FOI in Parliament: 14-26 February 2006

Highlights this week: MP Bob Spink continues to ask departments if they have received any money to process FOI (answer, no). MPs are also pursuing the difficulties obtaining census data from 1911 and 1921 despite FOI.

14 February 2006
Written Answers – Work and Pensions: Freedom of Information Act
Bob Spink (Castle Point, Con): What total sum has been received by Department for Work & Pensions for the provision of information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 in its first year of operation.
Anne McGuire: Nil.

Written Answers – Health: Freedom of Information ActBob Spink (Castle Point, Con): Sum total received by Department of Health for the provision of information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 in its first year of operation.
Liam Byrne: The Department has not received any money for provision of
information under the *Freedom of Information* Act 2000, either in the
form of fees where the cost of processing a request would have exceeded
the appropriate limit or in payment for disbursements.

Written Answers – Environment Food and Rural Affairs: Freedom of Information
Bob Spink (Castle Point, Con): Sum total received by Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs for the provision of information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 in its first year of operation.
Jim Knight: Since the *Freedom of Information* Act came into force, the
Department has not received any payment for the provision of information under the Act, nor for answering requests under the Environmental Information Regulations 2004.

Written Answers – Scotland: Freedom of Information Act
Bob Spink (Castle Point, Con): Sum total received by Secretary of State for Scotland for the provision of information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 in its first year of operation.
David Cairns: The Scotland Office has not received any monies in relation to the provision of information under the *Freedom of Information* Act in its first year of operation.

15 February 2005
Ascension Island (Debate)
In an example of the costs for NOT having a working FOIA –
Vincent Cable: It is difficult to find out what the options were or whether they have ever been examined, because the Freedom of Information Act 2000 has been repealed on the island of St. Helena to disguise such information, so we cannot have a proper analysis.

16 February 2006
Written Answers – Constitutional Affairs
Bob Spink (Castle Point, Con): What assessment has been made by the Department for Constitutional Affairs of the implications of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 for the release of the (a) 1911 and (b) 1921 census data; and if she will make a statement.
Harriet Harman: The implementation of the Freedom of Information Act has not altered government policy to make the decennial census returns publicly available after a period of 100 years. In line with this policy, the National Archives is developing plans to make the 1911 census available online to the widest possible audience in 2012. The 1921 census remains in the custody of the Office for National Statistics.

Written Answers – Constitutional Affairs
Andrew Gwynne (PPS (Rt Hon Baroness Scotland of Asthal, Minister of State), Home Office): Will the minister take steps to ensure that the minutes of the board meetings of external organisations operating public services on behalf of local authorities are made available for public scrutiny.
Harriet Harman: Under section 5 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000, external organisations operating public services on behalf of local authorities can be brought within the FoI Act. This would give the public a right to request the board meeting minutes where they related to the provision of the public services. Information relating to the provision of public services by local authority contractors is already available for public scrutiny. For example, the terms of the contract and performance of the contractor are open to inspection and inquiry by those authorities’ overview and scrutiny committees. Meetings of, and documents considered by, a local authority committee are open to public access by virtue of provisions of the Local Government Act 1972. All information held by a local authority, including that provided by a contractor, is subject to the provisions of the FoI Act. No organisations have yet been brought within the FoI Act using section 5 of the FoI Act. We will assess whether the current levels of accountability enable sufficient public scrutiny of local authority contractors before considering whether a legislative approach is appropriate.

Written Answers – Constitutional Affairs
Mike Hancock (Portsmouth South, LDem): What recent discussions the Minister has had with the (a) Information Commissioner’s Office and (b) others on the 100 year closure rule and the Freedom of Information Act 2000; and if she will make a statement.
Harriet Harman: Ministers and officials in my Department meet regularly with the Information Commissioner’s Office. These meetings cover a range of issues including the operation of the Freedom of Information Act. There have been no recent discussions specifically relating to the 100 year closure period.

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