Thursday, March 31, 2005

Disclosure logs

After some detailed Google searching, I've not come across many more disclosure logs, especially at local council level, please do send me any links you come across. View the current list
Media roundup

Daily Telegraph 30th March - Royal wedding requires clergyman, says advice for Princess Margaret
"Legal advice given half a century ago that a member of the Royal Family could be married only by a clergyman in England and Wales was published yesterday by the Government, barely a week before the Prince of Wales is due to marry Camilla Parker Bowles in a civil ceremony...The advice is in a draft memorandum to the Cabinet by Viscount Kilmuir, the Lord Chancellor, released by his successor under the Freedom of Information Act"

Also see: full documents at the DCA website

Computer Weekly 29th March - Health bosses tell trusts to refuse freedom of information requests about NPfIT deals
"Whitehall officials are asking executives in health authorities and trusts to refuse requests under the Freedom of Information Act for information about contracts worth billions of pounds under the national programme for IT (NPfIT) in the NHS."

Evening Standard - Bus lanes to treble
" Secret plans for a huge increase in London's bus lanes can be revealed by the Evening Standard today. Transport officials aim almost to treble the amount of road space reserved for buses in a bid to speed up journeys and get more people onto public transport. The plans are revealed in documents obtained from Transport for London by the Standard using the Freedom of Information Act."
Names of MPs staff

Your Right to Know features details of a request for the names of MPs staff, that has been refused by the House of Commons after internal review.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Freedom of Information Compliance: How Are We Coping?- An E-

Government Bulletin Seminar
- 12 April 2005, Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, London
http://www.electronic-government.com/foi/

As the first wave of Freedom of Information requests are received and
fielded across the public sector, how well are they being handled?
What are the early lessons to be learned, and what potential danger
areas are only now emerging, as the test to your systems goes live?

Speakers include Heather Brooke, Author of 'Your Right to Know';
Gerrard Tracey, Information Commissioner's Office; and Kelly
Mannix, Corporate Records Officer, Southwark Council. Places cost
295 pounds plus VAT for public sector and 395 plus VAT for private
sector delegates. Additional delegates booking at the same time receive
a 100 pound discount. For more see:
http://www.electronic-government.com/foi/ .

Note: This seminar counts for 3 Continuing Professional Development
(CPD) points for members of Socitm.
New Report

FreePint have published my new report on Freedom of Information entitled: "Complying with Freedom of Information legislation: a guide for practitioners" (ISBN 1-904769-09-8). The report is about 20,000 words long. There is a short preview article in the FreePint newsletter as well.
JISC Legal Briefing Day

There are still a few places available for the JISC Legal Briefing Day on
Privacy, Technology and the Law on 7 April 2005 in London which focuses on
privacy, data protection and the use of technology.
Sessions include:
- Handling examination and assessment information
- Study and Research data
- Information Security
- Data Protection and Freedom of Information
- The integrity of identity and establishing intent
- Authentication
- Sharing data
- Monitoring of individuals
- Privacy Policies

Getting proper data protection procedures and practices in place is a
crucial part of dealing with private and confidential information
appropriately.

For Further details and booking form see the JISC Legal website
Media roundup

BBC News 25th March -'Secrecy instinct' being overcome
"Public bodies are "getting away from the instinct of official secrecy" following the introduction of openness laws, an independent watchdog has said."

BBC News 25th March - Secret Iraq legal advice probed
"The decision to prevent disclosure of Attorney General Lord Goldsmith's legal advice on the Iraq war is being studied by the Information Commissioner."

The Scotsman 28th March -Hygiene fear as mice turn up in school canteens
"Mice, rats and ants have been found in school canteen storage areas, and school meals have been served at temperatures that could cause food poisoning, according to reports obtained under the Freedom of Information Act"

Sunday Times 27th March - Commons thieves walk off with MPs’ valuables – and a sandwich
"The Houses of Parliament have been revealed as rich pickings for thieves, with more than £150,000 worth of valuables stolen in the past four years, including MPs’ computers, solar panels and jewellery"

The Guardian 24th March - War resignation letter censored
"The government yesterday tried to suppress evidence that the attorney general believed war against Iraq was illegal less than two weeks before British troops joined the US-led invasion of the country. It has removed a key passage in the resignation letter written by Elizabeth Wilmshurst, deputy chief legal adviser at the Foreign Office, on March 18 2003, the eve of the invasion.The remainder of her letter - in which she described the planned invasion as a "crime of aggression" - was released yesterday under the Freedom of Information Act."

Guardian 23rd March - Royal farms get £1m from taxpayers
"The Queen and Prince Charles received a total of more than £1m in EU farm subsidies in the past two years, it was revealed yesterday. The figure emerged as the government for the first time published the amount of subsidy each farmer in Britain receives, after a request from the Guardian under the Freedom of Information Act."

Independent 23rd March- Comment Heather Brooke: The Government's right to keep us in the dark

BBC News 23rd March - UK refuses records on Jenin death
"The UK Government is refusing to release information about the death of a British UN worker in Jenin who was shot by an Israeli soldier. In January BBC News used the Freedom of Information Act to seek the facts about Iain Hook's death in November 2002."

