Archives for CFOI

Post-legislative Scrutiny of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002

Submission by the Campaign for Freedom of Information in Scotland to the Scottish Parliament’s Public Audit and Post-legislative Scrutiny Committee. The Committee is undertaking post-legislative scrutiny of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act.

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Secrecy under the Environment (Principles & Governance) Bill

Photo by Sarah Sigler on Unsplash

The Campaign is concerned the government is using the Draft Environment (Principles and Governance) Bill to undermine the right of access to environmental information.

The bill establishes the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP), part of whose functions is to enforce compliance by public authorities with environmental legislation. Unfortunately, that function would be subject to a statutory prohibition on disclosure which would, we believe, override the right of access under the Environmental Information Regulations (EIR).

Under the bill:

  • the OEP would be prohibited from disclosing any information it obtained from an authority which it is investigating without the authority’s consent
  • the public authority would be prohibited from disclosing information about formal action being taken against it without the OEP’s consent
  • the OEP would be required to copy its correspondence with an authority to the minister but be prohibited from disclosing the minister’s reply without the minister’s consent.

What passes between the OEP and an authority under investigation is thus suppressible by whichever side is providing the information. Ministers could intervene in enforcement matters with the benefit of total secrecy. The existing right of access could not apply to any of this information.

These bars on disclosure would all be absolute and indefinite and apply regardless of the public interest in disclosure. This is a massive contrast with the existing position under the Environmental Information Regulations (EIR) which exempts information about investigations only if disclosure is likely to be harmful and subject to a duty to disclose in the public interest.

At present, the EIR right of access takes precedence over any statutory restriction on disclosure, which would make the prohibition pointless. The government must therefore intend to reverse this, so that statutory restrictions take precedence over the EIR right of access. It hasn’t acknowledged this, but that is the only explanation. This would probably allow all statutory restrictions to override the EIR right of access in future.

The normal EIR regime would be replaced by a blanket bar on disclosure of OEP enforcement action, far more restrictive even than that under the European Commission infraction process which the OEP enforcement function partly replaces.

We set this out in evidence to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee. Read the full submission here.

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Using the FOI Act training, 5 June 2019

Photograph: Samuel Zeller

When: Wednesday 5 June 2019
Where: Free Word Centre, 60 Farringdon Road, London EC1R 3GA
Time: Registration 9:45 am, course 10 am – 5:00 pm

Do you want to learn how to use the Freedom of Information Act? Are you already using the Act, but want to know more about how key provisions are being interpreted?

Making a FOI request is straightforward but making an effective request can be more difficult. Requests that ask for too much information can be refused – and some information may be exempt. But a well thought-out request can have a powerful impact, revealing that a policy isn’t working, an authority isn’t doing its job or generating key information for your research.

The course is designed to help campaigners, researchers, journalists and others make the most of the Act and the parallel Environmental Information Regulations. It explains the legislation, shows how to draft clear and effective requests and describes how to challenge unjustified refusals. The course’s interactive sessions will encourage you to test your own FOI drafting skills. The course is aimed at both beginners and those who are already using the Act but want to do so more effectively.
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Draft FOI (Scotland) Act 2002 (Designation of Persons as Scottish Public Authorities) Order 2019

Submission by the Campaign for Freedom of Information in Scotland to the Local Government and Communities Committee in advance of its consideration of the draft Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (Designation of Persons as Scottish Public Authorities) Order 2019.

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Response to ICO consultation ‘Openness by Design: Our draft access to information strategy’

We welcome the introduction of a draft access to information strategy, particularly as recent ICO strategic documents such as the ‘Information Rights Strategic Plan 2017-2021’ and the ‘Regulatory Action Policy’ primarily reflect a data protection perspective even though they apply to the full range of the ICO’s functions including FOI. We are extremely pleased to see access to information now being dealt with in its own terms.
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London councils’ FOI performance assessed

A new report by the Campaign for Freedom of Information reveals that some London councils are failing to comply with the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act’s time limits in as many as 40% of the requests they receive, causing long delays before information is released. On the other hand some are close to answering 100% of requests on time. The Information Commissioner (IC), who enforces the FOI Act, expects authorities to answer at least 90% of requests on time. The report finds that 25 out of 34 London councils surveyed fell short of this target in 2017/18. The scale of this problem had previously been obscured by the fact that many of the underperforming councils publish no statistics on their handling of requests.
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Information Commissioner & Tribunal Decisions – what do they mean in practice?

Photo: Freedom of Information Act 2000

Photo: Campaign for Freedom of Information

When: 14th May 2019
Where: Free Word Centre, 60 Farringdon Road, London EC1R 3GA
Time: 1:00 – 4:30 pm

The Information Commissioner has issued almost 12,500 decision notices under the Freedom of Information Act and Environmental Information Regulations – while the Information Rights Tribunal has published over 2,200 decisions. A significant number of appeals to the Upper Tribunal and courts have also been decided. These complex decisions are essential materials for anyone trying to understand what public authorities must do to comply with the legislation.

This course, now in its 14th year, is aimed at experienced FOI practitioners and others with a good working knowledge of the legislation. It highlights the latest developments in the way the exemptions, public interest test and the legislation’s procedural requirements are being interpreted.
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Scottish Public Information Forum 25 March 2019

The next meeting of the SPIF will be on 25th March 2019 from 1pm – 4.30pm and will be hosted by CVS Inverclyde, Inverclyde Community Hub, 75-81 Cathcart Street, Greenock, PA15 1DE.

An agenda for the meeting is available here.

Registration is free at Eventbrite.

 

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Scottish Public Information Forum 28 September 2018

The Campaign for Freedom of Information in Scotland organised a meeting of the Scottish Public Information Forum (SPIF) on 28th September 2018. The meeting was kindly hosted by Dundee Women’s Aid.

Minutes of the meeting are available here.

Please note the next meeting of the SPIF will be on 25th March 2019 from 1pm – 4.30pm and will be hosted by CVS Inverclyde, Inverclyde Community Hub, 75-81 Cathcart Street, Greenock, PA15 1DE.  Registration will be via Eventbrite so watch out here for more details.

A light lunch will be served from 1pm and the meeting will start at 1.30pm.  For more information about CVS Inverclyde go to https://www.cvsinverclyde.org.uk/

 

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New report proposes extending NHS safety investigation secrecy

A new parliamentary report has been criticised by the Campaign for Freedom of Information and News Media Association for endorsing a proposal that will prevent a new NHS patient safety body from disclosing safety information under the Freedom of Information Act.

A draft government bill to establish the Health Service Investigations Body would also prevent it from disclosing information it holds in connection with any patient safety investigation. The parliamentary committee recommends extending this restriction to any information provided in order to promote patient safety, regardless of whether it relates to an investigation.
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