Thursday, June 29, 2006

Freedom of Information statistics January to March 2006

Now live on the DCA FOI site: The fifth quarterly report providing statistics on implementation of the Act across central government covers January to March 2006. The trends are very much in line with previous stats, the figure of quoted by the DCA of 90% of requests being responded to "in time" (i.e. meeting deadline or with permitted extension) needs to compared with 83% being within the 20 working day deadline. The DCA tend to use the 90% rather than the 83% as the headline figure. We also don't have any data about the length of these extended deadlines. (permitted under the FOIA to consider the public interest S10(3))
Parliamentary update

Some recent PQs, debates etc that are relevant to FOI, the first example links neatly with the outline research on MPs use of the FOIA I published on the blog earlier this week. The HOL debate on the
Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill also raises important issues about the how the FOIA needs consideration under clause 9. I had previously highlighted this Bill in a posting (also see the Wikidepia reference)

House of Commons debates Wednesday, 28 June 2006
Source
Peter Luff (Mid Worcestershire, Conservative)
"Sadly, the techniques used by Ministers to tell one nothing have become cruder in recent years. The answers that they provide are increasingly late, inadequate or simply spectacularly unhelpful—often, I fear, deliberately so. If that trend continues, there is a genuine risk that Parliament will be even more marginalised in our society than it is already, as people who really want to know the answer to questions opt to use the Freedom of Information Act 2000 instead of looking to Members of Parliament to use parliamentary questions—another nail in the coffin of our effectiveness."

Mark Harper (Forest of Dean, Conservative)
"My hon. Friend also made the point that with the advent of the Freedom of Information Act 2000, we have to be very careful about how we use parliamentary questions to make sure that Ministers look to the answers to parliamentary questions as the pre-eminent method of transmitting information to Members, as Mr. Speaker has on a number of occasions made clear that they should. We should not be able to get that information more quickly or more comprehensively by another route. We know that newspapers make lots of freedom of information requests. Indeed, at some point it may be worth having an Adjournment debate on how that legislation is working. I suspect that some of the things that my hon. Friend said about parliamentary questions probably apply to freedom of information requests. We need to make sure that Parliament, not the Freedom of Information Act, is the central method of holding the Executive to account."

Written Answers — House of Lords: Freedom of Information (22 Jun 2006)
Source
Lord Hanningfield (Conservative) Hansard source
asked Her Majesty's Government:
Whether Parliamentary Written Questions are subject to the same terms and exemptions as requests made under the Freedom of Information Act 2000; and whether it is government policy to cite exemptions under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 as reasons for withholding information requested in Parliamentary Questions; and, if so, when such a change of policy occurred.


Baroness Scotland of Asthal (Minister of State (Criminal Justice and Offender Management), Home Office) Hansard source
The reply to the noble Lord's previous Question (Official Report, 16 May 2006, col. WA 28) erred in relying on an exemption under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, in accordance with Cabinet Office guidance available at www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/propriety–and–ethics/civil–service/pq–guidance.asp. It is not the Government's policy to cite Freedom of Information Act exemptions in response to Parliamentary Questions

House of Lords debates
Tuesday, 13 June 2006
Source
Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill
Lord Goodhart: In Clause 9 there is a provision that the reform order procedure cannot be used to alter the Act itself or the Human Rights Act. That plainly does not go far enough. The Select Committee on the Constitution, under the chairmanship of my noble friend Lord Holme of Cheltenham, has set out in paragraph 53 a list of the statutes of a constitutional nature, from Magna Carta to the Constitutional Reform Act 2005, which are of particular constitutional importance and therefore should not be capable of being altered by the reform order procedure.

Listing statutes is not entirely satisfactory because there can be disagreement about what the relevant statutes are. For example, I certainly wish to see added to this list—if we make lists—the Freedom of Information Act as an Act of constitutional importance. Some Acts which are not of general constitutional importance may include provisions which are of importance. Others, such as the Constitutional Reform Act, include matters of obvious and highly significant constitutional importance but also matters which are perhaps not of such importance—for example, the procedures for dealing with complaints against judges by the ombudsman.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
Read further FOI related references via this "search link" to Theyworkforyou

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Two Steps Forward, One Step Backwards: The Access to Information Campaign in Argentina

Which is preferable, a severely flawed national access to information law, or no law at all? According to a new report published today on freedominfo.org, Argentina had the "luxury" of debating that unfortunate question until November 30, 2005, when the Argentine access to information bill lost parliamentary status, sending the campaign one humongous step backwards.

The report, by two Buenos Aires-based FOI advocates, was published today at http://www.freedominfo.org
Freedom of Information Works, say MPs, but complaints and delays must be tackled and Records Management Improved

Press release:

The Constitutional Affairs Committee today publishes its report into the progress of the new Freedom of Information Act, just over a year after it was enacted. The legislation is proving useful and effective and has led to the release of significant and valuable information.

However, the Committee expresses concerns over the time it has taken for some requesters to obtain information, with internal reviews in some organisations being delayed indefinitely and months taken to assess public interest factors. The Committee regards this as contrary to the spirit of the Act and welcomes a commitment from the Information Commissioner to adopt a firmer approach to enforcement, and put pressure on public authorities to deal with requests more quickly. The DCA must work with the Information Commissioner to raise standards so that authorities consistently provide a more timely response to requesters.

The Committee finds that the complaints resolution provided by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) during 2005 was unsatisfactory, with many requesters and public authorities having to wait months for the Commissioner to begin investigating their complaints and the quality of some investigations was inadequate. The Committee is surprised it took so long for the backlog of complaints to be addressed and is not convinced that enough resources have yet been allocated to clear this problem. The Commissioner is expected to publish a progress report in September of this year which the Committee will use to assess the success of the ICO’s recovery action plan.

The Committee is not convinced the relationship between DCA and the ICO is working effectively. It recommends that the Government consider making the Information Commissioner directly accountable to, and funded by, Parliament.

The Committee also expresses concern that there is apparent complacency in Government about preserving digital records, indicating a lack of leadership in improving records management in public authorities. There is a serious possibility that electronic records over 10 years old will essentially become irretrievable as data degrades and technology moves on, and no satisfactory long term strategy has been implemented to manage this problem.

Rt Hon Alan Beith MP, Chairman of the Committee, said:

Freedom of Information is clearly working, although there is room for improvement. After a year of the Act we welcome the constructive and positive way that new and significant information is being released and used. However, our FOI legislation can only be as good as the quality of the records management it gives us access to, and only if people can get access to the information in a timely way. Long delays in accessing information or having complaints resolved go against both the spirit and the letter of the Act, and must be resolved. Records management, and particularly digital records management, must be improved.

The Committee sees a case for changing the reporting structure of the Commissioner’s Office, making it accountable to and funded by Parliament, rather than the DCA.

