Thursday, June 24, 2004

Copyright and FOI

An important posting on the JISCmail FOI discussion list by Tim Padfield, Copyright Officer, Secretary of the Lord Chancellor's Advisory Council on National Records and Archives about "the implications of supplying a copy of a copyright document in response to an FoI request, government lawyers have come round to a view that this could infringe."

(brief excert):

"It is now the view of government lawyers in the Department for Constitutional
Affairs and DTI that the FoIA does not 'specifically authorise' the making
of a copy. All it authorises is the supply of information. If the making of
a copy in order to supply that information would infringe copyright, it is
not 'reasonably practicable' to supply the copy, and the information must be
supplied in some other form. The most likely form is as a summary or
paraphrase which does not use a substantial part of the original text's own
form of expression, but the Act also allows for access to the information by
allowing the person to inspect the original document. The latter is
presumably the only solution for information which is visual....Official guidance will be published on the issue in due course."

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Report: Open Sesame: Looking for the Right to Information in the Commonwealth

Available on the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative Website

The website also contains some useful links to publications and other international FOI sites

Monday, June 21, 2004

FT: Private sector to face public

Financial Times; Jun 21, 2004

"There are some things chief executives do not like to divulge. It might be the precise details of deals they have secured or the price they have tendered for a government contract - information that, were it to become public knowledge, might concede a competitive advantage to their rivals."

Ireland - Information commissioner report proves govt has strangled FoI

"Today's report by the Information Commissioner confirms that the Government has achieved its objective of strangling the Freedom of Information Act, Fine Gael Deputy Leader & Finance Spokesman Richard Bruton TD said today..."The news that requests for non-personal information have declined by 75% should come as no surprise"

Govt urged to rethink FOI charges

Information Commissioner Emily O’Reilly has urged the Government to rethink its decision to introduce charges for requests made under the Freedom of Information Act

Ireland online
The National Archives' draft guidance on handling information requests relating to deposited public records

"The National Archives (TNA), in partnership with other government bodies
and places of deposit for public records, has been developing procedures,
forms and guidelines to promote and support this aim. This work is being
led by staff in TNA's Archive Inspection Services Unit.

Draft procedures for use by places of deposit in dealing with FOI requests
about their deposited public records holdings have now been prepared, and
are available here as a pdf document:"

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Law saves Whitehall millions

Rob Evans
Wednesday June 16, 2004
The Guardian

"The act protecting whistleblowers is preventing frauds worth £2.5m a year in Whitehall, according to research published yesterday. Research unveiled by the charity shows that there has been a 30% increase in the number of frauds in Whitehall stopped by whistleblowers since the Public Interest Disclosure Act came into force in 1998"
New Guidance on Information Commissioner's website

FOI Awareness Guidance 9 - Information contained in court records

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Articles in and Information World Review Butler group review

An article entitled "Open government? Yes, Minister" about the UK FOIA is in the June edition of Butler Group review (subscription only) Contains this interesting qoute about Records Managers: "An indication of the seriousness with which the FOIA is starting to be regarded, are the pay scales for qualified records managers.These are approaching £35,000 per annum, as compared to only £20,000 a few years ago"

The FOI charging story was featured in page 3 of the print edition of Information World Review for June 2004, includes a qoute from myself and a mention for the blog. Many thanks to Bobby Pickering at IWR for featuring this. You can sign up for free to subscribe on the website.

Friday, June 11, 2004

Hansard debate now online

The debate from the House of Commons on Wednesday is now online

Hansard 9th June Some interesting exchanges, Richard Sheppherd (Con)makes many good points relating to previous pledges made by the Government on fees.

The Government response (The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs (Mr. Christopher Leslie):

"I cannot give an undertaking that every aspect of the draft fees regulations is set in stone and will not change; it would imprudent to do so. However, the gist of the point is that the costs of freedom of information requests should be borne substantially by the public sector. That is the Government's commitment."

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Information charge plan angers MPs

Guardian 10th JuneThere was a debate in Parliament yesterday about the FOI fees.

The following question was also answered:

Llew Smith: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Department for Constitutional Affairs what decisions he has reached on the appropriate charging regime for requests for information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000. [175078]

Mr. Leslie: The Government published draft Freedom of Information fees regulations in 2000. No decision has been taken to alter these. An advisory group comprising of internal and external stakeholders is looking at options and is due to report before summer recess and a decision will be made before October. Final regulations will be brought forward by the Government in time for being in effect on 1 January 2005.

Parliament website (answers)

Full text of the debate of Hansard is not yet online, will post a link when available
Saddam lawyers press for access

"AFP also received a copy of a letter from Doebbler to the Defence Department arguing that the US administration was legally bound to provide information on Saddam.

