§ Mr. Rooker
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the charging policy of his Department and the agencies for which he is responsible in respect of inquiries under the code of practice on access to government.
§ Mr. Howard
In line with guidance on charging under the code of practice on access to government information produced by the Office of Public Service and Science, which recognises the diversity of cost and operational structure across the range of bodies implementing the code, the Home Office has developed the following arrangements for charging for information under the code of practice.
A charge is not normally made for the work involved in meeting straightforward requests from most inquirers for information, providing it takes less than an hour. A charge is made for dealing with more complex requests which take more than one hour. This is calculated at an hourly rate of £20, reflecting average staff costs.64W
In addition, a charge may be made for photocopying, supplying a video or tape, for disk or computer runs and for postage. There are no standard charges for these but a charge would not normally be made for costs amounting to less than £10.
No charge is normally made for answering inquiries from journalists. However, journalists may be charged if the cost of providing information to them exceeds the current limit for a parliamentary question.
As regards charging by the Department's agencies, the Prison Service and the United Kingdom Passport Agency have adopted a similar approach to the Home Office. The Forensic Science Service and the Fire Service college charge on a full-cost recovery basis.
The arrangements in the Home Office for charging for information are set out in "Departmental Procedures on Open Government". A copy of these has been placed in the House of Commons Library.