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Thursday 10 October 2013

The pointless charging for FOI requests

Fees. Drop them and then deal with it.

Pre-legislative Scrutiny
Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform Committee to discuss FOI

Freedom of Information Bill 2012

Submissions on the FOI Amendment Bill 2012

Gavin Sheridan's submission

While we welcome the commitment to cap search and retrieval fees; if the Minister truly wants to restore the Act to its original form then we invite him to also revoke the order setting application and appeal fees since it is these, rather than search and retrieval fees, which are the real barrier to optimising transparency under the Act.

The issue of fees is often confounded with supposed abuses of the Act. The word “abuse” in my view is loaded and disrespects the motivation of the vast majority of the public who use the Act. While there may be isolated cases of such abuses, fees should not be used as a way of controlling them. This is because voluminous, frivolous, vexatious and manifestly unreasonable requests may already be rejected under the Act (Section 10) and we note that the Minister proposes to strengthen this exception in the Bill.

In my view using fees to control manifestly unreasonable behaviour is itself unreasonable and is disproportionate since it also acts as a major barrier to genuine requestors and is not consistent with the fundamental principle that a barrier to openness should be necessary in the interest of a specific interest.

Access to information is not a privilege within the gift of governments to distinguish between those seeking information on an artificial premise of “personal” versus “non­personal”: access to information is rather a human right under Article 10 of the European Convention, and fees are a contravention of that right.

In addition, if the fees are not removed it could potentially leave the State open to litigation as it could be argued that they are an infringement of the rights of Irish citizens under Article 10 of the European Convention.

UK parliament FOI evidence Summary

UK parliament FOI committee

Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform > Submissions and correspondence to the Committee

Wright Report (the Capacity Review of the Department of Finance)

Restoration of FOI?

Sean Fleming says mistruth because fees were just brought in for non-personal information and thus no change has been made on that Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform Debate Committee 10 January 2013

I note that the €15 fee in respect of third party requests introduced a number of years will remain in place, which is the issue that previously created the most controversy . Fianna Fáil may during Second and Committee Stages of this Bill refer to what Labour Party members previously had to say on this issue. As I recall, every member of the Labour Party was at that time opposed to the introduction of the €15 fee. I note there is no proposal in this Bill to change that. The Minister will, therefore, appreciate that we will come back to this issue.


what TDs said about fees, then and now

Sean Fleming PQs to each department about FOI search and retrieval fees

what TDs said about fees, then and now/Details of

fees a burden on the public servants?

Publication of the Freedom of Information Bill 2013

Government says 2011 reports is basis for fees and for any of them changing their mind on fees.

2011 Annual Report Information Commissioner

2012 Stats

Regulation Impact Analysis – Freedom of Information Bill, 2013

As set out in the Annex to this RIA on the basis of
survey data collected by the Freedom of Information Central Policy Unit in 2010 which
sought to establish the total amount of time spent in processing FOI requests, the Central
Expenditure Evaluation Unit in the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform
estimates the net administrative cost of FOI at approximately €9m.

4.5 The analysis also points to the extent to which the search and retrieval fee system
does not appear to be properly functioning.
Committee hearings

10 January 2013
Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill: Discussion with Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform

6 February 2013
Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill 2012: Discussion - Journalists
Gavin Sheridan 6 February 2013
Anti-Deportation Ireland
Emily O'Reilly

7 February 2013
Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill 2012: Discussion (Resumed) with National Newspapers of Ireland
NUJ in Irish parliament to discuss FOI legislation

11th February 2013
speech by the minister for public expenditure and reform brendan howlin the right to know examining 15 years of the freedom of information-act

20 March 2013
Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill 2012: Discussion with Centre for Public Scrutiny

26 June 2013
Report on hearings in relation to the Draft General Scheme of FOI Bill

17th July 2013
Minister Howlin announces Government approval for FOI Reforms
The legislation has been finalised in tandem with a review of the operation of FOI, which was assisted and informed by the assessment of two expert groups; one of which comprised FOI users, academics and transparency advocates and the other comprising representatives of public bodies.
Code of Practice for FOI

24th July 2013
Minister announces publication of FOI Bill

24th July 2013

25th July 2012
Brendan Howlin “had to fight a battle” for new Freedom of Information law

25th July 2012

“Government committed to greater openness, transparency and accountability” – Minister Howlin

Draft Heads of the FOI Bill 2012

FOI Bill initiated in Dail - Winter 2013

Freedom of Information Bill 2013

Freedom of Information Bill 2013: Order for Second Stage 2 October 2013

Freedom of Information Bill 2013: Second Stage 2 October 2013
The UK Government decided not to charge fees stating,Charging for FOI requests would have an adverse impact on transparency and would undermine the objectives of the Act. A charge would be expensive to administer and may result in increasing rather than reducing burdens on public authorities. This is particularly the case where a nominal charge rather than a much higher full cost recovery charge is being considered.

Freedom of Information Bill 2013: Second Stage (Resumed) 3 October 2013

Freedom of Information Bill 2013: Referral to Select Committee 3 October 2013 Select Sub-Committee on Public Expenditure and Reform

public expenditure reform sub committee

Pearse Doherty and Sean Fleming private bills 2012

Pearse Doherty TD SF and Sean Fleming FF TD sponsored private members bills on FOI in 2012, focusing on Nama/fees and xxxxxxx respectively.

Pearse Doherty TD

Freedom of Information Amendment Bill 2012 [PMB] Sponsored by Deputy Pearse Doherty

Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill 2012: First Stage

FOI amendment Bills 2012 submissions

Deputy Sean Fleming

Freedom of Information (Amendment) (No.2) Bill 2012 [PMB] Sponsored by Deputy Sean Fleming

Freedom of Information (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2012: First Stage

Freedom of Information (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2012: Second Stage