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Freedom of Information

Volume 450: debated on Wednesday 25 October 2006

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs how much funding her Department allocated to the Information Commissioner’s Office in each year since 2003; and if she will make a statement. (96361)

The grant in aid allocated to the Information Commissioner’s Office in the financial years since 2003 was as follows:

£

2003-04

11,200,000

2004-05

12,500,000

2005-06

5,000,000

2006-07

5,550,000

The grant in aid in 2003-04 and 2004-05 covered the Information Commissioner’s responsibilities for data protection and freedom of information. During this period the Commissioner collected notification fees paid by data controllers under the Data Protection Act 1998, section 26, and returned them to HM Treasury. For 2005-06 and 2006-07 the Commissioner, with the agreement of HM Treasury, retained the notification fees to fund his data protection work; the grant in aid covered only his freedom of information responsibilities.

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what advice her Department has issued on the recommended maximum length of time that a public authority should take to consider an internal review under the Freedom of Information Act 2000. (96374)

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and Lord Chancellor has issued a code of practice under section 45 of the FOI Act advising public authorities that complaints on the handling of freedom of information requests should be dealt with in accordance with their own complaints procedures. They may set their own target times for dealing with complaints, but these should be reasonable and subject to regular review.

The code of practice is available on the Department for Constitutional Affairs website (http://www.foi.gov.uk/reference/imprep/codepafunc.htm).

Guidance issued by my Department to public authorities on conducting internal reviews advises that they should be completed in a reasonable timescale. It recommends that simple reviews should be dealt with within two to three weeks. Complex reviews should be dealt with within six weeks. This guidance is also available on my Department’s website (http://www.foi.gov.uk/guidance/proguide/chap09.htm).

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what the average time taken for a public authority to conduct an internal review of a freedom of information request has been since 2000-01. (96378)

Since the Freedom of Information Act 2000 came into force in January 2005, the Department for Constitutional Affairs has published quarterly statistical data on the volume, timeliness of responses, and initial outcomes of requests received by 42 central Government bodies. My Department does not presently collect information on the average time taken for a public authority to conduct an internal review under this regime.

However, as noted in the Government’s response to the Constitutional Affairs Committee Report, “Freedom of Information: One Year On”, the Government will examine the feasibility of including statistics on the duration of internal reviews in its FOI monitoring regime.