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Information Commissioner: Manpower

Volume 487: debated on Monday 2 February 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what assessment he has made of the adequacy of staffing levels in the Information Commissioner's Office to deal with enquiries from the public and hon. Members effectively. (252856)

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) is funded by a combination of grant in aid from the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) to pay for its freedom of information activities and notification fees paid direct to the ICO by data controllers to fund its data protection work. The Information Commissioner is independent of Government.

The MOJ and the ICO regularly review the funding allocated to the Office. In response to business cases made by the ICO, the MOJ has provided the ICO with additional grant in aid above its original baseline for this financial year and the previous three for freedom of information work. 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 to drive performance improvements. During quarter three, the ICO closed 11 per cent. more cases than in the equivalent quarter in the last financial year.

In the current financial year, the MOJ additional grant amounted to £500,000, on top of its £5 million baseline. The MOJ has also 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 respective Government Departments.

Legislation is before Parliament to provide tiered notification fees for data protection payable to the ICO. This will increase the ICO’s funding in line with the Information Commissioner's estimate of the cost of meeting both his existing and proposed new statutory data protection responsibilities.

Grant in aid allocated to ICO for freedom of information work

Financial year



£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)


£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)


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


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