Government lawyers defend decision to keep Prince Charles’s letters secret
Government lawyers have defended a decision by the attorney general to keep secret Prince Charles’s lobbying of politicians. They told the high court that Dominic Grieve was entitled to veto the publication of the prince’s letters to government ministers. The lawyers urged the lord chief justice, Lord Judge, and two other judges to reject a legal challenge by the Guardian to see the letters.
Jonathan Swift, the government’s QC, said on Thursday Grieve had acted properly when he kept the letters concealed. For eight years, the government has refused to disclose letters written by the prince to ministers following a freedom of information request by the Guardian.
The heir to the throne has for many years been accused of secretly lobbying ministers to influence government policy. At the heart of the two-day high court hearing is a veto used last October by Grieve to override a verdict by a freedom of information tribunal. Read more
Rob Evans | The Guardian | 9th May 2013
Lambeth Council Management Accused Of Racial Discrimination
A race row about austerity cuts affecting black middle management in local authorities has resurfaced following a complaint by trade union Unison to Lambeth Council.
Earlier this year, the Freedom of Information data revealed a disproportionate number of black and minority ethnic employees that had been let go from their jobs. Diane Abbott, MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, expressed her concerns that councils were using austerity as “a convenient excuse to get rid of certain groups.”
However, Unison has now claimed that senior management is now refusing to hire staff at risk of redundancy to vacant jobs, which they have laid out in a complaint letter and have also accused them of failing to provide vital information for unions to monitor possible racial discrimination. Read more
Mary Isokariari | The Voice | 9th May 2013
USA: Judge backs NYPD’s refusal to detail its surveillance of Muslim community under Freedom of Information Law
Reports detailing the NYPD’s infiltration and surveillance of the Muslim community are not subject to public scrutiny under the Freedom of Information Law, a Manhattan judge ruled Wednesday.
Supreme Court Justice Alexander Hunter said the NYPD acted reasonably when it rejected a FOIL request on those activities by the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund and Muslim Advocates.
The groups sought records about what the police found in the city and tristate area, how they decided where to look, statistics they collected, and legal and policy guidelines that they followed, saying press reports have suggested the NYPD’s targets were chosen because of ethnic and religious identity. Read more
Barbara Ross | New York Daily News | 8th May 2013
HUNGARY: Hungarian NGOs attack curbs on Freedom of Information
Hungarian non-governmental organisations have warned that changes to limit the scope of the country’s Freedom Of Information Act could increase corruption.
Transparency International Hungary, public spending watchdog K-Monitor, the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union and investigative reporting website atlatszo.hu yesterday announced that they were quitting a government-run anti-corruption working group in protest at the law changes.
Their concerns relate to an amendment to Hungary’s Freedom of Information Act tabled by two MPs from the governing Fidesz party on April 28 and passed on April 30 by a special sitting of the country’s Parliament. Read more
Nick Mann | Public Finance International | 9th May 2013