HL Deb 18 March 1996 vol 570 cc86-7WA
Lord Lester of Herne Hill

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will encourage the development of a private sector market in information by adopting a policy, on the same lines as that expressed in the US Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, that they will not restrict or regulate the use, resale or re-dissemination of public information by the public; charge fees or royalties for the resale or re-dissemination of public information; or establish user fees for public information that exceed the cost of dissemination.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Earl Howe)

The Government seek to make this information as widely available as possible and fees or royalties are waived or reduced for reproduction of material for educational or non profit-making purposes, or where the need for the fullest dissemination is paramount and outweighs other considerations. However the government view is that arrangements made for the commercial exploitation of Crown material produced at taxpayers' expense should where appropriate ensure some financial return to the Crown. This may be reflected in a charge to recover the cost of dissemination, or through sale of the material at a reasonable market price where an established market exists.

Acts of Parliament and Statutory Instruments may be freely reproduced in value-added contexts without the need to seek prior permission and without charge. A simple standard licence (QLM/2) is also available covering the value-added reproduction of most quasi-legislative material—at a reduced royalty rate—in print form, and discussions are taking place with the publishing community to determine how far a similar regime might be extended to electronic publishing of quasi-legislative material.

Since 1986 Government has encouraged the supply of government held information to the private sector through its guidelines on government held tradeable information. These recognise the importance of the information industry in the economy and seek to encourage closer links between government departments and the private sector, building on the considerable activity that already exists.