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Freedom of Information

Volume 487: debated on Monday 2 February 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what plans he has to increase the budget of the Information Commissioner to assist the processing of reports under the Freedom of Information Act 2000. (251713)

The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) and the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) regularly review funding for the Office's freedom of information work.

In response to business cases made by the ICO, the MOJ has provided the ICO with additional grant in aid over and above its original baseline for this financial year and the previous three. Figures are set out in the following table.

The MOJ has made clear that additional funding must result in increased productivity and efficiency. The ICO has reviewed its internal processes and has adopted new procedures such as senior level triage of new cases as they are received to drive performance improvements. During the last completed quarter the ICO has closed 11 per cent. more cases than in the equivalent quarter in the last financial year.

In the current financial year, in addition to an extra £500,000 on top of the £5 million baseline, the MOJ has promoted a secondment scheme to assist the ICO with its freedom of information casework. Currently, six civil servants are seconded to the ICO, paid for by their home departments.

Discussions are continuing about funding for next year.

Grant in aid allocated to ICO for freedom of information work

Financial year

Amount

2008-09

£5,500,000 (included additional £500,000 on £5 million baseline complemented by MOJ promotion of a scheme to second civil servants to ICO at government departments’ expense).

2007-08

£5,050,000 (included additional £350,000 on £4.7 million baseline in response to ICO bid for funding to meet legal costs for Information Tribunal cases).

2006-07

£5,550,000 (included additional £850,000 on £4.7 million baseline for clearing the backlog).

2005-06

£5,100,000 (included additional £100,000 on £5 million baseline for reorganising Information Commissioner’s office).

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice with reference to the answer of 7 January 2008, Official Report, column 151W, on Freedom of Information Act 2000, which (a) regional chambers and (b) proposed local authority leaders' boards will be subject to the provisions of the Act. (252152)

If approved by both Houses, provisions within the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Bill (currently before the House) will disband regional chambers and replace them with local authority leaders’ boards. There is currently no provision in the Bill to bring local authority leaders’ board within the scope of the Freedom of Information Act. However, this matter will be given further consideration in due course.