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Access to Information

Volume 465: debated on Thursday 25 October 2007

Today I have deposited copies of “Draft Freedom of Information and Data Protection (Appropriate Limit and Fees) Regulations 2007: Response to Consultation” in the Libraries of both Houses. Copies are also available in the Vote Office and Printed Paper Office. I have also laid before Parliament the “Government response to the Constitutional Affairs Select Committee Report on Freedom of Information; Government's proposals for reform” (Cm 7187).

These documents set out the Government's response to the consultation on the draft FOI fees regulations and to the Constitutional Affairs Select Committee Report. They also set out the Government's decision on next steps regarding the fees regulations. We have decided to make no changes to the existing fees regulations. We will deliver a package of positive administrative measures to make better use of the existing provisions to improve the way the Freedom of Information Act works.

The Government are commissioning a review of the “30-year rule”—the date by which public records must be transferred to The National Archives by Government Departments—and the date at which records become “historical”. Changes to these would require amendments to the Public Records Act and the Freedom of Information Act, and, taken together, could have the effect of increasing access to Government records. The review will consider the means by which such changes could be delivered and will include recommendations on an appropriate reduction period.

The Government are also publishing today a formal consultation on extending the application of the Freedom of Information Act, by means of an Order under Section 5 of the Act, to a range of organisations that perform public functions. The consultation will run for three months and copies of the consultation paper are being deposited in the Libraries of both Houses. Copies are also available in the Vote Office and Printed Paper Office.

In addition to this, the Government are today announcing their intention to conduct a review of the way we share and protect personal information in the public and private sector. The review and any recommendations will be produced by Richard Thomas, the Information Commissioner and Dr. Mark Walport, Director of Wellcome Trust, and published in the first half of 2008.