New Scientist - Cracks may force shutdown of UK reactors
"REACTORS in many UK nuclear power stations are in danger of developing cracks in their graphite cores. This could force some plants to close down earlier than expected, dealing a blow to the idea that nuclear power can become a "green" option in the fight against global warming. Documents obtained by New Scientist under the UK's Freedom of Information Act have revealed unsuspected problems with the country's ageing advanced gas-cooled reactors (AGRs). Government nuclear inspectors say they have uncovered weaknesses in the safety analyses."
Sunshine Week

Sunshine Week in the US was celebrated last week. Approximately 1200 news media organizations participated. More info at www.sunshineweek.org

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Press release 22nd March 2005
New International Journal on Freedom of Information launches

Contact: Steve Wood, Editor editor@opengovjournal.org
Telephone: +44 (0)151 231 3589

A new open access e-journal entitled “Open Government: a journal on freedom of information” published its inaugural issue on the 22nd March 2005. The journal, funded by School of Business Information at Liverpool John Moores University aims to publish research and communications related to Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation from the perspective of academics, practioners and FOI users.

The Editor Steve Wood, a Senior Lecturer in information management at Liverpool University founded the journal after receiving feedback that there was a need for an International journal in this subject. Commenting on the launch of the journal he said: “Open Government is an excellent new opportunity for the publication of new peer reviewed research about freedom of information legislation from around the world.”

The editorial board for the journal draws on FOI expertise of academics, lawyers, practioners and journalists, from Europe, USA, India, Australia and New Zealand.

The inaugural issue contains articles on the following subjects:

· The Right to Information in India
· The interaction between Data Protection and Freedom of Information
· Procurement and the UK Freedom of Information Act
· Coordination of Freedom of Information Act requests
· A report from 3rd annual Information Commissioner’s conference


This open access journal is available free of charge at: www.opengovjournal.org and will be published on a quarterly basis. Notes on how and when to submit are available on the website. The journal has an ISSN of 1745-8293. To be notified of each issue send a blank email to editor@opengovjournal.org with “notify” as the subject line.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Parliamentary roundup

The following Parliamentary Questions have been asked in the last month:
(Commons unless stated)
One interesting highlight: Alan Milburn is a member of the Cabinet Committee MISC 28 whose terms of reference are to "oversee the Government's strategy of Freedom of Information and the commencement of the Freedom of Information Act 2000". Wonder how this links to his election planning role?

17/03/05
To ask the Secretary of State for Health, how many NHS personnel have been employed on processing requests under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 since 1st January

To ask the Secretary of State for Health, what assessment he has made of the impact on (a) costs to the NHS and (b) services to customers of the NHS of the coming into effect of the full provisions of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 since 1st January

No answer yet

15/03/05
Mr. Greenway: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Department for Constitutional Affairs who is responsible for deciding whether information requested from local government under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 qualifies for an exemption under the Act.

Mr. Leslie: Each individual public authority-and each local authority—is responsible for ensuring that they fulfil their obligations under the Freedom of Information Act. Local councils will make their own arrangements for deciding whether exemptions apply to information requested.

09/03/05
Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will list the (a) documents and (b) other information released to date by his Department following Freedom of Information Act requests; and what categories of information requested his Department has refused to release. [220639]

Mr. Straw: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) does not hold centrally a list of all information released or categories of information refused. All disclosures of wider public interest are published on the FCO website (www.fco.gov.uk). The FCO's central monitoring system records requests and statistics for disclosures, partial disclosures or refusals. Full details of disclosures and refusals are kept in individual case files opened for each request.

All FCO information is potentially disclosable under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and will be released if it is in the public interest to do so.


Lords 08/03/05
Member Fowler, Rt hon lord
Responding MinisterAshton of Upholland, Baroness

Whether they are satisfied with the operation of the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 relating to the disclosure of documents. 1st supplementary on the disclosure of the views of officials on the decision to invade Iraq and ministerial papers

03/03/05
Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on how many occasions when her officials have been processing requests under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 it has been necessary to extend the statutory 20 working day limit for response due to the need to assess whether the public interest in disclosing the information requested outweighed the public interest in witholding the information requested.

Alun Michael: It must be remembered that officials are dealing within an entirely new set of requirements and we expect these processes to be much easier to follow once they are bedded in. To date our central tracking system records that there have been a total of 14 requests for information where a reply has had to be extended past the statutory 20 working day limit due to the need to apply the Public Interest Test. Of these requests nine were under the Freedom of Information Act and five were under the new Environmental Information Regulations.

Mr. Clappison: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills pursuant to the answer of 18 January 2005, Official Report, columns 855–56W, on Freedom of Information, what progress has been made by the Office for Fair Access in preparing a publication scheme under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act 2000; and how many requests for information under the Freedom of Information Act have been (a) received and (b) responded to by the Office for Fair Access. [218990]

Dr. Howells: The Office for Fair Access has a draft publication scheme which it expects to submit in March 2005 to the Information Commissioner. OFFA has to date received two requests under the Freedom of Information Act, and has responded to one of them.

02/03/05

Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department on how many occasions when considering requests to his Department for information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 it has been necessary to extend the statutory reply period beyond 20 working days because of consideration of whether the request might result in a breach of national security. [214643]

Fiona Mactaggart: For the period from 1 January to 4 February, there has been one case in the Home Office where we have written to the applicant, extending the deadline because we are considering the public interest test in relation to the exemption contained within s.24 (national security).

