NHS risk register’s publication vetoed by cabinet
The official assessment of the risks involved in the government’s NHS shakeup will never be published after the cabinet exercised its rare right of veto to keep it secret.
The move ends a 19-month campaign by the Labour MP John Healey for publication of the Department of Health’s own analysis of the damage its radical NHS overhaul may cause.
Andrew Lansley, the health secretary, said…”The Freedom of Information Act always contemplated such a ‘safe space’ and I believe effective government requires it. That is why cabinet has today decided to veto the release of the department’s transition risk register. Had we not taken this decision, it is highly likely that future sensitive risk registers would turn into anodyne documents, and be worded quite differently with civil servants worrying about how they sound to the public rather than giving ministers frank policy advice.”
Denis Campbell | The Guardian | 8th May 2012
Just three out of 200 suspected war criminals have been kicked out of ‘safe haven’ Britain.
Just three of the 200 suspected war criminals found in Britain in the past 18 months have been removed from the country.
Suspects identified by border officials are accused of systematic killing, torture and rape in countries such as Afghanistan, Rwanda and Zimbabwe. More than 30 have been given the right to stay here.
Campaign groups said the figures showed Britain was a ‘safe haven’ for war criminals.
Home Office figures, released under Freedom of Information rules, showed that more than 800 people were investigated between June 2010 and the end of last year over potential involvement in war crimes.
Jack Doyle | The Daily Mail | 8th May 2012
UK Border Agency paid £3.5m in bonuses
The UK Border Agency (UKBA) – recently branded “not fit for purpose” – paid £3.5m in performance-related bonuses to staff in one year, the BBC has learned.
Passengers recently faced prolonged queues to enter the UK at London’s Heathrow airport, while the UKBA’s computer ID system failed on 3 May.
The figures from a Freedom of Information request show the highest bonuses in the past year were £10,000.
Ed Davey | BBC | 9th May 2012
The permanent secretary of the Department of Health, Una O’Brien, is opposing the information commissioner’s ruling for the government to reveal the risk assessments of the government’s NHS reforms, The Guardian reports.
The secretary said that publishing the documents under the Freedom of Information Act would have a “chilling effect” on the way civil servants tasked with outlining the potential pitfalls of a policy express their views.
O’Brien defended her position in front of an information rights tribunal after ICO’s Christopher Graham, ordered Andrew Lansley to release the risk assessments.
She also expressed her concern that the documents could “be interpreted and mispresented”. “If taken out of context, my own judgment is that they would lead to a distorted and wildly speculative interpretation of risk,” she said.
But The Guardian mentions that John Healey, the former shadow health secretary who submitted a FoIA request for the transition risk register, stressed “the need for reassurance about the possible consequences” of the shakeup is “greater now than when I made my disclosure request”.
Almost a thousand sex offenders remain untraceable
The Times reports that since September 1 last year the whereabouts of 843 registered sex offenders are unknown, with 690 of these having been untraceable for more than a year. The figures were released after FoIA requests to the National Policing Improvement Agency.
More than three million wasted over NHS’s IT project
The Pennine Care Trust lost over £3.2m over the last three years preparing for the NHS IT project Lorenzo, The Times reports. The data was disclosed after a FoIA request by the newspaper, relating to the patient record system that was finally scrapped last year.
Hundreds of paedophiles revealed under Sarah’s Law
Families turning to the Sarah’s Law scheme have exposed the identities of 157 paedophiles since last April, FoIA requests by The Sun have revealed.
A Freedom of Information investigation by the Mail on Sunday has revealed worrying links of an international management consultancy to the controversial Health and Social Care Bill.
McKinsey and Company has paid for a lavish trip to New York worth approximately £6,200 for David Bennett, the head of the NHS regulator Monitor and former executive of McKinsey. Another former executive of the company who is now Monitor’s director of strategy, Adrian Masters and Monitor’s chief operating officer, Stephen Hay, were also taken out with their families to see Cirque du Soleil, courtesy of McKinsey’s director Nicolaus Henke.
