Saturday, May 27, 2006

Trading standards and the Enterprise Act

Heather Brooke's posting on the above sheds light on an important issue effecting disclosure under the FOIA. See Your Right to Know

Thursday, May 25, 2006

ICO case list

Earlier this week I posted the ICO case list on the blog recieved via a reader's FOI request- a number of people have posted comments and emailed me about various data quality issues related to cases they know of. I have taken the spreadsheet off line for now. The ICO have acknowledged some errors and will supply me a corrected version sometime next week.
Information Commissioner issues Enforcement Notice concerning information on the legality of military intervention in Iraq

The following press notice has been issued:

The Information Commissioner has served a single Enforcement Notice to resolve the issues arising from a number of similar complaints relating to disclosure of advice given by the Attorney General on the legality of military intervention in Iraq in 2003.

After very careful consideration of all the available evidence, the Information Commissioner has served the Legal Secretariat to the Law Officers (LSLO) with an Enforcement Notice. The Notice requires the disclosure of some - but not all - of the information which had been requested under the Freedom of Information Act. The Information Commissioner has ordered that a Disclosure Statement is published containing the substance of information which led to, or supported the views, which were made public by the Attorney General in his statement to Parliament on 17 March 2003. The Notice does not require the publication of information which was preliminary, provisional or tentative or which may reveal legal risks, reservations or possible counter-argument.

Richard Thomas, Information Commissioner, said:

“This is an exceptional, complex and sensitive case which has raised many issues.
The Freedom of Information Act creates a presumption of disclosure, but the Act also creates important and separate exemptions relating to advice from the Attorney General, ministerial communications, the development of government policy, legal professional privilege, and prejudice to international relations. I was satisfied that at least one of the exemptions applied to all the requested information. I was then required to balance competing public interest considerations. The Notice sets out my reasoning in full.

“My conclusion is that the balance of the competing public interest tests calls for disclosure of the recorded information which led to, or supported, the concluded views which were made public by the Attorney General in his 17 March Statement. As the government chose to outline an unequivocal legal position, on such a critical issue at such a critical time, the balance of the public interest calls for disclosure of the recorded information which lay behind those views. By this means the public can better understand the background and rationale behind that published Statement and the extent to which reliance upon those final conclusions was in fact justified.

“But I have also concluded that the arguments for maintaining the exemptions are sufficiently powerful that the balance of the competing public interests does not require the disclosure of those parts of the requested information which were of a preliminary, provisional or tentative nature or which may reveal legal risks, reservations or possible counter-argument. Nor is disclosure needed where it would prejudice the UK’s relations with other countries.”

The Commissioner has recognised that the nature of the documentation in this case makes it impossible or extremely difficult to publish redacted text to meet the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act. The Enforcement Notice therefore requires a Disclosure Statement to be published meeting specified parameters. The Disclosure Statement has to include the substance of those parts of certain documents, as notified to the LSLO, which fall within these parameters.

The Commissioner is satisfied that the Disclosure Statement prepared by the LSLO and attached to the Enforcement Notice meets his requirements.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Further information & my comment

Read the full enforcement notice

Legal Secretariat to the Law Officers' website

Read about enforcement notices in the FOIA 2000

The Information Commissioner has stated it issued an Enforcement Notice in this instance because of the large number of similar, but not identical, complaints related to this matter. He intends shortly to issue Decision Notices to the individual complainants and anticipates that their substance will be consistent with the conclusions reached in the Enforcement Notice.

The is the first such noticed issued in the 1.5 years the Freedom of Information Act 2000 has been in force. Whilst the Information Commissioner is to be applauded for taking this approach the timing and delay relating to appeals that were made over a year ago does diminish the impact and value of the enforcement notice. It does however give me hope about the appeal I am making about the al-Jazeera memo will be takebn seriously.

The Law Officers (LSLO) can appeal to the Information Tribunal under the FOIA 2000. They could also use the loophole under S53 of the Act and issue a certficate: "A decision notice or enforcement notice to which this section applies shall cease to have effect if, not later than the twentieth working day following the effective date, the accountable person in relation to that authority gives the Commissioner a certificate signed by him stating that he has on reasonable grounds formed the opinion that, in respect of the request or requests concerned, there was no failure falling within subsection (1)(b)."

