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Hillsborough disaster papers to be released

Two million documents and sensitive Cabinet papers on the 1989 Hillsborough tragedy are to be revealed by the government after a full consultation with the bereaved families, the Independent reports.

The data will shed light on the events that resulted into the deaths of 96 Liverpool fans attending an FA Cup semi-final at Sheffield Wednesday and will include an emergency Cabinet meeting called by Margaret Thatcher, the then Prime Minister.

An independent panel is currently scrutinising the information, most of which is likely to be released next year. At the same time, as the Guardian reports, more than 100,000 people have signed an e-petition calling for “full government disclosure and publication of all documents” following a freedom of information request by the BBC.

The need of transparency is enhanced due to the smear campaign of the Sun who just four days after the disaster presented Liverpool supporters’ alleged “mass drunkness” as the cause. The news story headlined “The Truth”, also made claims about some fans urinating on police and injured fans and picking victims’ pockets as they lay on the pitch.

Although the paper did make attempts to apologise, the publication was deeply traumatising for the victims’ families, with some feeling it swayed public opinion toward believing that version of events.

Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister is backing the release of the documents: “The truth is the best antidote to people’s anger and suspicion, so we have got to get the truth out there. We are saying as a government we will give over all of the Cabinet papers. Everything that is normally the subject of Freedom of Information requests. We give it over to the panel and they can then have discussions with the families.”

Coalition’s links to lobbying under scrutiny

Government ministers meet up with corporate representatives almost two times more than charities and ten times more than union representatives, the Guardian reports. Tamasin Cave, of the lobbying transparency group Spinwatch, said the records are indicative of corporate networks of influence over government but warned they exclude the meetings held in a private capacity.

Cave’s organisation is currently engaged in a freedom of information battle with Cabinet minister Mark Harper who is supervising the coalition’s plan to introduce a lobbying registry. She alleges that Harper is resisting a FoIA request to reveal details of meeting about lobbying transparency.

Alistair Darling struggles for power over the Bank of England

A FoIA request that might reveal details of Alistair Darling’s call for legal aid to overrule Sir Mervyn King is currently under examination, as the Observer reports. According to the newspaper, Thomas Patterson, who is the chief economist of the news service, Gold Made Simple, has asked the Treasury for any documents connected to the chancellor’s call and although the request is covered by two exemptions, the ministry is weighing up the public interest in revealing the information.

Darling’s call for legal advice followed his exasperation with the governor of the Bank of England, who according to his own words “behaved like some kind of Sun King”. The final FoIA reply is expected by 1 November and will reveal important data in a time when the Bank is about to get a whole raft of new powers.

NHS cuts put sick and premature babies’ lives at risk

The lives of Britain’s most vulnerable babies will be jeopardised after the governments recent cuts in nursing staff, as the Independent, the Guardian, the Times and the Telegraph report.

A survey conducted by the charity the Bliss found massive redundancies of nursing posts, freezing of vacancies and positions downgrades that would vulnerable babies’ lives at risk. The findings came after Freedom of Information requests by the charity to all neonatal units in England.

Oxford University invests in US arms manufacturer involved in cluster-bomb trade

FoIA requests submitted by the Independent revealed Oxford University has invested £630,000 in Lockheed Martin, a US defence giant with outstanding contracts to refurbish old stocks of cluster munitions.

Oxford University Endowment Management (OUEM) has also invested in other defence companies but the Lockheed deal is highly controversial because Britain has signed the Cluster Munitions Convention that bans the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of cluster bombs. Apparently the OUEM deal was closed through a loophole in the current legislation.

Council officials have a field day on taxpayer’s expense

An investigation led by the Telegraph hints to a scandal similar to that of the MPs’ expenses. This time the taxpayer-funded expenses of council officials indicate a shocking wastage by the local authorities.

The newspaper reports that more than 100 chief executives are paid more than the Prime Minister and they receive the most generous public sector pension packages in Europe. The documents were obtained after a Freedom of Information request.

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