§ Mr. Rooker
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer 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. Nelson
[holding answer 22 November 1994]: The Office of Public Service and Sciences has produced guidance on charging which recognises the diversity of costs and operational structure across the range of bodies implementing the code. In line with this guidance, the Departments and agencies for which the Chancellor of the Exchequer is responsible have developed schemes of charges for information under the code of practice on access to Government information.
For simple requests the first hour's work is free. Requests taking between one and three hours to prepare are charged at £15 per hour or part of an hour. For complex requests taking more than three hours, the charge is based on the actual cost of the extra work.
A charge of £15 is made for handling requests except where the cost of staff time and other direct costs of meeting the request are estimated at £50 or more. In those cases, the charge is equal to the estimated cost.
Central Statistical Office
Answering requests for statistics and analysis is the CSO's raison d'etre and charges for meeting these requests are made in line with the charging guidelines published in the CSO's agency framework documents. The CSO's policy is not to charge for meeting requests for some other information, for example, on the CSO's policies and activities.
Registry of Friendly Societies
The Department carries out a public record function relating to the registration of mutual societies. A standard fee is charged for the inspection on any particular day of documents relating to a single society or branch and copies can be supplied at £1.50 for up to five pages. No charge is made for general information about performance of the Department but if requests are made which result in additional work, a similar level of charge is payable as for the inspection of documents. More complex requests are costed individually.
The agency's policy is to treat each application on its merits. Account is taken of the complexity of the request in deciding whether it would be appropriate to levy a charge which would be based on the Office of Public Service and Science guidelines.
Department for National Savings
The Department's current policy is to provide information free of charge but its policy is being reviewed in the light of experience of the past eight months of the code's operation.
National Investment and Loans Office
It is the policy of the office to follow the guidelines on charging set out by the Office of Public Service and Sciences.