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Freedom of Information Act/Data Protection Regulations

Volume 458: debated on Thursday 29 March 2007

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary, my right hon. Friend Baroness Ashton of Upholland, has made the following written ministerial statement:

The Government are today publishing a supplementary paper to the consultation paper on the draft Freedom of Information and Data Protection (Appropriate Limit and Fees) Regulations 2007, which would give effect to the changes the Government announced it was minded to make on 16 October 2006.

Following the recent consultation of 14 December 2006 the Government are issuing this supplementary paper to consult on the principle of amending the 2004 regulations, specifically whether the 2004 regulations should be amended to deal with the identified problem of requests which are disproportionately burdensome on public authority resources. Further comments on the draft regulations contained in the consultation paper of 14 December 2006 are also welcome.

The draft regulations would extend the existing provisions by allowing public authorities to:

include reading time, consideration time and consultation time in the calculation of the appropriate limit above which requests could be refused on cost grounds; and

aggregate all requests made by a person (or persons apparently acting in concert or pursuance of a campaign) to each public authority within a period of 60 working days for the purposes of calculating the appropriate limit.

An independent economic review of the operation of the Freedom of Information Act commissioned by my Department and published on 16 October 2006 found that a small percentage of requests and requestors were placing disproportionately large burdens on public authorities in terms of the costs of officials’ time.

While the Government believe it is entirely right that a reasonable amount of resource is spent dealing with requests for information, it is also necessary to consider, in light of experience, whether the existing provisions need to be amended in order to provide the right balance between access to information for all and the delivery of other public services.

The supplementary paper is published today, with responses being invited by 21 June 2007. The paper will be sent to key stakeholders and all responders to the consultation published on 14 December 2006. Both papers are available on my Department’s website at: and will be available in the Libraries of both Houses.