Information Commissioner's Office
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Ministry of Justice monitored over unacceptable delays to Freedom of Information responses

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is monitoring the Ministry of Justice following concerns over the timeliness of their responses to freedom of information (FOI) requests.

The ICO will review the performance of the Ministry of Justice in relation to FOI requests received between 1 September 2015 and 30 November 2015. This is due to delays being identified in a significant number of cases where the statutory time limit of 20 working days was exceeded. The latest MOJ quarterly FOI statistics indicate that they are well below 85% which is one of the triggers for formal monitoring to be considered.

The Royal Borough of Greenwich Council, which was the subject of an extended period of monitoring has now been taken off formal monitoring following sustained improvements in performance.

The ICO has also announced that Cumbria County Council, Nottingham City Council and Salford City Council have been taken off formal monitoring after improvements in their performance during the last monitoring period between 1 February and 30 April 2015.

Announcing the publication of today’s FOI monitoring list the ICO’s Deputy Commissioner and Director of Freedom of Information, Graham Smith, said:

“Transparency is a cornerstone of a modern democracy and public authorities must respect people’s rights of access to information. That means responding to FOI requests within the statutory timeline of 20 working days, or with a short permitted extension where weighing up the public interest is particularly complex.

“We hope the Ministry of Justice uses this monitoring period to bring about significant improvements in this aspect of its service to the public. Statutory time limits are not optional. The improvements we’ve seen at the Royal Borough of Greenwich, Cumbria County, Nottingham City and Salford City Council are very welcome and I hope these service levels will be maintained.”  

Other public authorities of ongoing concern

The performance of the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) in responding to information requests remains a concern. The MPS has recently centralised its FOI handling function and believes this will result in improvements in performance, the ICO is continuing to monitor and work with them to ensure these improvements are achieved.

The ICO also continues to monitor and review the performance of the Department of Finance and Personnel (Northern Ireland) following an enforcement notice in respect of some long outstanding cases earlier this year.

Further reading

Notes to Editors

  1. The Information Commissioner’s Office upholds information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals.
  2. The ICO has specific responsibilities set out in the Data Protection Act 1998, the Freedom of Information Act 2000, Environmental Information Regulations 2004 and Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003.
  3. The ICO is on TwitterFacebook and LinkedIn. Read more in the ICO blog and e-newsletter. Our Press Office page provides more information for journalists.
  4. The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) provides individuals or organisations with the right to request official information held by a public authority. The Environmental Information Regulations (EIR) provide access to environmental information. The ICO’s policy on enforcing public access to official information and the powers at its disposal are set out here. In Scotland, freedom of information is a devolved matter and Scottish public authorities are subject to the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 which is regulated by the Office of the Scottish Information Commissioner in St Andrews.
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