Briefings

Briefing on secrecy in the Health Service Safety Investigations Bill

The Campaign for Freedom has produced a briefing for second reading of the Health Service Safety Investigations Bill in the House of Lords on 29th October 2019.

We are concerned about a prohibition on the disclosure of information contained in the Bill. Under the bill, the Health Service Safety Investigations Body (HSSIB) would investigate selected NHS patient safety accidents or incidents and publish a report on each investigation. But it would be prohibited from making public any other information held in connection with its functions, except in limited circumstances. The prohibition would remove the right of access under the Freedom of Information Act and the right of individuals to see their own personal data under data protection legislation. Moreover, disclosure of protected information, other than in limited circumstances, would be an offence.

The prohibition is said to be necessary:

‘to create a ‘safe space’ within which participants can provide information for the purposes of an investigation in confidence and therefore feel able to speak openly and candidly with the HSSIB.’

If the purpose was to provide a safe space for participants it might be thought that what would be protected would be information likely to identify such a person, whether by name or position or indirectly from the content of what was said. In fact the prohibition on disclosure is not limited in this way.

It applies to any information held ‘in connection with’ the HSSIB’s function that is not already published, whether or not it relates to an identifiable individual, whether or not it relates to an identifiable investigation and whether or not it is capable of deterring participants from speaking frankly to investigators, inhibiting investigators in reaching their conclusions or causing any other adverse effect at all.

We think it is disproportionate and – given the substantial protection for sensitive information in the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act – unnecessary.

Read the full briefing.

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Bring housing associations and public service contractors under FOI

The Campaign for Freedom of Information has drafted a bill which would bring both housing associations and private contractors providing public services under the Freedom of Information Act.

Housing associations

Housing associations are not subject to the FOI Act and can refuse to answer requests about fire risks, safety problems, eviction policies, waiting lists and other matters.
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FOI implications of the Justice Committee’s report on Courts and Tribunals Fees

The Justice Committee’s report on Courts and Tribunal Fees has endorsed the proposal, made by the Independent Commission on Freedom of Information that the right of appeal to the First-tier Tribunal (FTT) under the Freedom of Information Act should be abolished. The Committee does not appear to have examined the case for this change itself. It simply reported that it saw no reason to disagree with the Commission’s view. The Campaign believes that if the proposal went ahead, it would significantly undermine the operation of the Act.
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Fees for FOI appeals

The Ministry of Justice is consulting on proposals that fees should be introduced for appeals to the Tribunal against Information Commissioner FOI decisions. The proposals would have serious implications for individual FOI requesters and the general public. However, figuring out precisely where these proposals can be found is a little tricky.
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FOI and policy advice

The Campaign has published this briefing explaining how the Information Commissioner and Tribunal have protected the ‘safe space’ and genuinely frank discussions from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act.
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Joint NGO briefing on Part 4 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill

The Campaign has joined a coalition of more than 30 NGOs urging peers to support amendments to Part 4 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill, which proposes significant restrictions on the procedure for judicial review.
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Delayed implementation of the Freedom of Information Act

Briefing for a debate on 5 December 2001 in the House of Lords on a motion calling for earlier implementation of the FOI Act’s right of access for central government.

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Government to abandon FOI timetable?

Following The Guardian’s recent reports that implementation of the Freedom of Information Act may be significantly delayed, the Campaign has produced a briefing describing the damaging consequences of this. The delay would contradict what MPs were told as the Act went through Parliament and would defer the new rights of access beyond the point that anyone imagined possible. It would also be the least practicable of all available solutions, likely to magnify the potential difficulties of implementation both for public authorities and the Information Commissioner.

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Local government and openness: briefing for a Lords debate

Briefing for the Lords debate on the Regulations for access to information and meetings in local authorities, held on 8 February 2001. It explains the Campaign’s concern that the Regulations could lead to greater secrecy in local government.

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FOI Bill: Lords Third Reading Briefing

Briefing for the Lords Third Reading Stage of the Freedom of Information Bill on 22nd November, containing notes on selected amendments which the Campaign supported. It also explains in more detail why the Campaign does not accept the claim made by the Liberal Democrat peers that their amendments to clause 2 effectively transform the bill’s class exemptions into ‘prejudice’ exemptions.

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