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Ministers consider clampdown on ‘industrial users’ of Freedom of Information

Ministers consider clampdown on ‘industrial users’ of Freedom of Information

The government is considering how to curb repetitive and overly expensive Freedom of Information requests, a justice minister has said.

Helen Grant said central government had received 47,000 requests in 2011, “at a cost of £8.5m in staff time alone”, with local authorities “also affected”.

“Disproportionate burdens” were being imposed by “what we call ‘industrial users’ of the act”, she said.

But Plaid Cymru MP Elfyn Llwyd said she might be “over-stressing” her case.

In a debate in the Commons’ secondary debating chamber, Westminster Hall, Ms Grant said: “Despite the many benefits that the act has brought, we cannot ignore concerns raised about the burdens that it imposes on public authorities. Read more.

BBC  News | 24th January 2013

Disabled by grenade – now soldier fights for his benefits

A seriously disabled British soldier injured in Iraq is taking the Department for Work and Pensions to a tribunal next week after they cut his carer’s allowance.

Adam Douglas, 45, a former lance corporal with the East and West Riding Regiment (now the Yorkshire Regiment), was wounded in a grenade attack in 2003 and then hurt in an accident in Basra in 2006. He has had more than 20 operations on his spleen and spine but doctors say there is no more they can do. Though he regained some independence after being fitted with a device to help him better control his bowel and bladder functions, he says he still needs help washing and going to the toilet, and regularly uses a wheelchair.

He says that six successive doctors, including three appointed by the DWP, have agreed his injuries are serious.

But assessors from the department have stopped a £70 monthly allowance to Douglas’s wife, Maria, for help with his “bathing and toileting difficulties” after in effect accusing him, he says, of “faking” his injuries. The DWP said he had failed to inform them of a “change in circumstances”, essentially that his health had improved.

He used the Freedom of Information Act to get copies of the three medical reports carried out during the DWP investigation. The DWP uses a scoring range from one to three, three being the greatest level of impediment. Douglas says he scored three on all the back, leg and spinal examinations. Read more.

Helen Pidd and Simon Neville | The Guardian | 24th January 2013

MoD ‘loses’ bayonets from Lympstone training base

A military training centre in Devon has “lost” more than 8,000 pieces of equipment including 115 bayonets since 2008, the BBC has learned.

A list revealed that 8,312 items, including 13 dummy hand grenades and 2,860 pieces of cutlery, had been lost from the Lympstone Commando Centre.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said the public was not in danger.

It added that the term “lost” included misplacements, damaged items or could be the result of poor accounting.

‘Not necessarily mislaid’

The list of items, released to the BBC as part of a Freedom of Information request, included 600 magazine assemblies for the SA80 assault rifle – although no bullets were missing. Read more.

Graham Smith | BBC News | 24th January 2013

Found in Parliament: a rucksack of bananas

Over the past six months, 633 items were deposited with lost property at Westminster, while just 210 were reclaimed, figures obtained via a Freedom of Information request revealed.

Among the items taken to the office, which serves both the House of Commons and the House of Lords, were £335.88 in cash – including 20 £5 notes – plus €100 (£85), and bank cards.

Bizarre food items on the list included bananas in a rucksack, peppers in a plastic bag and two jars of orange marmalade. Read more.

The Telegraph | 25th January 2013

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