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The Day in FoIA: Experts urge government to protect freedom of information law | British firms muscle in on Middle East | Weapons brought to schools

Experts urge government to protect freedom of information law

The government may clamp down on public access to information through reforms to the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, experts warned during a public conference in London on Tuesday.

A panel of experts discussed issues raised in the Justice Committee’s July post-legislative report on the FOI Act, the first assessment of the act since it was introduced in 2000.

The consensus of the debate, which was held at City University, was that there are powerful forces intent on the watering down, if not the total destruction of the FOI Act.

It was agreed by the panel that the act has been a success and that it has aided the airing of important information  about government and its processes.

Some politicians and decision-makers ‘seem to think releasing public information will lead to civil war,’ said Brendan Montague, panelist and executive director of public interest NGO Request Initiative. ‘The problem is not that it costs £31m to release information but that it costs that amount to keep it secret,’ he said. Read more.

Will Fitzgibbon | The Bureau of Investigative Journalism | 11th October 2012

British firms muscle in on Middle East

The government wants big companies working in the Middle East to use British private armed security firms where possible. They are promoting a private security strategy that was disastrous in Iraq and Afghanistan after discussions with a security company whose director is a Tory donor.

Trade Minister Lord Green runs a “Middle East task force” of company bosses to advice on government policy in the region.

Under Freedom of Information rules [The Morning Star acquired] papers from the task force covering meetings that took place in February 2012 and July 2011. The papers show the task force paid particular attention to the export of armed guards – what we used to call mercenaries. Read more.

Solomon Hughes | The Morning Star | 11th October 2012

Tooled up for school; the shocking number of kids using weapons in classrooms

Pupils are attacking each other with a sickening array of weapons including hammers and imitation guns.

Knives, BB guns and knuckle-dusters were also found on children at schools in the past year.

The Mirror’s nationwide probe discovered [via. Freedom of Information requests to 150 education authorities] a disturbing catalogue of violence that leads to 400 pupils being suspended per DAY because of threatening behaviour.

In one assault a child in Leicester held a knife to a fellow pupil’s throat, and in Derbyshire a seven-year-old was expelled for taking a large carving fork to school. Read more.

Steve Myall | The Mirror | 12th October 2012

Scotland: Alarm bells ring as school call-out numbers rocket

Firefighters have been called out to more than 900 false alarms at schools, nurseries, colleges and universities across the Lothians over the last year.

New figures revealed that around 95 per cent of term-time calls to educational establishments were false alarms and that only a handful were for genuine emergencies, including 37 fires.

The total number of false alarms rose from 873 to 936 between 2010-2011 and 2011-2012, the figures released under Freedom of Information showed.

The unnecessary call-outs were mainly the result of automatic fire alarms (AFAs) going off, although they also included 41 hoax and malicious calls.

Green councillor Gavin Corbett branded the figures “deeply worrying” and said some call-outs were the result of faulty appliances or cooking activity. Read more.

Laura Cummings | The Scotsman | 11th October 2012

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