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Information Commissioner's Office: Complaint

Volume 507: debated on Thursday 11 March 2010

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many complaints made to the Information Commissioner's Office had not been investigated within eight months of the complaint having been made in (a) 2008-09 and (b) 2009-10; and what steps are being taken to reduce this number. (318381)

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) is the UK's independent authority established to promote access to official information and to regulate the protection of personal data.

Complaints received by the ICO are recorded and logged in a casework management system. The complaints are then allocated to a caseworker for investigation. Of a total of 22,237 complaints received in the financial year 2008-09, the ICO took more than eight months to allocate 1,552 cases for investigation. The ICO allocated a total of 20,681 complaints for investigation within eight months of receipt in 2008-09, with four cases still awaiting allocation.

A complete picture for the current financial year is not yet available. However, in quarters one to three of 2009-10 the ICO received 18,463 complaints. To date, 318 of these complaints were more than eight months old when allocated for investigation. In the first three quarters of 2009-10, 16,561 complaints were allocated within eight months of receipt, notwithstanding a 21 per cent. increase in freedom of information complaints and a 42 per cent. increase in the number of data protection complaints in comparison to the same period in the previous financial year. The remaining 1,584 requests had yet to be allocated for investigation at the end of the third quarter. This information has been provided by the ICO.

The Information Commissioner is committed to speeding up the complaint handling process in his Office. The ICO is changing its internal systems and processes to focus on closing less complex cases more quickly. Additional grant in aid over and above its baseline funding has also been made available by the Ministry of Justice to help the ICO reduce its backlog of freedom of information cases in this financial year and the previous four.