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Government Transparency and Accountability

Volume 742: debated on Thursday 14 December 2023

Since 2010, the Government have been at the forefront of opening up data to allow Parliament, the press and the public to hold public bodies to account.

Transparency is crucial to delivering value for money, cutting waste and inefficiency, and ensuring every pound of taxpayers’ money is spent in the best possible way. The Government will continue to look at how the range of information published by the Government can be improved and made as useful as possible. The following subject areas include documents and information that the Government are due to publish.

Transparency on Ministers, Special Advisers and Senior Civil Servants

Departments publish details of their Ministers’, special advisers’ and senior civil servants’ meetings, gifts, hospitality and travel on a quarterly basis. To support these publications, the Cabinet Office provides guidance to Departments on how this data should be prepared and released.

As part of the Government response to reports by the Boardman review, the Committee on Standards in Public Life and the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee on strengthening ethics and integrity in central Government, and in line with its commitment to transparency, the Cabinet Office will be publishing online, for the first time, a substantial update to this guidance.

The updated guidance will clarify and expand on a number of requirements, such as strengthening meeting purpose descriptions, expanding the number of senior civil servants required to publish details of their meetings and setting a target, for the first time, to publish within 90 days of the end of a given quarter.

The updated guidance will be published on, and take effect from January 2024 onwards. Publishing the guidance online is also intended to aid public understanding of this data.

Departments will also be publishing, today, routine data on Ministers’, special advisers’ and senior civil servants’ meetings, gifts, hospitality and travel for the period of July to September 2023. The data covers the returns for the Prime Minister, the Leaders of the House of Commons and the House of Lords and the Government Chief Whip, as well as the Cabinet Office.

List of Ministers’ interests

An updated list of Ministers’ interests for all Departments is also being published today by the Independent Adviser on Ministers’ interests.

Freedom of information

The Cabinet Office has published technical guidance which it has issued to freedom of information practitioners across central Government on the approach to be taken when a requestor asks for disclosure in a spreadsheet format. Any disclosure of information under the Freedom of Information Act needs to comply with the UK GDPR and the Data Protection Act 2018 by ensuring that appropriate measures are in place to safeguard against inappropriate disclosure of personal data, such as that released inadvertently by the Police Service of Northern Ireland. The guidance, which is on, is in addition to that given on the “Means of Communication” in the FOI code of practice, and will be revised in due course.

Prompt payment data

Government Departments have a target to pay 90% of the valid and undisputed invoices received from private sector suppliers within five working days and 100% within 30 calendar days. Departments are required to report their performance against these targets on a quarterly basis. In Q1 and Q2 of the 2023-24 financial year, this Department paid 81% and 82% respectively of the valid and undisputed invoices it received from private sector suppliers within five working days and 95% and 93% respectively within 30 calendar days.

There are active measures in place to improve results and in Q3 to date we have seen some improvements. New data will be published on next year and I have written to officials in the Department reminding them of the importance of prompt payment especially for small and medium-sized enterprises.