More legal news
12 May 2005 | Joy Persaud
Discussions are under way to finalise details of exemptions to the Freedom of Information Act enabling the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to inform suppliers before potentially sensitive information about them is made public.
The act, which came into force on 1 January, places a legal duty on public bodies to release information to anyone requesting it.
Requests for information that falls into 23 categories, including defence and the economy, may not be released. But details of the types of information from suppliers that can be withheld have not been finalised, according to a spokeswoman from the MoD.
A working group, comprising the MoD director-general of information - who is responsible for policy - MoD suppliers and trade associations, is considering the commercial implications of the act and an outcome is expected later this month.
Gaela Bailey, associate at international law firm Crowell & Moring, said the ministry was not obliged to consult suppliers before releasing information.
She added that a revision to MoD defence contract rules on the disclosure of information (Defcon 531), to include a provision requiring consultation prior to the release of information, "would be of great comfort to the private sector.
"It will allow private-sector companies to ensure that the MoD has taken into consideration all relevant commercial factors, and will ensure that they have not overlooked any relevant exemptions, when deciding whether to disclose information in response to a request."