Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Parliamentary roundup

Some selected FOI related PQs and answers of interest, read more at

Harriet Harman's answer on internal reviews again illstrates how weak this process is.

Written answers

Thursday, 23 March 2006

Norman Baker (Lewes, Liberal Democrat) Hansard source

To ask the Prime Minister what steps he takes to ensure that his answering practices are consistent with the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

Tony Blair (Prime Minister) Hansard source

Practice and procedures are set out in the February 2005 Cabinet Office guidance to departments entitled Guidance to Officials on Drafting Answers to Parliamentary Questions." Copies of the guidance are available in the Libraries of the House

Thursday, 23 March 2006
Constitutional Affairs
Philip Dunne (Ludlow, Conservative) Hansard source

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what the maximum period is for a response from a body subject to an appeal after refusal to provide information for a freedom of information request.

Harriet Harman (Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs) Hansard source

There is no maximum period for the completion of an internal review requested after a refusal to provide information under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). However the Secretary of State issued a code of practice

under section 45 of the Act advising public authorities that complaints on the handling of freedom of information requests should be dealt with in accordance with their own complaints procedures. They may set their own target times for dealing with complaints, but these should be reasonable and subject to regular review.

Guidance issued by my Department to public authorities:

conducting internal reviews advises that they should be completed in a reasonable timescale. It recommends that simple reviews should be dealt with within two-three weeks. Complex reviews should be dealt with within six weeks.

A person concerned that a public authority's internal review has taken too long, can complain to the Information Commissioner who could then issue a (statutory) good practice recommendation—this could lead to the public authority improving its procedures for carrying out internal reviews.

House of Lords
Thursday, 23 March 2006
Lord Laird (Crossbench) Hansard source

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they propose to revise the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 so that no fees are charged for information provided under the Act.
Baroness Ashton of Upholland (Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Constitutional Affairs) Hansard source

Under the Freedom of Information Act, there is an appropriate limit, currently £600 for central government and £450 for other public authorities. This is there to prevent authorities being unable to perform their functions because of FoI requests, for which there has to be an upper limit. Under the current regime, departments can also, where appropriate, charge disbursements for providing information to applicants.

After the first full year of its implementation, the Government are conducting an assessment of the Freedom of Information Act and considering its impact to ensure that it is operating well. When the fees regime was introduced, Ministers committed to reviewing its operation after a year. However, no decisions have yet been taken about any changes to the regime

30 Mar 2006

Baroness Scott of Needham Market
My Lords, can the noble Lord say why, given the roles and responsibilities of the regional assemblies, they are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act 2000?

Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lords in Waiting, HM Household) Link to this | Hansard source

My Lords, I was not aware that regional assemblies were not subject to the Freedom of Information Act; I thought that they operated within the various codes of conduct that applied to those who work in local government. It is an important issue, and I am sure that, as a matter of best practice, most regional assemblies would follow what is commonly accepted as the protocols and codes for FoI.

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