Prisons: Freedom of Information

Justice written question – answered on 29th January 2014.

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Photo of Stephen Doughty Stephen Doughty Opposition Whip (Commons)

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice

(1) how many and what proportion of prisons in England and Wales were subject to the Freedom of Information Act 2000 in (a) 2009-10, (b) 2010-11, (c) 2011-12 and (d) 2012-13;

(2) what estimate his Department has made of the proportion of prisons in England and Wales that will be subject to the Freedom of Information Act 2000 by May 2015.

Photo of Jeremy Wright Jeremy Wright The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) applies to over 100,000 public sector bodies; including publically managed prisons. Prisons run by contracted out private companies are not subject to the Act. The number and proportion of those covered are set out as follows:

  March 2010 March 2011 March 2012 March 2013
Total Prisons 139 135 132 130
Number subject to FOIA 128 124 119 116
Percentage subject to FOIA 92 92 90 89
Note: As at the last working Friday in March.

We estimate that by May 2015 there will be 102 public prisons and 14 private prisons—and therefore 88% of prisons will be covered by the Act. This estimate is based on current assumptions, and may be revised at any time.

In our response to the Justice Select Committee's Post Legislative Scrutiny of the Act, we accepted the Committee's recommendation that contracts provide a more practical basis for applying FOI to outsourced services than designation under the Act.

In order to effect this recommendation we will provide a revised Code of Practice to be issued under section 45 of the Act. This will promote openness by all contractors including through the use and enforcement of contractual transparency provisions to encourage still greater openness.

The response to Post Legislative Scrutiny can be found in the House Library and at the following web address:

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/217298/gov-resp-justice-comm-foi-act.pdf

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