John Bercow has written to the expenses regulator warning him not to disclose official documents that show the identities of MPs’ landlords for “security” reasons.
Publication of the names, which was supposed to take place today, would expose the extent to which MPs are exploiting a loophole in the rules that allows politicians to rent their homes to one another. The loophole means that MPs can still effectively build up property nest eggs at taxpayers’ expense, despite official attempts to stop the practice following the expenses scandal.
The MPs’ fight to cover up the landlords’ names emerged after Dr Julian Lewis, a Conservative MP, disclosed in the Commons that freedom of information laws were being used to bring about the release of the information. Read more.
Holly Watt | The Telegraph | 17th October 2012
A former south Devon MP has asked the Metropolitan Police to hand over the addresses of all known brothels in London, in a bid to help “lift the lid” on human trafficking.
Anthony Steen, former Conservative MP for Totnes and chairman of the Human Trafficking Foundation, has submitted a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to the Met to reveal the location of all 2,103 brothels in the capital, identified in a 2010 report from the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO).
He has also requested details of when they were last raided. Read more.
This is South Devon | 18th October 2012
A Welsh police force has been ordered to release information on a senior officer’s failed attempt to become its chief constable.
Howard Roberts, formerly Deputy Chief Constable of Nottinghamshire, applied for the job as chief constable of Dyfed-Powys in 2008. But the post went instead to Ian Arundale – leaving Mr Roberts with suspicions about the selection process.
Now, a tribunal has upheld his claim under the Freedom of Information Act for information about his failed bid, and ordered Dyfed- Powys Police Authority to give him more information about what happened. Read More s
Wales Online | 18th October 2012
School budget cuts spell hunger for many pupils as breakfast clubs close
A growing number of breakfast clubs in primary schools are being forced to close because of budget cuts, despite evidence of increasing demand. As the academic year gets under way, the cuts risk leaving many vulnerable children in danger of going to school hungry and unable to concentrate in lessons, according to experts.
Requests made under freedom of information law to 128 local authorities by the Labour MP Sharon Hodgson, shadow minister for children and families, found 40% reporting a decrease in the number of breakfast clubs.
Some of the cuts are severe. Essex county council said the county had 219 breakfast clubs in schools last year, but 169 this year. In Surrey, 2,870 children were being given breakfast last year but only 1,200 in 2012.
Jay Rayner | The Guardian | September 15th 2012
Charities slam lack of police support for forced marriage victims
Charities supporting victims of forced marriage have hit out at police and local authorities in Wales for not doing enough to encourage victims to come forward.
It comes as a Freedom of Information request, submitted by Wales on Sunday, found just two people contacted Dyfed Powys Police for help in three years.
North Wales Police refused to say how many forced marriage referrals it had received between April 2009 and March 2012, but it is understood just one person came forward in that time.[confirmed by freedom of information officer]
Clare Hutchinson | Wales Online | September 16th 2012
Rosemary Agnew: Right to information is vital for society
IN THE week of publication of the Independent Hillsborough Panel Report, which reflected that the “wound of grief was still sore because so many questions were yet unanswered”, none of us can be left in any doubt about the strength of the public need for rights to information.
The devastating impact of alteration of records is central to the Hillsborough report. This same issue is, right now, the subject of deliberation by MSPs as they consider the new Freedom of Information (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill. If passed, this bill will strengthen my enforcement powers in cases of alteration of records by any public official trying to prevent disclosure under FOI by allowing a more realistic time period for prosecution of this serious criminal offence. Thankfully, these cases are rare, but their impact is potentially severe.
I welcome the objectives of the new bill to strengthen and clarify our FOI legislation. In my evidence last week to the finance committee, I stressed that in most cases I am supportive of the tidying exercise underway. If passed, plans to reduce the time limits where exemptions can be applied and to redraft some of the more opaque provisions will improve our freedom of information regime for the better.
