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Posts Tagged ‘climate change’

Nuclear power sites at risk of flooding and eroding, FoIA shows

A FoIA request by the Guardian has revealed that 12 of Britain’s 19 civil nuclear sites are at risk of flooding and coastal erosion because of climate change.

The analysis was conducted by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) as part of a major investigation into the impact of climate change on the UK.

Nine of the sites have been assessed by Defra as being vulnerable now, while others are in danger from rising sea levels, storms and erosion by the 2080s.

The sites include all of the eight proposed for new nuclear power stations around the coast, as well as numerous radioactive waste stores, operating reactors and defunct nuclear facilities.

Many of the sites date back to the 1950s and 1960s, and are unlikely to be fully decommissioned for decades.

Experts suggested the main concern was of inundation causing nuclear waste leaks. “Sea level rise, especially in the south-east of England, will mean some of these sites will be under water within 100 years,” said David Crichton, a flood specialist at the hazard research centre at University College London.

The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority said flood risk at every site was reviewed at least every 10 years. A spokesman said: “Power stations are designed with flood protection measures to protect against a one-in-10,000-year flood event and planning requirements state that new nuclear plants are also designed to take account of climate change impacts.”

But Greenpeace accused the government and nuclear industry of covering up the real extent of flood and erosion risk.

Council tenancy fraud shock

90% of council house tenancy fraud goes undetected, with unlawful subletting and people transferring their homes on to relatives being the most common scam, the Daily Mirror reports.

A FoIA by Callcredit Information Group reveals that nearly three quarters of all local authorities failed to find a single case of such frauds in 2011.

However crooked tenants were caught by 85% of councils, which had specialist fraud teams.Andrew Davis of Callcredit said: “The social housing waiting list exceeds 2.3 million and tenancy fraud is endemic across all areas.

“Clearly councils with fraud investigation teams are beginning to yield results.” The National Fraud Authority says council tenancy fraud costs £1billion a year.

Information Tribunal about sceptic charity donor receives global coverage

The climate sceptic Global Warming Policy Foundation is a “highly connected political lobbying machine” and the Charity Commission should therefore disclose the name of its seed funder, a barrister told the Information Rights Tribunal according to a report in The Times on Saturday.

The Guardian, the Brisbane Times as well as the blogs DeSmogBlog and Climate Progress also reported Friday’s Information Tribunal hearing where Brendan Montague, the director of Request Initiative, asked judge Alison McKenna to disclose the name of the seed funder of Lord Lawson’s climate sceptic charity.

Robin Hopkins, representing Brendan Montague, was quoted in the Times on Saturday describing the GWPF as a “highly connected political lobbying machine” and arguing that the identity of the donor that made the launch of the foundation possible could not be “of greater relevance or greater impact”.

Mr Montague has appealed the Information Commissioner’s decision to withhold the name of the Global Warming Policy Foundation’s seed funder. The Guardian published two letters on the day of the tribunal signed by scientists and experts supporting Mr Montague’s request, having reported on the tribunal hearing the previous Monday.

The editors in chief of the British Medical Journal (BMJ) and the Lancet signed an open letter stating: “Although Lawson and his Global Warming Policy Foundation have been discredited and attacked by numerous scientists and senior politicians, his thinktank continues to receive significant coverage, wrongfully distorting the public and policy debate over climate change.” The second letter was written by Dr Robin Russell Jones, the chair of Planetary SOS.

The Brisbane Times quoted Clive Hamilton, professor of public ethics at Australia’s Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics, who said: “The public should know who is funding climate denial so they can properly judge the information put out by organisations like the Global Warming Policy Foundation.”

Joe Romm’s US based Climate Progress hosted a guest blog post by leading climate scientist James Hansen who warned: “Public doubt about the science is not an accident. People profiting from business-as-usual fossil fuel use are waging a campaign to discredit the science. Their campaign is effective because the profiteers have learned how to manipulate democracies for their advantage.”

The Canadian DeSmogBlog highlighted GWPF’s scale of influence, using one statement found on the thinktank’s website: “The key to the success of the GWPF is the trust and credibility that we have earned in the eyes of a growing number of policy makers, journalists and the interested public.”

