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Departmental Freedom of Information

Volume 499: debated on Wednesday 11 November 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many staff in his Department were employed on the management of freedom of information requests submitted to his Department in each year since 2005; and how much his Department spent on the management of such requests in each such year. (299141)

The Department has a small team providing advice, guidance and training to members of staff who respond to requests for information. Some members of the team also spend part of their time advising on other legislation, such as the Data Protection Act (DPA) and the environmental information regulations (EIRs). In particular, the environmental information unit within the team provides guidance to members of the public and other public authorities. The team is flexible in how it handles its day-to-day work load across all its information rights duties, and the percentages of time spent on the various functions can vary considerably over time. The approximate staffing levels in full-time equivalents are therefore as follows:

Full-time equivalent

2005-06

12

2006-07

11

2007-08

9

2008-09

6

Because of this flexibility, it is not possible to give a figure that relates only to the management of freedom of information requests. The approximate figures, as follows, cover staff working on FOI, DPA and EIR requests as well as providing guidance to outside bodies and members of the public on the EIRs. These figures include salary, superannuation and ERNIC payments.

£

2005-06

470,880

2006-07

449,000

2007-08

409,000

2008-09

306,000

An assessment of the cost of freedom of information within Government can be found in the Frontier Economics 2006 report “Independent Review of the Freedom of Information Act”. A copy of this report is available in the House of Commons Library.