Download report(PDF)

Committee website

Conservative Party Press release: "Concern at Labour's plans to subvert the Freedom of Information Act"


Some media coverage:

The Indepedent
- Freedom of information office 'secretive'
"A secretive Whitehall department set up by the Government to handle sensitive and difficult requests under the new Freedom of Information Act is itself in breach of the new legislation, a parliamentary committee says."

The Guardian
- MPs condemn plans to limit freedom of information
"We recommend that problems with 'frivolous' requests should be dealt with through the existing provisions in the Act," the MPs concluded."We do not consider that this is an appropriate reason for reviewing the fees regulations."

Will post some comment later when I've digested the report.....

Monday, June 26, 2006

MPs use of the Freedom of Information Act

I recently gave a paper to at UCL's Constitution Unit as part of their Government Information Policy series on the topic of "Parliament and FOI: How are MPs using the Act?"

Download slides (PDF)

The paper I gave was an outline of "research in progress" that will be published later this year supplemented by further detailed research. The paper produced a lot of interest and I've decided to publish some of the data I've gathered from using the FOIA about numbers and details of requests made MPs. The research is focused on looking at MPs use of FOIA and considering this against PQs and the wider context of Parliamentary accountabiilty and provision of information to Parliament. There are many examples of MPs using FOIA in combination with or instead of PQs , for example Mark Oaten(Lib Dem MP) appealed to the ICO over his request to the Department of Work and Pensions to release its internal feasibility study on the impact of the ID card scheme, that had originated as a PQ (see Computer Weekly's story). Essentially the data I have collated is the starting point of the research in proving that formal use of the FOIA is being made by MPs, the current ongoing phase of the research is researching the issue in more detail via questionnaires and interviews. Another interesting issue that has emerged is the mixed approach being taken by some public authorities in naming MPs as applicants and not treating this as personal data under S40 of the FOIA (e.g. the Treasury and DTI name the MPs). However the ICO in particular explcitly stated they had redacted the MPs' names.

Outline data: results of request made by MPs to Central Government Depts:

-DCA and Clearing house data relating to MPs

- Cabinet Office (No data supplied)

-Dept of Transpsort
plus - Guidance notes supplied

-DoH

-DWP(no data supplied)

-DCMS

-Northern Ireland Office (no data supplied)

-MoD

-DTI

-Home Office

-ODPM

-Scottland Office

-Treasury

-Wales Office

Also:

Information Commissioner's Office- Appeals recieved from MPs

MP/MSPRequests made to the Scottish Executive

Appeals made to Scottish Information Commissioner's Office by MPs/MSPs
Pentagon sets its sights on social networking websites

Taken from New Scientist:

New Scientist has discovered that Pentagon's National Security Agency, which specialises in eavesdropping and code-breaking, is funding research into the mass harvesting of the information that people post about themselves on social networks. And it could harness advances in internet technology - specifically the forthcoming "semantic web" championed by the web standards organisation W3C - to combine data from social networking websites with details such as banking, retail and property records, allowing the NSA to build extensive, all-embracing personal profiles of individuals.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Court cases citing legal blogs

Slightly off topic, but interesting nonetheless, a US reader has sent a link to his site where he has collated a list of US Court cases that cite legal blogs. He has asked if anyone is aware of any UK cases - contact email Ian Best via his blog. Is this another example of the rise of importance of blogs, or are they merely "useful websites"?
Two decisions by the Information Tribunal

Mr P Toms v Information Commissioner (20 June 2006) (PDF 210KB)
Related to Royal Mail not disclosing to the Appellant information related to the location of street storage post boxes in the Glasgow area
Original ICO decision
Appeal dismissed

Mr S Roberts v Information Commissioner (16 June 2006) (PDF 44KB)
The Appellant made two requests to the Civil Aviation Authority with regard to his allegation that five 747 aircraft were grounded at Heathrow Airport, at the time of the Lockerbie disaster.
Original ICO decision
Appeal dismissed
Recent decisions

There are a large number of decisions coming out the ICO at the moment, I will do my best to track and comment, I understand the ICO plans to issue over 50 decisions over June. It is good to note that the decisions are now starting focus on more substantive exmeption based issues rather the more procedural emphasis in 2005.

One case of particular interest is the complaint (related to Environmental Resources Management Ltd (ERM)) upheld under the Enviromemtal Information Regulations (EIRs) (for those new to FOI, environmental information is exempt under the FOIA and dealt with under a separate access provision implemented from an EU Directive). The EIRs do not have specfic schedule of public authorities as the FOIA does but has greater catch all in S2 (2)c and d:

(c) any other body or other person, that carries out functions of public administration; or
(d) any other body or other person, that is under the control of a person falling within sub-paragraphs (a), (b) or (c) and -

(i) has public responsibilities relating to the environment;

(ii) exercises functions of a public nature relating to the environment; or

(iii) provides public services relating to the environment.


The Commissioner upheld the complaint stating ERM was covered by the EIRs. This has important implications for those trying to hold private sector organisations to account relating to public enviromental functions that have been outsourced or privatised.

Decisions:

Details at the ICO website or see the UCL decison database

Case Ref: FS50068826
Date: 14/06/06
Public Authority: Derby City Council
Section of Act/EIR & Finding: FOI s.42 - Complaint Not Upheld, s.40 - Not Considered
Full Transcript of Decision Notice FS50068826

Case Ref: FS50075947
Date: 14/06/06
Public Authority: North Down Borough Council
Section of Act/EIR & Finding: FOI s.1 - Complaint Upheld; FOI s.14(1) - Complaint Upheld
Full Transcript of Decision Notice FS50075947


Case Ref: FS50072299
Date: 13/06/06
Public Authority: Huntingdon Town Council
Case of Act/EIR & Finding: FOI s.42 - Complaint Not Upheld
Full Transcript of Decision Notice FS50072299


Case Ref: FER0086629
Date: 13/06/06
Public Authority: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister
Section of Act/EIR & Finding: EIR Regulations 5 & 12(4)(e) - Complaint Partially Upheld
Full Transcript of Decision Notice FER0086629


Case Ref: FS50072939
Date: 12/06/06
Public Authority: MHRA (an executive agency of the Department of Health)
Section of Act/EIR & Finding: FOI s.38 - Complaint Not Upheld
Full Transcript of Decision Notice FS50072939


Case Ref: FS50083545
Date: 12/06/06
Public Authority: Home Office
Section of Act/EIR & Finding: FOI s.40 - Complaint Not Upheld
Full Transcript of Decision Notice FS50083545


Case Ref: FS50072180
Date: 12/06/06
Public Authority: Mid-Devon District Council
Section of Act/EIR & Finding: FOI s.1 - Complaint Partially Upheld, s.40 (2) - Complaint Partially Upheld, s.16 - Complaint Upheld, S.17 - Complaint Upheld
Full Transcript of Decision Notice FS50072180


Case Ref: FS50080302
Date: 08/06/06
Public Authority: East Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust
Section of Act/EIR & Finding: FOI s.1 - Complaint Upheld in part, s.10 - Complaint Upheld, s.17 - Complaint Upheld, s.40 - Complaint Not Upheld in part
Full Transcript of Decision Notice FS50080302


