July 2008 Archives

Although they have not yet bothered to write to or email us, to keep us informed, it appears that the Information Tribunal is set to reconsider the Appeal by the Office of Government Commerce against the Decision Notices issues by the Information Commissioner, which demanded full disclosure and publication of the early Stage Zero Gateway Review reports and the simplistic Gateway Review Traffic Light (Red Amber Green) Status, of the controversial Home Office Identity Cards Programme.

A full three day hearing is set for Wednesday 29th October to Friday 31st October 2008 at Procession House, 110 New Bridge Street, London, EC4V 6JL (corner with Ludgate Hill).

See the latest Information Tribunal current cases (.pdf)

  Case Number     EA/2006/0068
  Appellant     Office of Government Commerce 
  Date Received     30-Aug-06  
  Type     FOI  
  ICO Decision Reference     FS50070196
  Date ICO Reply Due  
  (Date Received + 21 days)  
  Public Authority Involved     Office of Government Commerce    
  Current Status     Full Hearing Booked  
  Hearing Details     Full hearing booked on 29, 30, 31 October 2008  
  at Procession House  

Another full three day hearing, presumably with barristers on both sides. How much public money has been wasted on suppressing our legal rights in this case ?

This new Tribunal has been forced to sit again, after the Government's Appeal to the High Court, and the scandalous intervention of the Speaker of the House of Commons to help suppress our rights under the Freedom of Information Act, by pretending that the free speech of MPs within the Palace of Westminster, under the Bill of Rights 1689, was somehow under threat, because a publicly published Select Committee Report was mentioned, but not criticised in the original Information Tribunal's Decision.

Instead of a full disclosure within the statutory "20 working days" laid down by law in the Freedom of Information Act 2000, this process now looks set to have taken at least 1400 days i.e. 3 years and 10 months .

The Information Commissioner's Office is now working on a Decision Notice, regarding our complaint over a year ago, about the Foreign & Commonwealth Office's refusal to divulge just the names and job titles (no other details were requested at all), of the Russian and United Kingdom diplomats expelled as persona non grata, following the diplomatic incident over the failure to extradite or prosecute the suspect Andrei Lugovoi, in the radioactive Polonium 210 murder case of British citizen Alexander Litvinenko who was poisoned in London in November 2006.

See the FCO diplomatic expulsions Polonium 210 murder affair blog category archive.

Letter from the ICO:

Following on from the surprising and slightly suspicious claim from the Home Office that they do not hold the information requested (see the previous blog article The War on Tourism and Photographers - where are the Prohibited Places under the Official Secrets Act 1911 ?), and that they have passed the request on to the Ministry of Justice,

it was felt best not to rely on the Government's inter departmental postal system (remember the HMRC lost Child Benefit national database disaster ?), and so a separate copy of the FOIA request was emailed to the Ministry of Justice on.

An acknowledgment has been received, on Monday 7th July 2008, so the FOIA clock is now counting down for the Ministry of Justice. Will they prove to be better at responding to FOIA requests than the Home Office are ? In theory, since they are in charge of the FOIA legislation, having mustated from the former Ministry for Constitutional Affairs, they should be fully trained and aware of how to handle this request.

The Ministry of Justice seems to be another organisation with an over large standard email footer.

It is worth noting that both the FOIA requests to the Home Office and to the Ministry of Justice were signed with a pseudonym, although an offer to supply a Name and Address if necessary was included. There was also a reminder that supplying a traceable name and address, rather than simply a hard to trace email replt address, is specifically not legally required under the Freedom of Information Act, something which is clearly stated in the FOIA Guidance from the Information Commissioner's Office and from the former Department for Constitutional Affairs, and now from the Ministry of Justice themselves.

The correspondence so far:

We are pleasantly surprised that we have actually received a "substantive reply" from the Home Office, to a Freedom of Information Act request, in only 11 working days - they usually manage to exceed the statutory 20 working day limit.

As seem to be usual with the "not fit for purpose" Home Office IT systems, they managed to mangle the email attachment of the Microsoft Word document which they attached, but we eventually uu-decoded it successfully.


From: public.enquiries@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk
To: [email address]
Date: Wed, 02 Jul 2008 12:01:46 +0100

Reference : T13353/8

Thank you for your e-mail enquiry of 17/06/2008 5:19:27 PM

A reply is attached.

This email and any files transmitted with it are private and intended
solely for the use of the individual or entity to whom they are addressed.
If you have received this email in error please return it to the address
it came from telling them it is not for you and then delete it from your system.

This email message has been swept for computer viruses.


Home Office
Direct Communications Unit
2 Marsham Street, London SW1P 4DF
Switchboard 020 7035 4848 Fax: 020 7035 4745 Textphone: 020 7035 4742
E-mail: public.enquiries@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk Website: www.homeoffice.gov.uk

[email address]

Reference: T13353/8

2 July 2008

Dear Sir

Thank you for your e-mail of 17/06/2008 5:19:27 PM about the names and locations of "Prohibited Places" declared "by Order of a Secretary of State" under the Official Secrets Act 1911.

The Home Office does not hold the information that you have requested.

However, we have shared your email with the Ministry of Justice. It is possible that the Ministry of Justice may hold some information and that they may write to you in due course.

If you are dissatisfied with this response you may request an independent internal review of our handling of your request by submitting your complaint within two months to the below address:

Information Rights Team
Information and Record Management Service
Home Office
4th Floor, Seacole Building.access@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk

During the independent review the department's handling of your information request will be reassessed by staff who were not involved in providing you with this response. Should you remain dissatisfied after this internal review, you will have a right of complaint to the Information Commissioner as established by section 50 of the Freedom of Information Act.

Yours sincerely

On behalf of Will Stuart

If there is no record of any Secretary of State signing an Order to declare anywhere specifically as a "Prohibited Place" under the Official Secrets Act 1911, then that could be quite important in the current War on Tourism and against Photographers' Rights, currently being waged by untrained private security guards, Police Community Support Officers and even by Police Constables.

There are classes of "Prohibited Places" laid down by Acts of Parliament, notably any Licensed Nuclear Site or telephone exchanges (and internet data infrastructure facilities) , or any Civil Aviation Authority airport (e.g. Heathrow) (although the status of photraphy e.g. by plane spotters from outside the perimeter fencing is not clear)

Military bases are usually Prohibited Places by virtue of being owned by the Crown,

However this is no longer automatically the case, for Government buildings, including some Ministry of Defence ones, and most of HM Treasury's HM Revenue and Customs and the Home Office's Identity and Passport Service ID Card / Passport interrogation centres, as some of these are now owned by private companies (some even hiding the legal ownership of these assets in overseas tax havens), and the land and buildings are only leased back to the Government, under various Private Finance Initiative schemes.

We will try sending the same FOIA request to the Ministry of Justice.

Read our original FOIA request, made on behalf of some very worried photographers (ourselves included):

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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