The Freedom of Information request was made by Mr Montague in a personal capacity in mid-2010 before the launch of the Request Initiative, a not-for-profit community interest company which makes requests on behalf of charities, NGOs and those acting in the public interest.

He said: “A thorough understanding of the act and extensive research allowed me to keep the legal fees extremely reasonable and I am therefore able to cover them personally. Request was established with the aim of making transparency laws in the UK accessible to charities of all sizes and budgets despite the legal complexity of using the tribunals.”

Criminals intimidate victims via social media

Convicted criminals, including murderers have taunted victims and their families over social networks, sometimes even from behind bars, The Daily Mail and The Daily Express report. Figures released by the Ministry of Justice under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that 143 Facebook profiles used for intimidation have been removed between July 2009 and June 2010. Another 199 were removed between July 2010 and June last year.

Cabinet Office official attacks lobbying reform campaigners

In the run-up to the publication of the Government’s controversial consultation paper on lobbying regulation, the Cabinet Office rejected an FoIA request to disclose details of its contacts with the lobbying industry, The Independent reports. Eirian Walsh-Atkins, head of constitutional policy at the Cabinet Office and in charge of drawing up plans to regulate lobbying posted on Friday a message on Twitter saying she hoped a group fighting for better regulation of the industry “would die”. The Times later reported the Cabinet Office apologized for her remarks and stated she will remain employed in another role while an investigation continues.

Lord Lawson should name funder of climate sceptic think tank, judge told

THERE IS “enormous public interest” in naming the climate sceptic Global Warming Policy Foundation’s seed donor and “a pressing need to scrutinise” any links he has with the oil and coal industry, an information tribunal judge heard today (Friday, January 27, 2012).

Brendan Montague, the co-founder and director of the Request Initiative, asked the tribunal to reveal the name of the wealthy public figure who gave £50,000 to launch Lord Lawson’s think tank, an increasingly influential charity which attacks climate science and has called for changes to climate policies.

Mr Montague’s initial Freedom of Information request was refused by the Charity Commission in 2010 and that decision was upheld by the Information Commissioner on the grounds that it would be “unfair” to release personal data without permission from the funder.

However, Mr Montague took the case to the Information Tribunal arguing there is a “legitimate public interest” in releasing the name because the cash has financed Lord Lawson’s charity while it has been calling for huge changes in government policy. The donor handed over at least £50,000 out of a total of £500,000 raised by Lord Lawson in the first year of the foundation’s existence.

Mr Montague was represented at the hearing by barrister Robin Hopkins who has been instructed by Harrison Grant.

The public interest argument has been supported by professor James Hansen, adjunct professor at the Columbia University Earth Institute and one of the first influential voices to warn of catastrophic climate change. Hansen has been joined by professors John Abraham and Stephen Lewandowsky in his calls for transparency on the GWPF’s funders.

Professor Naomi Oreskes, the author of the book Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming, which documents how US think tanks were funded by the oil industry to smear climate science, and Clive Hamilton, a professor of public ethics and author of Requiem for Species: Why We Resist the Truth About Climate Change, are also supporting the request.

Dr Fiona Godlee, editor in chief of the British Medical Journal; Dr Richard Horton, editor in chief of the Lancet; Hugh Montgomery, professor of intensive care medicine; Anthony Costello, professor of international child health; Rachel Stancliffe, director of the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare; Dr Robin Stott, co-chair of the Climate and Health Council and Maya Tickell-Painter, director of the Medsin Healthy Planet Campaign, have publicly supported the Freedom of Information request, although this does not form part of the hearing.

Mr Hopkins told the judge:

“There is enormous public interest in transparency as to who that individual is. There is a pressing need to scrutinise whether or not that person has any ‘significant interest’ in the energy industry. It appears that the Charity Commission makes no attempt to address that issue – it is left entirely in the hands of the GWPF itself.

“Further, it is important that the public knows which high-profile figure has this degree of influence within GWPF. Parliament’s Science and Technology Select Committee has expressed this public interest and has pressed for transparency on the issue of GWPF’s donors. It has been stonewalled.”