There is a case ongoing in Australia challenging use of similiar certificates at present.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Media update

Friends of the Earth - Blair must publish nuclear briefing
"Tony Blair must publish details of the information he received from the DTI on the Energy Review, Friends of the Earth said today. The environmental campaign group is filing a Freedom of Information request asking to see the "first cut" of the energy review which led the Prime Minister to declare that nuclear power is back on the agenda "with a vengeance."

The Guardian - Royal Society urges caution over research publication
"Scientists should consider the impact and potential risks to the public when deciding to publish research results, a new report from the Royal Society has warned. The report, published yesterday, outlines 15 questions that researchers should ask themselves to help them take public interest into account."

The Guardian - Jon Henley's diary
"The attorney-general's office in particular played an absolute blinder, acceding to all but one of the 120 queries it was sent. Fortunately, we hear from an unusually reliable source, the one that got turned down was for the release of Lord Goldsmith's early, draft legal advice to Mr Tony Blair on whether or not international law could justify the invasion of Iraq and the toppling of Saddam."

Daily Telegraph - Thames ignored plea for hose ban
"The agency's growing annoyance with Thames is disclosed in private correspondence obtained under the Freedom of Information Act."

Daily Telegraph -New 9/11 footage released
"The United States government has released new video footage of the September 11 2001 attack on the Pentagon....The film was released after an application from pressure group Judicial Watch under the freedom of information act."

The People - 300 CROOKED COPS NICKED IN ONE YEAR
"At least 285 officers were arrested by colleagues last year according to figures obtained by The People under the Freedom Of Information Act. Six forces refused to tell us."

BBC News - Crime 'hotspot' study angers city
"A report which labels Nottingham as the most crime-ridden place in England and Wales has been condemned by officials in the city as "fatally flawed"....The report gathered statistics from police forces using the Freedom of Information Act and took population data from the 2001 Census."

Daily Mail - Reid in firing line over new Home Office blunders
"On Friday, figures released to the BBC under the Freedom of Information Act, showed that 359 prisoners absconded from Leyhill Open Prison in South Gloucestershire between 2000 and 2006. "

Epolitix - 'No room for complacency' on information access
"Speaking at a Manchester conference on Monday, Lord Falconer said the Freedom of Information Act, which came fully into effect last year, is "providing the public, academics and the media with new means of access to understand the decision-making process"."

The Guardian - 'I will help you,' he said. Then he asked for sex
"Amid the maelstrom, the government has hardened its stance on immigration, introducing a new fast-track asylum application process. The statistics tell the story. At Harmondsworth detention centre, for example, figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act reveal 99.6 per cent of fast-track asylum claims are rejected."

Inside Housing
-
"Firms were concerned that commercially sensitive information held by the corporation could be revealed to rivals through the Freedom of Information Act, he said. Lynne Murray, a partner at law firm Lewis Silkin, said: 'With the freedom of information the concern is that what they consider to be commercially sensitive information could become available to the public at large or their competition."


Computer Weekly
- Toddlers used in trial of identity biometrics
"A Home Office department is fingerprinting under-fives, and may include babies, in a biometrics ID scheme. The trial ends the department’s technological taboo on enrolling very young children in identity checks. Details of the scheme emerged after the Home Office released an internal report under the Freedom of Information Act."

Regional News

Glasgow Evening News - Polluting bus firms 'should be named'
"But when the Evening Times, through the Freedom Of Information Act, asked who the offending firms were the council said it didn't keep a list. FOI officer Jim Donaldson said: "On inspecting our records it would appear that we do not hold the information. Neither does anyone hold it on our behalf."

Bolton Evening News - It's all gone thong!
"STAFF at the company which runs Bolton's council houses are being disciplined for sending inappropriate emails one of which commented on a co-worker's underwear...The emails would have remained secret had Chris Berry, a 48-year-old local government worker from Smithills, not put in a request under the Freedom of Information Act to discover why a fence had been put up next to his house by Bolton at Home."

Bolton Evening news - The £20,000 cost of travellers' clean up
"NEARLY £20,000 has been spent evicting travellers from Bolton and clearing up in their wake over the last three years. And the figure for the last 10 years is nearly £65,000, according to statistics released by Bolton Council."

