Friday, August 20, 2004

FOI fees

Under the Code of Practice on Access to Information (the current non statutory FOI provision for Central Government and related bodies) I have requested the minutes of meetings held at the Department for Constitutional Affairs (DCA) that discussed fees for Freedom of Information Act requests. I did this order to further understand how the fees issue was developing in light of the draft version currently available and the subsequent changes that were trailed in the Guardian, back in May that if implemented would dramatically increase the cost burden on FOI requesters.

I received the documents yesterday, they have been redacted in parts. They are available to download (PDF format)
(Crown copyright material is reproduced with the permission of the Controller of HMSO and the Queen's Printer for Scotland)

Some interesting issues to note from the minutes:

-The discussions definitely indicate that the fees system will be markedly different to the current draft on the DCA website
-The DCA state all money collected will go to HM Treasury
-Charging fees will be discretionary
-Issues relating to different charges for overseas requesters were discussed
-Costs resulting from poor records management should not be passed on to the requester
-Charging VAT was raised as an issue
-Consideration of exemptions was not considered to be chargeable
-No decision was reached on charging for redaction or charging for finding information
-Five options were discussed - full costs, % of final costs, an agreed hourly rate, flexible hourly rate and a flat rate of £25

It is important to note that these are notes from meetings discussing fees- not the final fees regulations, the DCA have stated they should be published in October

some further background:

Documents relating to the fees story in May:

Wkg Group Recs - Treasury comments.doc
Working Group recs - ICO comments.doc

Campaign for FOI page on fees

Hansard from House of Commons debate on fees

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