23/02/05
Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what involvement he has had in co-ordinating policy across Departments in respect of the answering of requests made under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

Mr. Milburn [holding answer 21 February 2005]: The Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs and Lord Chancellor has the policy lead on the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

I am a member of the Cabinet Committee MISC 28 whose terms of reference are to

"oversee the Government's strategy of Freedom of Information and the commencement of the Freedom of Information Act 2000".

21/02/05
Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Department for Constitutional Affairs how many requests under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 were received by Government departments between 1 and 12 January; and how many (a) had been answered, (b) had been refused and (c) were still outstanding 20 working days from the date of receipt.

Mr. Lammy: The Department for Constitutional Affairs will be publishing full monitoring statistics of central Government's operation of the Freedom of Information Act in spring 2005.

The monitoring regime is published at: http://www.foi.gov.uk/map/gus-v4-appf.pdf. It does not require Government departments to provide statistics broken down into specific time periods. Consequently, the information requested is not immediately available and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

However, given the public interest in the volume and handling of Freedom of Information requests, the following figures are available for the Department for Constitutional Affairs.

The Department for Constitutional Affairs received 106 requests between 1 January and 12 January. Of these:

(a) 94 have been answered;
(b) 25 were refused either in full or in part;
(c) 12 were still outstanding 20 working days from the date of receipt (including nine cases extended in accordance with section 10(3) of the Act).
News roundup

Reuters 19th March -Woman finds freedom laws mean no free man
"LONDON (Reuters) - When the government introduced its new freedom of information laws, Angela Wright seized on them as a chance to find an unattached man in uniform."

Guardian 19th March - I've got freedom of information. Now I'd like a man in a uniform
"When the Freedom of Information Act came into effect on January 1 it led to a stream of serious requests, from demands for the attorney general's advice on the war to the official papers on Black Wednesday. But what no one had counted on was Angela Wright."

Guardian 18th March - Private academies fail Commons exam
"Last month a confidential government report obtained by the Guardian under the Freedom of Information Act supported his view, warning that the new academies threatened to create a two-tier system based on social class. The document commissioned from PriceWaterhouseCoopers was based on a study of similar schools in the US and said academies would introduce a "quasi-market" in education"
World Bank to release board minutes

March 18, 2005 - The World Bank Board of Executive Directors on March 8 approved the release of its minutes, but pulled back substantially from several other disclosure reforms that have been under discussion for months, according to a new article posted today on freedominfo.org's IFTI Watch column.

By joining the Inter-American Development Bank in releasing board minutes, the World Bank may help foster a trend among international financial institutions. Whatever the symbolic value of the gesture, however, the information value of the document may be limited.

http://www.freedominfo.org
EGB Seminar Report- FoI Implications for Suppliers.

We Want Information by Derek Parkinson
"Early indications suggest that many suppliers do not understand how
commercially sensitive information is handled under FoI, delegates
heard. A common mistake is for suppliers to claim that all details of
their commercial dealings with a public sector partner should be
treated as confidential, and made exempt from release under the Act.
"We've had letters from suppliers saying that all information about
them is confidential," said Sukhvinder Hayer, Information Access
Manager at the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority"
Full details in the latest email e-governemnt bulletin
A searchable archive of our back-issues can be found at:
http://www.headstar.com/egb

Presentations from the seminar can be accessed at:
http://www.electronic-government.com/supplier/feb.htm

Friday, March 18, 2005

US FOI developments

Interesting moves in the US to a Information Commissioner style system and I'd be interested to hear views on the tracking number system. Not sure how likely this is to get through the US legislative process.

Detriot free press -Two smart ideas to protect public access
"A few Republicans and Democrats in fractious Washington, D.C., have found something on which they can agree: strengthening the 1966 federal Freedom of Information Act. It's a worthy cause.

U.S. Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., have proposed a bill to create an independent FOIA ombudsman to review disputes and suggest alternatives to costly litigation with the U.S. Justice Department.

A companion House bill, sponsored by Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, would require government agencies to assign a tracking number to all FOIA requests within 10 days and to establish a phone number or Internet access to update the status and likely completion date. Agencies failing to respond within 20 days would lose all exemptions to FOIA requests except for information related to national security, personal privacy and proprietary challenges."

You can see the full Bill at http://www.cornyn.senate.gov/FOIA/

See also: Business Week article
Journal

In preparation for journal launch next week, we are doing technical things over the weekend - the domain www.opengovjournal.org will be down until Monday, but you can access the holding page with backgroud info.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Internships at the Campaign for Freedom of Information

The Campaign for Freedom of Information recruits interns to work on a variety of research projects and other activities. An internship at the Campaign is an opportunity to experience working for a leading NGO.

More information at http://www.cfoi.org.uk/internships.html
Americans Want More Open Government

Many adults in the United States are concerned about freedom of information, according to a poll by Ipsos-Public Affairs on behalf of Sunshine Week. 52 per cent of respondents think Americans have too little access to government records.