St Alban's Observer - Counting the cost of missed appointments
"MISSED appointments in the NHS are soaring out of control and costing millions of pounds, Welwyn Hatfield MP Grant Shapps has discovered."
New FOI blog

Martin Rosenbaum from the BBC has started a new blog about FOI, called Open Secrets. Looks worth keeping an eye on, there is also an RSS feed available. In one posting he describes how has been un-vited from the DCA's user group. (see previous posts I have made on the topic)
Data Protection Triubunal case

I don't often cover DP issues but thought this DP tribunal case that went to the Tribunal was interesting - the Tribunal upheld the Information Commissioner's use of an enforcement notice on the Scottish National Party for use of automated telephone calls that breached the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003. The SNP failed to argue interference to rights to freedom of expression under the Human Rights Act. The ICO enforcement notice served under Section of the Data Protection Act 1998 required the SNP to :"cease using an automated calling system to transmit communications comprising recorded matter for direct marketing purposes to subscribers who have not previously notified the Scottish National Party that they consent to such communications being sent to them".

Read the Tribunal Decision (PDF)
International update

Australia
Sydney Morning Herald - No, you can't read this - you wouldn't understand it
"The future of Australia's freedom-of-information law will be decided in court, writes Matthew Moore...Now the High Court has the chance to do what the Government has refused. It has a chance to decide if 23 years of narrow, legalistic interpretation of the act should continue, or whether it's time to go back to the words written in the act and give a broader interpretation of what they really mean."

Indonesia - Jakarta Post - Vigorous monitoring necessary for secrecy law
"The wind of democratization blows strongly in Indonesia, a country only recently declared the fourth largest democracy in the world. Anything seen as a setback to the ongoing process draws immediate opposition from the public. That explains why the public has rushed to criticize the state secrecy bill, and even oppose its ongoing deliberation by the House of Representatives, although many of them have yet to study the contents of the bill completely."

Germany
Online Consultants International publishes FOI-Letters (IFG-Rundbrief)
in German and English about Freedom of Information laws in Germany:


Ireland
Information Commissioner Annual report 2005
"Too many exemptions from FOI Act: O'Reilly"

USA
International Herald Tribune - Case on non-citizen access to state records
"PHILADELPHIA -A panel of U.S. federal appeals court judges will rule on the constitutionality of Delaware's Freedom of Information Act, which denies nonresidents access to public records in the state, the legal home of many major American corporations"

Thanks to Dave Banisar for these links
Food hygiene information - new website and blog

It is always great to see new websites and blog spinning out as a result of new information being released due to FOI . These new sites from a blog reader list all local authority sites which publish so-called 'scores-on-the-doors' food hygiene information, and also an accompanying blog to inform and comment upon new listings and the issues around this growing practice.

http://scores-on-the-doors.blogspot.com/

http://scores-on-the-doors.org.uk/

Many public authorities are now releasing this information and the Information Commissioner made a landmark decision in the Bridgend Council case to disclose a food hygiene inspection report for a local hotel late in 2005.
The conference place has now gone....

Monday, May 22, 2006

Shelagh Gaskill Information Law Scholarship

The law firm, Pinsent Masons, is offering a number of scholarships providing free legal training in data protection and freedom of information to those working as Information Officers in the voluntary sector. Selected candidates will be able to attend Pinsent Masons training courses involving 10 days of training and preparation spread over 2 to 3 months at the end of which candidates will be expected to sit the Information Systems Examination Board (ISEB) certificate. This will only be relevant to individuals prepared to make a serious commitment of time. Further information.
FOI complaints data at the ICO

A blog reader has sent the results of an FOI request to the Information Commissioners's Office. The spreadsheet gives details of "all Freedom of Information complaints received by the ICO, giving reference number, date started, date completed, case type, case status, and which section of the Act is alleged to have been breached".

Download the excel file: temporarily

Aslo see my previous post on the ICO backlog and business case for funding
Tribunal decision - speed camera information appeal dismissed (The Chief Constable of Northamptonshire)

This is an interesting and well-argued case in which the Tribunal has dismissed the appeal. For those planning to go to the Tribunal level of appeal it is worth noting the way the appellant presented his arguement with detailed evidence and how his case was well received by the tribunal (although he didn't win)

Read the decision (PDF)

Section 19 onwards of the decision also gives a useful overview of the public interest balance of the case (this was also set out in the original ICO decision)
Latest decision notices from the ICO

Also remember that UCL Constitution Unit have developed a useful index of ICO decisions listed by the relevant section of the FOIA

