Archive for the ‘YRTK’ Category

The Government’s right to keep us in the dark

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2005

The Government’s right to keep us in the dark
The Independent, 23 March 2005
By Heather Brooke

In a modern democracy we should not have to go begging for scraps of information

Yesterday’s publication of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) farm subsidies in England marks one of the first major successes for freedom of information. The public pays £4billion toward this system, so it might seem obvious that the public have an interest in knowing how this money is spent.

I campaigned for the release of these figures in my book Your Right to Know, but it wasn’t until formal requests were filed under Freedom of Information Act and the new Environmental Information Regulations that government departments took seriously the public’s right to this information.

The Rural Payments Agency, responsible for doling out cash to farmers in England, is releasing the names of subsidy recipients and the annual amount paid to them in the last two years. It will be supplemented in a few weeks time with information broken down by region.

This is admirable but the Scottish and Welsh agricultural departments are refusing to release even these basic details, citing the privacy rights of individual farmers. Without names, the subsidy information is neutered. Names are essential for gauging the fairness of the system. Are the richest landowners getting the biggest handouts? In England at least, the answer is ‘yes’. Is this the way we want our tax money spent?
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Dept for Transport online FOI request form

Tuesday, March 1st, 2005

You can now make FOI requests online to the Department for Transportation. The online request form is available on the DfT website under Freedom of Information, or by going to the address below:

http://www.dft.gov.uk/stellent/groups/dft_foi/documents/page/dft_foi_033691.hcsp

The main contact at DfT for Freedom of Information remains:

Mike Carty
Freedom of Information Branch
Corporate Secretariat Division
Department for Transport
Zone 9/2 Southside
105 Victoria Street
London Sw1E 6DT
Direct Line: 020 7944 5825
[email protected]

Although requests can be made to the personal email, it is better to use the online request form for electronic requests as it sends them to a dedicated and regularly monitored email account.

Aggregation of FOI fees

Tuesday, February 1st, 2005

Guidance issued by the Department for Constitutional Affairs on aggregating fees from multiple requests reads:

“An authority can aggregate any number of requests that it receives within any period of 60 working days. If an authority receives a series of requests over a longer period than 60 working days, it can only aggregate requests that fall within a 60 working day period.”

http://www.foi.gov.uk/feesguide.htm#annex

Changes in food safety law

Monday, January 24th, 2005

Guidance Notes on the Food Safety Act 1990 (Amendment) Regulations
2004 and the General Food Regulations 2004

Download the guidance here (pdf 20 kb)

New guidance published last week aims to make the food business more open and transparent. Some noteworthy points of the new guidance:

Article 18 (Traceability)
20. Under this Article, food businesses are required to:
· identify their suppliers of; food, food-producing animals and any other
substance for incorporation into food;
· identify the businesses to which they have supplied products; and
· maintain appropriate records and ensure that such information is made
available to competent authorities on demand (i.e. when asked for).
21. As a minimum, these records should include; – name and address of
customer or supplier, nature of products, and the date of transaction delivery.

It would be worth making some requests under the new Environmental Information Regulations 2004 to make sure this information gets into the public realm and is not confined to local councils or the Food Safety Agency.

New FOI contact details for House of Lords security

Thursday, January 6th, 2005

Lt Colonel Ted Lloyd-Jukes OBE
Freedom of Information Co-ordinator
Black Rod’s Department
House of Lords
London SW1A 0PW

Fees Regs laid in Parliament

Monday, December 13th, 2004

Adding credence to the view that the Department for Constitutional Affairs never does something today if it can put it off until the last possible moment – the fees regulations for FOI were laid in Parliament Thursday Dec.9, just 22 days before the Act comes into effect (with only 10 of these actual working days). You might well wonder what’s been going on during the past four years.

Steve Wood has put a dowloadable version of the regs on his website here. They will be on the DCA website along with guidance later (following above adage).

Basically, requests will be free plus photocopying and postage if under the stated threshold: This is £600 for central government and £450 for others.

New timetable for EIRs

Friday, November 19th, 2004

The new Environmental Information Regulations have been laid in Parliament and will be debated on 9th December 2004.

Hester Tidcombe from DEFRA’s Sustainable Development Unit says they are still expecting the law to be fully implemented on 1 January 2005 along with FOI.

Consultation on a draft Code of Practice to accompany the updated EIRs closed on 4 November 2004.

N.B. Consultation on the draft guidance is continuing until 31 December 2004 for Chapters 1-6 and 12 February 2005 for the remainder. The draft guidance consultation is at http://www.defra.gov.uk/corporate/consult/eir-guidance/index.htm

The final chapter of the guidance on refusals is available here. (Thanks to Steve Wood for this)

New FOI Officer, Transport for London

Friday, November 12th, 2004

Transport for London has a new FOI Officer who takes the place of Peter Heywood.

Richard Bevins, Information Access and Compliance Manager
6th Floor, Windsor House
42-50 Victoria Street, London SW1H 0TL
Main number 020 7941 4500
Email: [email protected]

Publication scheme: http://www.tfl.gov.uk/tfl/foi

Crown Prosecution Service

Sunday, November 7th, 2004

New Contact Details
FOI Officer: Ann Riddy
Crown Prosecution Service
50 Ludgate Hill
London EC4M 7EX
Tel. 020 7710 6164