UK Freedom of Information E-news - April 2010

  1. Central Government improves its Freedom of Information Act performance
  2. New tribunal developments

1. Central Government improves its Freedom of Information Act performance

While the number of requests to central government bodies was on the rise last year (a 16% increase from 2008), 86 % of requests were answered “in time”, in that they either received an answer within the standard 20-day deadline or were subject to a permitted deadline extension. 5% of requests were subject to a Public Interest Test extension.

In 2009, monitored central government bodies received a total of 40,548 non-routine FOI and Environmental Information Regulations requests. Departments of State received 59 % of the requests.

Nearly two-thirds of “resolvable” requests (those where it was possible to give a substantive decision on whether to release the information being sought) were granted in full in 2009.

A fee was charged only in 3% of the cases. Of these, 99 % were in relation to requests received by the National Archives. The average fee paid was £54.

8,754 requests were refused, either in full or in part, where one or more exemption or exception was applied. The most commonly applied exemptions were under section 40 (personal information) and section 30 (investigations and proceedings conducted by public authorities).

206 appeals were made to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) relating to the refusal of information requests by monitored central government bodies in 2009 where the monitored body in question had been notified of the appeal – an increase on the 153 made in 2008.

The Ministry of Justice published its 2009 Annual Statistics on Implementation in Central Government on 29 April. 

2. New tribunal developments

The First-tier Tribunal (Information Rights) User Group met on 11 March to discuss developments in the new chamber. The Information Tribunal was transferred on 18 January to the General Regulatory Chamber in the First-tier Tribunal (FTT). The tribunal is now known as the FTT (Information Rights).

Under the new rules of procedure it is now possible to apply for an extension of time to appeal before lodging the actual appeal. Also, time sensitive appeals may, under the new rules, be heard by the Administrative Appeals Chamber (AAC) in the first instance to avoid the delay of a further appeal. Consultation on the process will start soon. The AAC has 4 offices in London, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Belfast. An AAC panel may comprise of:

  1. one Judge and two lay members, or
  2. two Judges and one lay member, or
  3. three Judges, or
  4. one Judge and one lay member.

The meeting minutes can be seen here

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Copyright Privacy Laws & Business 2010