Freedom of Information round-up week ending 29 January 2016

A round-up of Freedom of Information stories in the media and developments to the FOI act in the United Kingdom from the week ending 29 January 2016

  1. The FOI Commission

  2. It's been a busy week for the government's review of the FOI Act. The pannel conducting the review has held its second, and final, oral evidence session. Below is a selection of coverage to come from the seven hour session.
  3. But, first, this article from the FT.
  4. I have some problems with it. Not the article per se (it's a complicated issue and newsrooms are too busy), but the message that officials are trying to present. That's the real problem.

    Minister may be making some retreats on their plans to change FOI, in all honesty who could blame them after the negative press the Commission has had. Instead the new line is that small technical changes will be made.

    These small changes still pose a huge threat to FOI. When we're talking small changes we're talking about secondary legilsation, the reality of which is it won't be voted on by Parliament. Although it could still be passed through the lengthy, and costly, process of judicial review.

    Secondary legilsation could change the Section 12 fees regulations. The regs state the cost limit for responding to FOI requests (£600 for central government and £400 for other authorities). Officials could reduce these figures and stop a lot of requests being answered by making minor changes to FOI.

    It's top spinning by the government. *applause emoji*
  5. Elsewhere Jack Straw was accused of colluding with clients and government to refuse FOI requests. It's something that happens quite often as the request is about him - it relates to his personal data. The problem is though it shows his deep knowledge of FOI and given his comments about weakening the Act in the past shows he isn't suitable and it would be impossible for him to go into the FOI Commission with an open mind.
  6. Fees on FOI requests would make it a 'blunt instrument'. When Ireland introduced fees to its FOI process circa 2002 the number of requests dropped by up to 50%.
  7. Dominic Grieve lost a major court battle against the use of the ministerial veto to FOI requests. He told the Commission the veto should be stronger. He would, wouldn't he.
  8. Here's the full FOI Commission oral evidence transcripts and videos.

  9. This week FOI has taught us....

  10. The Night Tube is expensive and there are risks

  11. £600k was spent advertising the night tube, but there's still no launch date following strikes with drivers.
  12. TfL has also warned, in an internal 'risk register' that the night tube could see sex attacks rise on the 24-hour weekend service.

    (The original FOI was by The Times, the version below is a non-paywalled article from the Standard. The original was a really strong idea for a request).

  13. An expensive delivery

  14. The NHS spaffed £17m on agency midwives last year. According to the Guardian its enough to pay 511 full-time staff; some agency bosses are lining their pockets
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