Angusreid.com
Media roundup

Guardian 16th March - Minister admits defeat on key pledge
"The government has privately accepted that it will not meet its manifesto target of improving council homes to a decent standard in all areas, according to documents released under the Freedom of Information Act."

Guardain 16th March - Hospitals deny patients facts on death rates
"Guardian investigation under freedom of information extracts first data on heart surgeons and reveals successes and failures of system"

Computer weekly.com 15th March - Skills shortage raises threat of suppliers' claims against NHS
"Papers obtained under the Freedom of Information Act reveal risk of compensation claims. The NHS is in danger of not meeting its commitments under the multibillion-pound contracts signed by the health service's chief executive Nigel Crisp, according to papers released under the Freedom of Information Act. The contracts were between Crisp and the multinational computer companies that were appointed local service providers (LSPs) to the national programme for IT (NPfIT). They bind the NHS to provide about 200 staff on loan, free of charge to LSPs, to help them make a success of the NPfIT."

Diana FOI releases

Cabinet Office release:
Death and funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales - 1 (PDF 2MB)
Death and funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales - 2 (PDF 1.78MB)

Daily Mail 16th March - Diana car-swop riddle
"Speculation over why Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed switched to a different car minutes before their deaths has been reignited by newly released official papers.
The change to the Mercedes driven by Henri Paul has been explained as a bid to dodge photographers waiting for them outside the Ritz Hotel in Paris. But papers released by the Cabinet Office under the Freedom of Information Act suggest the car they originally planned to use had broken down."

Independent 16th March - Car swap fuels mystery surrounding Diana's death
"The last-minute switch in cars came to light with the release of official documents by the Cabinet Office under the Freedom of Information Act, which included correspondence between officials in the aftermath of the event"
No more shadowy figures

From Guardian epublic

"The Freedom of Information Act is pressing authorities to reveal the names of staff. In Seattle they call it accountability. Heather Brooke asks if we should follow suit....Public authorities have sought advice from the Information Commissioner's Office, the regulator of both the Freedom of Information and Data Protection Acts. Yet the commissioner's office refuses to say whether or not staff directories should be disclosed. "The public authority has to make that decision itself based on the data protection principals," said a spokesman"
Full ISO Implementation 'Un-necessary'

From public sector forums (reg. required)

"The ODPM has confirmed full implementation of ISO 15489 will not be necessary to meet Priority G19, PSF can report. This follows earlier clarification from the Ministry in November when it was also established local authorities wouldn’t need to implement a full EDRM system to meet the Priority which covers adoption of ISO 15498 methodology to fulfil the requirements of FoI and DP legislation. This came after a query from the IDeA’s Dr Lydia Pollard to the ODPM’s Dr Peter Blair, the Outcomes author."

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Software section

I've added a new Software sectionon tools for managing FOI requests.
Third Annual Information Conference for the
Public Sector: FOI Live 2005


Thursday 16 June 2005
Victoria Park Plaza, London

£50 Discount Offer ends Friday 25th March!
Spaces are filling up quickly – BOOK NOW

The Constitution Unit, Department of Constitutional Affairs and Information Commissioner's Office invite you to attend the biggest FOI event of the calendar year: FOI Live 2005. Last year's conference attracted 220 delegates and feedback was overwhelmingly positive.

This year's programme offers talks by top government officials and FOI experts, seminars on specific areas of interest to practitioners, and ample networking opportunities. Throughout the day you will learn answers to the following questions (and many more!): What are the lessons of the first six months? What can you learn from the experience of other public bodies? How can you streamline the handling of requests?

Speakers include:
· Lord Falconer, Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs and Lord Chancellor
· Richard Thomas, Information Commissioner
· Andrew McDonald, Constitution Director, Department for Constitutional Affairs
· Marie Shroff, Privacy Commissioner of New Zealand
· Maurice Frankel, Director, Campaign for Freedom of Information
· Antonia Romeo, Head of Information Rights Division, Department for Constitutional Affairs
· Graham Smith, Deputy Information Commissioner, Information Commissioner’s Office

Afternoon seminar sessions will provide delegates the opportunity to interact with experts on specific FOI-related topics:
· Dealing with contracts and commercial confidentiality issues
· Responding to requests for personal information
· Streamlining your FOI processes
· Handling EIRs in the new FOI environment
· Administering fees and answering vexatious requests
· Managing responses to media and political requests
· Working through the complaints and appeals process

Places for the conference are limited so please book soon. For more information about the conference and to reserve your place, please visit https://www.involve-me-secure.com/foilive2005/default.asp.
Or contact:
Michael Hanton
FOI Event Coordinator
Complete Support Group
Email: foi@completesupport.co.uk
Tel: 0121 776 7766
Fax: 0121 776 7666

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

New Journal

The new journal I've been working on will launch on the 21st March. The journal is funded by Liverpool John Moores University and will be available on open access principles.

The web address is www.opengovjournal.org There is information there about guidelines for submission etc

Download the journal flyer (PDF)
US Citizen Access Project

An interesting project based in the US:

"The goal of the Citizen Access Project is to allow citizens and public officials to better understand public access to local government information in all 50 states. Most of the funding for the project came from Orlando-based media executive Marion Brechner who established an endowment with a gift of $600,000"

Each state law access provision is rated by the MBCAP Sunshine Advisory Board (SAB) on a 7-point scale from laws that allow the most access to law that allow the least access.

