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Government ‘hands were tied’ on Ash dieback import ban

Ash dieback: government claimed its ‘hands were tied’ on import ban

The government claimed it was powerless to ban imports of infected trees because its “hands were tied” by EU and world trade rules when it was warned in September 2009 that ash dieback disease could have a huge impact on the British countryside, the Guardian has learned.

Letters between the garden industry’s trade body, the Horticultural Trades Association (HTA), and the Forestry Commission’s plant health service suggest the Labour government knew of the potential seriousness of the disease when the HTA wrote in September 2009 saying Danish forests were seriously affected

The letters were obtained by Friends of the Earth (FoE) under a freedom of information request. FoE’s executive director, Andy Atkins, said: “Urgent lessons must be learnt from this latest fiasco – world trade rules and politics mustn’t be allowed to prevent the Forestry Commission and other wildlife watchdogs from taking action to protect our precious environment. Read more.

John Vidal | The Guardian | 8th November 2012

1,500 children have DNA taken by North Yorkshire Police

MORE than 1,500 children as young as ten have had their DNA swabbed by North Yorkshire Police in the past two years, even if they are not charged with any offence.

Human rights campaigners called the practice “illiberal” and “cruel”, said it conditioned youngsters to think breaches of privacy were normal and said it presumed they would go on to live a life of crime.

Last year, samples were taken from 497 boys and 184 girls aged ten to 17, while in 2010 582 boys and 269 girls were swabbed, according to figures revealed under the Freedom of Information Act. Read more.

Jennifer Bell | York Press | 8th November 2012

Stormont department took 320 days to answer FoI request

A Stormont department behaved contemptuously in waiting almost a year to answer a Freedom of Information request, a court has heard.

A retired civil servant hit out at the time taken to give him details of exemption of teachers in Northern Ireland from fair employment rules.

Jeffrey Dudgeon had brought legal action over the delay.

A judicial review hearing was due on 8 November but the outstanding material was sent to him on 7 November. Read more.

BBC | 8th November 2012

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