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A day in FoIA: ‘Absolute secrecy’ law for royals criticised by Information Commissioner, Climate change minister gave adviser preferential access,Proposed bill would save the NHS hundreds of millions of pounds



‘Absolute secrecy’ law for royals criticised by Information Commissioner


Plans by the Scottish government to keep any communication between ministers and the royal family secret are in direct conflict with the public interest, MSPs are to hear.

Scotland’s Information Commissioner has described proposed reforms to freedom of information law as setting a “worrying precedent”.

Rosemary Agnew is due to give evidence to Holyrood’s Finance Committee.

It is looking at changes to the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Bill.

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Raymond Buchanan| BBC | September 12th 2012


Climate change minister gave adviser ‘preferential access


Mr Barker held a meeting with an energy firm that was a commercial client of Miriam Maes while she was working at the Department for Energy and Climate Change, internal emails show.

The emails, released under the Freedom of Information Act to the Guardian, detail contacts between the minister and Ms Maes, who worked with Mrs Barker before the Conservatives came to power.

Labour suggested that she had been able to use her position at the department to get “preferential access” for her clients and likened the situation to the one that forced Liam Fox to quit the Cabinet last year.

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James Kirkup| The Telegraph | September 12th 2012


COLUMN by Henry Smith MP: Proposed bill would save the NHS hundreds of millions of pounds


Yesterday in Parliament I introduced a Bill called NHS Audit Requirements (Foreign National). Last year’s figures showed that whilst the under the European Health Insurance Card Scheme alone, the UK paid out £1.7 billion for the treatment of British nationals abroad, we only claimed back £125 million from qualifying countries. 

Freedom of Information Act requests have shown that most NHS trusts at best only cursorily audit the treatment of foreign nationals not entitled to automatic free healthcare and GP practices do not record this information at all, despite in many other countries access to primary care having a nominal charge for all patients, including British visitors. This is the case in countries like France and Germany where an entry fee for primary care is required or in Spain where proof of insurance is needed.

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Crawley Observer| September 12th 2012



Banned in London: The ‘hidden’ rules which forbid you from walking dogs or standing with a friend


Dog-walking, handing out leaflets and drinking alcohol in public have been banned in more than 400 different zones across London, new research claims.

A libertarian group says people are unwittingly at risk of fines for the innocuous activities if they accidentally stray into the specified areas, which are often unmarked and in parks or open spaces.

The Manifesto Club has now drawn up a map showing the 435 zones where police and local authority staff can prosecute. Certain areas in parks have long been designated free from dogs because of health risk from fouling or risk of attacks.

But under the Dog Control Order Regulations 2006, councils have also been allowed to set up dog exclusion zones, within which local authority officials can issue penalties of £80 to anyone who lets a pet off its lead or allows it into a restricted area.

A Freedom of Information request issued by the organisation has revealed there are now 219 of these zones in London, with a total of 56 fines handed out in 2011-12.


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Benedict Moore-Bridger| The Standard | September 12th 2012 

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