§ Lord Laird
asked Her Majesty's Government:
What arrangements they are making to ensure that all files in Northern Ireland are available for inspection from 1 January 2005; and what steps are they taking to ensure that the records are not altered before that date. [HL4947]
§ Baroness Amos
The Freedom of Information Act 2000 entitles any person making a request for information to a public authority to be informed whether the authority holds the information described in the request and, if it does, to have that information communicated to him, subject to certain conditions specified in the Act. The Northern Ireland Office (NIO) and the Northern Ireland departments (NICS) have been implementing a Department for 187WA Constitutional Affairs' action plan to ensure that they are compliant with the Act.
NIO and NICS staff have been made aware that anyone who alters, defaces, blocks, erases, destroys or conceals any record held by a public authority, with intent to prevent disclosure, will be guilty of an offence under the Act and liable to a fine. Staff have also been made aware of the code of practice on the management of records under Section 46 of the Act (2002), which sets out practices that public authorities should follow in relation to the creation, keeping, management and destruction of their records.