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MoJ changes to Freedom of Information statistics

The Ministry of Justice has published details of the changes it plans to make to the FOI statistics published in the ‘Annual report on freedom of information in central government’.

These changes relate to concerns that the Campaign for Freedom of Information has been raising with the MoJ for some time (see ‘Delays in investigating Freedom of Information Complaints’) and which it recently highlighted in a response to a consultation by the UK Statistics Authority.

The Campaign has been concerned that:

• published statistics on time taken to carry out public interest test (PIT) reviews present the most delayed cases as a single class of those taking an extension of “more than 40 working days” with no further breakdown of the actual extensions involved.

• statistics on the time taken for internal reviews (IRs) present the most delayed cases in a single class of those taking “more than 60 working days”, again with no further breakdown

• cases which are not complete by February of the following year are not included in either the current year’s statistics or those relating to the following year, so that many of the most delayed cases are not dealt with in the statistics at all.

The new MOJ statistical note states:

5. Currently the freedom of information monitoring statistics report on those public interest test extensions and internal reviews where the initial request was first received during the year, and the PIT or IR had been completed by the time the annual statistics are collected (usually in the February of the following year).

6. Data on the durations of PITs and IRs are collected in a number of time bands (e.g. “5 working days or less”, “between 6 and 10 working days”, etc).  The uppermost time band for the duration of PITs is “more than 40 working days”, while the uppermost time band for the duration of IRs is “more than 60 working days”.  No data is gathered on the durations of those PITs and IRs which had not been completed by the time the annual statistics are collected.

7. The specific changes that will be made to the durations data are:

   a) Further time bands for durations of PITs and IRs will be added, so that the uppermost time band in each case is “more than 100 working days”.

   b) New statistics will be collected from each monitored body on the eventual durations of those PITs and IRs which were recorded as being ongoing in the previous year’s annual statistics.

The Campaign welcomes both changes. However, it remains concerned that, despite the additional information, details of the most seriously delayed cases will still not be adequate. One internal review is known to have taken 29 months. Even under the new statistics, such extreme delays will not be properly identified but merely included in the category of cases taking more than 100 working days.

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