Case Ref: FS50069498
Date: 08/06/06
Public Authority: Pembrokeshire County Council
Section of Act/EIR & Finding: FOI s.40(2) - Complaint Upheld
Full Transcript of Decision Notice FS50069498


Case Ref: FS50089367
Date: 08/06/06
Public Authority: Plymouth City Council
Full Transcript of Decision Notice FS50089367


Case Ref: FER0090259
Date: 07/06/06
Public Authority: Environmental Resources Ltd
Section of Act/EIR & Finding: EIR regulation 5(1) - Complaint Upheld
Full Transcript of Decision Notice FS50090259


Case Ref: FS50088619
Date: 07/06/06
Public Authority: HM Treasury
Section of the Act/EIR & Finding: FOI s.35(1)(a) Complaint Upheld.
Full Transcript of Decision Notice FS50088619


Case Ref: FAC0070219
Date: 07/06/06
Public Authority: Salisbury District Council
Section of Act/EIR & Finding: FOI s.30(1) - Complaint Not Upheld, FOI s.31 - Complaint Not Upheld, FOI s.42 - Complaint Not Upheld
Full Transcript of Decision Notice FAC0070219


Case Ref: FS50089581
Date: 06/06/06
Public Authority: Devon and Cornwall Constabulary (DCC)
Section of Act/EIR & Finding: FOI s.1 and s.31 - Complaint Upheld
Full Transcript of Decision Notice FS50089581


Case Ref: FS50092045
Date: 06/06/06
Public Authority: London Borough of Hackney
Section of Act/EIR & Finding: FOI s.1 - Complaint Upheld
Full Transcript of Decision Notice FS50092045


Case Ref: FS50070739
Date: 06/06/06
Public Authority: Office of Fair Trading
Section of Act/EIR & Finding: FOI s.1(1) - Complaint Not Upheld
Full Transcript of Decision Notice FS50070739
Ireland - Decisions from the Office of the Information Commissioner

It is also interesting to track the Information Commissioner's decisions made in Ireland under their Freedom of Information Act (1997), as there are some broadly comparable parts of the legislation with regard to application of the public interest test against certain exemptions. The Irish regime was immplemented some years ahead of the UK regime. The Irish FOIA however is a dual access regime which also covers access to personal data. The number of requests for non-personal information are relativley low due to much harsher fee structure (for requests, internal reviews and ICO appeals). The Irish FOIA is also less broad in sector coverage (though this has been recently extended somewhat to cover further bodies) and did not offer retrospective coverage of records created after the commencement of the Act.

Worth reading the decisions below, the The Sunday Times and the Department of Finance case for example has some interesting parallels with S35 and S36 of FOIA here.

Decision: Case 050287 - Ms. X v the Department of Education and Science

Decision: Case 040419 - Mr X and the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform

Decision: Case 040097 - The Sunday Times and the Department of Finance

Decision: Case 040140 - Ms X and the Health Service Executive North Eastern Area

Decision: Case 040333 - Mr. X and the Defence Forces

Decision: Case 020614
- Sunday Tribune and the Department of Education & Science
The National Archives and the Office of Public Sector Information (OPSI) are to merge

Taken from Kable public sector news:

The merger was announced on 21 June 2006 by Hilary Armstrong, chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, and Baroness Ashton, parliamentary under-secretary at the Department for Constitutional Affairs. They said it is aimed at creating a stronger centre for information management in the public sector, enabling a more responsive approach to the challenges of new technology.

They said they will come together under the name of the National Archives, will lead on information policy and support the delivery of records and information management across the public sector. The merger will take effect in October 2006.


Will be interesting to track new policy developments related to information re-use, especially in light of the Free our Data campaign currently building support for relaxing restrictions on reuse of public data and information.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Campaign for FOI Courses

The Campaign's courses are always very well informed and good value...

Information Commissioner & Tribunal Decisions - what do they mean in practice?
A half-day course in London on 4 October 2006. This course examines the rapidly growing body of decisions issued the Information Commissioner and Information Tribunal, and highlights their practical implications for authorities and requesters. It also discusses decisions of the Scottish Information Commissioner which throw light on issues not yet addressed under the UK Act. Between them, the two Commissioner have now issued over 400 decisions.
Download the course leaflet and booking form.

Scottish Information Commissioner Decisions - what do they mean in practice?
A half-day course in Glasgow on 22 November 2006. This course is similar
to the above course but will focus on decisions issued by the Scottish
Information Commissioner. It will also cover decisions of the UK Commissioner & Tribunal which have implications for Scottish public authorities. Download the course
leaflet and booking form.
Media update - FOI in the news

Your weekly update of stories illustrating how people are using the Freedom of Information Act: a really good mix of stories about this week - ranging from historical uses of the Act - The CND story reported in the Telegraph, issues effecting the devolution process in Scotland and Northern Ireland, how public money is being spent on agency staff by councils and how a Scientology group used the FOIA to find out about shock therapies used in the NHS. All these stories do generally illustrate some of the benefits FOIA is offering which often get lost in the "refusal" stories...of which we do have a high level case relating to how the Treasury has been ordered to release (by the ICO) documents relating to Pension forecasts in 1997.


BBC open secrets blog
-Exposed: Tony thanks Sweden for Sven
-How journalism works

BBC News - Stormont transcripts not available
"The "virtual assembly" currently sitting at Stormont is not subject to Freedom of Information legislation. This emerged after members of the Preparation for Government Committee decided to ask the assembly's Hansard clerks to provide an accurate transcript of their proceedings."

Daily Telegraph - Met blamed 'fine weather' for 1983 CND rally blunder
"A Home Office file from 1983 released yesterday under the Freedom of Information Act shows how Special Branch seriously underestimated support for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, despite Margaret Thatcher's insistence that a close watch be kept on its activities......The declassified document, dealing with preparations for the huge CND march and rally in central London that year, offers a snapshot of the preoccupations of the security state at the height of the Cold War. They included an interest in the songs preferred by peace campaigners, the number of "coloured" people taking part in protests, and guidance on how to identify an anarchist."

Daily Telegraph -
"The Treasury has been told to reveal details of the forecasts behind Gordon Brown's 1997 tax raid on pensions and how the Government expected the move to affect retirement funds. The move comes after a request under the Freedom of Information Act for details of the decision to withdraw the payment of tax credits on UK dividends, which the Treasury had previously refused to release.

(Also read the decision notice issued by the ICO related to the above Treasury story)

Scotsman
- Secret report on tax powers ordered by top civil servant
"SCOTLAND'S most senior civil servant ordered a confidential report into the provision of more tax powers for the Scottish Parliament, it emerged yesterday. John Elvidge, the Permanent Secretary of the Scottish Executive, commissioned the report into everything from the fiscal powers of the parliament to independence. It has been circulated to ministers and senior civil servants in a confidential briefing paper but has not been made public, despite a formal request being made under the Freedom of Information Act."


