How many FOIA requests?

An article in the Financial Times January 24, 2005 broke down the number of FOIA requests received by central government in the first weeks of the new law. Informal reports indicated that 900 requests had come into central government in the first week, according to the Department for Constitutional Affairs, which oversees the FoI regime. One of the most common requests was for the attorney general’s advice on the legality of war in Iraq (almost 40 requests).

  • Ministry of Defense and its agencies – 443 requests to date
  • Cabinet Office – 268
  • Department for Education and Skills – 92
  • Department of Health – 80 in first week, not know how many to date.
  • HM Treasury – 40 requests in the first week.
  • Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – “more than 50 but less than 100”
  • Department of Transport – 84 requests, with another 40 for agencies under its jurisdiction.
  • Department of Trade and Industry – 72 requests, 60 in the first week
  • Department for Constitutional Affairs – 82 queries
  • Department for Culture, Media and Sport – 79
  • Home Office and Foreign Office refused to disclose the number of requests!

MoD targeted for freedom of information queries
By Bob Sherwood and Jennifer Baskerville
Financial Times
Published: January 24 2005 02:00

This is an edited version. Click on the link above to read the full article.

The Ministry of Defence has been the target of more freedom of information requests than any other government department, reflecting concerns over Iraq.

But a Financial Times survey shows the predicted deluge of FoI requests in the first weeks of the new openness regime has failed to materialise, suggesting that business and the public have yet to wake up to the opportunities offered by the legislation.

The spirit of openness has not reached all government departments, though: both the Home Office and Foreign Office refused to disclose even the number of FoI requests they had received. The Home Office said it would not provide a “running commentary” on freedom of information.

The MoD and its agencies received 443 requests so far, according to the latest figures supplied by central government departments.

….Across central government, informal reports indicated there were about 900 requests in the first week, according to the Department for Constitutional Affairs, which oversees the FoI regime.

It said one of the most common requests had been demands for the attorney general’s advice on the legality of war in Iraq, for which there had been almost 40 inquiries. The government has already indicated such requests will be turned down on grounds of legal privilege.

…However, officials say it is impossible to say precisely how many requests the act has generated, particularly as queries are sent to many different people within the departments. The Department of Health said every piece of correspondence was being treated as an FoI request which made it difficult to pin down a figure.

An official said: “There was concern that there would be a tremendous rush, but queries have largely been from the sorts of people who have always asked questions, for example journalists, local authorities and members of the public worried about certain issues.

“The profile of the inquiries has not changed significantly – rather it has been existing types with an added edge.”

Experience from other countries suggested the volume of requests would build up over the first three or four months as public interest increased, he said.

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