DExEU hit with slew of FOI requests, stats reveal
Cabinet Office's annual figures show four-fold increase for Brexit department
Credit: Sebastian Wiertz/Flickr
The Department for Exiting the European Union has recorded the largest increase in Freedom of Information Act requests of any ministry according to new annual data released by the Cabinet Office.
At a time when the number of FOI requests received by departments and other government bodies increased by a modest 3%, DExEU posted a 406% rise between 2016 and last year. Conversely, the Department of Health saw the biggest year-on-year drop: from 1,463 to 1,063.
While a thirst for detail about the finer points of Brexit is likely to be behind much of the increase in DExEU’s transparency request hike, the fact that it only existed for just under half of 2016 will be another contributing factor.
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The Cabinet Office said a total of 46,681 FOI requests had been received during 2017. The largest annual volume of requests since the act came into force was in 2013, when departments, agencies and other bodies received 51,696 requests.
Institute for Government researcher Aaron Cheung said figures for the last quarter of 2017 showed that the government had fully or partially rejected more than half of FOI requests, a greater proportion than in any quarter but one in the past seven years.
“The percentage of requests being refused has increased by over a third since 2010,” he said. “Departments have also made noticeable changes in the way they respond to FOI requests.
"DCLG, DCMS, Defra and DH have gone from granting more than 60% of requests in full in 2011, to fewer than 40% in 2017. The Cabinet Office, FCO, DIT, DExEU and BEIS consistently withhold their responses.”
DExEU and the Department for International Trade were responsible for answering the smallest proportion of requests in full according to the latest figures.
DExEU gave full answers to just 17% of requests and “fully withheld” responses to 61% of requests; DIT answered 21% of requests in full and fully withheld responses to 45% of requests.
While the Cabinet Office granted 26% of FOI requests a response in full, it had the highest “fully withheld” rate of any department at 63%.
The IfG’s Cheung observed last year that it was “ironic” that the Cabinet Office – which is responsible for FOI policy – had one of the poorest disclosure rates.
DExEU and the Cabinet Office were frequent users of the “information intended for future publication” exemption, the 2017 report showed.
The Wales Office answered the highest proportion of FOI requests in full – 80%.
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