The Herald - PFI hospital at centre of closure row exceeds A&E capacity
"A Scottish hospital built using private finance five years ago has exceeded its capacity by more than 20%. The accident and emergency department at Wishaw General in Lanarkshire was designed to treat 50,000 casualties a year, according to details released yesterday following a Freedom of Information Act request."

The newspaper.com - UK Government Rules that Police Used Misleading Speed Camera Stats
"Police in Greater Manchester, UK were judged to have used misleading statistics and false advertising in a ruling issued today by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), an independent agency that enforces UK laws against false advertising. The speed camera operators in February began mailing a pamphlet entitled the "Book of Tricks" to recipients of £60 (US $110) photo tickets.....Following the successful ruling, the Hampshire resident said this was just the beginning. "I am continuing the campaign against dubious propaganda by requesting all advertising material under the freedom of information act. All requests will land on police desks today."

Prospect magazine - Mandarin intellectuals
"These are not only questions of political theory; answering them also requires an understanding of how disclosures will be received in the public sphere and what effects they will have on perceptions. You can't work out the public interest in disclosure without considering these factors too. So again, we find that civil servants are considering deep issues concerning the power of the modern state, but also combining that analysis with harder-edged practical concerns—the archetype of the engaged intellectual."


Regional news

Sandhurst news and mail - Fury as council spends £3 million on agency staff
"Bracknell Forest Borough Council was named as one of the biggest spenders on agency staff in the South East after splashing out more than £3 million during the last financial year. The figures came to light after a Freedom of Information Act request by the GMB Union, which has criticised the amount of money spent on non-permanent staff."

Leicester Mercury - electric shock therapy used thousands of times
"Thousands of electric shock treatments have been given to patients over the past five years. Figures released under the Freedom of Information Act show the controversial treatment has been given 4,790 times by Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust since 2001."

This is Bradford
- Schools act to cut incidents of racism
"Figures obtained by the Telegraph & Argus under the Freedom of Information Act reveal there have been 298 racist incidents in Bradford schools since September and another 405 racist incidents in the previous academic year."

Liverpool Daily Post - Jailed men fight to clear names
"A GROUP of former shipyard workers who were jailed more than 20 years ago after mounting a picket line during an industrial dispute have called on the Prime Minister to help clear their names. The 37 men spent up to a month in jail in 1984 after being arrested at the Cammell Laird yard on Merseyside during a dispute over jobs....Backed by their union, the GMB, the men have applied to government departments under the Freedom of Information Act to try to establish if there was any political interference in their arrest."

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

US- Agency FOIA Improvement Plans Presented

SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2006, Issue No. 71
June 19, 2006

AGENCY FOIA IMPROVEMENT PLANS PRESENTED

In a December 14, 2005 Executive Order, President Bush directed
government agencies to review their Freedom of Information Act
programs, evaluate their performance, and develop plans to
reduce backlogs and improve efficiency. Details

Those plans were due on June 14 and some of them, not all, have
now been published by the Department of Justice Office of
Information and Privacy. Details.

You may remember I reported on the Executive Order last year, the Coalition of journalists for Open Government have produced an analysis document that expressed doubts about the effectiveness of the order, that fell well short of the proposed Open Government Bill. My post on the Executive order from last year.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The FOIA Blog is a finalist in the New Statesman New Media Awards 2006 for Independent Information
London, 24 July

The New Statesman, Britain’s leading political magazine, in association with Atos Origin, the leading IT services company, announces that the UK FOIA Blog has been selected as a finalist in their New Media Awards for the category of indepedent information.

The key theme of this year’s awards is "the power of ideas”. New Media Awards are granted to groups and persons who use technology as a tool to benefit humanity, whether inside individual communities or in society at large. Since 1998, these awards have promoted projects that embrace new technology, fresh thinking and creative management in the UK.

"These awards have consistently recognised the very best in new media. As the sector becomes an ever greater part of our lives, we are delighted to continue to reward the vast contribution of the top players", says John Kampfner, editor of the New Statesman."

About the New Statesman
Founded in 1913, the New Statesman is Britain’s leading political and current affairs magazine and has been organising the New Media Awards since 1999. Full details of the awards can be found at: www.newstatesman.com/newmedia


Thanks to Sarah for nominating me.

Monday, June 19, 2006

International update

-Canadian Information Commissioner's report 2005/2006

-The Independent - EU Votes to Allow TV Cameras

-Founding of the German Society for Freedom of Information e.V
Act now training courses

Two courses running in Edinburgh in June :

Conducting an Information Audit with Steve Wood
30th June 2006

Details

A workshop on how to do an information audit to assist with records management and compliance with FOI and FOISA.

FOISA Exemptions and Refusals Workshop with Ibrahim Hasan
29th June 2006

Details

A workshop examining all the latest decision of the Scottish Information Commissioner and applying them to the Drafting of Refusal Notices.

You can book online at www.actnow.org.uk or by telephone on 01924 451054, also Autumn program is now available to view online

Thursday, June 15, 2006

ICO Policy on Publication Schemes

The ICO has published a new policy on publications schemes.

Also read the press release (PDF)

"A Publication Scheme is both a public commitment to make certain information available and a guide to how that information can be obtained. All publication schemes have to be approved by the Information Commissioner’s Office and should be reviewed by authorities periodically to ensure they are accurate and up to date."

Publication schemes are very much in need of some reviewing, for those how haevn't come across them they are the proactive release part of the FOIA listed in S19 and haven't often received much attention. I have only ever heard of one case of a public authority being reported to the ICO for not having a publication scheme. In another case back in 2004 Heather Brooke complained to the ICO about the PPP contracts for the tube being listed in the Transport for London Publication scheme but not being available.

Publication schemes were introduced in waves before the 2005 full implementation and many are dated and not fit for purpose given developments in web technology and increasing public awareness of access to information rights, whilst there are some pockets of best practice and review in operation. The Metropolitan Police being one good example. The Campaign FOI highlighted some issues of good and bad practice in a 2004 report. Personally I'm looking to a new view of publication schemes as dynamic web based documents that rapidly add new classes of information and focus on broad classes of availabilty not at individual document levels. I would also like to see acknowledgement of the role of disclosure logs.

The ICO's own research into publication schemes indicates:

-there is a low level of awareness of schemes within user groups and public authorities.
-authorities want clear guidance from the ICO on the content of schemes.
-they would also like simple clear guidance regarding the practical operation
of publication schemes.


In order to complete this work and enable authorities to develop their publication schemes against the new models, the Information Commissioner has decided that the time scale for re - approval for all sectors will be June 1 – 31 December 2008.


The ICO statement also makes reference to both publication schemes and the role of asset lists (presumably relating to information asset registers, they are defined in the Re-use of Public Sector Information Regulations and pracitioners have expressed concern about the overlap and relationship between the two)

The ICO have condcuted questionnaires and user groups on the subject - I'll look into seeing whether this data can be published.

