Correspondence between the information that the Bill Office holds which is connected in all ways and anyways with private members bills to ban ‘fracking’
Our Ref: EIR1-22
07 April 2022
Environment Information Regulations 2004 (“EIR”)
I am writing to confirm that the Northern Ireland Assembly Commission (Assembly Commission) has now considered your correspondence dated 24 January 2022 in which you requested the following information:
“Please forward to me any and all correspondence between the Bill Office holds which is connected in all ways and anyways with private members bills to ban ‘fracking’ and has taken place since January 1st 2020 and December 31st 2021. Please accompany the response with a summary list which explains what information the Bill Office holds and what is released/not released, dates of any interactions, and with a meaningful description of what that set of information is.”
Within your request, you have stated that “This is not a freedom of information request. Do not treat it as a freedom of information request.” The email further states that you are writing “pursuant to any and all of the Complex UK Environment legislation re UNECE Aarhus Convention”.
The UNECE Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision -Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (“the Aarhus Convention”) requires the parties to confer the right to receive certain environmental information held by public authorities on the public. The United Kingdom (‘UK’) is a party to the Aarhus Convention and the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (‘The EIR’) were enacted by the UK to give effect to this duty. Accordingly, your email has been treated as a request for information under the EIR.
The EIR do not apply to the Northern Ireland Assembly to the extent that it is acting in a legislative capacity. This is provided for in Regulation 3(3) of the EIR as follows:
3.(1) Subject to paragraphs (3) and (4), these Regulations apply to public authorities.
(3) These Regulations shall not apply to any public authority to the extent that it is acting in a judicial or legislative capacity.
In respect of this request, the Assembly is acting in a legislative capacity when providing services to Members through the Bill Office in relation to a Private Member’s Bill (‘PMB’). This includes receiving and sending correspondence. The only purpose of a PMB is to enable a Member to legislate on a particular policy issue, in accordance with the right conferred on Members by paragraph 29 of the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement. Paragraph 29 provides that legislation can be ‘initiated by an Individual, a committee or a Minister’. Accordingly, Regulation 3(3) of the EIR is engaged and the Assembly Commission is not required to process your request under the EIR.
Please note that the Assembly Commission has not processed your request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (“the FOIA”) as your correspondence dated 24 January 2022 requested that it should not do so.
If you wish to make a further request, please write to me at the following address;
or by post at:
DATA PROTECTION & GOVERNANCE OFFICER