Professor Hansen, whose testimony before the United States Congress in 1988 focused international attention on climate change, writes in his witness statement:

Climate change is a moral issue of unprecedented scope, a matter of intergenerational injustice, as today’s adults obtain benefits of fossil fuel use, while consequences are felt mainly by young people and future generations…

“The fossil fuel kingpins are separated from the foot soldiers who serve as their public mouthpieces, separated by multiple layers of people, and even by corporations…the public has the right to know who is supporting the foot soldiers for business-as-usual and to learn about the web of support for the propaganda machine that serves to keep the public addicted to fossil fuels and destroys the future of their children.”

Professor John Abraham, associate professor of engineering with expertise in thermal-fluid sciences at the University of St Thomas in Australia, said:

“The GWPF has been engaged in significant obfuscation with respect to the reality of climate change and they have been engaged in unwarranted criticisms of well-respected scientists…

“It is a charade institution meant to suggest that scientists are still debating the cause of climate change. With it now apparent that the scientist-advisors of the GWPF are anything but scientists, it is clear that this organization is tailored to promote mistruths and half-truths. Consequently, the release of information regarding the funding of GWPF is in the public’s interest.”

Professor Stephen Lewandowsky, a Winthrop professor in the School of Psychology at the University of Western Australia, said:

“The GWPF has engaged in on-going obfuscation of the reality of climate change and they have been purveying unwarranted criticisms of well-respected scientists. I believe that the GPWF is an outfit dedicated to mislead the public into thinking that climate scientists are still debating the cause of climate change— when in fact the peer-reviewed literature abounds with evidence that those fundamentals were resolved long ago.”

Professor Naomi Oreskes, professor of history and science studies at the University of California, San Diego and adjunct professor of geosciences at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, said:

“The Global Warming Policy Foundation is the latest incarnation of a climate sceptic think tank that conforms to the model first devised by public relations firms working on behalf of the tobacco industry… The website of the Global Warming Policy Foundation publishes many of the claims devised and propagated by the earlier climate change deniers.

The Global Warming Policy Foundation is practicing climate denial and effectively creating doubt about whether climate change is being caused by carbon dioxide emissions while actively campaigning for changes in government policy relating to the regulation of carbon dioxide. In doing so, it is clearly acting in the interests of the fossil fuel industry and against the general public interest.”

Professor Clive Hamilton, professor of public ethics at the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics at Charles Sturt [correct] University, Canberra, said:

“The reluctance of governments around the world to act with the alacrity and seriousness warranted by the scientific warnings has in substantial measure been due to the campaign to discredit climate science by a network of well funded think tanks and related organisations.

“The Global Warming Policy Foundation advances the same arguments put forward by ‘sceptic’ organisations in the United States, and has links to some of them…when assessing the claims of the GWPF the public has a right to know who is funding it.

“Given the enormous states, the conflicting claims, and the shadowy but now well documented history of financing of sceptic organisations by politically motivated corporations and individuals connected to the fossil-fuel industries, the principle of transparency is of utmost importance, and I urge the Information Rights Tribunal to instruct the Charity Commission to make public the funding sources of the GWPF.”

Tribunal judge Alison McKenna is expected to reach a decision within four weeks. She will either decide the name must be disclosed in which case she will produce a substitute decision notice which the Information Commissioner’s Office will then communicate to the Charity Commission. It is possible the judge could ask for the name to be released within 35 days of the decision notice. If the judge rules against publishing the donor’s name, the case may be appealed to the Upper Tribunal on legal grounds.

The Global Warming Policy Foundation was founded in November 2009 ahead of the Copenhagan conference on climate change. The foundation has received £500,000 in funding from individuals and family trusts. Lord Lawson has refused to reveal the name of any of his funders.

Lord Lawson gave evidence before the Science and Technology Committee in the House of Commons in March 2010 where he accused the University of East Anglia of failing to be transparent about climate science.

He said:

“We are absolutely clean. I would be very happy to see the names of all our donors published, I can assure you, it would be very, very good.