On this subject: I have collated a lot of data on the use of publication schemes via webstats I've requested under FOIA, I've had the data for a while but hope to have something out on this soon.
IC's decision notice served upon his own office

Last week I posted about the Friends of Earth press release that reported the IC had served a notice on his own office. They have now released the full text of the notice. Although it is not good press for the ICO, I have to point out that it is one of the few ICO's in the world that is subject to FOIA provisions in terms of being a listed public authority in its own right. The problem is poor stanards in case handling leads to more direct FOIA requests to the ICO about procedural matters that only then produces more work for the ICO. A circle that the ICO will hopefully have to square a some point this year by better case handling - as outlined in their business case for more funds.


Case Ref: FS50116262
Date: 31/05/06
Public Authority: The Information Commissioner
Summary: The complainant requested information from the Commissioner regarding another complaint which the Commissioner was then considering. In particular, the complainant requested copies of correspondence between the caseworker allocated to this complaint and a public authority. Although the complainant received a prompt response, this did not constitute a proper refusal notice and the complainant therefore requested an internal review of the decision to refuse his request. This review led to a release of some of the requested information. Following an investigation, the Commissioner's decision is that the request was not handled in accordance with the requirement of section 17. The Commissioner also accepts that there was an unreasonable delay in reviewing the refusal of the request. The Commissioner also finds that the complainant should have been advised that some of the information requested was not held. However the Commissioner upholds the decision, ultimately reached on review, to withhold some of the requested information in reliance on section 44 of the Act. This provides an exemption where disclosure of
information would contravene another statutory provision, in this case s.59 of the Data Protection Act 1998.
Section of Act/EIR & Finding: s.1 - Complaint partially upheld; section 17 - upheld.
Full Transcript of Decision Notice FS50116262

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Latest ICO caseload data

I had quite a bit of interest in the Information Commissioner's caseload of FOI/EIR complaints data I received via an FOI request that was posted on the blog a few weeks ago. The data was withdrawn as there were some errors in the version I was given- the ICO have now provided me with the corrected version.

Current case count is 3452.

Download the ICO suppplied version (excel)

I've also created a version - sorted by name of Public Authority (excel)

Also see my previous comments on the ICO backlog
New decision notices

Some more decisions, apparently there will be large number issued during June... I will do my best to track them here and add comments and observations.

The most interesting decision here relates to the Department for Work and Pensions non disclosure of information relating to the effect of ID cards on the DWP business. The ICO's requirement for disclosure sets out an important statement of public interest in the context of this topic. The ICO will have many cases pending on the topic of ID cards (e.g see the requests made by the Spy blog to the Home Office and Office of Government Commerce. Whilst each case will be dealt with on its own context this clearly make the future cases very interesting reading. The DWP may of course try to appeal this decision at the Tribunal.

The Pembrokeshire County Council case is worthwhile to note in terms of tracking how the ICO intends to interpret exemption S41 of the FOIA: "Information Provided in confidence". This is re-emphasizing the advice that has often been given: that public authorities or private 3rd parties cannot make make any quick and easy assumptions about information being confidential and make must make a clear cases for the information, in context, backed by relevant argument and evidence.

Case Ref: FS50067633
Date: 06/06/06
Public Authority: Pembrokeshire County Council (PCC)
Summary: The complainant had requested information which was submitted to PCC in July 2000 by ORA Ltd in support of its tender. PCC refused to provide this information citing section 41 (exemption for information provided in confidence) as the basis for its refusal. Having considered the information in question, the Commissioner has decided that it was not communicated to the public authority in circumstances giving rise to a duty of confidence, it was not confidential in nature and that there was no conclusive evidence of significant detriment that would result from the release of this information. The Commissioner has therefore concluded that section 41 does not apply to the requested information.
Section of Act/EIR & Finding: FOI s.41 - Complaint Upheld
Full Transcript of Decision Notice FS50067633


Case Ref: FS50084554
Date: 05/06/06
Public Authority: Coventry City Council
Summary: The complainant requested information relating to certain contacts that the Council had had with a convicted murderer who, according to information obtained by the complainant, had been resident in Coventry prior to committing a murder in Liverpool. The Council responded to the request stating that it did not hold the information requested but the complainant disputed this. Following investigations the Commissioner is satisfied that the information is not held by the Council and that the complainant's request had been dealt with in accordance with Part 1 of the Act.
Section of Act/EIR & Finding: FOI s.1 - Complaint Not Upheld
Full Transcript of Decision Notice FS50084554


Case Ref: FS50065287
Date: 05/06/06
Public Authority: Coventry City Council
Summary: The complainant requested information relating to actions he believed should have been taken by the Council in relation to a convicted murderer who, according to information obtained by the complainant, had been resident in Coventry prior to committing a murder in Liverpool. The Council responded to the request stating that it did not hold the information requested but the complainant disputed this. Following investigations the Commissioner is satisfied that the information is not held by the Council and that the complainant's request had been dealt with in accordance with part 1 of the Act.
Full Transcript of Decision Notice FS50065287


Case Ref: FS50083103
Date: 05/06/06
Public Authority: Department for Work and Pensions
Summary: The request was for information about the likely effect of the introduction of identity cards on DWP business. DWP refused the request on the grounds that the information relates to the formulation or development of government policy, and because releasing the information would prejudice commercial interests. The Commissioner's decision is that the public interest lies in the release of the information and that release will not prejudice commercial interests.
Section of Act/EIR & Finding: FOI s.1(1) - Complaint Upheld
Full Transcript of Decision Notice FS50083103


Case Ref: FS50093734
Date: 05/06/06
Public Authority: Newry and Mourne Health and Social Services Trust
Summary: The complainant requested salary and pension information relating to Trust Executive Directors. The information was refused under section 40(2), as the Executive Directors has not given consent for the information to be disclosed, and therefore the Trust could not satisfy any condition for processing under the Data Protection Act 1998. The Trust further submitted to the Commissioner that the information was "sensitive personal data", which the Commissioner did not accept. The Commissioner found that the Trust did not require consent from the Executive Directors, as it had a condition for processing under paragraph 6 of Schedule 2 to the Data Protection Act. The Commissioner also found that the Trust had provided an inadequate Refusal Notice under section 17, and that the Trust had complied with section 11 in terms of the means of communication of information.
Section of Act/EIR & Finding: FOI s.1 - Complaint Upheld, s.11 - Complaint Not Upheld, S.17 - Complaint Upheld, s.40(2) - Complaint Upheld
Full Transcript of Decision Notice FS50093734


