June 2007 Archives

It seems that it could take up to 40 days for an Internal Review by the Home Office of our Environmental Information Regulations 2004 request regarding the Westminster Tracer Gas trials.

Perhaps we will get a proper response by the 20th of August.

After sending a reminder email on Thursday 21st June 2007, i.e. 2 days after the 20 working day limit for our original request, the Home Office seems to be trying the bureaucratic tactic of "it's nuffing to do wiv us", and claim that they are forwarding the email to the Department of Food, Environment and Rural Affairs.

What possible relevance DEFRA has to some research being conducted for anti-terrorism and national security purposes, which was announced via a Ministerial Statement by Home Office Minister Tony McNulty, who also answered two Parliamentary Written Questions from Labour MP and political blogger Tom Watson on these trials.

These Written Answers partially answered one of our EIR questions within the 20 working day period of oir EIR request, something which the Department should have advised us of, bearing in mind the criticisms by the Information Commissioner in similar cases, including our own long running struggle with the Office for Government Commerce / Home Office over the Gateway Reviews for the Identity Cards Programme.

So far as we can see, since the Environmental Impact Regulations 2004 are not as constrained as the Freedom of Information Act 2000, with regards to Exemptions, but we still have to wait for an Internal Review of the handling of our request by a different section of the Home Office, before complaining to the Information Commissioner.

The House of Lords has disclosed, as per our FOIA request, a couple of Home Office documents which give a glimpse about the chronology of the meetings and decisions which led to the Designation of the Place of Westminster and Portcullis House (and Downing Street, Buckingham Palace, MI5, MI6, GCHQ, MOD etc. buildings) under the Serious organised Crime and Police Act 2005.

The emphasis on displaying adequate warning signs around the perimeters of Designated Sites, some of which which are now called Protected Sites (after the amendment brought in by Section 12 of the Terrorism Act 2006) is interesting - the Home Office civil servants fear that the legislation will "be brought into disrepute by a failed prosecution", based on the statutory defence under "section 128(4) if a person can prove that he did not know and had no reasonable cause to suspect the site in relation to which the offence is alleged to have been committed was a designated site".

This is currently very topical, since the first people, Obadiah Marius and Victoria Smith have now been arrested and charged under this Section 128, for apparently wandering into Downing Street via the unmarked 70 Whitehall entrance to the Cabinet Office.

Warning signs suitable for the perimeter fence of a nuclear power station on an isolated site, are not adequate for public buildings or otherwise unmarked official office buildings in the centre of London, an area with with millions of foreign tourists who may not read English well or at all. There are also many British people who cannot read or see such signs either.

The House of Lords disclosure consists of 4 photocopied items:

    Letter from the House of Lords Freedom of Information Officer.

    The FOIA disclosure was made via post which arrived on Tuesday 12th June 2007, exactly 20 working days (allowing for the May Public Holiday).

  1. March 2007 Letter from a senior Home Office civil servant to the Parliamentary Security Co-Ordinator

    "I know the policy is not a welcome one but it is one to which the Government has committed us and it will be difficult for us all if it is called into disrepute"

  2. March 2007 Email to Parliamentary Estates Division from the Policy Team Leader at the Home Office Central Unit, which concisely lays out the chronology of the meetings and decisions and the importance of adequate signage.

  3. July 2006 Appendix giving general policy advice about signs and section 128 - presumably this was sent to all the other Designated sites as well.

  4. The House of Lords wording used on their temporary / freestanding signs by their entrances to the House of Lords e.g. the Monarch's entrance.

We have censored some names, addresses, individual email addresses and direct telephone extensions in the transcriptions below:

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.


WhatDoTheyKnow.com - FOIA request submission and publication website from MySociety.org

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 irrepressible.info 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

foi.mysociety.org - 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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