Case Ref: FS50072183
Date: 18/05/06
Public Authority: Lancashire Constabulary
Summary: On 3 January 2005 the complainant asked a number of questions of the public authority relating to an alleged complaint made in 2004. The complainant was told that these questions were not being dealt with as requests under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and that he should redirect them to a named department of the Constabulary. Following repeated attempts to resolve the case informally the Commissioner has decided that the Constabulary has not dealt with the complainant's request properly and requires it confirm or deny, for each question, whether information is held, and, if it is held, to either communicate that information or properly refuse to do so.
Section of Act/EIR & Finding: FOI s.1 - Complaint Upheld
Full Transcript of Decision Notice FS50072183


Case Ref: FS50093251
Date: 16/05/06
Public Authority: Eastbourne Downs Primary Care Trust
Summary: The complainant requested copies of letters from the Audit Commission expressing concern at the state of the Trust's finances, as well as all information held in relation to complaints about certain medical professionals and employees of the Trust. The Trust provided the applicant with a copy of one letter from the Audit Commission, and in response to second part of the request, explained that information on some individuals, about whom complaints were made, was not held and information on the other individuals was exempt under sections 40 and 41. Having investigated the Commissioner is satisfied that no further letters from the Audit Commission on the state of the Trust's finances are held and that two exemptions were properly applied.
Section of Act/EIR & Finding: FOI s.40 - Complaint Not Upheld, FOI s.41 - Complaint Not Upheld
Full Transcript of Decision Notice FS50093251


Case Ref: FS50087884
Date: 16/05/06
Public Authority: Oswestry Borough Council
Summary: The complainant requested details of how much money the Council had set aside from right to buy sales between 1979 and 1997, and also wanted to know whether this money would be used to fund a new leisure centre in the borough. The council responded by stating it did not hold information regarding right to buy sales from as far back as 1979, but provided the complainant with the figures for the years 1993/94 to 1997 as this was the oldest information available. Additionally the council explained the leisure centre was funded from various sources and it was unable to say how much of this was generated from right to buy sales. However, the complainant did not accept that the information regarding right to buy sales for the years prior to 1993/94 was not held and complained to the Commissioner. The Commissioner contacted the council, which demonstarted that the information would have been disposed of in line with their records retention policy.
Section of Act/EIR & Finding: FOI s. 1 - Complaint Not Upheld
Full Transcript of Decision Notice FS50087884
DCA publish first Freedom of Information Annual Report

The Freedom of Information Annual Report 2005: Operation of the FOI Act in central government [PDF 500kb, 48 pages] was laid before Parliament today.

Friday, May 19, 2006

New disclosure log

The disclosure log index has been updated with a new log for Sussex Police
Two new decision notices

Case Ref: FS50070198
Date: 08/05/06
Public Authority: The Office of Gas and Electricity Markets
Summary: The complainant's request for complete and unabridged information on the accuracy of domestic and non-domestic meters was refused under section 44 of the Act (prohibitions on disclosure). The public authority argued that section 105 of the Utilities Act 2000 provided a statutory bar on disclosing the information, and after a careful review of the relevant statutes and submissions received from both parties the Commissioner has agreed with Ofgem that the statutory prohibition cited was applicable. The information is therefore exempt under section 44.
Section of Act/EIR & Finding: FOI s.44(1)(a) - Complaint Not Upheld
Full Transcript of Decision Notice FS50070198


Case Ref: FS50102683
Date: 05/05/06
Public Authority: General Register Office (GRO) / Office for National Statistics (ONS)
Summary: The complainant requested a copy of a letter submitted to the GRO following a complaint about irregularities in the registration of the death of the complainant's brother. The GRO, and subsequently the ONS which conducted the internal review, refused to provide access to the information on the grounds that it was exempt for disclosure under section 41 of the Act as to release would create an actionable breach of confidence. Following an investigation the Commissioner decided that in this case the individual who submitted the information in question had a reasonable expectation that it would be treated in confidence.
Section of Act/EIR & Finding: FOI s.41 - Complaint Not Upheld
Full Transcript of Decision Notice FS50102683

The ICO website also contains a new section for enforcement notices...wonder if some are pending?
FOI nets journalist major award

From Your Right to Know:

"Tenacious and intellegent use of the Freedom of Information Act helped the Sunday Herald’s Scottish policital editor, Paul Hutcheon, win both the Journalist of the Year and Political Journalist of the Year at the 27th Scottish Press Awards."

Monday, May 15, 2006

Public access to European Parliament, Council and Commission documents

The recently published European Ombudsman Report for 2005 contains details of cases investigated under the EU FOI provision - Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 30 May 2001 regarding public access to European Parliament, Council and Commission documents.