Case Ref: FS50087446
Date: 02/06/06
Public Authority: Devon County Council
Summary: On 1 December 2005 the complainant requested information relating to a pedestrian bridge in the Pinhoe area of Exeter. On 12 December 2005 the public authority informed the complainant that the cost of complying with the request would exceed the appropriate limit set out in the Freedom of Information and Data Protection (Appropriate Limit and Fees) Regulations 2004 (Regulations). The complainant was advised to refine their request to bring it within the confines of the appropriate limit. On 14 December 2005 the complainant wrote back to the public authority, restating the original request and also requesting further information. On 22 December 2005 the public authority wrote back to the complainant and refused on the ground that the estimated cost of locating and retrieving the information would still exceed the appropriate limit. The Commissioner approached the public authority and is satisfied that they correctly estimated that the cost of complying with the complainant's request would exceed the appropriate limit. The Commissioner's view is that the public authority dealt with the complainant's request in accordance with part 1 of the Act and, in particular, the Regulations.
Section of Act/EIR & Finding: FOI s.12 - Complaint Not Upheld.
Full Transcript of Decision Notice FS50087446


Case Ref: FER0120142
Date: 02/06/06
Public Authority: Wolverhampton City Council
Summary: The complainant requested information relating to work undertaken on the front boundary of his property. The Council informed the complainant that they did not hold the information requested and the complainant then approached the Commissioner. The Commissioner is of the view that the information requested by the complainant is environmental information and for that reason the complaint was considered under the EIR. The Commissioner contacted the Council and, having investigated the matter, is satisfied that the Council does not hold the information requested. The Council has not, therefore, breached Regulation 5(1) of the EIR.
Section of Act/EIR & Finding: EIR Regulation 5(1) - Complaint Not Upheld
Full Transcript of Decision Notice FER0120142

Also the see the UCL decisions database to browse decisions made by Sections of FOIA and EIRs the appeals were brought under
International FOI publication

Carter Centre - Access to Information: Building a Culture of Transparency: Jamaica
download report (160 pages, PDF)

Contents

Jamaica Access to Information Act 2002: Implementing the Act
Minister Colin Campbell

From a Tradition of Secrecy to One of Openness in the Jamaican Public Sector
Carlton Davis

Working to Make Access to Information Work: The Rule of Civil Society
Carolyn Gomes

Key Considerations in Reforming the Jamaica Access to Information Act
Laura Neuman and Carole Excell

Comparative Law Chart

Mechanisms for Monitoring and Enforcing the Right to Information Around the World
Laura Neuman

New Freedom of Information Rights: The First-Year Experience in Scotland
Kevin Dunion

Freedom of Information and the BBC
Meredith Cook and Martin Rosenbaum

Implementation of the Promotion of Access to Information Act: South Africa
Open Democracy Advice Centre

Challenges and Successes in Implementing the Access to Information Act in Jamaica
Helen Rumbolt

Appeal Procedures for Access to Information: The International Experience
Laura Neuman and Carole Excell

Enforcement Under the Jamaica Access to Information Act
Nancy Anderson

The Right to Environmental Information .
Carole Excell

Budget Transparency and Accountability for the Prevention and
Treatment of HIV/AIDS in Mexico
Alicia Athié and Tania Sánchez

Access to Information and Human Rights: Fundamentals,
Points of Emphasis, and Distinctive Trends
Richard Calland

Whistleblowing Protection: Accompanying Access to Information in Assuring Transparency
Guy Dehn

Open Government: The Challenges Ahead
Alasdair Roberts
Information Tribunal Appeals

The Information Tribunal website has some new pending appeals listed, there are some high profile cases on the way:

-The Observer's appeal over their request for "names and nationalities of foreign diplomats alleged to have committed serious offences over the previous five years" to the FCO, the IC did not uphold the complaint. Read the ICO decision. pre hearing review. 22.6.06 at 0900 hrs

-The Guardian's appeal relating to her Request for the BBC Governors' minutes post-Hutton. The ICO did not uphold the complaint. Read the original ICO decision.

- On the other side of the coin: The Corporate Officer of the House of Commons is appealing the decision notice requiring the release of detailed MP travel expenses. The decision to apeal this does strange in light of the Scottish Parliament's open approach to this area following a number of FOI requests.

The following appeal was dismissed by the Tribunal on 31st May: "Alan Wales,
Appellant and the Information Commissioner and Newcastle National Health Service". The Trust invited the Tribunal to make a costs order against the appellant. The tribunal notes:
"In the circumstances that apply in this case it provides that we may order costs against a party if we consider that it has been responsible for frivolous, vexatious, improper or unreasonable actions. Rule 29 (2) provides that, if we are minded to make an award of costs we should first give the party facing that potential liability an opportunity to make representations on the matter............ We have concluded that, although it could certainly be argued that some of the Appellant’s arguments (noticeably those mentioned in paragraphs 10, 11 and 17 above) crossed the threshold of vexatiousness, his appeal overall did not."


Read the tribunal decision in full (PDF)

The rules quoted by the tribunal are in Statutory Instrument 2005 no14 The Information Tribunal (Enforcement Appeals) Rules 2005

Section 29:
1) In any appeal before the Tribunal, including one withdrawn under rule 12 above, the Tribunal may make an order awarding costs -

(a) against the appellant and in favour of the Commissioner where it considers that the appeal was manifestly unreasonable;

(b) against the Commissioner and in favour of the appellant where it considers that the disputed decision was manifestly unreasonable;

(c) where it considers that a party has been responsible for frivolous, vexatious, improper or unreasonable action, or for any failure to comply with a direction or any delay which with diligence could have been avoided, against that party and in favour of any other.


No costs have yet been awarded by the tribunal.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Media update


The Times
- Ministers were told that civil wedding would not be legal
"A document released under the Freedom of Information Act shows that John Major’s Government insisted a decade ago that the Royal Family would be forbidden from marrying in register offices."

The Guardian - Make it work for us, Ms Tullo
"Easing crown copyright would allow the public to use government data freely, but some officials want the information traded."

The Guardian - Appeals win over 200 longer jail sentences
- 12-year-olds deal drugs on our streets
"Child"Statistics released by Lord Goldsmith under the Freedom of Information Act show that in the past three years, he has referred 339 cases to the appeal court and has been vindicated in 230 of them."


Silicon.com
-
"The UK's data protection watchdog has ordered the government to release a controversial secret report detailing the costs, benefits and risks of introducing ID cards."


Daily Telegraph - 80mph limit would save £460m a year
"Raising the motorway speed limit to 80mph would save business and motorists up to £460 million a year, according to a Whitehall study recently released under the Freedom of Information Act."

Independent
- Even civil servants say Home Office is failing
"An overwhelming majority believe that officials' incompetence goes unpunished and most are highly critical of their departments' ability to move with the times, according to an internal opinion survey, revealed after a Freedom of Information request by the IPPR think-tank."


Scotsman
- City writes off £3m of parking cheat fines
"CAR parking cheats and foreign tourists have escaped paying nearly £3 million in fines in the Capital after thousands of unpaid penalty tickets were written off."


Regional news


Norwich Evening News
- 12-year-olds deal drugs on our streets
"Children as young as 12 have been caught by police dealing drugs on the streets of Norwich, an Evening News investigation has revealed. The shock findings emerged in documents released today by Norfolk police under the Freedom of Information Act. In total, 536 children, aged between 12 and 18, were stopped for possessing or dealing drugs, ranging from cannabis to heroin, during the three years up to 2005."

