Constitutional Affairs Committee

Press notice
No. 50 of Session 2006-07
25 October 2007: For Immediate Release

GOVERNMENT'S CLIMB-DOWN ON FOI FEES IS THE ONLY RIGHT MOVE, SAYS COMMITTEE

The Government today at 12.30 pm published its response to the Constitutional Affairs Select Committee report on proposed changes to the fees charged to people and organizations seeking information under Freedom of Information legislation. The response is being published to coincide with a Government announcement on a "change in culture to make Government more open".

Commenting on the Government's response, Chairman of the Committee Rt Hon Alan Beith MP said:

"Obviously we greatly welcome the fact that the Government has seen sense and accepted our position - and that of the many people and organisations who have made good use of freer access to information - and not changed the charging regime as they had planned. To go ahead with their proposed changes would have been a great mistake - as the expression goes; it wasn't broke, don't fix it.

"We are however disappointed that they have largely ignored our point about independently funding the Office of the Information Commissioner - can it be appropriate for the Ministry of Justice to set the funding levels for the independent regulator and thereby directly influence its capacity to investigate complaints? The Commissioner would be in a far stronger position if he became an Officer of Parliament, like the Ombudsman. I am sure that Parliament will want to return to the issue of independence."

Notes:
1. The Chairman Rt Hon Alan Beith is available for comment today, please call Jessica on 07917 488 447.

2. The Government's response is published as a command paper (Cm 7187) and so is available on the Ministry of Justice website with the announcements today http://www.justice.gov.uk/news/newsrelease251007c.htm and http://www.justice.gov.uk/publications/policyreports.htm

3. The Committee's reports on FOI are available at http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200607/cmselect/cmconst/415/415.pdf

4. From 6 November, the day of the State opening of Parliament, the Committee will become the Justice Committee.

5. Committee Membership is as follows: Rt Hon Alan Beith MP (Chairman), David Howarth MP, Siân James MP, Jessica Morden MP, Julie Morgan MP, Robert Neill MP, Mr Andrew Tyrie MP, Dr Alan Whitehead MP, Jeremy Wright MP

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