"Regulation 1049/2001 gives applicants a choice of remedy: they may challenge a refusal either in court proceedings under Article 230 of the EC Treaty or by complaining to the Ombudsman. During 2005, the Ombudsman made decisions on 14 complaints concerning the application of Regulation 1049/2001, of which 11 were against the Commission, two against the Council and one against the European Parliament."

Read the report (PDF) see p48

worth noting that in 2005 for the first time since the Regulation on access to EU documents came into force in December 2001 an applicant won a case in the ECJ against the Commission (more details)
Act Now Training Courses

Act Now Training is running the following courses in May & June 2006.

Most of the Seminars are accredited by The Bar Council, The Law Society (CPD Hours) and (ILEX) The Institute of Legal Executives.

The cost of all Act Now seminars is £199 + vat, which includes lunch, refreshments & workbook.

All Act Now seminars start at 10am to 4pm.

All venues are city centre close to transport links.

May 2006 Seminars

- May 17th Data Protection from A to Z, Belfast Wellington Park Hotel
- May 18th Data Sharing: The Law and Practice, London Marble Arch Thistle Hotel
- May 22nd Environmental Information Regulations, Manchester Thistle Hotel
- May 30th Records Management Advanced, Edinburgh Thistle Hotel

June 2006 Seminars

- Jun 1st Conducting an Information Audit, London Selfridge Thistle Hotel
- Jun 2nd Access to Personal data under DP & FOI, Bradford Novotel Hotel
- Jun 6th FOI & Commercial Confidentiality workshop, London Selfridge Thistle Hotel
- Jun 8th Surveillance Law & RIPA, Belfast Wellington Park Hotel
- Jun 13th Environmental Information Regulations, Edinburgh Thistle Hotel
- Jun 14th Data Protection & Marketing, Edinburgh Thistle Hotel
- Jun 15th Data Protection from A to Z, York National Railway Museum
- Jun 19th RIPA: Accessing Communications Data, London Selfridge Thistle Hotel
- Jun 20th The New European Procurement Rules, London Selfridge Thistle Hotel
- Jun 21st The Disability Discrimination Act, London Selfridge Thistle Hotel
- Jun 27th FOI Exemptions workshop, London Marble Arch Thistle Hotel
- Jun 29th FOISA Exemptions workshop, Edinburgh Thistle Hotel

Full course information, online booking, free quarterly newsletter, articles and much more available at:www.actnow.org.uk. Booking Line – 01924 451 054

Once booked all joining instruction will be sent to you by post within 7 working days. E-mail confirmation also available on request.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Recent decision notices issued by the Information Commissioner's Office

Catching up with the decisions issued while I've been away: again some interesting cases involving the S40 exemption on personal data. The NHS Purchasing and Supplies Agency case is interesting to those practitioners working in the public sector with private sector data and those outside trying to get this type of information released or protect it: the decision upheld the complaint and would seem to set a clear predecent about this type of general of information (phone numbers) cannot be protected by S40 in most circsustances. It's also interesting that an information notice was issued in this case (see my previous posting about the low level of use of these powers by the ICO under S51 of the FOIA). The decision also highlights the importance of having a robust case for proving that information is not held. (Well done to one of my Undergraduate students on my BSc E-business Course who made this request and took the case to the ICO)

The Cabinet Office decision in relation to the S17 complaint links to one of the issues I raised in the evidence I gave to the recent Select Committee inquiry into FOI about not enough detail being given by some public authorities when issuing refusal notices and not stating that searches have been undertaken. This decision also documents a more robust approach by the ICO in that a member of the ICO staff went to London to visit the Cabinet Office and view the archive in question. The notice also contains some useful best practice guidance: "the Commissioner believes that, where a public authority is citing, or should cite, the cost limit, they should provide to the requester a breakdown of how their cost estimate was formed. The Cabinet Office provided no such breakdown to the complainant in this instance when initially responding to the request."

I also agree with the pragmatic appraoch the ICO takes to the Council House data in the Mid Devon Case, the context is also interesting as the the complainant was a member of the Council, who stated that he requested the names and addresses of tenants so that he could send them information concerning the proposed transfer to council housing stock to a Registered Social Landlord. This is also the first documented case where the application for a decision has been expedited (concept is common in other jursidictions - expedited applications can be made under the US FOIA). The main problem is that expediting requests at first application or the decision stages is not part of the text of FOIA and is therefore is a fairly subjective judgement by the ICO (a stated ICO policy on this would be a good way forward).

