Monday, June 26, 2006

MPs use of the Freedom of Information Act

I recently gave a paper to at UCL's Constitution Unit as part of their Government Information Policy series on the topic of "Parliament and FOI: How are MPs using the Act?"

Download slides (PDF)

The paper I gave was an outline of "research in progress" that will be published later this year supplemented by further detailed research. The paper produced a lot of interest and I've decided to publish some of the data I've gathered from using the FOIA about numbers and details of requests made MPs. The research is focused on looking at MPs use of FOIA and considering this against PQs and the wider context of Parliamentary accountabiilty and provision of information to Parliament. There are many examples of MPs using FOIA in combination with or instead of PQs , for example Mark Oaten(Lib Dem MP) appealed to the ICO over his request to the Department of Work and Pensions to release its internal feasibility study on the impact of the ID card scheme, that had originated as a PQ (see Computer Weekly's story). Essentially the data I have collated is the starting point of the research in proving that formal use of the FOIA is being made by MPs, the current ongoing phase of the research is researching the issue in more detail via questionnaires and interviews. Another interesting issue that has emerged is the mixed approach being taken by some public authorities in naming MPs as applicants and not treating this as personal data under S40 of the FOIA (e.g. the Treasury and DTI name the MPs). However the ICO in particular explcitly stated they had redacted the MPs' names.

Outline data: results of request made by MPs to Central Government Depts:

-DCA and Clearing house data relating to MPs

- Cabinet Office (No data supplied)

-Dept of Transpsort
plus - Guidance notes supplied


-DWP(no data supplied)


-Northern Ireland Office (no data supplied)



-Home Office


-Scottland Office


-Wales Office


Information Commissioner's Office- Appeals recieved from MPs

MP/MSPRequests made to the Scottish Executive

Appeals made to Scottish Information Commissioner's Office by MPs/MSPs

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