Latest news

Using the FOI Act, 24 October 2018

Photograph: Samuel Zeller

When: Wednesday 24 October 2018
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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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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Information Commissioner & Tribunal Decisions – what do they mean in practice

Photo: Freedom of Information Act 2000

Photo: Campaign for Freedom of Information

When: 22nd November 2018
Where: Free Word Centre, 60 Farringdon Road, London EC1R 3GA
Time: 1:00 – 4:30 pm

We are sorry but this event has SOLD OUT. If you’d like to go on a waiting list for a place in the event of a cancellation or would be interested in attending a repeat of the course in the near future, please email admin@cfoi.org.uk. If there is sufficient interest we may be able to put on an extra course.

The Information Commissioner has issued over 11,500 decision notices under the Freedom of Information Act and Environmental Information Regulations – while the Information Rights Tribunal has published over 1,800 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 13th 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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Response to the ICO’s call for comments on its draft ‘Regulatory Action Policy’

The Information Commissioner’s Office has invited comments on a draft policy setting out its approach to taking action against those who have breached the legislation it enforces. The Campaign’s response states:

“Although the draft Regulatory Action Policy purports to address the ICO’s policy in relation to all the legislation it enforces, the focus on data protection, and nothing else, is overwhelming. The document gives the impression that all other issues, including freedom of information, have been squeezed off the ICO’s agenda altogether.
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Submission on NHS secrecy to Joint Committee

A Joint Committee of MPs and peers has been set up to consider the Draft Health Service Safety Investigations Bill. The bill establishes a new body called the Health Service Safety Investigations Body (HSSIB) to carry out investigations into safety concerns. It also makes provision for the HSSIB to accredit local NHS trusts to carry out their own investigations.

The Campaign is concerned by a prohibition on disclosure included in the draft bill. As it stands, the HSSIB and accredited NHS trusts would publish reports on their investigations into serious patient safety incidents. But they would be prohibited from making public any other information held in connection with the investigations. The prohibition would override the right of access under the Freedom of Information Act and – it is suggested – the subject access right under the Data Protection Act.

In a submission to the Committee, the Campaign says the reform would deprive the public of two important rights they have enjoyed for years.
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Andy Slaughter MP’s 2nd reading speech

The Freedom of Information (Extension) Bill was due to have its second reading on June 15 2018. The Bill, which was drafted with the assistance of the Campaign for Freedom of Information, was unfortunately not reached. A prolonged debate on the preceding bill consumed all the available Parliamentary time.

This is the speech that Andy Slaughter MP the bill’s promoter would have given had time permitted.
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Parliament to debate bill to bring contractors, housing associations and others under FOI

Information about public services provided by contractors and fire risks at housing associations would be made subject the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act under a private member’s bill introduced by Andy Slaughter the Hammersmith MP. His Freedom of Information (Extension) Bill is to be due for second reading debate in the Commons this Friday, June 15 2018.

At present, information held by contractors delivering public services is only available under FOI if the contract entitles the public authority concerned to that information from the contractor. If the contract is silent, the public has no right to it.

The bill, drafted by the Campaign for Freedom of Information, would bring all contractor-held information about the performance of the contract within the Act’s scope. It could be obtained by a request to the public authority, subject to the Act’s exemptions.
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Using the FOI Act training, 27 June 2018

Photo by G. Crescoli on Unsplash

When: Wednesday 27 June 2018
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, voluntary organisations and researchers 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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Private nursing misconduct hearings part of a move that would conceal NHS safety problems

Proposals to avoid public misconduct hearings for nurses and midwives are part of a “pattern of moves to limit the public’s right to know about NHS safety problems”, says the Campaign for Freedom of Information.

The Campaign says that a new proposal by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) to do away with most public fitness to practise hearings echoes government proposals to keep evidence about safety incidents secret.

Under the NMC proposals, where a nurse or midwife admits to having made an error, the matter will be dealt with in private without the public hearing that now takes place [1]. Reasons for any decision will be published, but there will apparently be no published transcript. “The risk is that failings at a hospital – or by the NMC itself – will be obscured, undermining public confidence in the NHS” the Campaign says.

The same philosophy underpins Department of Health proposals for a new body to investigate significant NHS safety incidents [2]. The Health Service Safety Investigation Body would report on its investigations but be prohibited from revealing unpublished information in response to freedom of information (FOI) requests. The Department says this would allow staff to speak freely to investigators without fear of being unfairly blamed. But the Campaign’s director Maurice Frankel said: “the secrecy would not be limited to information provided by staff involved in safety incidents. It would apply to any information from any source obtained during an investigation, including information from the NHS trust itself, independent experts or a drug or medical device manufacturer. Even test results on equipment or anonymised accounts of previous incidents would be kept secret indefinitely.”

Only limited disclosures would be allowed, for example, to the police, regulatory bodies or other NHS bodies. Journalists or campaign groups would have to persuade the High Court to order disclosure of information which is currently available under FOI.

The Campaign says “the NMC proposals reflect the same disturbing philosophy: that patient safety is best served by addressing problems in private.”

Notes:

[1] The new NMC strategy is set out in a draft consultation paper to be discussed by the NMC board on 28 March 2018
https://www.nmc.org.uk/globalassets/sitedocuments/councilpapersanddocuments/council-2018/council-papers-march-2018.pdf

[2] ‘Draft Health Service Safety Investigations Bill’ published by the Department of Health in September 2017
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/health-service-safety-investigations-bill

Information Commissioner & Tribunal Decisions – what do they mean in practice

Photo: Freedom of Information Act 2000

Photo: Campaign for Freedom of Information

When: 16 May 2018
Where: Free Word Centre, 60 Farringdon Road, London EC1R 3GA
Time: 1:00 – 4:30 pm

The Information Commissioner has issued over 11,000 decision notices under the Freedom of Information Act and Environmental Information Regulations – while the Information Rights Tribunal has published over 1,800 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 13th 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.
Read More