--------------------

Case Ref: FS50075171
Date: 05/05/06
Public Authority: Transport for London
Summary: The complainant requested access to files on the prosecutions brought for fare dodging on London buses. The information was withheld under the exemptions provided by section 40(2) - personal information about third parties, and section 21 - information accessible to the applicant by other means. The Commissioner found that the information constituted sensitive personal data about third parties and that to disclose the information would contravene the first data protection principle. Therefore, all the information that had been withheld was exempt information. However, in relation to the application of section 21, Transport for London initially argued that, as some of the information had been discussed in open court, it would be accessible via the relevant court record. However, the Commissioner found that the applicant would not easily be able to identify the court records that interested him and, even if he could, he would not necessarily be granted access to those records.
Section of Act/EIR & Finding: FOI s.40(2) - Complaint not upheld, FOI s.21 - Complaint upheld
Full transcript of Decision Notice FS50075171


Case Ref: FS50063717
Date: 04/05/06
Public Authority: Department of Health (NHS Purchasing and Supplies Agency)
Summary: The complainant requested a list of NHS suppliers together with fax and telephone numbers. Although the list of NHS suppliers was provided, the fax and telephone numbers were refused on the grounds that the information comprised personal data and that disclosure would breach the Data Protection Act. The Commissioner contacted the public authority which advised him that the true ground for refusal was that this information was not held by them, but rather by a private sector contractor. The Commissioner was not persuaded that the information was not held by the public authority. Moreover he was not persuaded that disclosure of the requested information would breach the Data Protection Act. He therefore upheld the complaint.
Section of Act/EIR & Finding: FOI s.1 - Complaint upheld, s.40(2) - Complaint upheld
Full Transcript of Decision Notice FS50063717


Case Ref: FS50082890
Date: 04/05/06
Public Authority: Mid Devon District Council
Summary: The complainant's request for a list of council houses was refused on the basis that, combined with other information which the complainant might possess or have access to (such as the Electoral Roll), the requested information was personal data of which the complainant was not the subject. It was argued by the council that disclosure would breach the data protection principles. The Commissioner agreed that the requested information constituted personal information but found that providing the list of properties was not sorted by the characteristics of tenants (such as 'asylum seeker' or 'ex-offender') there would be unlikely to be any unfairness to those tenants. The Commissioner therefore upheld the complaint.
Section of Act/EIR & Finding: FOI s.1 - Complaint upheld, s.40(2) - Complaint upheld.
Full transcript of Decision Notice FS50082890

Case Ref: FS50090699
Date: 20/04/06
Public Authority: Cabinet Office
Summary: The complainant requested information concerning submissions made to the Scott Inquiry. The Cabinet Office carried out a limited search of the relevant records and responded stating that the information requested could not be located, without stating that a full search has not been carried out or giving the reason for this. The response did not therefore constitute a valid refusal notice. After viewing the Scott Inquiry records, the Commissioner accepts that a search of the entire record would incur costs greater than the appropriate limit and so does not uphold the complaint that information was withheld without valid reason.
Section of Act/EIR & Finding: FOI s.1 - Complaint Not Upheld, FOI s.17 - Complaint Upheld
Full Transcript of Decision Notice FS50090699


Case Ref: FS50082472
Date: 19/04/06
Public Authority: Home Office
Summary: The complainant requested to know the names of individuals, companies and academic institutions in Scotland holding licences to conduct scientific procedures on animals. The Home Office refused to release the information on the grounds that disclosure would or would be likely to endanger the health and safety of individuals (section 38). It also considered that disclosure of the names of individuals holding licenses would breach the Data Protection Act 1998, and the information was therefore exempt under section 40 of the FOI Act. The Commissioner has decided that section 38 has been correctly applied and that the public interest in withholding the information outweighs that in disclosure. With regard to section 40, the Commissioner is satisfied that section 40 is engaged and that disclosure would be unfair, breaching the first data protection principle. The Commissioner does not therefore require any further action by the Home Office.
Section of Act/EIR & Finding: FOI s.38 - Compliant Not Upheld, s.40 - Complaint Not Upheld
Full Transcript of Decision Notice FS50082472
4th International Conference of Information Commissioners

Just a quick note to say that the above Conference is hosted by the UK IC this year and will be held in Manchester later this month 22and 23rd (unfortunately not an open conference), I've been asked to attend the 23rd and think it will be an interesting day with speakers from Comissioner's offices and NGOs from around the world and I plan to cover extensively on both the blog and the Open Government journal and have some ideas about a few clever blog type things I might try (will keep you posted)... hope readers don't think I'm joing the the liberal elite.....

