HL Deb 12 January 2005 vol 668 cc65-6WA
Lord Hanningfield

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What estimate they have made of the annual cost to government departments, agencies, non-executive bodies and local authorities arising from compliance with the Freedom of Information Act 2000 from 1 January 2005. [HL574]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs (Baroness Ashton of Upholland)

Current estimates of the annual cost to government departments, agencies, non- executive bodies and local authorities from the full implementation of the Freedom of Information Act on 1 January are necessarily inexact.

The Government's analysis of international experience shows that in some other jurisdictions which have introduced FoI legislation there has been an initial surge of requests by campaigners and the media followed by a decline, and then a rise in year two in the public use of the rights. The annual cost of implementation during the first year is unlikely to provide an accurate reflection of subsequent years. Likewise, different parts of the public sector will experience varying demand according to the nature of their current business. One local authority engaged in a high profile decision in a matter of public controversy could receive a large number of requests in correspondence generated by that business. A neighbouring authority without such a controversial piece of business may receive very few requests.

The Government have always maintained that the costs of implementing FoI should be borne from existing resources and should act as a stimulus to better decision-making and to more efficient and cost-effective records and information management. For local, police and fire authorities in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, increases in the revenue support grant will cover the new burdens of meeting costs of FoI.