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Jack Straw calls for Freedom of Information Act to be rewritten

The Labour Cabinet minister responsible for the Freedom of Information Act has called for it to be rewritten.

Jack Straw claimed that minutes were not taken of some “high level” meetings in order not to leave a paper trail while other important decisions would be made by text message, reducing accountability rather than increasing it.

He said that senior civil servants feared “horrific detail” from their notebooks about their ministers’ “streams of consciousness” would be made public under the transparency law, which he passed as Home Secretary in 2000.

Mr Straw said some discussions between ministers and officials about the formation of policy and the risks of certain decisions should be protected from disclosure, in order to allow a frank exchange of views.

But Mr Straw is only the latest in a series of senior politicians and mandarins to regret the scope of the FOI Act, which has laid bare Government spending, suppressed reports and the development of policy, often in embarrassing detail

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Martin Beckford | The Telegraph | 17th April 2012

‘Thousands of children’ to lose legal aid in shake-up

Thousands of children will lose access to legal aid under government plans to shake up the system, campaigners say.

Child rights group JustRights analysed government data obtained from a series of Freedom of Information (FOI) requests.

It claims 6,000 children, or 13% of those who receive help with legal-aid costs, will lose it in the reforms.

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Hannah Richardson | BBC | 17th April 2012

BBC redundancy payments cost almost £277m in seven years 

The BBC has spent just under £277m in redundancy payments to nearly 6,000 staff in the past seven years, according to figures obtained by MediaGuardian.

Between March 2005 and February 2012 the BBC paid out £276,833,465 in redundancy payments to the 5,992 staff, according to the figures which have been obtained from a freedom of information request.

This makes the average redundancy payment just over £46,200 for each member of staff who took either compulsory or voluntary redundancy from the BBC during that period. Some of the redundancy payouts include extra money paid in lieu of holiday owed to staff

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Ben Dowell | The Guardian | 17th April 2012

Minicab boss granted meeting with transport minister after Tory donation

The chairman of a minicab company that wants access to London’s restricted bus lanes was granted a private meeting with the transport secretary at which they discussed the matter after his firm donated £250,000 to the Conservative party.

John Griffin, the chairman of Addison Lee, met Philip Hammond last October and raised the question of access to the lanes. He also pushed the idea that the government should outsource chauffeur services for ministers to private companies.

Addison Lee, which has 3,500 vehicles in the capital, gave the Conservatives £100,000 last year, and £50,000 a year in each of the three previous years.

Minutes of the meeting with Hammond, released under the Freedom of Information Act, sparked opposition calls for the government to explain whether the donation and the meeting were linked.

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Robert Booth | The Guardian | 16th April 2012

Security fears 8,500 military ID cards lost or stolen in one year

About 9,000 military identity cards were lost or stolen last year despite a huge anti-terror clampdown ahead of the Olympics.

The number of missing ID passes for the Army, Navy and RAF is more than double the figure from 2007 and 2008 combined.

Figures revealed by a Daily Mirror Freedom of ­Information request show numbers of “lost” cards reached a five-year high, with some 750 disappearing every month.

Read more here.

Chris Hughes | The Mirror | 18th April 2012

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