whether the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosure when considering whether or not to apply the exemption. This is known as the Public Interest Test. 

Where information has been withheld we will inform you which exemptions have been applied and why, unless to give this information would in itself reveal the exempt information. 

The following is a list of the exemptions: 

  • Information accessible to the applicant by other means 
  • Information intended for future publication 

  • Information supplied by, or relating to, bodies dealing with security matters 

  • National Security

  • Defence 

  • International relations

  • Relations within the UK 

  • The Economy 

  • Investigations and proceedings conducted by public authorities 

  • Law enforcement 

  • Court Records    

  • Audit functions 

  • Parliamentary privilege 

  • Formulation of government policy 

  • Prejudice to the effective conduct of public affairs     

  • Communications with Her Majesty etc and Honours        

  • Health and Safety 

  • Environmental information 

  • Personal information 

  • Information provided in confidence     

  • Legal professional privilege  

  • Commercial interests 

  • Prohibitions on disclosure

For further information about the different categories of exemptions please see the guidance issued on the Department of Constitutional Affairs (DCA) website: www.dca.gov.uk/foi  

How do you make a request?

To ask for information under the Freedom of Information Act your request must:

  • Be in writing
  • State your name and an address for correspondence

  • Describe the information you require  

To enable us to locate the information you require it will be helpful if you can define your request as clearly as possible, including for example any dates or timescales that may help identify relevant records.  Please also include a daytime telephone number, if possible. This will help speed up the process should we need to contact you to clarify the details of your request.
   
For convenience you can download the Request for Information Form and send it to the following address:

Business Planning & Improvement
Northern Ireland Tourist Board
St. Anne’s Court
59 North Street
Belfast
BT1 1NB

Tel: 028 9044 1655
Fax: 028 9024 0960
E-mail:
foi@nitb.com  

What does it cost?

The FoI Act sets an “appropriate limit” below which public authorities are required to provide requested information free of charge. We will not charge where the cost of locating, retrieving and extracting the information is less than this limit, which is currently set at £450.
   
Where the estimated cost of providing information exceeds £450, NITB is not obliged to proceed with the request. However we may be able to provide some of the information requested if it can be supplied within the “appropriate limit” and in these circumstances we will contact you and assist you in redefining your request.

What happens when you make a request?

When we receive a request for information, we will respond as soon as possible and generally no later than 20 working days from the date of receipt. If we are unclear from your initial request what information you are asking for, we will contact you to clarify what you are seeking.
       
If your request is very wide and appears to be outside the “appropriate limit” for costs, we may contact you to see if you can be more specific about what you are seeking. This may enable us to answer your request within 20 working days.
  
If we need more time to weigh up public interest considerations relating to disclosure we will write to you within the 20 days to tell you when we estimate we will be able to provide a final response to your request.
 

What happens if the information I requested is not held?

NITB will contact you and advise you that the information requested may be held by another public authority and provide the necessary details to assist you in re-applying.
  
In some cases, NITB may automatically transfer the request on your behalf to the appropriate public authority, in these circumstances we will contact you to advise what has been done.

If we are unable to advise which public authority holds, or may hold the information requested, NITB will try to provide alternative assistance to facilitate you in pursuing your request.

 

Consultation with Third Parties

Where are request is received under the FOI Act for information concerning the details of a third party or a document that has been prepared by a third party including another public body, individual or business, NITB is required to take reasonable steps to contact and consult with the third party regarding the release of the information.

Although the third party will be consulted, the decision as to whether or not to release the information will be taken by NITB alone on a case by case basis.

What happens if your request is refused or you are unhappy with the response?

You are entitled to ask for an internal review of NITB’s decision.   If your request is refused or information is excluded from the release, we will reply explaining why, identifying which exemption(s) has been applied, where appropriate. This letter will also give details of how to ask for an internal review of the decision.

If you remain dissatisfied after the internal review, you can appeal to the Information Commissioner and ask for a review of the decision.

How many requests are you permitted?

The Act does not specifically limit the number of requests you can make, however it does allow a public authority the right to refuse any vexatious or repeated requests. NITB may also take into account the number of requests received from an individual for the same or similar information when considering whether the “appropriate limit” has been reached.

Environmental Information Regulations (2004)

Some information held by NITB may be subject to Environmental Information Regulations (EIR’S). Environmental Information covers a wide range of topics which relate to or affect the environment. Applications for information can be made by anyone, anywhere in the world.
  
New EIR’s (Environmental Information Regulations 2004) came into force on 1st January 2005. If you make a request which includes information falling within the EIR’s definition of environmental information we are obliged to consider this part of your request under these regulations rather than the FOI requirements. Unlike Freedom of Information requests, which need to be made in writing, EIR’s can be made orally. Subject to the exceptions provided for in the regulations we will seek to provide the information within 20 working days of receiving the request.

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