Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Media update

National news

Daily Mail - Morning-after pill handed to 13-year-olds
"Thousands of 13-year-old girls have been handed the morning-after pill by Health Service staff without their parents' permission, it has emerged.....But the figures - obtained under the Freedom of Information Act - renewed attacks on the strategy."

Western Mail - Labour rebuffs information chief
"THE Assembly Government has turned down a request by the Information Commissioner to disclose legal advice it was given concerning one of Labour's key promises at the last Assembly election. In 2003, Labour's manifesto promised "free breakfasts for all primary school kids", yet Education Minister Jane Davidson later made it clear schools would not be compelled to participate in the scheme."

"SECRET files have revealed the government made plans to protect the Loch Ness monster from poachers. Officials feared Nessie would have no legal protection from trophy hunters if she surfaced."

Observer - A tragedy of errors
"Using documents and internal emails obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, unpublished witness transcripts from a 4,000-page inquiry report and internal army briefings, an Observer investigation can reveal for the first time serious allegations which are at odds with official accounts of the episode. They shine fresh light on an incident that still casts a pall over Britain's involvement in Iraq more than 30 months on."

The Times - Letters to the Editor - Freedom of information
Sir, Whitehall is not routinely failing to answer even the most basic requests (report, Jan 4). Figures published by my department show that in the third quarter of 2005 information was disclosed in full in 67 per cent of all requests. Contrary to your article, public authorities are not usually obliged to supply information which already exists in the public domain, and they proactively release information which does not.

The Government has no “secret” plans to amend the Freedom of Information Act. The framework of the Act is working and working well. However, it is right to keep the operation of the Act under regular review. We need to ensure that the benefits the Act was designed to deliver are being delivered, and that public resources are not wasted on frivolous requests such as how many windows a department has.

The Government will work to ensure that Freedom of Information continues to balance the rights of access to information with the needs of public authorities to deliver services effectively. This Government introduced the Freedom of Information Act and we stand by the principles of openness, transparency and accountability that underpin it.

(Baroness Ashton of Upholland)
Parliamentary Under Secretary of State

Local News

Norwich Evening News - We must assess risks of fire HQ
"Controversial plans to move Norfolk's fire control centre to Cambridge will put lives in danger because no local risk assessment has been carried out, a firefighters' union claimed today. The warning came after a Freedom of Information (FoI) request by the Evening News revealed that the Government had not investigated how the proposals to stop handling emergency calls at Hethersett would affect the county."

Carlisle News and Star - Are panthers and pumas on the loose in Cumbria?
"Records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show there have been nine reported sightings of big cats in Cumbria in the last six years."

This is North Scotland - AIRPORT DEAL IS BRANDED 'A RIP-OFF'
"Taxpayers could fork out almost six times the true cost of the £6.5million private finance deal which built the Inverness Airport terminal building, according to figures obtained by the Press and Journal. A much-delayed Scottish Executive announcement is now expected within the next fortnight, sealing the public buyout of the construction contract. It has emerged from a Freedom of Information (FoI) inquiry that the inherited cost of the project is likely to be around £35million."

"A Key aspect of the popular accountability of elected politicians - whether MPs or councillors - should be full transparency surrounding pay and responsibilities assumed via election. Mindful of this, and being concerned about the level and number of councillor allowances adopted since the Local Government Act 2000, I put freedom of information requests to B &NES Council to elicit (a) pay rates and attendance records of executive councillors and (b) linkages between accountability, responsibilities and pay of the new "champion" councillors."

Surrey Comet - Call for resignations over ‘unjust’ pay rise
"The Christian People's Alliance (CPA) has called for senior councillors to resign in the light of 18 per cent pay rises to top council officers last year. The party said it has, using the Freedom of Information Act, exposed fatal flaws in the Senior Staff Panel's decision to approve the pay increases. It said statistics released to the party revealed 85 per cent of bosses live outside the borough, while the report, which recommended pay increases, cited high property prices in Kingston as a justification."

Westmoreland Gazette - Freedom of Information growing in popularity
"HUNDREDS of people across Cumbria have used their powers under the Freedom of Information Act to quiz their civic leaders. Figures show that in the 12 months since the act came into force, residents asked wide-ranging questions."

Milford and West Wales Mercury - Useful tool, but no magic wand
"IT'S NOW 12 months since the Freedom of Information Act came into effect, but how much difference has it made?"

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