Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Speaking at Hay Literary Festival May 29th

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010

For many years I’ve attended the Hay Literary Festival as an audience member. For the first time this year I am a speaker. Wahay!

I’ll be Event Number 67 on Saturday 29th May at 7.00 pm speaking about my latest book, The Silent State, with the writer and lawyer Philippe Sands. The event is being held in the Guardian Stage and I’ll be vying to pack it out despite some heavy competition from such literary luminaries as Alain de Botton, David Mitchell, Grayson Perry and Jerry Hall (eh?).

You can buy tickets in advance here and there will be a book signing event afterward.

Heather on HARDtalk

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

BBC iPlayer: HARDtalk

Britain’s political establishment is still recovering from last year’s scandal surrounding Members of Parliament and their expenses. As accounts of lawmakers’ claims were revealed in the press, public anger grew and their popularity nosedived.

Heather Brooke is the journalist and campaigner whose investigations exposed the opaqueness of the expenses system. She talks to Sarah Montague about the culture of secrecy in Britain and the importance of making public information more accessible.

Speaking at the Southbank

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

I’ll be in conversation with historian Tristram Hunt on Tuesday 13th April 13th at 7.45pm. The event is part of the Southbank Centre’s Election 2010 series and I’ll be discussing The Silent State.

Book tickets and more info here.

New WWI records available from National Archives

Monday, November 12th, 2007

The ‘Burnt’ records are First World War soldiers’ records that were literally burnt during the Blitz and for the first time they are now available to search online. The name search is free but there is a charge to download records.

Most surnames starting A to C are now available via

Gifts from the Oil men

Monday, July 9th, 2007

I am very lucky to have some very good researchers working for me on a corruption monitoring project that is being sponsored by the Open Society Institute’s Justice Initiative. One of the areas we are investigating is the oil extractive industry and City University student Elena Egawhary is doing an excellent job researching the anti-corruption mechanisms in place within this industry. Last week, she turned some of her findings into an article for the Guardian. Well done Elena!

The full EDU register of oil company hospitality

All in a day’s schmoozing for men from the ministry
Guardian, Friday July 6, 2007
By Elena Egawhary

The hospitality chalets at the All England Lawn Tennis Club have always been synonymous with public relations excess. But the identity of one unexpected recipient of the corporate Pimm’s and strawberries has raised eyebrows among green campaigners.

The giant oil company Chevron has provided an all-expenses-paid day out at Wimbledon for Jim Campbell, the civil servant in charge of regulating Britain’s oil and gas industry, including responsibility for pollution and oil spills.

The company says the invitation is an annual event – Mr Campbell went last year. Although it was coy about disclosing the cost, corporate hospitality firms quote up to £1,000 a head for packages that include the tennis tickets, drinks and meals.

The Wimbledon gift is only one example of the treats oil companies are showering on a single, sensitive, section of the Department of Trade and Industry – now renamed the Department of Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform.

Documents obtained from the department’s Energy Development Unit (EDU) show that in the course of a single year, officials were given, among other things, a racing day at Glorious Goodwood. They also got private art views, a trip to the ballet, a golf outing, a party visiting the crown jewels at the Tower of London, tickets to balls, dinner in a Michelin-starred restaurant, and a case of champagne from Shell for Christmas.

Scotland to map noise

Monday, October 9th, 2006

Kable’s Government Computing reports that the Scottish Executive is to produce maps showing environmental noise around major cities and transport networks. The maps will be produced in line with an EU Environmental Noise Directive that requires noise maps to be produced by June 2007. The Scottish maps will cover areas with over 250,000 people such as Glasgow and Edinburgh, along with airports, railways and trunk roads in Scotland. A second round of mapping will take place in 2012 that will include all areas with over 100,000 people.

The maps are likely to be in digital format and available through the Scottish Executive website and at public information points such as libraries.

I wonder what the copyright situation will be with these maps? Copyrighting public information is a uniquely European practice in relation to information created by public officials paid at public expense. I’ve blogged about this before and it is the subject of the Guardian‘s Free Our Data Campaign.

The Scottish maps will be produced at public expense by Hamilton and McGregor consortium. This will most likely mean that other citizen mapping groups are excluded from accessing the raw digital data.

Contact info for new NHS ambulance trusts

Wednesday, October 4th, 2006

The Ambulance Trusts in England were reconfigured on 1st July 2006. There are now 12 Ambulance Trusts and a separate management arrangement for the Isle of Wight.

These documents which I uncovered contain useful contact details for the new Ambulance Trusts.

Contact Information for New Ambulance Trusts (PDF, 44K)

Information on Reconfiguration of NHS Ambulance Trusts – implications for protocols (PDF, 60K)

FOI around the world

Thursday, September 21st, 2006

David Banisar’s Freedom of Information Around the World 2006, a global survey of access to government information laws, was released today by Privacy International. The Survey provides a comprehensive review of Freedom of Information Laws and practices in nearly 70 countries around the world.

The survey draws attention to the growing movement around the world to adopt FOI laws. In just the past two years, over a dozen countries have adopted new laws and decrees, while dozens more are considering proposals. Important international treaties such as the UN Convention Against Corruption have also gone into force. These laws are being used to fight corruption, make government bodies accountable and promote social and human rights.

Unfortunately, the survey also highlights that many problems still exist such as poorly drafted laws, lax implementation and an ongoing culture of secrecy in many countries. There are also dangers in backsliding such as in Ireland where the imposition of onerous fees has significantly reduced use of the law and in the United Kingdom where a similar proposal is being considered. New laws promoting secrecy in the global war on terror have also undercut access.

The report is being released just prior to the 3rd Annual International Right to Know Day on 28 September. Advocates in dozens of countries will be holding events celebrating the day.

An interactive version of the report, in conjunction with and the Open Society Justice Institute will be released shortly.

For more information, contact: David Banisar [banisard (@)], Director, FOI Project

Mobile Phone base station data to be published

Monday, September 18th, 2006

The Information Commissioner has served a Decision Notice under the Environmental Information Regulations ordering Ofcom to provide all data on mobile phone base stations held within its Sitefinder database.

Cellular base stations receive and transmit signals to and from mobile phones. The Sitefinder database was set up in response to the Stewart Report. The report set out the findings of the Independent Expert Group on Mobile Phones which was established to assess the state of research into possible health risks from mobile phones.

Ofcom did not present sufficient evidence to suggest there is a particular risk to the security of base stations, particularly in light of the information that is already available in the public domain. The Commissioner also determined that while database rights and copyright exist, that would not prevent Ofcom from disclosing the requested information.

Ofcom has 35 days to publish the material or appeal to the Tribunal. The Commissioner has yet to publish the full decision notice on his website.

FOI offers the radical change needed

Thursday, August 31st, 2006

This week I read the results of a poll conducted by the Taxpayers Alliance. One of the key findings is that the public holds politicians and the current political system in contempt:

“All debate about alternatives is tainted by this general contempt and hopelessness: people cannot imagine any political force that reverses decline since they see politicians as a self-serving elite with a total grip that cannot be broken.”

If politicians and public servants are serious about reconnecting with the public then they must ditch their snobbish and condescending attitudes and start sharing power and knowledge with the public. I cannot count the number of times I have come across public servants who think their only obligation toward members of the public is to take our money. Public officials routinely refuse to publish line-item budgets, detailed expenses, contact details and in many cases even refuse to divulge their names!

This is simply unacceptable in a democracy. Here’s a suggestion for any public body concerned about its plummeting reputation – start answering all FOI requests in full and holding open meetings where the public have a say.