In the May 28 letter, he cited the US Freedom of Information Act to request "access and copies of all records concerning the current whereabouts of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and all records concerning his medical condition since his capture".

"If my request is denied in whole or part, I ask that you justify all deletions by reference to specific exemptions of the act," he said, adding that he reserved the right to appeal any decision to withhold information."


Wednesday, June 09, 2004

FOI news in Parliament

1. The FOI charges Early Day Motion now has 96 signatures

2. Lord Filkn has answered a question in the House of Lords about FOI fees (7th June)

Monday, June 07, 2004

Book review: Kelvin Smith (2004) Freedom of Information: a practical guide to implementing the act.

Kelvin Smith (2004) Freedom of Information: a practical guide to implementing the act. Facet Publishing. London. ISBN 185604517X. 256 pages. £39.95.

My review of the book :Freedom of Information: a practical guide to implementing the act

You can also order from Amazon
Managing Information and Training

The Dept for Constitutional Affairs has published: Managing Information and Training: A Guide for Public Authorities in implementing the Freedom of Information Act and the Environmental Information Regulations on the website.


-An information and training policy as part of
-the overall strategy for compliance
-Preparing the organisation to deliver the strategy
-Planning and delivering information and training
-Evaluating your information and training objectives
-Auditing for success
-Implementing change - ‘Closing the loop’
Job Opportunity: Research Fellow in access to information at UCL Constitution Unit

More information:

"The Constitution Unit has developed a leading role in research, training and consultancy on Freedom of Information and Data Protection. We have worked closely with the Information Commissioner and Department for Constitutional Affairs in preparing for the implementation of FoI. We are now looking for a new FoI Research Fellow to lead and develop our work on Access to Information"

Closing date: 12 noon, Friday 18 June
Irish Councillor refused requst due to insulting wording

"A CASTLEBAR councillor has been refused access to documents under the Freedom of Information Act after the County Secretary took exception to the inclusion of a "gratuitous insult" on the addressed request to Mayo County Council. Cllr. Durcan stated he had included "Cromwell House" in the address as he felt it was an appropriate term in light of what he sees as the draconian planning decisions being adopted by the council’s planners in rural Mayo. Mr. Condon went on to say that he refused the request because it was "frivolous and vexatious" but that other requests from Cllr. Durcan would be dealt with if presented properly"

Mayo News, Westport - Ireland

Campaign for Freedom of Information in Scotland responds (positively) to the
Scottish Executive's consultation on charging fees

The Campaign for Freedom of Information in Scotland has responded to the
Scottish Executive's consultation on charging fees for information under the FOI (Scotland) Act.

"In general we are very happy with the proposals set out in the consultation document. They
represent a positive attitude towards disclosure, which envisages that most requests will be dealt
with free of charge and that where fees are charged they are likely to be modest."

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

BBC Ican guide: How to get information from public bodies

A new area of the BBC website called ICanfocused on political debate, campaigns etc has started has an interesting section on FOI. Should be potentially useful of promoting the Act to citzens

World Bank Board Poised for Breakthrough on Disclosing Draft Documents
IFTI Watch Update, May 28, 2004

"The World Bank Executive Board is poised to consider three significant improvements in its disclosure policy, including the experimental release of certain key staff documents at the same time they are sent to the board."

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

On-line crime stats give the local picture

A good exmaple of proactive information release from Avon and Somerset Police:

"Now the Avon and Somerset Constabulary is making crime statistics from beat level upwards available to all via the force’s award winning website. From Tuesday, June 1, 2004, members of the public will be able to input their postcode and view statistics for their area. Avon and Somerset Constabulary Internet Development manager Scott Fulton said: “This new initiative is as a result of the Freedom of Information Act and is designed to be an innovative approach to the release of crime information from the force"
New FOI website

The Dept for Constitutional Affairs have lanuched a new webisite for FOI: The web content doesn't appear to be different, just reorganised. There is also now an FOI logo.

Details of the new site and the new practioner e-forum are in the latest minutes for the Advisory Group on implementation of the Freedom of Information Act. The forum will be phased in: "This forum/network will be phased in between now and December 2005. Phase 1, lasting 3
months, will provide access to members of the FOIPG. Phase 2, beginning in August, will
widen the membership to offer access to other FOI practitioners working within the public
sector through the FOI Regional and County discussion groups."
Systems will not be ready in time for Freedom of Information Act

Computer Weekly 1st June

"The Freedom of Information Act will come into full force next January, before many government agencies and other public sector authorities have implemented the technology to meet their legal obligations, experts have warned......Disclosures about the lack of preparedness of some public authorities came at the government UK IT Summit 2004 conference in London last month. When the audience was asked whether they would be ready for the Act's introduction there was general agreement that many would not."