See more at http://www.citizenaccess.org/
Notes of Ministerial meetings

This article in the Telegraph suggests that notes are not being taken at meetings due to potential release under FoI
"No minutes of Mr Boateng's meetings with ministers forcing them to "manipulate" spending have been taken because of concerns that details might have to be released under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act, the sources say"
Refusal to reveal Iraq advice to be investigated

The Guardian 12 March -The Information Commissioner has launched an investigation into the alleged concealment of Lord Goldsmith's legal advice on the war in Iraq.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Media roundup

Hold the Front Page 11th March - FoI success for North East weekly
"The Darlington & Stockton Times has been able to bring its readers details which it believed should be made public, but had been kept secret by a local authority, thanks to the Freedom of Information Act. The weekly newspaper decided to put the Act to the test and ask Richmondshire District Council to reveal the cost of a controversial training course for its senior management team in 2002."

The Guardian 11th March - Pensioner faces court over council tax protest
"A 70-year-old pensioner has stepped up his protest against council tax increases by demanding a list of other non-payers.....The former welder has now used the new Freedom of Information Act to force the council to admit how many people are failing to pay their council tax, and how many of them have been taken to court to date. "What annoys me is that other people who have not paid their council tax at all for two years, and yet they are jumping on me," he said. East Devon district council told SocietyGuardian.co.uk it was unable to confirm the number of non-payers in its district. "We do not hold any definitive data as to the total number of customers who have not paid, as this information is changing on a daily basis," a spokesman said. "Similarly, we cannot be specific about the amount of council tax outstanding, as this also fluctuates from one day to the next. What we can say is that in 2003-04 our collection rate was 96.9% and we have already met this year's target of 97%."

Art Newspaper - Just how open are UK museums?
"When the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act came into force on 1 January, The Art Newspaper submitted requests to four major UK museums and galleries. We are now able to publish the responses from the National Gallery, the Tate, the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A)—giving the first indication of whether the law is ushering in a new era of openness."
One seventh of all Freedom of Information requests refused by Health and Safety Executive

Centre for Corporate Accountability - The Health and Safety Commission/Executive (HSC/E) has refused 14% of all applications for information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) in the first two months of 2005, the CCA has learnt.
In another 15% of applications the HSE has only provided partial disclosure. It has however provided full disclosure in 34% of cases.

-Read the press release
-Data report is based on

The site also lists FOI requests CCA have made to HSE

Friday, March 11, 2005

Freedom of Information Compliance: How Are We Coping?

- An E-Government Bulletin Seminar
- 12 April 2005, Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, London
http://www.electronic-government.com/foi/ .

As the first wave of Freedom of Information requests are received and
fielded across the public sector, how well are they being handled?
What are the early lessons to be learned, and what potential danger
areas are only now emerging, as the test to your systems goes live?

Speakers include Heather Brooke, Author of 'Your Right to Know';
Gerrard Tracey, Information Commissioner's Office; and Kelly
Mannix, Corporate Records Officer, Southwark Council. Places cost
295 pounds plus VAT for public sector and 395 plus VAT for private
sector delegates. Additional delegates booking at the same time receive
a 100 pound discount. For more see:
http://www.electronic-government.com/foi/ .

Note: This seminar counts for 3 Continuing Professional Development
(CPD) points for members of Socitm.
Disclosure logs

Further disclosure logs have been added for the BBC and Greater Manchster Strategic Health Authority

Thanks to Katherine for spotting these
Memorandum of Understanding

A Memorandum of Understanding has been signed by the Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs and the Information Commissioner. An agreement between the Information Commissioner and other Government Departments. It outlines the procedures that will apply when complaints are made to the Information Commissioner, about Departments, under section 50/51 of the FOI Act.

Download PDF
The Information Tribunal (Enforcement Appeals) (Amendment) Rules 2005

The following SI was laid in Parliament 4 March

Statutory Instrument 2005 No. 450
The Information Tribunal (Enforcement Appeals) (Amendment) Rules 2005
Full text
"These Rules, which have been prepared in consultation with the Council on Tribunals, make a small number of amendments to the Information Tribunal (Enforcement Appeals) Rules 2005 (S.I. 2005/14).

EXPLANATORY NOTE
Rule 3 amends rule 4(2)(b)(iv), to make it clear that, in relation to appeals under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (and the provisions of that Act as applied, as modified by regulation 18 of the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (S.I. 2004/3391)), it is not the public authority who would have issued a disputed decision; the rule needs to refer to the public authority in respect of which a disputed decision has been made.

Rule 4 amends rule 14(9), to remove the reference to a Minister's and a respondent data controller's replies, and to ensure that a joined party's notice in reply could be struck out.

Rule 5 amends rule 25 to ensure that the chairman may act for the Tribunal in determining whether an appeal should be determined without a hearing.

Rule 6 amends rule 26 so as to remove from the Information Commissioner the burden of proving that a decision notice under section 57(1) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 should be upheld.


