Monday, February 05, 2007

Constitutional Affairs Committee - freedom of information follow up

Plenty of activity on FOI at present.....the CA Committee have just announced an evidence session as well:

Press notice No. 09 of Session 2006-07

5 February 2007


Announcement of evidence session

The Constitutional Affairs Committee will hold a one-off evidence session on Freedom of Information on Tuesday 6 March.

The DCA has published new FOI Fees Regulations in draft, which it states ‘will allow public authorities to take into account more comprehensively the work involved in dealing with an FOI request’. The DCA’s review indicated that these changes would lead to ‘a substantial increase in the number of FOI requests which would exceed the (cost) threshold’ and could therefore be refused.

In its June 2006 report Freedom of Information: one year on the Committee heard that the existing fees regime was working well and that since authorities could already include time spent finding information in their calculations of chargeable limits, the argument that officials were spending weeks finding information would not "justify a review of the fees regulations, but it would demonstrate a serious shortcoming in some public authorities’ records management systems". It expressed the view that it saw no reason to review the fees and felt that "frivolous" requests could be dealt with in the existing provisions.

Chairman of the Committee Rt Hon Alan Beith said:

"We are extremely concerned that the Government might go ahead with these changes, which are very widely opposed. That's why we are taking further evidence at this stage."

Submissions are invited from relevant interested parties. The Committee would also like to receive examples of requests made under FOI which resulted in the release of new information, but which might fall above the proposed new cost threshold (including a brief overview of the type of information made available and the uses made/benefits derived from the information released).

Call for evidence:

Submissions relating to the terms of reference above are invited from relevant interested parties. These should be sent to the Clerk of the Committee at the address above by Friday 16 February 2007. An electronic version in MS Word or Rich Text format should also be submitted, either by e-mail to or on a disk and this should be accompanied by a letter stating clearly who the submission is from, together with relevant contact details. Submissions should be as brief as possible, and certainly no more than 3,000 words. Paragraphs should be numbered for ease of reference, and it would be helpful to include a brief executive summary. Attention is drawn to the guidance on the submission of evidence which can be found at


1. A transcript of the session will be available (within 5 days) on the Reports and Publications page of the Committee’s website

2. The Committee’s report can be found here

3. Committee Membership is as follows: Rt Hon Alan Beith MP (Chairman), David Howarth MP, Siân James MP, Mr Piara S Khabra MP, Jessica Morden MP, Julie Morgan MP, Robert Neill MP, Mr Andrew Tyrie MP, Rt Hon Keith Vaz MP, Dr Alan Whitehead MP, Jeremy Wright MP


Peter HOAR said...

Steve, While this is going on "in public" David Maclean's private FOI (Amendment) Bill is quietly proceding, and has now been amended twice - links - 2nd Feb here -

- and 5th Feb. here -

The continued progress of the Bill through the parliamentary process is recorded here -

I haven’t made head nor tail of the changes yet. I hope he’s now as confused as I am, but that’s probably part of the plot. Anyone else want to have a go translating ? Peter HOAR

barry said...

No, Peter, I suspect what you are looking at are the daily sheets of amendments down for debate in the Public Bill Cttee (what used to be called Standing Cttee). The House publishes that sort of list regularly, so it'll just be the same couple from Maclean being repeated. From what I could here of the Cttee 'debate', they were all agreed, and so are added to the Bill, and it will now, I assume, go back to the Chamber for its Report Stage. This may be on a Friday, but I wouldn't be surprised if some procedural trickery is deployed to try to sneak it through its remaining Commons stages when no-one is noticing. In which case, presumably the Lords will stamp on it from a great height, and leave the MPs looking foolish. Not that they are capable of embarrassment, as this episode demonstrates....