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Royal Family can’t ignore public’s right to know, insist MSPs

Royal Family can’t ignore public’s right to know, insist MSPs

Plans to let the Royal Family escape the glare of Freedom of Information (FOI) laws in Scotland have been rejected by MSPs who say they should face the same scrutiny as other public bodies.

New laws have been rushed through south of the Border to protect the Royals, and the Scottish Government wants to follow suit. The move comes after a judge ruled that dozens of letters written by Prince Charles to “lobby” the coalition government on various policy areas should be released.

But the SNP Government’s proposals have suffered a setback in a report published by the Nationalist-dominated finance committee at Holyrood today which calls for the royal FOI “exemption” to be ditched. Read more.

Scott McNab | The Scotsman | 2nd November 2012

Earning money as an HMRC informant?

HMRC is paying many thousands of pounds each year to informants who tell them about people who are not declaring all of their income.

Paid informants received £373,780 in 2011/12 which was well up on the previous year’s £309,620.

This information was obtained thanks to the London law firm Reynolds Porter Chamberlain LLP (RPC) who extracted it from HMRC under the Freedom of Information Act. Read more.

Adrian Huston | Belfast Telegraph | 2nd November 2012

Elderly and vulnerable in Government phone rip-off ‘scandal’

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) uses 130 premium rate 0845 phone lines that charge taxpayers up to 40 pence a minute to ring from mobile phones, The Daily Telegraph can disclose.

Lines that charge these fees include those for the Pensions Service and Jobcentre Plus.

Just under 5 million people contacted the DWP’s seven most commonly-used 0845 lines in an eight week period earlier this year, according to information obtained under Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation. This means that around 32 million people ring these numbers over the course of a year. Read more.

James Hall | The Telegraph | 2nd November 2012

Rogues’ gallery: Accident-prone curators damaging the nation’s art

A catalogue of rough handling and mishaps worthy of a slapstick comedy at the country’s top museums and galleries has been disclosed, leaving works by artists ranging from Poussin to Roy Lichtenstein damaged thanks to the staff who are supposed to conserve them.

In one of the more comical incidents, at the National Portrait Gallery, the ornament on a frame around a painting of John Dryden, the 17th century poet, by James Francis Mauber valued at £25,000 was detached after a visitor who was part of a large tour group was accidentally knocked off balance by a security officer and fell onto it.

In all, 199 exhibits have been damaged at or lost or stolen from eight of Britain’s national galleries and museums in the last three years, figures released under the Freedom of Information Act reveal. Read more.

Josie Ensor | The Telegraph | 4th November 2012

One prisoner wrongly freed every week 

One prisoner every week has been freed by mistake from British jails including murderers and sex offenders, alarming new figures reveal.

Officials blamed the blunders on errors such as inmates having the same name as others who were supposed to be freed, incorrect documents and prison sentences calculated wrongly.

A staggering 369 prisoners have been released by mistake since 2005, according to figures released by the Ministry of Justice following a Freedom of Information request by Mail Online. Read more.

Larisa Brown | The Daily Mail | 2nd November 2012

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