Rosemary Agnew | Scotsman | September 16th 2012
Philip Ryan: Taxpayers footing the bill for hefty salaries at agency
OPERATING under a veil of secrecy, Nama has continually refused to divulge details of how it spends millions of euros of taxpayers’ money.
The State’s “bad bank” has fought tooth and nail against attempts made by the media and opposition politicians to gain a clearer understanding of how the agency is spending our money.
The State’s super-quango is exempt from scrutiny under the Freedom of Information Act and senior staff are said to be vehemently opposed to the organisation coming under legislation currently being drawn up by the Government.
Philip Ryan | Irish Independent | September 16th 2012
Bush and Blair’s pre-Iraq conversation must be disclosed, tribunal rules
Foreign Office loses appeal against release of extracts from phone call that took place a few days before invasion
Extracts of a phone conversation between Tony Blair and George Bush a few days before the invasion of Iraq must be disclosed, a tribunal has ruled.
The Foreign Office lost an appeal against an order by the information commissioner, Christopher Graham, to disclose records of the conversation between the two leaders on 12 March 2003. Graham’s order was made in response to a freedom of information request by Stephen Plowden, a private individual who demanded disclosure of the entire record of the conversation.
Richard Norton Taylor | The Guardian | 21st May 2012
Revealed: Ministers dragging feet over key growth recommendations in Beecroft report
Ministers are dragging their feet over more than a dozen key recommendations from a confidential Government report on boosting economic growth in Britain.
The report recommends that parents should not be able to take flexible leave from work until Britain’s economy and public finances have recovered in 2017.
The Government is thought to be preparing to publish the Beecroft report after receiving a series of Freedom of Information requests.
Robert Winnett and Christopher Hope | The Telegraph | 21st May 2012
Soldier-turned-poet Robert Graves twice turned down the offer of an honour from Downing Street
Robert Graves used his Claudius novels to warn of the dangers of becoming too close to the centre of political power in Ancient Rome.
But newly released documents show that the soldier-turned-poet was equally sceptical about modern politicians – and twice turned down the offer of an honour from Downing Street.
Graves feared that his artistic independence would have been jeopardised if he had accepted either of the honours offered to him by two different Tory Prime Ministers – Harold Macmillan and Margaret Thatcher.
His reluctance to embrace the honours system is revealed in Cabinet Office letters obtained by this newspaper under Freedom of Information laws
Chris Hastings | The Daily Mail | 20th May 2012
Council of Europe cost Brighton and Hove taxpayers £40,000
Brighton and Hove taxpayers paid nearly £40,000 on hosting last month’s Council of Europe event, The Argus can exclusively reveal.
The figure has been labelled “ridiculous” and “a burden” as it has emerged that the conference’s declaration was all but agreed in advanced.
The total, obtained by The Argus following a Freedom of Information request, includes £10,000 spent on flagpoles and £1,574 on new posters as the existing ones in the Brighton Centre were deemed “inappropriate” by the Foreign Office.
Ben James | The Argus | 21st May 2012
Anti-social behaviour: Dyfed-Powys Police chief warns of cuts impact
A retiring chief constable says police could miss crime such as anti-social behaviour due to UK government cuts.
Ian Arundale of Dyfed-Powys Police warns that much anti-social behaviour comes from people with health and social problems rather than criminals.
Mr Arundale warned of a growing “austerity crimewave” in some areas.
Statistics released under the Freedom of Information Act show that 89,702 non-emergency calls were received in 2011 by the four Welsh police forces.
BBC Wales | 21st May 2012
Car hijack victims ‘failed by outdated damages law’
A leading solicitor has called on the Department of Justice to review the law on criminal damage compensation.
Current law in Northern Ireland says criminal damage has to be caused by three or more people, or terrorist acts, before compensation can be paid.
Both the SDLP and DUP agree the current system is in need of review.
Figures obtained by a Freedom of Information request show that, between April and September 2011, less than one fifth of the 474 criminal damage claims were successful under the “three or more persons” criterion.
Aileen Moynagh | BBC | 21st May 2012