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Departmental Freedom of Information

Volume 476: debated on Monday 19 May 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many freedom of information requests made to his Department were (a) answered (i) within 20 days, (ii) within 40 days, (iii) within 60 days, (iv) after 60 days, (b) not answered and (c) answered citing an exemption in the Freedom of Information Act 2000 as a reason not to provide the requested information in each year since the Act came into force. (201724)

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 requires public bodies to respond to written requests within 20 working days of receipt, but allows additional time for the consideration of the public interest in disclosing the requested information.

The Act came into force on 1 January 2005. The following table sets out, for 2005 and 2006, figures for the Department drawn from the statistical reports listed. The figures shown for 2007 are drawn from statistics published by the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) for each quarter in 2007.

Resolvable Requests1

Responses provided

Within 20 days

Percentage “in time”

Exemption applied

2005

813

71

223

2006

1,154

89

249

2007

1,113

91

258

1 Resolvable requests are all those where it would have been possible to provide a substantive response. They exclude requests which are lapsed or “on-hold”, where the information was not held, and where it was necessary to provide advice and assistance to the requester, since in each of these cases it would not have been possible to resolve the request in the form it was asked.

The MOJ publishes quarterly and annual reports containing statistical information on freedom of information requests received by monitored bodies (including central Government Departments) in 2005 (“Freedom of Information Annual Report 2005: Operation of the FOI Act in Central Government”) and 2006 (“Freedom of Information Act 2000: Second Annual report on the operation of the FOI Act in Central Government 2006”). These reports are available in the Library and can be found at:

www.dca.gov.uk/foi/reference/statisticsAndReports.htm

The 2007 annual report is currently being drafted for publication in June 2008. However, statistics on requests received in each quarter of 2007 have been published and can be found via the MOJ website at:

www.justice.gov.uk/publications/freedomofinformation quarterly.htm

The published reports provide statistics on "non-routine” requests received during each period where: an initial response was provided within 20 working days; an initial response was given outside this time but a public interest test extension had been applied; an initial response was given outside this time and no public interest test extension was applied, and where no initial response had been given at the time the statistics were collected.

The 2006 annual report provides statistics on the duration of the public interest test extensions in that year. Corresponding statistics for 2007 will be available when the 2007 annual report is published.

Information on requests where deadlines were extended beyond 40 days is not collected in the form requested.