Freedom of Information requests (2016)

Request

Details of Freedom of Information requests handled by Parliament from 2010 to 2016:

  1. Number of requests
  2. Percentage released, witheld etc
  3. Any breakdown of the broad nature of requests, by department as you say, and requesters e.g. even just estimated % of journalists and WDTK is useful.
  4. Perhaps use of s.34. 2009-2016

Do I also need to contact your colleagues in the House of Lords?

 

Response

You asked a number of questions about the handling of Freedom of Information requests by Parliament from 2010 to 2016, which we have sought to answer below. 

The House of Commons and the House of Lords are separate public authorities in accordance with the Freedom of Information 2000 (FOIA).  Our response below only gives information for FOI requests received by the House of Commons.

  1. Number of requests
    The number of formal FOI requests received by the House of Commons (CSV CSV 1 KB) is given in table 1.
    It may help you to know that written requests for information might also be received by other teams (such as Select Committees of the HoC Public Enquiry Service) and are dealt with as BAU.  In some cases, those teams may also transfer requests to IRIS to be dealt with formally under FOIA.
  2. Percentage released, withheld, etc.
    The number and percentages of types of FOI response (CSV CSV 1 KB) given in table 2. 
  3. Any breakdown of the broad nature of requests, by department as you say, and requesters e.g. even just estimated % of journalists and WDTK is useful.
    This information is held by the House of Commons.
    A breakdown of the departments allocated FOI requests (CSV CSV 1 KB) is provided in table 3. 
    Please note the following caveats:
    • Some requests are allocated to more than one department or team, so the totals will never add up to the total number of requests.
    • ‘Other’ covers small teams such as the Office of the Chief Executive (now the Governance Office), the Speaker’s Office and the office of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards.
    • Before 2012, the HR and Finance functions of the House Service both came under the Department of Resources.
    • Earlier this year the departments of the House of Commons underwent a Director General’s Review and subsequently changed from 5 main departments and a bicameral IT function (PICT, later changed to the Digital Service) to 9 teams and the Digital Service.  These changes have not yet taken full effect.
    • Up until July 2016, the Information Rights and Information Security (IRIS) Service, which is responsible for answering FOI requests, came under the the HR function of the House. The IRIS team answers a large number of requests without allocating these to any particular team, such as repeated requests for the same information, requests for information obviously not held by the House, requests for information already published, etc.  This is why the HR request numbers appear to be so high. After July 2016, the IRIS team come under Research and Information Services, which is why the 2016 has jumped significantly.
    A breakdown of requests from media sources (journalists, news sources, bloggers – where identified) and from WhatDoTheyKnow? (CSV CSV 1 KB) is provided in table below 4.
  4. Perhaps use of s.34. 2009-2016
    The number of times the section 34 exemption has been used annually by the House of Commons (CSV CSV 1 KB) is given in table 5.

You also asked if you need to contact our colleagues in the House of Lords. The Lords are a separate public authority and their Information Compliance team handles FOI requests separately to the House of Commons, so you will need to contact them if you wish to get the full picture of how FOI requests are handled by the whole of Parliament.  Please be aware that it is not uncommon for requesters such as journalists to simultaneously send the same request to both Houses for this reason.

It may also help you to know that some teams such as the Parliamentary Digital Service are bicameral, i.e. they provide services for both Houses.  If the House of Commons receives a request for information from a bicameral team, we will deal with it unless the requester is obviously looking only for Lords information.  If the bicameral team can split the requested Commons and Lords information, we will supply the Commons data, but where this cannot be disaggregated (and only in those circumstances) we may provide data which covers both Houses.  In all cases we try to make the scope of the data clear to the requester.