Programme for the 23rd includes:

• Lord Falconer of Thoroton ( (UK) Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs/Lord Chancellor)

•Secrecy versus security – the jigsaw effect Andrew Vallance, Secretary, (UK) Defence, Press and Broadcasting Advisory Committee

•Foi: the European perspective P Nikiforus Diamandouros, European Ombudsman

•FOI: a global overview Helen Darbishire, Chair FOIANet, Executive Director Access Info Europe

•FOI regimes and other statutes – interfaces, conflicts and contradictions Peter Hustinx, European Data Protection Supervisor & Ben Hayes, Statewatch and European Civil Liberties Network
Meetings between DCA Ministers and outside interest groups

This document has been posted on the DCA disclosure log after an FOI request, there doesn't appear to be anything related to FOI but the information is generally interesting in terms of enabling slightly more transparency in these areas (this only includes "formal" meetings though I presume.) These listings could also be targeted for further requests etc.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Liverpool John Moores wins award of the JISC Information Governance Gateway contract

I am pleased to announce that we (Liverpool JMU) have won the contract for implementing the JISC Information Governance Gateway has been awarded to Liverpool John Moore's University. I will be leading the project which will start shortly. The project will also draw upon technical expertise and support provided by MIMAS at the University of Manchester.

(Read the original Invitation to Tender for this project.)

The project is worth £200K over 2.5 years and has many potentially very exciting applications beyond the HE sector in the longer term. Especially in the area of using OAI indexing for disclosure logs.

Further information about the project plans will be made available shortly. Feel free to contact me if you'd like to know more about the project

Thursday, May 11, 2006

New Information Tribunal cases

Mr T Prior v The Information Commissioner Appeal dismissed

Mr Michael Johnson v The Information Commissioner Appeal dismissed
Media update - Part 2

Some more stories from while I've been away:

National News

The Guardian - Three trusts fail to reveal heart death figures
"Three leading NHS hospitals risk being downgraded for failing to give information on the death rates of their heart surgery patients, the Guardian has learned. The trusts are the only ones in the UK not to have provided key data for the Healthcare Commission, which has been gathering information on mortality rates linked to individual surgeons. The information will be published today on a groundbreaking website designed to enable heart patients and their families the chance to make informed choices about where to have surgery."

Daily Telegraph - Migrants 'paid' to leave for good - twice
"But since 2000, nine people have taken the package twice, according to figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. Four were flown twice to Albania, three to Kosovo, one to Poland and one to Nigeria. One also got a business grant worth £797."

The Observer - Cruel cost of the human egg trade
"n today's global market, a healthy human egg from a young white European woman is more valuable than gold. Under British law any fertility clinic that wants to import or export embryos fertilised by donor eggs must obtain a special licence from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA). In January, using the Freedom of Information Act, The Observer asked the HFEA for a list of all the special licences it approved last year."

Regional News

Birmingham Post - MP wants answers on jailed postie
"Meanwhile, Birmingham City Council leader Mike Whitby said he had written to the Home Office under the Freedom of Information Act demanding to know how many foreign criminals had been released from prisons in the city."

Birmingham Post - Toll road that failed to solve traffic problem
"Highways Agency reports made available to The Birmingham Post under the Freedom of Information Act show that the agency was not consulted when the toll-rate was first set and then revised upwards last summer."

IC Essex - County Council gives 'threat' teacher details to YA
"The existence of six individuals who may pose a risk was confirmed in January following a YA request to Essex County Council under the Freedom of Information Act."

IC Essex - Police defend £21,000 taxis bill
"Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act revealed Sussex Police spent £21,617 to take suspects home after arrest in the 11 months up to February 28 this year."

This is Bradford - 33 school kitchens break hygiene law
"More than 30 school kitchens across Bradford have been found to be in breach of food hygiene laws Reports obtained by the Telegraph & Argus under the Freedom of Information Act reveal slightly more than half of 142 schools inspected last year were given a clean bill of health by environmental health officers."
Public Partners training

from www.publicpartners.org

Spring and Summer Training Programme

Writing for Disclosure 15th June London £199.00
Records and Information Management 27th June London £150.00
The Data Protection Act 20th June London £189.00
Induction Day 12th June London £150.00
New disclosure log

New disclosure log for Cardiff Council has been added to the index

Monday, May 08, 2006

al-Jazerra memo - my FOI request- internal review reponse from the Cabinet Office

See the latest reply to my request for internal review - I will post some detailed comment soon. Getting nowhere fast - semantics clearly coming into play, this will now go to the ICO

Read the response (PDF)

See: Previous my last posting on my review and previous postings on this topic
Media update Part one

Highlights from some of the key FOI stories while I've been offline...part two later this week...