Thanks to Tim for alerting me to this

The original SI was
Statutory Instrument 2005 No. 14
The Information Tribunal (Enforcement Appeals) Rules 2005
Full text
EU Directive on Public Sector Information

Three free seminars across the UK

The Digital Content Forum (DCF), in partnership with the Department for Trade and Industry, HMSO and regional organisations around the UK are holding three free seminars in March 2005. The aim of the seminars is to explore how the forthcoming Regulations implementing the EU Directive on the Re-Use of Public Sector Information, which come into force on 1 July 2005, will awaken new opportunities for businesses.

The seminars will:
set the new Regulations within the wider European perspective;
give an insight into how implementation will work within the UK;
explain what public sector bodies themselves are doing to prepare; and
offer the opportunity to hear from industry figures who are experts in the field, and have successfully commercially exploited public sector information.
The dates for these seminars are:

Bristol - Watershed Media Centre, 2 March 2005
Birmingham - The Technology Innovation Centre, 9 March 2005
Newcastle - Jury's Inn, 30 March 2005

To find out more or to book your place, please e-mail your contact details to jane.coulter@dcf.org.uk quoting either Bristol/Birmingham/Newcastle in the subject field depending on your preferred location.

Also see the HMSO website
Media Roundup

The Herald 10th March - Aircraft carriers go to sea without defence
"THE first of the Royal Navy's two planned aircraft carriers will have to go to sea without fighter protection for two years......according to figures released under the Freedom of Information Act"

Daily Telegraph 10th March - LSE has quotas for state students
"A leading university is operating a secret quota system favouring state educated pupils at the expense of better qualified applicants from the independent sector, it was disclosed last night"

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Stories from Kent Messenger

Two further stories from Kent Messenger (thanks to Paul Francis):


Trips abroad by county councillors
(MS Word)

County councillors have strongly defended their trips abroad (MS Word)
Latest HM Treasury disclosure: Network Rail

Subject: Classificationof Network Rail Accounts

Date of Disclosure: 8 March 2005

Request: Information relating to the classification of Network Rail Accounts

Disclosure: Documents relating to the classification of Network Rail Accounts

List of records to be released by HM Treasury:

PDF file of letter to ONS on MTN Facility 16 February 2004
PDF file of letter to ONS on Debt Issuance Programme 9 July 2004
PDF file of letter reply from ONS 27 July 2004
PDF file of classification of proposed Rail Company March 2002
PDF file of sector Classification of Network Rail Undated
PDF file of media coverage of NR Classification July 2002
PDf file of National Accounts Sector Classification of Network Rail June 2002
PDF file of Classification of Network Rail’s Borrowing June 2002
PDF file of Rail Industry Review letter July 2004
PDF file of Paper on Accounting Treatment of Network Rail Ltd Accounting differences: The case of Network Rail June 2002
Media roundup

North Devon Gazette & Advertiser 9th March - Listed status query fails
"Councillors had hoped the new Freedom of Information Act would help uncover how the former gas showroom ever became listed without their knowledge. Councillors instructed town clerk Malcolm Measures to write seeking information."

FT.com 8th March - Lawson's blueprint for Bank independence
"The Treasury had estab-lished the important principles and the practical steps necessary to give the Bank of England independence as far back as 1988, according to the latest papers released under the Freedom of Information Act. A 1988 paper commissioned by Lord Lawson, then chancellor Nigel Lawson, envisaged a "board of monetary control", including Bank officials and external members, to set short-term interest rates."
Isle of Man: FoI on the way?

Isle of Man today 09 March
"A Freedom of information law could be on the way, a government minister has confirmed. Local Government and the Environment Minister John Rimington said a working party is reviewing how well a code of practice on allowing access to government information is working and introducing a law, possibly similar to the UK Freedom of Information Act which came into force in January, may be an option. Mr Rimington confirmed the code of practice, introduced in 1996 following the recommendations of a Tynwald select committee, is being reviewed in light of the Mount Murray investigation and UK law change."

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Pilot study on first month of FOI (a survey of 10 FOI practitioners)

Jim Amos, one of the UCL Constitution Unit's honorary senior research fellows, has recently completed a report of a survey of 10 FOI practitioners that he carried out in early February. The main aim of the pilot project was to understand the practical experiences of moderately sized authorities that have not received attention-getting contentious
requests; in other words, those who have been outside the media's radar.

The report of this study is available for download in Word on their website.
Prize: FOI SOS Manchester

I have another prize to give away to blog readers: a place at the Ark group
conference: FOI SOS Manchester 25th and 26th May 2005 worth up to £1195

All you have to do is email me your name and full contact details by the
18th March 2005

Your name will be drawn from a "virtual hat". Email to
steve_wood62@hotmail.com with "manchester prize" as the subject heading

The two-day conference is designed to help you:

. Understand the interface between FOI, EIR and Data Protection

. Ensure transparent application of the public interest test for qualified exemptions

. Effectively deal with requests for third party data

. Establish a consistent response to requests for information

More details:
Disclosure log updated

The disclosure logs for Redcar and Cleveland and the General Officer Commanding Northern Ireland (GOCNI)have been added to the disclosure log page
Media Roundup

ICDumfries -"Government cars use revealed
Government cars made nearly 300 trips in less than five months between the Executive's ministerial headquarters and the Scottish Parliament, it has emerged."