“But if they wish to remain anonymous, for whatever reason, maybe they have other family members who take a different view and they do not want to have a row within the family, maybe they do not want a whole lot of other people asking them for money…”

A photocopy of a bank statement showing the name of the seed donor was sent by Lord Lawson to the Charity Commission to prove he had the cash to set up the charity. The commission has refused to release the name or the bank statement. The commission does not hold information about any of the other funders.

Research conducted by the Reuters Institute of the Study of Journalism has shown that the GWPF has been the country’s most effective climate sceptic organisation, while Bob Ward of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change has argued that information published by the charity is inaccurate.

Lord Lawson served as energy minister under Margaret Thatcher. He was later president of the British Institute of Energy Economics, which fosters links between the oil industry, government and academia and has been sponsored by BP and Shell. A Mike Smith from BP was chairman of the BIEE in 2003 during Lawson’s last year as president.

Lawson is chairman of Central Europe Trust Co Ltd, a consultancy business dealing in assets in Eastern Europe for which he has earned £76,000 a year. The company, in which Lawson was previously a shareholder, boasts that BP Amoco and Shell have been major clients. The company suffered losses and Lawson no longer has a financial stake.


Jim Hansen backs FOIA fight for sceptic Lord Lawson’s secret funder

Climate scientists will call on a British judge to disclose the identity of the seed funder to Lord Lawson’s climate sceptic think tank the Global Warming Policy Foundation, the Guardian reports today.

Professor James Hansen, adjunct professor at the Columbia University Earth Institute and one of the first scientists to warn of catastrophic climate change, is supporting a Freedom of Information request, saying the public interest will be served by ending the secrecy around the financing of Lord Lawson’s London based charity.

Scientists professor John Abraham and professor Stephen Lewandowsky have also supported the request that the Charity Commission publish the name on a bank statement, next to £50,000 handed to the GWPF by an anonymous donor, at an Information Rights Tribunal on Friday, January 27, 2012.

Professor Naomi Oreskes, the author of the book Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming which documents how US think tanks were funded by the oil industry to smear climate science, and Clive Hamilton, a professor of public ethics and author of Requiem for a Species: Why We Resist the Truth About Climate Change are also supporting the request.

The tribunal hearing is taking place following an appeal by Brendan Montague, the director of the Request Initiative, of the Information Commissioner’s Office decision not to force the Charity Commission to release the name of the donor.

Mr Montague has to persuade the judge it would be “fair” under the Data Protection Act to publish the donor’s name against his wishes because the public has a legitimate interest in having the information. The donor contributed £50,000 out of a total of £500,000 raised by Lord Lawson in the first year of the foundation’s existence.

Research conducted by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism has shown that the GWPF has been the country’s most effective climate sceptic think tank in terms of public relations, while Bob Ward of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change has questioned the scientific information published by the GWPF.

Mr Montague said:

“Lord Lawson’s charity is lobbying government for changes in climate and energy policy that would affect the lives of millions of people. This case is motivated by the belief that the public has a right to know who is funding this work.

“Request Initiative has been established because there is a serious lack of accountability in public life. We are asking the judge in this case to recognise the overriding public interest in transparency around climate change above the privacy of one single wealthy individual. We know this is a difficult legal balancing act but hope the judge will come down on the side of the public.”

The Global Warming Policy Foundation was founded by Lord Lawson in November 2009 ahead of the Copenhagan conference on climate change. He appeared before parliament to accuse the Climatic Research Unit of the University of East Anglia of not being transparent about its climate change science.

The foundation has received £500,000 in funding from secret donors. A photocopy of a bank statement showing the name of the seed donor was sent by Lord Lawson to the Charity Commission to prove he had the cash to run the charity. The commission has refused to release the name or the bank statement.

Lord Lawson has worked closely with the oil industry since serving as energy minister under Margaret Thatcher. He has previously been president of the British Institute of Energy Economics, which fosters links between the oil industry, government and academia and has been sponsored by BP and Shell. A Mike Smith from BP was chairman of the BIEE in 2003 during Lawson’s last year as president.

