The work of the Information Commissioner: appointment of a new Commissioner - Justice Committee Contents

Memorandum submitted by Ministry of Justice


  I refer to the Justice Select Committee report on the Coroners and Justice Bill, specifically the reference at paragraph 20 to provide further information on the additional resources to be made available to the Information Commissioner via graduated data protection notification fees.

  As you know, the Information Commissioner's data protection responsibilities are currently funded by notification fees paid by data controllers. Sections 17 and 18 of the Data Protection Act 1998 require every data controller processing personal information to notify the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) and pay the prescribed fee, unless they are exempt. It is an offence to process personal data without notifying the ICC.

  The proposal to change the notification fee structure from a flat to a tiered one stemmed from the Data Sharing Review, conducted by Mark Walport of the Welcome Trust and the Information Commissioner, Richard Thomas.

  The Ministry of Justice consulted on this and other related matters in a consultation on the Information Commissioner's inspection powers and funding arrangements in 2008. As a result, the Government committed to adopt a tiered notification fee structure. A tiered structure will more accurately reflect the actual costs of regulating different sized data controllers, and provide an opportunity to increase the annual revenue of the ICC to ensure it has the appropriate resources to carry out its functions. The proposed fee structure will see the fee payable by small and medium-sized data controllers remain the same at £35 per annum, while large data controllers will pay a higher fee.

  The tier criteria for the proposed notification fee structure will be based on the definition for the size of organisations adopted by the UK Government and adapted from the European Union definition found in Recommendation 2003/361/EC. Indicators of size will include turnover and number of employees of the data controller. Data controllers will undertake a self-assessment on the basis of the criteria to determine which tier they fall into.

  The two-tiered notification fee structure will be taken forward in an amendment to the Data Protection (Notification Fees) Regulation 2000. Work is still underway on the details of these amendments. The Ministry of Justice is working closely with the ICO to ensure that the proposed fee structure meets its stated objectives.

  Total revenue from notification fees in 2006-07 was £10.2 million. The Information Commissioner estimates that the cost of fulfilling his existing and new regulatory and advisory responsibilities will be £16 million per year. We intend that this amount is funded in full through the revised notification fee structure, expected to be in place from 1 October 2009.

  I will write to the Committee again once we have further details of the new fee structure.

  I am copying this letter to Dominic Grieve, David Howarth, Lord Kingsland, LordThomas of Gresford and Baroness D'Souza and placing a copy in the Library of the House.

Rt Hon Michael Wills MP

Minister of State

26 January 2009

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