Dáil Éireann - Volume 637 - 26 June, 2007

Written Answers. - Freedom of Information.

Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the recent annual report from the Information Commissioner in which she expressed concern regarding the operation of the Freedom of Information Act 1997, including the continued exclusion of many public bodies from its scope, a failure by the Government to consult her office before making changes and the deterrent cost of high fees; his plans to address these concerns, particularly in regard to the level of fees; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17161/07]

  Deputy Brian Cowen: I am aware of the contents of the recently published Annual Report of the Information Commissioner. The Freedom of Information Act, which covered 67 public bodies when it commenced in April 1998, now applies to over 500 bodies across the public sector. My Department is involved in an ongoing programme of FOI extension and is actively engaged with Government Departments about a number of bodies that remain outside the scope of the Act.

In relation to consultation with the Information Commissioner on changes to the FOI Act, it is not the practice of my Department to consult the Information Commissioner in this regard. However, arrangements have been put in place by my Department to ensure that the Information Commissioner is kept informed of legislation impacting on the FOI Act. The arrangements provide for the Office of the Information Com[239] missioner to be notified by the relevant Department when any FOI-related legislation is published, enacted or commenced.

In regard to the fees that apply under the Freedom of Information Act, I have no plans to review these. I am satisfied that the fees currently in operation strike the correct balance between the burden and cost to the taxpayer of administering the FOI Act and the need to allow access to information.