BBC news- MPs criticise Agency hospitality
"The East of England Development Agency (EEDA) has seen its hospitality and entertainment budget rise from £7,650 in 2002/03 to £61,642 in 2005/06. The figures were obtained after a BBC News Website Freedom of Information Act request to the EEDA."

Friday, June 09, 2006

New Wiki project

For a while I've been toying with an idea about setting up a wiki related to FOI, for the unitiated read the definition of a wiki, the most famous wiki is of course Wikipedia, the editable encyclopedia.

The idea I've had is to create a wiki as a shell for people to put information for users of the Freedom of Information Act, such as contact details, websites, publication schemes, disclosure logs etc about all public authorities covered by FOIA and FOISA. I've only created the structure and I would rely on people (users and practitioners) to add details and amend them when neccessary. It will require sensible policing by the FOI community to work. I plan to run it as beta for a few months and see how it goes. If there are major problems with unsuitable comments and content I may change the way it has to work. Entries will be locked or removed if necessary. Note: This is a personal project not funded by my work at the University and is intended as an experiment at present.

The website runs the same software as Wikipedia called mediawiki, editing pages is relatively simple. Users will need to fill in new sections and structure as required looking at the examples already there.

The website is available at http://www.foi-directory.org/

An example entry: e.g the Cabinet Office and Liverpool City Council

Happy to take comments - and please do add some content to give me some feel as to how the project can take shape.
New disclosure log

My institution, Liverpool John Moores University now has a disclosure log, now listed on the index page. Please direct specific comments or queries about the log to the relevant person listed as I'm not responsible FOI compliance at the University.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

JISC Information Governance Gateway

We have now set up the project website for the JISC Information Governance Gateway project we recently received funding for at Liverpool JMU.
Al Roberts' FOI research notes -impact of DCA's Clearing House practices on the response times of departments

Al Roberts from Syracuse University has done some interesting analysis on the impact of the Department of Constutional Affairs'Clearing House on the main Central Government Departments' response times to the FOIA. As Al acknowledges more data is required before we can say there is a clear link but the outline data on the graph would seem to point to some trends worth investigating.

Read Al's FOI research notes

It is also worth reading Al's research from the Canadian experience of central co-ordination of FOI requests. see: Spin control and freedom of information: Lessons for the United Kingdom from Canada. Public Administration, 83.1 (Spring 2005)

The Minister from the DCA, Baroness Ashdown was pressed on the issue of transparency of the Clearing House in her evidence to the Select Committee Inquiry into FOI. Her answers were not very clear.(see Qs185-Q188 for full discussion).

Q181 Dr Whitehead: You have mentioned a couple of times this afternoon the clearing house, the operation of it and your view that that is working well. However, we have heard evidence from some other jurisdictions that their clearing houses for their FOI Acts have in fact led to delays. Do you think that is true in the case of the UK clearing house, ie they have contributed to the delays that there already were?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: I do not think it is contributing to the delays, but inevitably if the clearing house has been consulted, then they will need to look at the particular issue. I think I gave an example that you can have a piece of information which is being sought right across government where the clearing house might play a role in supporting all the departments to try and pull it all together in a good consistent approach to it. It is not so much that it delays it but inevitably that takes time to get right. Again, I suspect this will get better and faster as we get more used to doing it. It is not contributing to delays in the negative sense, but certainly they have a role to play in making sure the advice they give to departments is accurate and that takes time.


It will be interesting to see how the ICO deal with any clearing house appeals, especially given the Comments by Richard Thomas to the same Select Committee:

I think there is an interesting issue you have put your finger on there, which is I have to say I am a little uncomfortable that the same part of the same government department is responsible for policy on FOI, for leadership of the clearing house and for sponsorship of my department, and I think that there are some slightly uncomfortable questions there about competing considerations.


(Also interesting to note that Al is using a Wiki format for his site, you can add comments and discussion etc to the pages. I've also been working on a FOI based wiki idea over the last month or so and hope to have my beta verion up soon, hopefully later today)

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Friends of the Earth Press release
INFORMATION COMMISSIONER ADMITS HE FAILED TO COMPLY WITH FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT


In a remarkable move the Information Commissioner has been forced to issue the first ever “Decision Notice” against himself for failure to comply with the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act - which he is meant to oversee.

The Decision Notice was issued following a complaint by Friends of the Earth's Rights & Justice Centre about the Commissioner's handling of a request for information from his own office.

The Friends of the Earth Rights & Justice Centre provides free legal advice and representation to members of the public, community groups and other NGOs.

Phil Michaels, Friends of the Earth's Head of Legal said:

"This case illustrates the increasingly shambolic state of the Information Commissioner's Office and the need for improved staff training on implementing the very the Act which they are suppose to oversee. The Commission is meant to protect our rights of access to information and ensure that the legislation is properly implemented by public authorities. This case clearly shows the ICO does not comply with its own obligations under the legislation or the Code of Practice.

Its failure in cases such as this makes it increasingly difficult for it to carry out its enforcement function with any credibility. In addition, the basis on which the ICO are refusing to release the requested letters is highly questionable and we will be taking it to the Information Tribunal. It is time for the ICO to get its house in order."

*BACKGROUND INFORMATION:*

Last December Friends of the Earth asked Information Commissioner's Office (the ICO) for copies of specific letters from the Department of Trade and Industry to the ICO. Under the Freedom of Information act any public authority asked for information has a legal obligation to either provide the information or to set out clear reasons for refusing the information by referencing to the relevant exceptions in the Freedom of Information Act. The ICO failed to recognise the request as a request for information under the Freedom of Information Act (and so would have been able to give a reason for refusing the request) but nonetheless refused to provide the information.

Friends of the Earth immediately asked for an internal review of the decision not to provide the information. The ICO promised to do this by 16 February but only replied in the middle of April without any explanation for the delay. The ICO again refused to provide the information (this time on a new basis).

Friends of the Earth then made a formal complaint to the Information Commissioner in his enforcement role about the conduct of his own office as a public authority.

The Information Commissioner's Decision Notice found that his office's handling of the request for information was in breach of both the requirements of the freedom of information legislation and the Secretary of State's Code of Practice on the discharge of public authorities' functions under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

However, the Information Commissioner still refuses to provide copies of the letters requested. Friends of the Earth intends to take the matter to the Information Tribunal.

The Information Commissioner's Office is the UK's independent public body set up to promote access to official information and to protect personal information. For more information see


No sign of the decision on the ICO site yet, will comment once I've seen the full story - Steve
Open Government in China

China is perhaps not the first place that springs to mind when we think about FOI and Open Government, especially in general terms of freedom of expression and use of the Inernet (e.g. Google and the "great firewall of China"). The Journal Government Information Quarterly *has an interesting special issue on the topic of Open Government in China and it does indicate more progress than some people in the West might have realised. Though it has to be empashised that Open Governement and Freedom of Information legislation are two different things, the former is more focused upon proactive, discretionary release of information, the latter on a presumptive right to know and right of access to all public information (with some exemptions) enhrined in law.

