March 2007 Archives

Should Freedom of Information Act request actually be necessary in order to get Public Authorities to actually re-publish stuff online which used to be public ?

From: [name]
To: [email]
X-OriginalArrivalTime: 30 Mar 2007 15:00:36.
Ref: FOI/599

Dear [XXX]

Re: Your Request for Information

Further to your request for information dated 2nd March 2007.

A reply just within the 20 working days statutory maximum time period.

In response to points 1, 2 and 3 in your request. I write to confirm the Commissioner for the Metropolis are registered under the Data Protection Act 1998. The search criteria of 'Police' and 'London' would not have identified this record.

We specifically also tried "Commissioner", "Metropolis", "Metropolitan" and other keyword combinations, to no avail, until the entry magically re-appeared less than a week after the FOIA request.

See Metropolitan Police Service - Data Protection Register entry - Z4888193

As requested, a copy of the entry is available on the public register of data controllers which is published on our website. The registration number is Z4888193. The date registered is 9 September 2000 and the date of expiry is 8 September 2007. Notification is a general statement of the processing being carried out by the data controller. It is not intended, nor is it practicable for the register entry to contain very detailed information about a data controller's processing. The aim is to keep the content at a general level, with sufficient detail to give an overall picture of the processing, therefore data controllers are not required to list specific databases within their registration but register the purpose of the processing i.e Policing.

That is what we asked for, using the word "Policing":

"1) Whether or not the Metropolitan Police Service or the Metropolitan Police Commissioner currently have a valid Registration entry on the Register of Data Controllers, covering the Data Purpose of Policing, i.e."

In response to point 4 in your request. The recorded information held identifies that a standard letter regarding renewal confirmation in respect of Z4888193 was issued from this Office on 16 February 2007 to the data controller.

We wrote to the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police and enquired of the Information Commissioner's Office via phone on 23rd January 2007.

Most of the other Police Forces also have Register of Data Controller entries stretching for 7 years back from 2000, to autumn of 2007, without any such problems.

Draw you own conclusions as to whether there has been an error, which they are not admitting to.

I hope this clarifies the questions raised. If you are dissatisfied with the response you have received and wish to request a review of our decision or make a complaint about how your request has been handled you should write to the Information Request Team at the address below or e-mail

Your request for internal review should be submitted to us within 40
working days of receipt by you of this response. Any such request
received after this time will only be considered at the discretion of
the Commissioner.

If having exhausted the review process you are not content that your
request or review has been dealt with correctly, you have a further
right of appeal to this office in our capacity as the statutory
complaint handler under the legislation. To make such an application,
please write to the Senior Complaints Resolution Manager, Complaints
Resolution Team at the address below or e-mail

A copy of our review procedure is attached along with details of our
enforcement powers and your rights of appeal.

Yours sincerely

Notification Manager

A glimpse of the Information Tribunal Hearing


Yesterday, I managed to sit in on part of the Information Tribunal Hearing which was considering the appeal by the UK Government via Gordon Brown's Treasury agency, the Office of Government Commerce, against the Decision Notice by the Information Commissioner.

See this OGC Gateway Reviews of the Identity Cards Programme category archive for the lengthy saga stemming from my original Freedom of Information Act request in January 2005.

The Information Tribunal hearing sat for 4 days last week, from Monday to Friday, except for Thursday.

I managed to attend as a member of the public, for about two and a half hours on Friday afternoon, basically just to get a flavour of the proceedings, and to put some faces to the names I have seen in print and online over the last few months, since the appeal process was initiated.

Regular readers of this obscure blog may have noticed that our recent Freeedom of Information Act requests have not been for Government or Public Body documents or information which is confidential, but for things which have been promised to have already been claimed to have been published on a website , or for which there is a statutory duty to make public according to an Act of Parliament.

It should not require a Freedom of Information Act request to precipitate the publication of this sort of information !

Either our recent FOIA request to the Information Commissioner, or the independent pressure of enquiries by David Mery to the Metropolitan Police Service and th to the Metropolitan Police Authority, appears to have worked.

Thje Information Commissioner's search form for the Register of Data Controllers now shows an entry for Commissioner of the Metropolis, which it did not do so before e.g. through searching on the SW1H 0BG postcode or the wird Metropolis in the name field etc.

Technically, the title should be "Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis", which is what the Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair is referred to in various bits of legislation e.g. the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act Section 133, whereby, controversially, demonstrators in the the Designated Area around Parliament Square have to apply to the holder of this public office, in writing, for prior permission.

Registration Number: Z4888193

Date Registered: 09 September 2000 Registration Expires: 08 September 2007





It seems peculiar to have to submit a Freedom of Information Act request to the actual Information Commissioner's Office itself, regarding one of their supposedly public systems, the Register of Data Controllers, as per the Data Protection Act.

Nevertheless, there seems to be either some bureaucratic mix up or some sort of power struggle going on regarding the currently missing Data Protection Register entry for the Metropolitan Police Service in London.

No such entry seems to exist, according to the public web search form, and, over a month ago, according to ICO office staff looking at their internal systems, including recent and pending registration requests.. It appears that there has not been such an entry for the Metropolitan Police Service, or the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, since sometime last year, which is far longer than any "pending" requests take to update the searchable database.

Every other UK regional and non-geographic Police Force has a valid entry on the Register of Data Controllers. The Metropolitan Police Authority has, like all the other Police Authorities which supervise the budgets and policies of their respective Police Forces, its own entry for its own internaluses, which do not cover the Met for the Data Purpose of Policing.

If it turns out that there is no current such valid entry for the Met, or that there has been a time gap, during which the old entry ran out and a new one was submitted, then this could have all sorts of effects on the criminal justice system, as most of the Metropolitan Police intelligence and criminal justice system databases will have been processing personal data illegally.

We doubt that the Information Commissioner will choose to prosecute the Metropolitan Police Service, in the public interest, but there could be all sorts of grounds for appeal, and some guilty criminals may escape justice as a result.

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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