Lawson has also been chairman of, and a shareholder in, Central Europe Trust Ltd, a consultancy business dealing in assets in Eastern Europe which has boasted BP Amoco and Shell as major clients, on a salary of £76,000 per annum. Lawson no longer has a financial stake.

Debate highlights conflict between FoIA transparency and scientific confidentiality

The Index On Censorship’s “Is Transparency Bad For Science?” debate was timely arriving in the wake of the second release of emails hacked from the University of East Anglia, writes Sophia Ignatidou.

Imperial College yesterday hosted a panel comprising philosopher Baroness O’Neill, Wellcome Trust’s director Sir Mark Walport, journalist and campaigner George Monbiot, Professor David Colquhoun and chaired by the Guardian’s Jo Glanville. The panellists discussed transparency, public’s right to know, scientists’ responsibilities and Freedom of Information Act’s efficiency and limitations.

Baroness Onora O’Neill commented on transparency’s ambiguous meaning: “Transparency is a form of quasi communication, not necessarily a form of communication. I think what matters for science and what matters for democracy is communication not quasi communication.”

She also appeared wary of the Protection of Freedoms Bill, concerned that once it becomes law it will mandate public authorities to proactively release datasets in a reusable format. “It’s important to allow competent others to check and challenge data,” she said, making it clear there should be a clarification of who is to receive the information. She argued that time of disclosure is another serious matter to be taken into consideration, as datasets should be released when they are “completed and checked”.

Monbiot took an opposing view in the issue of competence. He said: “That actually shouldn’t be what FOI is about. And if you heard a civil servant say that or someone working for the Ministry of Defence or the Treasury say that, you would say this is an outrageous intrusion of our freedom and our right to know.”

Throughout the debate he stressed one should not separate scientists from the rest of the civil servants: “If that’s the rule for one branch of government employees then it should be the same rule elsewhere. You can’t start making exemptions as to what branch of the civil service or government employees should be subject to FOI.”

He said the scientific community was utterly unprepared to deal with the media “onslaught” that followed Climategate but was still much more transparent “than many other sectors”.

The media and the public get suspicious when barriers like paywalls are constructed. He also blamed part of this suspicion to the research councils: “Another problem is the research councils – the heads and the boards of the research councils are absolutely packed with corporate representatives.”

Sir Mark Walport, representing the Wellcome Trust, joined the common request for openness but argued that “transparency has limits”. Raw data can sometimes be useful for the public but if misinterpreted they can have the opposite result. That’s why he called for the implementation of certain rules that decide what information published and how information should be presented.

Professor David Colquhoun was the one to turn the discussion to health issues, referring to the fact that the majority of the results of clinical trials are never published. He said an extension of the Freedom of Information Act is needed, much more so now that more private providers are going to collaborate with the NHS and the universities.

UK government supports controversial and polluting Canadian tar sands

The UK has been secretly supporting Canada in it’s campaign against EU penalties imposed on its highly polluting tar sands fuel, The Guardian has revealed.

A Freedom of Information investigation shows that since September at least 15 high-level meetings have taken place with David Cameron reassuring his Canadian counterpart Stephen Harper that his government wants “to work with Canada in finding a way forward”.

The Guardian reports Canada’s tar sands are the second largest reserve of carbon in the world after Saudi Arabia, although the extraction of oil from the ground is far more polluting than conventional oil drilling, causing much greater greenhouse gas emissions.

The revelations, come as a blow to Cameron who claimed to lead the “greenest government ever” and ahead of new round of global negotiations on tackling climate change in South Africa’s Durban beginning today.

The UK government has been lobbied by Shell and BP, which both have major tar sands projects in Alberta, and opened a new consulate in the province to “support British commercial interests”.

Certain governmental departments are extremely secretive about their meetings with the multinational oil companies. The Department for Transport has released only two heavily redacted presentations made to it by Shell. It has refused to disclose six other relevant documents on the grounds of commercial confidentiality, as did the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). BP has also been meeting with ministers.

The documents were released under Environmental Information Regulations by Co-operative, a UK mutual business group that targets tar sands as part of its climate change campaign.