National news

The Guardian - Local authorities investing over £700m in arms trade
"Almost all local authorities in Britain hold investments in the world's largest weapons companies, according to figures released under the Freedom of Information Act."

The Guardian - UFO sightings caused by freak weather, says MoD report
"The report, which is nearly 500 pages long, was released under a Freedom of Information Act request by David Clarke, a social scientist at Sheffield Hallam University, and his colleague Gary Anthony. Dr Clarke estimates that the report, with a mysterious unnamed author, cost around £100,000 to produce.He questioned why the MoD kept the project under wraps."

The Guardian - Blair accused of using RAF planes as private taxi service
"The figure was released by the Ministry of Defence under the Freedom of Information Act, and put the cost of the prime minister's RAF flights at £1.22m. A total of £3.06m was spent on government flights between 2002 and 2004."

This is Money - Britain's worst telecoms firms
"Regulator Ofcom has compiled a blacklist, obtained by Financial Mail, which highlights the UK's worst telecoms companies in terms of complaints from their new customers about mis-selling....In response to a request under the Freedom of Information Act, Ofcom said one company, Hertfordshire based Lo-Rate Telecom, received complaints from more than one in five new customers."

Scotsman - Sick joke of NHS 24's £17m consultants' cheques
"TROUBLED health helpline NHS 24 spent £17.5m on private management consultants, the vast majority of which went to one firm, a Scotland on Sunday investigation has revealed."

Observer - If sex offenders live in a hostel in your street, how do you find out?
" If you think that a local authority is withholding information which should be in the public domain, the Freedom of Information Act can be used to secure the release of that information.'"

Daily Telegraph - US tops list of C-charge dodgers
"American diplomats have come top of a list of London's congestion charge dodgers, piling up £202,150 worth of fines in the last six months, according to data released under the Freedom of Information Act."

Daily Mail - Healthy patient blocks bed for four years
"An elderly patient spent four years in hospital despite being well enough to leave, it has emerged...The case emerged in figures released under the Freedom of Information Act, relating to the longest hospital stays by patients well enough to leave."



Regional news

Shropshire Star - Drug campaigner in policy bid after refusal
"A Herceptin campaigner has been forced to invoke the Freedom of Information Act after officials refused to show her the policy that determines why patients are refused the drug."

Suffolk Evening News - Huge rise in children with drugs
"Figures released under the Freedom of Information Act show that 125 under 18s were caught with drugs in 2005, compared with just 12 in 2002."


Hold the front page
- 11+ exam figures uncovered in paper's FOI test
"The Kentish Gazette in Canterbury has used the Freedom of Information Act to find out the 11-plus exam pass rates for schools in its circulation area."
Campaign for Freedom of Information publications

Several recent publications have been added to the Campaign's website:

1) Written evidence to the inquiry into the Freedom of Information Act by the Constitutional Affairs Select Committee.

2) Response to the Scottish Executive's consultation on the 'Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 - One Year On'.

3) Submission to an inquiry by the Scottish Parliament's Finance Committee which is looking at the role of various regulators including the Scottish Parliament.

These can all be downloaded from http://www.cfoi.org.uk/
International news

Armenia
Freedom of Information Center of Armenia (FOICA) recently launched its web-site www.foi.am

Australia
Sydney Morning Herald- Judges open access to sensitive documents

The Australian - Court has secrecy in spotlight

Canada

CanWest News Service - Information czar blasts Harper's accountability bill

Canada OIC - Response to the Government's Action Plan for Reform of the Access to Information Act

Malta
MaltaMedia - Freedom of information White Paper to be published

USA
Open the Government - Senators propose open access to research

National Security Archive - ISOO Audit Report Exposes Abuse of Classification System

Sunday, May 07, 2006

CIPFA Better Governance Forum

MANAGING RISK IN RECORDS MANAGEMENT Workshops
Glasgow - 07/06/2006 | London - 12/06/2006 | Birmingham - 13/06/2006 | York - 15/06/2006
Further Details

Contact: Charlotte Mean: 020 8667 8176