Managing Information 8th March -Meeting Demands Of Freedom Of Information Act Could Be 'Cheaper'
"While requests for previously unavailable information have been rolling in since the Freedom of Information Act came into force on New Year’s Day, some public bodies and Government departments have struggled to cope. Many are failing to turn around information within the required 20-day limit set down, not due to the sheer weight of enquiries but because of the type of information being requested."

ICLiverpool - Who pays the bills for spinning the news?
"The Daily Post has used new rights under the Freedom of Information Act to find out exactly how much some local public bodies are spending on PR"

Computer Weekly - Conservative Party backs call for audit of NHS IT scheme
"Of 20 named trusts in London which are due to go live with new systems in the next year, 19 are at red status, which indicates that a key milestone is threatened, one is at amber and one at green.....Documents released to Computer Weekly under the Freedom of Information Act by trusts around the country highlight other concerns, few of which are reflected in the national programme's announcements and literature."


FT.com 9th March - PFI information to be posted online
"An online database spelling out who owns what and where in public-private partnerships and private finance initiative projects is about to go live. It will provide more accessible data on the 633 projects with a capital value of more than £40bn that have so far been signed. The database has been constructed by Partnerships UK, the part publicly owned PFI adviser. Its aim is to provide more transparency about PFI, according to James Stewart, PUK's chief executive. It will be useful, he says, for public sector procuring authorities, for private sector providers including new entrants to the market, for the public, and for PUK itself."

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Deputy chair role - Information Tribunal

Taken from Thelawyer.com
"David Farrer QC, head of chambers at 7 Bedford Row, has been appointed as a deputy chairman of the Information Tribunal. Farrer joins chair John Angel and three other deputy chairmen in the part-time role. The Information Tribunal has replaced the Data Protection Tribunal following the implementation of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 on 1 January this year. It hears appeals from Information Commissioner Richard Thomas from applications made under the Freedom of Information Act."
Media roundup

Birmingham Evening Mail 7th March - March of the phone masts
"Birmingham could be flooded with almost 200 new phone masts by the end of the year according to figures revealed today.....The proposals for the roll-out of mobile phone communications in 2005 were sent to the planning department at the end of last year. The Evening Mail can today reveal them under information gathered under the Freedom of Information Act."

Evening gazette (Teeside) 7th March - Wait is over at last
"The family of a man killed in a train accident have finally received a secret report into his death after an agonising nine-and-a-half year wait. Earlier this year, Jeremy Fowler, 40, wrote to the HSE asking for the full report to be released under the new Freedom of Information Act.This was successful but parts of the report, including eye witness accounts, are still missing because of the Data Protection Act."

The Scotsman 7th March - Dirty little secrets of capital's top restaurants
"A NUMBER of Edinburgh’s top restaurants have at one time failed to meet hygiene standards set by health and safety inspectors, it has been revealed. Reports obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show some of the capital’s leading restaurants have fallen foul of environmental laws which aim to ensure that foods served on their premises are fit for human consumption."

The Times March 7th - Election officials warned ministers of post vote flaws
"MINISTERS were given warning by election officials that a postal voting scandal was looming shortly before local polls that sparked claims of stolen votes. Returning officers wrote to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister saying that concern about fraud was putting the integrity of the elections process at risk, according to papers released to The Times under the Freedom of Information Act."

Daily Telegraph 8th March - Tories missed their chance to make Bank independent
"Secret Treasury papers released by Labour yesterday under the Freedom of Information Act show how leading civil servants advised ministers in 1988 and 1991 that independence could help deliver low inflation for the long term."
Read the HMT documents in full

Monday, March 07, 2005

Private sector call for FoI confidentiality tags

Article in Information World Review"Kevin Miles, head of knowledge management at Transport Laboratories Limited, which works with a number of public bodies including Transport for London (TfL), told IWR: "We are not a public authority, but 70% of our work is for public authorities, so our information is going to go into the public sector domain via our customers."

He warned: "Because of the complexity of marking information that we have a duty of confidentiality to, it may be disclosed - and if it were disclosed we would sue the public body for the disclosure."

He added: "I think this is a fundamental issue for records management staff in both the public and private sectors. If we can't get clear guidance from the DCA then we need to drive the issue ourselves and set the standards we need in order to do our work."
Media roundup

Daily Telegraph March 7th -Britain begged America for food surplus to build nuclear war stockpile
"Britain begged up to two million tons of surplus American food to stave off the prospect of starvation in case of nuclear war, top secret archive papers released under the Freedom of Information Act have revealed."

The Herald 6th March - How soap industry put heat on watchdog
"However, the majority of farms around the loch are used for raising livestock, with a far lower use of fertiliser. Sepa, however, chose not to debate the issue. The papers released under the Freedom of Information Act reveal how it instead chose to bow to the pressure"

The Sunday Times 6th March - Britain's biggest private landowner nets £1m in EU handouts
"The subsidies paid to Britain’s farmers have traditionally been kept secret, but The Sunday Times has made an application to the government for the amounts to be revealed under the new Freedom of Information Act. The government is due to rule on the application later this month, but some landowners are already disclosing the information."