*The journal does require a subscription
FOI Live conference

The FOI Live 2006 conference took place in London (May 25, Alex Allan, Permanent Secretary, Department for Constitutional Affairs said on the topic of private bodies being added under FOIA:

"The Act does provide that private bodies who do provide public functions can be brought within the scope of the Act. We have been fairly cautious because we felt we needed to look at the lessons of applying the Act to 100,000 public bodies before we took it further. The sort of bodies we would be looking at extending this to are privately-run prisons and [school] academies, where you can argue they should operate to the same provisions of openness and accountability. All those bodies affected will be properly consulted. We need to get it right and we need to see FOI bed down before we can see what the boundaries are."

Download the presentations from the Conference

Monday, June 05, 2006

How much does it cost to make an FOI request?

At least £84 per request according to this site FOIAcentre, not one I've come across before, but not the first I'm sure of many companies who will mirror the US approach in offering a commercial service. I wonder if such companies will be at risk of having requuests aggregated together under the fees regs (S5) or having requests classed as vexatious or repeated under S14 .
Monthly newsletter

Just a quick reminder that this blog does have a monthly newsletter you can sign up for (via yahoo) you can sign up in box of the right hand side. We have now have over 330 subscribers.
ICO and DCA webistes

There are some new sections on the DCA FOI website based around "your rights" and "practitioner" sections and there is a new complaints section on the ICO webiste. Also worth a reminder that ICO site has an e-newsletter and e-alert system to sign up for.

Also interesting to note the the DCA now offer press releases as RSS
Media update

Your Right to know - Shoot-to-kill policy
"Back in November 2005, I made an FOI request to the Metropolitan Police
asking for their Shoot-to-Kill policy and all correspondence and minutes
related to its introduction.It has been a long battle, but earlier this month, the MPS released quite a bit of new material. I will be posting the full correspondence on the Secret Squirrel pages soon. Some of you may have seen the BBC Panorama
programme Countdown to Killing that used some of the data that was released
under FOI."

Silicon.com - NHS IT director general Granger's salary revealed
"Granger's salary, bonuses and expenses have finally been released to silicon.com after a protracted wrangle with the Department of Health (DoH) over a Freedom of Information (FoI) Act request."

Hold the front page - Govt quango held to account by FOI inquiry
"The Kentish Express has exposed how a regional jobs quango spent almost £10m on an 11-storey office building - but has seen only eight new businesses move in since 2004. Kent Messenger Group political editor Paul Francis used the Freedom of Information Act to reveal how the South East England Development Agency bought International House in Ashford for £8.2m. At the time, it hailed the acquisition as "a significant step forward for the regeneration of Ashford".


The Scotsman - Restaurant pays first fine of smoking ban
"According to documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, the notice was issued on 29 March for the offence committed two days earlier."

BBC news - Criminals rip off electronic tags
"More than 1,500 convicted criminals living in East Anglia removed their fitted electronic tags during a nine-month period last year.
Curfew offence figures released by the Home Office under the Freedom of Information Act, cover the period 1 April."

Daily Telegraph - Fined £13m, but Hatfield rail firms given £21m costs
"The disclosure of the payments was made by the Government following a request under the Freedom of Information Act. The Department for Constitutional Affairs said: "The cost paid from Central Funds (taxpayers' money) for the defence of the accused was £20.9 million."

Daily Telegraph - Theatres set to follow the National's seven-day-week
"Although Mr Hytner has previously spoken out in favour of seven-day opening, the papers, released under the Freedom of Information Act, show the extent of the progress that is being made."

Daily Mail - Police heroes to have thousands of pounds cut from pensions
"According to information obtained by the Police Federation under the Freedom of Information Act, 21 forces including the Metropolitan Police, Avon & Somerset, Cambridgeshire, Nottinghamshire, Cumbria, Greater Manchester and Gwent are reviewing their pension policies."

The Guardian - Ripper guilty of additional crimes, says secret report
"Documents released under the Freedom of Information Act also disclosed that the then prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, was furious at the incompetence of the detectives who had failed for five years to catch the Ripper."

The Guardian - 'Menu' of private clinics in big push to widen choice for NHS patients
"But last month the Society of Cardiothoracic Surgeons solved the problem in its specialty by publishing risk-adjusted data. The breakthrough came after an application from the Guardian under the Freedom of Information Act for individual surgeons' mortality scores."

The Guardian - No 10's man to get paid £900 a day to scrap CSA
"Now, following a freedom of information request from the Guardian, the DWP has released his payment details for a three-day week and disclosed that ministers did not draw up a short list of candidates. Instead his appointment was made by Mr Hutton and the prime minister."

Regional news

Nottingham Post - POLICE CAR SAT NAV SYSTEMS ARE STOLEN
"The force lost three sat navs valued at a total of £650 from their own vehicles between January, 2005, and April, 2006, according to a list of stolen police property obtained under the Freedom of Information Act."

This is Wiltshire - LABOUR councillors reacted angrily last week after their latest request for the addresses of all the area's council house tenants was sidelined by Salisbury district council chiefs. The Labour members, who want the information as part of their campaign to stop the transfer of the council's housing stock to a housing association, were refused previous requests in January and February, on the grounds that releasing such details could breach the Data Protection Act. But, following a ruling by the freedom of information commissioner, (see the ICO's decision) ordering Mid-Devon district council to release similar information to its members, Labour again raised the issue at Salisbury council's annual meeting."


Birmingham Post - Parents of bullied children take fight to court
"Birmingham Council made three payouts for bullying - one for £12,976 and two for £400 - according to figures released under the Freedom of Information Act. "

International News
Canada - Northern life - Cost of getting court papers worrisome for Ontario journalists
"The Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ) have awarded its Code of Silence Award to Ontario Attorney General Michael Bryant for the excessive fees his department charges citizens, mostly journalists, to view and copy public court documents."


USA- NY Times - Deafened by the S.E.C.'s Silence, He Sued

Australia - Victorian Ombudsman Review of the Freedom of Information Act
"The Victorian Ombudsman has tabled a report in Parliament about a review of the Freedom of Information Act 1982. The Ombudsman, Mr George Brouwer, said delays in processing freedom of information (FOI) requests were still the major issue for applicants. He said there were also problems at times with lack of quality in reasons for decisions, the poor level of assistance to some applicants and some internal processes in government departments."

Freedominfo.org - Info Commissioners Meet in Manchester
"By Emilene Martinez-Morales for freedominfo.org
Transparency Programs Coordinator, Mexico Project, National Security Archive, George Washington University"
New disclosure log

A new disclosure log for Merseyside Police has been added to the index. Do keep me updated about any new logs that come online or URLs that change.