Lord Wills asked what plans the Government have to amend the Freedom of Information Act during oral questions in the House of Lords on 27 February.
On 5 February 2013, the Justice Committee held a one-off evidence session on the work of the Information Commissioner’s Office. The session provided an opportunity for the Committee to hear the ICO’s views on the Government’s proposals to make it easier for authorities to FOI refuse requests on costs grounds and revise its policy on use of the ministerial veto.
The Information Commissioner’s Office has announced that four public authorities will be monitored for three months in the new year over concerns about the timeliness of their responses to Freedom of Information requests. The four are: the Department for Education, the Department for Work and Pensions, the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM) in Northern Ireland and Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council.
An Order has been made implementing the reduction of the ’30 year rule’ to 20 years and the lifespan of some of the FOI Act’s exemptions to 20 years, amendments that were made by the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010. The changes will take effect from 1 January 2013. Two further orders making transitional arrangements to phase in the changes, as set out by Lord McNally in a written ministerial statement, have been laid before Parliament:
The quarterly FOI statistics for central government for the period July to September 2012 (quarter 3 2012) have been published. They show that the volume of requests to monitored bodies fell slightly – 2% less the equivalent period of 2011 and 1% less than the previous quarter of 2012. The executive summary notes:
The Scottish Government has announced its intention to remove the absolute exemption for information relating to communications with the Queen, the Heir and the second in line to the throne from its Freedom of Information (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill. In its Stage 1 report on the Bill the Scottish Parliament’s Finance Committee said it “remained unconvinced of the need” for the provision, having received “substantial evidence” from witnesses including the Scottish Information Commissioner and Campaign for Freedom of Information in Scotland (see earlier post).
The Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) has published a Report on the Crime and Courts Bill which will be considered at Report stage in the House of Lords from Tuesday 27 November. In its Report the Committee expresses concern that the new National Crime Agency to be exempt from the Freedom of Information Act:
The Cabinet Office is consulting on a new code of practice on the new provisions in the Freedom of Information Act inserted by the Protection of Freedoms Act that enhance the right to data. These new provisions on datasets will be commenced in April 2013. The Code of Practice (datasets) will sit alongside the existing Section 45 Code of Practice on the Freedom of Information Act.
The Government are reported to be seeking to appeal against the recent decision by the Information Rights Tribunal (Cabinet Office v IC, EA/2011/0263) ordering the disclosure of information relating to the controversial takeover of Rowntree Mackintosh by Nestle in 1988. At the time of the request the disputed information was at least 22 years old