Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Questions (29)

Barry Cowen


29. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his plans to restrict the National Treasury Management Agency and its subsidiaries, the National Pensions Reserve Fund and the National Asset Management Agency, from the full terms of the proposed freedom of information legislation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42483/13]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

The Freedom of Information Bill 2013, which I am currently sponsoring, passed Second Stage in the Dáil last Thursday (3 October 2013). The Bill as currently drafted provides that FOI will apply to the bodies referred to in the Deputy's question.

It was necessary to provide certain exemptions to these bodies to guard against the possibility that release of certain records under FOI would result in significant risk of a serious competitive disadvantage arising which would have the potential to give rise to substantial costs to the State and its citizens. The measures which I have proposed therefore aim to strike the right balance between the public interest in allowing access to official information held by these bodies and safeguarding highly commercially and market sensitive information against release.

The main exemptions that I have provided to the bodies mentioned in the question relate to the following:

(i) records concerning investors or potential investors in which the NTMA, NAMA, and the NPRF have invested or could potentially make an investment are exempt;

(ii) the NTMA will hold an exemption to protect records relating to the functions of the State Claims Agency (as set out in Part 2 of the NTMA Act 2000) other than in relation to the general administration of these functions.

(iii) an exemption is being provided for the NTMA operating in its NewEra capacity, covering records it receives from state bodies for the purposes of the management or disposal of an investment of public money if such bodies are exempt bodies for the purposes of FOI.

(iv) Notwithstanding the established and strong general principle that pay information relating to any person employed by a State body should be subject to FOI, having consulted with the Minister for Finance, I accepted the case made by the NTMA and supported by an independent report that the disclosure of full information relating to the remuneration of staff would place the body at a serious commercial disadvantage in terms of recruiting and retaining the expertise that it needs.