Thursday, March 09, 2006

Constitutional Affairs Select Committe

"Uncorrected transcript of Oral Evidence given by Rt Hon Lord Falconer of Thoroton, QC, a Member of the House of Lords, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs, and Alex Allan, Permanent Secretary, Department for Constitutional Affairs." (28th February)

Read the evidence (go to Q191 for the FOI qs)


Lord Falconer of Thoroton: We always said that we would look at the fees because we have introduced a regime that basically does not charge for providing information under the Freedom of Information Act. What it does is set a limit by reference to time, which is £600 in central government and £450 outside central government. There are issues about the extent to which some things that are not currently included in that £600 should be included. For example, people have adopted the technique of getting a list of files under the Freedom of Information Act, then asking for all of the contents of the file. That, before it can be released, plainly requires somebody to read the file, which does not seem to me to be legitimate. The time it takes for a civil servant to read the file is not included in the time it takes you to get to the £600 limit. Various government departments are now having to employ people specially to read files to see whether or not any provisions of the Freedom of Information Act would affect whether it should be disclosed or not. The sort of question we need to look at is, for example, should the reading of the file be included in the fee.

Q194 Chairman: Is there a review?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: We are looking at what we should do about fees at the moment and we will reach a conclusion, I think, fairly soon in relation to that.

Also discussed: 1911 census (Q219)

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