Mr Bennett has not broken the law but as a former McKinsey executive, he should have known he was ‘displaying questionable’ because of Monitor’s future role, which is being massively expanded by Health Secretary Andrew Lansley’s reform bill.
The company has already benefited from contracts worth undisclosed millions with GPs arising from the Bill and the report mentions numerous former McKinsey employees are already embedded in jobs which are critical if the reforms are fully enacted.
The documents were released after an eight-month Freedom of Information Act probe by Spinwatch’s researcher Tamasin Cave, who said the Department of Health has refused many FoI requests on the grounds that McKinsey advice which has shaped the Bill was ‘provided in confidence’, or was subject to ‘commercial confidentiality’.
Thousand of police officers take up extra jobs
A FoIA request by The Times has revealed the number of police officers taking up second jobs has tripled over the last three years. A parliamentary committee has already pledged to investigate potential conflicts of interest arising from the officers’ part-time jobs.
An Irish environmental disaster that could be averted
Ireland’s National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) and the Mayo county council have been heavily criticised for their failure to protect the country’s largest colony of rare freshwater pearl mussels, the Sunday Times reported. Correspondence between the two bodies that was released after a FoIA request by Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE) shows three scientists had warned against the repair works on the nearby Delphi bridge that resulted in the smothering of young mussels in a “matter of hours”.
Ed Balls slammed after FoIA revelations
Education Secretary Michael Gove has attacked former Labour minister Ed Balls for leaving thousands of kids scrambling for a place in primary schools. The Sun reports that a FoIA investigation showed Balls was warned the UK was in the middle of a baby boom and the country was to face a serious rise in nursery and primary pupils. Despite that, Balls cut the budget for extra school places to £419m but with schools now swamped, the Coalition has trebled it to £1.3billion.
Flight Lieutenant Joseph Pasquini has found huge discrepancies between the data he collected following the UK’s biggest nuclear test blast at Christmas Island in the Pacific on 28 April, 1958 and those those issued by the MoD and the Atomic Weapons Results Establishment, the Independent reports.
Pasquini said: “I made several Freedom of Information requests and looked at the readings officially given and they were utterly false. My records for the MoD and AWRE are inaccurate. I didn’t say anything for 50 years because I was sworn to secrecy by the Official Secrets Act, and not even my wife knew what I knew. But people need to know the truth about what happened.”
Freedom of Information legislation abused to intimidate researchers
Freedom of information laws are being used as tools of intimidation against scientists and university researchers, forcing them to reveal unpublished manuscripts, according to an article in the Independent. Sir Paul Nurse, president of the Royal Society, criticised the way scientists involved in contentious research such as tobacco use and climate change are pressured to disclose part of their work.
Last September, the Independent reported that Stirling University was fighting an FoIA request by tobacco giant Philip Morris International, which sought access to thousands of confidential interviews with British teenagers as part of the university’s investigation.
Health Secretary ordered to release NHS reforms Strategic Risk documents
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley has been told by the Information Commissioner to disclose the Strategic Risk Register for the NHS reforms under the FoIA after a 12-month battle. The Daily Mirror reports the request was logged by Labour’s former Shadow Health Secretary John Healey.
Local councils cash in millions of pounds from parking services
A FoIA request filed by the Co-operative Motor Group has revealed a steep rise in the amount of money local councils make from parking services. As The Telegraph reports, local authorities have received an extra £184 million from parking charges in the years 2008 to 2010, compared to 2007.
UK Schools don’t know where their food comes from
Only 30 per cent of local education authorities know the country of origin of school food, a FoIA request by the Countryside Alliance Foundation has revealed according to the Telegraph.
Sure Start Centres funding slashed all across UK
The Sunday Mirror’s FoIA investigation into English local councils’ spending on Sure Start Centres showed that 90 per cent will reduce their funding next year. Sure Start Centres were set up by Labour in 1998 with a pledge to tackle child poverty, give children the best possible start in life and provide a lifeline to young mums as a place to meet other parents.