Colin Baines, Co-operative’s toxic fuels campaign manager, said: “It is very disappointing that the UK government is supporting Canada’s efforts and we hope it has a rethink and puts tackling climate change ahead of Canada’s trade interests when it comes to vote on the European commission’s commonsense proposal.”

MoD losses thousands of personal files

Documents released under the Freedom of Information Act expose the Ministry of Defence as the worst Whitehall department when it comes to safeguarding personal details, despite the fact its soldiers might be an obvious target for terrorists. The Sunday Times revealed the MoD has lost personnel files 64 times in the past three years. One file lost in February last year contained the details of 1,700 personnel while in July of the same year, the loss of a CD from secure government premises affected more than 2,300 people.

World-class research lab working under capacity

The government might have spent £400 million on building the Isis neutron source, a world-class laboratory in Oxfordshire, but a FoIA request submitted by the Campaign for Science and Engineering (Case) revealed it’s running at only two-thirds capacity. The Guardian reports the lab has been forced into part-time dormancy since the government cut the science budget and research funders allocated too little money to pay the full operating costs of the facility.

More than18m bus journeys lost because of cuts

An FoIA request by the Campaign for Better Transport has revealed 18.4 million bus journeys have been lost across England after £36 million cuts in subsidies. The Sunday Mirror reports that since April 1, 114 services have been axed or withdrawn in the evenings or at weekends.

Philip Morris drops FoIA requests about university’s research programme

Philip Morris International has quietly dropped its Freedom of Information request to access interviews data held by Stirling University as part of its research into children’s attitudes to smoking. The Independent reports that the company, who among other brands produces Marlboro, had to respond to the university’s refusal to publish the interviews within 40 working days but failed to respond within the required deadline.

Alcohol industry reps might be lobbying the government

Figures released under The Freedom of Information Act reveal ministers and civil servants in charge of alcohol policy have been meeting at least 85 times with representatives from the drinks industry, prompting allegations of “collusions”, the Sunday Times reports.

Energy Secretary attacks climate sceptic thinktank over secrecy

Despite its calls for more scientific transparency, the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) has been exposed as extremely secretive, The Guardian reports.

The newspaper reveals Benny Peiser, who is the director of the influential climate sceptic thinktank, has been consistently refusing Freedom of Information requests, leading to accusations of double standards and secrecy about its funding.

The GWPF, which is chaired by Lord Lawson, has also received the criticism of the Energy Secretary, Chris Huhne.

Replying to a report sent by Lawson the Secretary said: “Let me say straight away that [I] believe that you have been misinformed and that your conclusions are poorly supported by the underlying science evidence.” He goes on: “It would be perverse to ignore this well-attested and thoroughly reviewed body of evidence.”

Addressing also Lord Turnbull, a former head of the civil service and GWPF trustee, Huhne continues: “It is not true to say that UK climate change policy relies on a single source of evidence.”

Lawson’s original report questioned the belief in what sceptics refer to as “climate alarmism” and claimed “huge controversy about the relative contribution of man-made CO2 versus natural forces” indeed exists.

Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics, stressed GWPF’s negative impact on climate change policy-making and the need for accountability on their part.

More than 1,000 cases of private data loss by UK councils

British councils have lost individuals; private data 1,032 times during the last three years, a Freedom of Information investigation by The Telegraph revealed. The information included details relating to children and vulnerable people in care.

Freedom of information receives huge blow in South Africa

Editors of newspapers across South Africa have been warning against the Protection of State Information Bill that the National Assembly voted in favour of yesterday with a majority of 229 votes. The bill has been viewed as a major assault to freedom of the press and freedom of information. The Mail & Guardian reports the bill – if passed – would allow any organ of state to classify any documents as secret and set out harsh penalties of up to 25 years in jail for whistleblowers.

Olympic Legacy Company spends more than a million in legal bills

The Olympic Park Legacy Company has spent almost £1.3million of tax-payers money to defend a judicial review of its decision to award West Ham preferred-tenant status on the stadium, FoIA requests revealed. The Telegraph reports the challenge came from Tottenham Hotspur and Leyton Orient, who said a £40million loan from Newham breached European state aid rules.

MoD gave “utterly false” Christmas Island nuclear test results

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.