Upfront fees for FOI requests still under consideration

New proposals by the Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer, could increase the likelihood of Scottish ministers being able to reject requests for information on the grounds of cost, preventing certain information - i.e. information of most interest to the public - from entering the public domain.

Under the latest proposals, ministerial time could be included in calculating the cost of providing information to an applicant. Lord Falconer has proposed the concept of aggregation for multiple requests made by the same applicant to the same public authority. This could result in a series of requests from the same applicant, even on different subjects, being grouped together as one for the purpose of calculating the cost. This would mean that the more individual requests which could be considered as forming part of a "single" application, the easier it would be for a public authority to argue that the information need not be provided on the grounds that the cost of providing the information would exceed the £600 threshold.

Another measure proposed by Lord Falconer may would be to charge a flat fee for all FOI requests, no matter how routine. The Scottish Information Commissioner has argued that the effect of an upfront fee would be considerable in dissuading requests for information. When such a measure was introduced in Ireland, requests for non-personal information decreased by 75%.

Reform might see a flat fee charged for FOI requests (The Herald, 13 November 2006)