December 2004 Archives

Friends of the Earth FOIA Request Generator

Friends of the Earth have a useful Freedom of Information Act Request Generator on their website, with a list of email, fax , telephone and postal address contacts for Central Government Departments and their Publication Schemes

Their letter/email/fax generation form asks sensible questions such as do you need this information quicker than the statutory 20 days response time, the format you would accept it in e.g. email or CDROM etc. The form letter reminds people to ask about any fees or charges, and any reasons for refusal of an FOIA request.

"Dear ,

Please provide me with the following information:

[description of the information you are after goes here: e.g. pre-stage Zero, the Stage Zero, and the Stage One Gateway Reviews of the Identity Cards and National Identity Register project.]

[Additional details which might help track down the information]

Please provide the information by email. If you are not able to provide the information in this format then please explain why when you provide the information in another format.

If you decide to withhold any of the information requested you should clearly explain why you have done so in your response by reference to the legislation. If your decision to withold is based upon an evaluation of the public interest then you should clearly explain which public interests you have considered and why you have decided that the public interest in maintaining the exception(s) outweighs the public interest in releasing the information.

If you are proposing to make a charge for providing the information requested please provide full details in advance together with an explanation of any proposed charge.

I look forward to receiving the information requested as soon as possible and in any event within 20 working days of receipt.

Thank you in advance for your assistance. If you require any clarification of this request please contact me as soon as possible.

Yours sincerely"

There is also other useful advice such as :

"The FOI Act requires applicants to give their name and "an address for correspondence". If you only want to receive the information by post there is no requirement to give an email address. There is never a requirement to give your telephone number although it may be useful to allow an authority to call you if they have questions about your request."

Obviously a personalised letter or email is best, but this Friends of the Earth Request Generator is a useful tool upon which to base your Request.

Beware of sending lots of identical or similar FOIA requests, as the Act specifically allows these to be ignored if they are deemed to be an attempt at disruption. Any charges that the Department might make for, say photocopying or CDROM duplication costs also depend on how many requests they get from individuals or from "organised campaigns", although mu;tiple independent requests should make it more worthwhile for them to publish information for free on their departmental public websites.

In order to establish the time line of how long the FOIA request takes to be dealt with, wee are will be sending both an email request, and a copy via a recorded deliivery postal letter, delivery of which can be monitored online through the Post Office Track and Trace system.

It is also worth clicking on the Email Request Receipt options in your email software client, as many Government email servers are set up to honour these, and you may even get interesting Receipt Messages back such as "This message was Deleted without being Read" etc.

Office of Government Commerce Gateway Reviews are meant to be an independent check on various expensive and disasterous Government projects, especially those to do with public/private finance e.g. building hospitals or renewing transport infrastructure.

There have been notable Government IT procurement disasters, which in theory should not happen if the project goes through a so called Gatway Review process.

We are thinking about asking the Office of Government Commerce, on the one hand, and the Home Office, on the other, to publish the two pre-stage Zero, the Stage Zero, and the Stage One Gateway Reviews of the Identity Cards and National Identity Register project.

However, the Government has been loath to publish any Gateway Reviews, even, astonishingly, to the Public Accounts Select Committee of the House of Commons.

Perhaps, under the new law, as opposed to the old, voluntary Publication Scheme, there might be some hope of getting some details, such as project assumptions and architectures, if not, perhaps, financially sensitive commercial contract payment terms.

We are looking for suggestions for suitable Freedom of Information Act 2000 requests, which we intend to track the progress of and to comment on the quality of the final outcome of each request, here on this web log.

N.B. don't forget the long list of possible exemptions

Email us your suggestions, or comment here.

About this blog

This United Kingdom based blog has been spawned from Spy Blog, and is meant to provide a place to track our Freedom of Information Act 2000 requests to United Kingdom Government and other Public Authorities.

If you have suggestions for other FOIA requests,  bearing in mind the large list of exemptions, then email them to us, or use the comments facility on this blog, and we will see  what we can do, without you yourself having to come under the direct scrutiny of  "Sir Humphrey Appleby" or his minions.

Email Contact

Please feel free to email us your views about this website or news about the issues it tries to comment on:

email: blog @spy[dot]org[dot]uk

Here is our PGP public encryption key or download it via a PGP Keyserver. - FOIA request submission and publication website from

Campaign Buttons

Campaign for the Freedom of Information

NO2ID - opposition to the Home Office's Compulsory Biometric ID Card
NO2ID - opposition to the Home Office's Compulsory Biometric ID Card and National Identity Register centralised database.

Watching Them, Watching Us, UK Public CCTV Surveillance Regulation Campaign
UK Public CCTV Surveillance Regulation Campaign

Peaceful resistance to the curtailment of our rights to Free Assembly and Free Speech in the SOCPA Designated Area around Parliament Square and beyond

Parliament Protest blog - resistance to the Designated Area restricting peaceful demonstrations or lobbying in the vicinity of Parliament.

Amnesty International 's campaign

Yes, Minister

Yes, Minister Series 1, Episode 1, "Open Government" First airtime BBC: 25 February 1980

"Bernard Woolley: "Well, yes, Sir...I mean, it [open government] is the Minister's policy after all."
Sir Arnold: "My dear boy, it is a contradiction in terms: you can be open or you can have government."

FOIA Links

Campaign for the Freedom of Information

Office of the Information Commissioner,
who is meant to regulate the Freedom of Information Act 2000 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Scottish Information Commissioner,
who similarly regulates the Freedom of Information Act (Scotland) 2002

Information Tribunal - deals with appeals against decisions by the Information Commissioners.

Freedom of Information pages - Department for Constitutional Affairs

Friends of the Earth FOIA Request Generator and links to contact details for Central Government Departments and their Publication Schemes

UK Government Information Asset Register - in theory, this should point you to the correct Government documents, but in practice...well see for yourself.

Access all Information is also logging some FOIA requests - prototype FOIA request submission, tracking and publication website

Blog Links

Spy Blog

UK Freedom of Information Act Blog - started by Steve Wood, now handed over to Katherine Gundersen

Your Right To Know - Heather Brooke

Informaticopia - Rod Ward

Open Secrets - a blog about freedom of information by BBC journalist Martin Rosenbaum

Panopticon blog - by Timothy Pitt-Payne and Anya Proops. Timothy Pitt-Payne is probably the leading legal expert on the UK's Freedom of Information Act law, often appearing on behlaf of the Information Commissioner's Office at the Information Tribunal.

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