UK Liberty

Second consultation on FOIA fees

Posted in freedom of information by ukliberty on April 2, 2007

The Department for Constitutional Affairs:

The Government has drafted amended FOI fees regulations which will allow public authorities to take into account more comprehensively the work involved in dealing with an FOI request. This consultation asks for views on the draft Regulations.

The initial consultation period closed on 8 March 2007. A supplementary paper opened a second period of consultation on 29 March 2007 inviting views on the principle of amending the 2004 Regulations and also any further views on the draft Regulations themselves as set out in the consultation paper of 14 December 2006.

Closing date 21 June 2007.

You may find interesting Heather Brooke’s FOIA consultation submission. In my opinion she makes several cogent points.

The Campaign for Freedom of Information’s response to the consulation can be found on its website.

It may also be worth reading the evidence (uncorrected transcript) given by Richard Thomas, the Information Commissioner, to the Constitutional Affairs Committee (hat-tip UK Freedom of Information blog).

Actually, the whole transcript is worth a read, particularly for points such as these:

that figure [the £35m that Government claims is the cost of FOIA – ukliberty] is very small compared to the amount of money spent on the Central Office of Information, which is all about all the press officers, all public information films that the Government is putting out, whose budget is over 300 million, and that is information that the Government wants the public to know, but freedom of information is about the information that the public want to know, and I think it is a very good price. (Rob Evans, The Guardian)

I have never been able to understand how it takes five months to adjudicate. That seems to me a waste of time. If they are spending five months making these adjudications, that is where the waste of money on their part is and not in terms of the requests that we are putting in. (Tim Jones, World Development Movement)

I believe the existing fees regime is simple, clear and straightforward and does not appear to act as a deterrent to requesters. In overall terms, I do not consider freedom of information is proving to be burdensome for public authorities, and I think the benefits, especially in terms of improved transparency, accountability and democracy are clear. (Richard Thomas, Information Commissioner)

I am surprised that government departments and other public authorities are not using these provisions’ exclusion for vexatious requests to any great extent. If there is a problem with this sort of request, then why is it that we are not being presented time after time with refused requests on the ground that they are vexatious? If there is a real problem in this area, then I make no secret, it is my view that a more robust use of the existing exclusion would to a very significant extent address the mischief at which the new cost proposals are directed. (Richard Thomas)

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