North West Evening mail 5th March - MRSA up by 15%
"SUPERBUG cases at Furness General Hospital rose over the past year. An Evening Mail request under the Freedom of Information Act revealed a 15 per cent overall increase in cases of MRSA between 2003 and 2004."

Belfast Telegraph 4th March - MP's call on TV licence evaders
"A DUP MP has turned to the Freedom of Information Act in a bid to find out which parts of Northern Ireland harbour the most TV licence evaders"

Hamstead and Highgate Express 4th March - Camden infringed on my right to free data
"PARKING chiefs at Camden have charged £700 to supply data under the Freedom of Information Act... even though some of the facts are freely available on the Internet. Simon Aldridge, 37, who owns recycling business Pulp Faction, sent Camden 15 questions asking for information about parking fines issued in the borough..... But Mr Aldridge, who lives in Crouch End, then found the answers to one of the questions on the website of the Association of London Government (ALG)."

Friday, March 04, 2005

OGC sees red

Government Computing - 1 March 2005
"Whitehall has revealed some details of its 10 most at risk IT projects, following a Freedom of Information request. The Office of Government Commerce (OGC) has released details of IT projects found to be most at risk across Whitehall, but is keeping the projects' identities secret."

The response from the OGC is available as a PDF. Good example of a clear FOI response setting out the reasons for non disclosure.
Media roundup

Western Mail (Wales) - CJD deaths linked to school meat
"SCHOOL dinners eaten by three young people in Wales may have resulted in their deaths from the human form of mad cow disease, a previously secret report has revealed. Tonight the ITV Wales current affairs programme Wales This Week will tell how an official report obtained under freedom of information legislation linked the deaths with possibly contaminated meat eaten by the victims in school dinners"

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Media Roundup

The Herald 1st March - Scores of police retiring to avoid inquiries
"POLICE officers in Scotland are avoiding official complaints procedures by resigning or retiring early. According to figures ob-tained by The Herald under The Freedom of Information Act, scores leave the force each year whilst subject to misconduct investigations."

FOI news from the Kent Messenger Group
Thanks to Paul Francis the Political Editor for sending me the following stories:

CONSULTANTS have been paid more than £170,000 of taxpayers’ money to deliver “executive coaching” to some of Kent County Council’s top officers.
Download (MS word)

RADICAL plans to ditch Kent’s 11-plus and switch to a system of continuous assessment are impractical and unlikely to work, county education chiefs have been told.
Download (MS word)

SCHOOLS could opt for a “marsh mallow test” to indicate the suitability of pupils for a place at a secondary school, one member of the working group jokingly suggested.
Download (MS word)

ONE of the country’s leading public schools is being lined up to become a joint sponsor of a bid to build a specialist secondary school academy on the Isle of Sheppey.
Download (MS word)
Information Commissioner guidance

The following guidance documents have been updated during January and February 2005:

Awareness Guidance 3 - Freedom of Information The Public Interest Test

Awareness Guidance 5 - Commercial Interests

Awareness Guidance 25 - Effective Conduct of Public Affairs

The changes/updates aren't that clear at a quick scan, will post more if I can work out what the changes are.
Integrated Public Sector Vocabulary (IPSV)

Integrated Public Sector Vocabulary (IPSV), to be released on April 4th 2005. The IPSV will merge all three existings lists into one list, applicable to website metadata, electronic document and record management systems, content management systems, and all situations for managing electronic information and services.

See press release

Setiing aside the use in public sector IT systems, this may be a useful tool if you are searching extensively for public sector information. Particularly if you want to search the web before making an FOI request and want use common terminology, it may also help to narrow down a request or write your requests clearly.

Download current version (MS Word)
Download current version
(PDF)

An example from the list:

Energy and fuel
. . Energy conservation
. . Energy efficiency
. . Fossil fuels
. . Nuclear energy
. . Renewable energy
. . . Biofuels
. . . Solar energy
. . . Tidal power
. . . Wind power
. . . . Windmills

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Media roundup

Bury St Edmonds today - Questions flood in for Cattle Market details
"Chief executive of the council, Deborah Cadman told Thursday's cabinet meeting that they were already being hit with detailed questions, particularly over the Cattle Market."We have had 29 request for information under the act so far and the majority of those are very complex," she said"

Daily Record 28th February - Gangster mcgraw got £218k of legal aid
"SCOTLAND'S richest gangster received £218,000 of legal aid when he was tried on drug-smuggling charges.Thomas 'The Licensee' McGraw - who is thought to have a £30million fortune - walked free from the 1998 trial after the jury returned a not proven verdict.The amount of taxpayers' money he received was revealed yesterday under the new Freedom of Information Act."

Spacereview - A different kind of openness
"By originally failing to make the report on the loss of Beagle 2 (above) publicly available, the usefulness of the report was greatly diminished. In January, the Beagle 2 investigation report was finally released. Unfortunately, the obfuscation did not stop then. At the time of the release, BNSC stated that “in view of the Committee’s strongly held view that the report should be published in full, we have discussed the issue again with ESA and have persuaded them that the report should be published.”

What BNSC left out of its statement was that it was actually the British magazine New Scientist that had forced their hand. New Scientist filed a request under the United Kingdom’s new Freedom of Information Act to force the document’s release. The magazine’s editors thought it was not a good idea to leave the dead dog alone."