Recently in House of Commons Category

The Government has now, belatedly, published a response to the Petition on the Prime Minister's website, about the sneaky attempt to exclude Parliament from the Freedom of Information Act, back last may and June 2007.

This e-petition attracted 818 signatures.

For the benefit of any future historians, this seemingly reasonable Government response and explanation of current Freedom of Information Act policy, is ,of course, highly misleading.

What actually happened was that the Labour Government , colluded with Opposition MPs to try to sneak this Private Member's Bill through, not once, but twice, but the public furore expressed in the mainstream media, and online, seems to have forced them to beat a tactical retreat.

Subsequent revelations about MP's abuse of their laxly controlled expenses and allowances have been widely publicised, involving the Conservative Derek Conway and the supposedly neutral, but obviously partisan Labour Speaker of the House of Commons, Michael Martin, both regarding his own domestic expense claims, and his attempts to appeal against, and to obstruct, the decisions of the Information Commissioner and the Information Tribunal, stemming from Heather Brooks' and The Guardian newspaper's legitimate Freedom of Information Act requests regarding MPs' expenses.

Another effect of this Bill, had it passed, would have been the exclusion of other legitimate FOIA requests to the Houses of Parliament, which have nothing to do with MPs' expenses, such as our requests about the Designation of the formerly public access areas like Central Lobby or the Committee Rooms, under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 section 128 Designated (or Protected) Sites, and what we anticipate will be a flurry of requests, regarding the latest delayed, over budget, improperly specified etc. building project at the Palace of Westminster, the new Visitors Building and external Ramp, which seems to be a re-run of the Millennium Bridge affair, and cannot safely take the weight of a queue of visitors.

Foiparliament - epetition reply

28 April 2008

We received a petition asking:

"We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to oppose the Private Members Bill exempting Westminster from the FoI Act 2000."

Details of Petition:

"The Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill, from David Maclean MP (a member of the House of Commons Commission, which runs the House of Commons) plans to exempt the UK Parliament entirely from its own FoI Act. It seems to have informal support from some Ministers, and has passed its early stages with virtually no discussion or opposition. FoI would still apply to all the devolved parliaments/assemblies; what is so different about Westminster? Is it because MPs dont like us knowing about their expenses or other activities in detail? Westminster operates on our behalf and should remain fully accountable to us, just as it expects other public bodies to be accountable to it and to us."

Read the Government's response

The Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill would have had two effects: to remove the Houses of Parliament from the scope of the Freedom of Information Act and to create a new exemption to cover MPs' correspondence. This was a Private Members' Bill; it was not introduced by the Government.

The decision of the House of Lords was that the Bill should not progress any further and it fell at the end of the last Parliamentary session.

MPs' correspondence held by public authorities will continue to be subject to the Freedom of Information Act 2000. The Government recognises the concerns raised by MPs during the debate on the Bill, however The Information Commissioner has published guidance for those dealing with Freedom of Information requests for MPs' correspondence. It sets out the main exemptions that may apply to such information and reminds public authorities of their duty to consult with third parties when considering the release of information relating to them. Among other things, this is to ensure that personal information about constituents is not disclosed in a way that would breach their rights under the Data Protection Act.

In the Green Paper, 'The Governance of Britain', the Government reaffirmed its commitment to freedom of information and stated clearly that it is right that Parliament should be included within the scope of the Freedom of Information Act. Information held by the Houses of Parliament - including about MPs' interests - therefore remains within the Act's scope.

We have finally received a disclosure from the House of Commons authorities, regarding our Freedom of Information Act request about the the formerly public areas within the the Palace of Westminster and Portcullis House, which are now within the boundary of a Protected Site under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 Section 128 Offence of trespassing on designated site, as amended by the Terrorism Act 2006 section 12.Trespassing etc. on nuclear sites, as specified in the Statutory Instrument 2007 No. 930 The Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (Designated Sites under Section 128) Order 2007. specifically the map published in Schedule 8:


The paper hardcopy photopies reveal little of interest, except that it seems that the boundary around the main Palace of Westminster was originally going to extend some way into the River Thames, presumably along the as yet non-existent "security" boom or row of marker buoys.

How, exactly any Notices would have been fixed or how this law applies to the tidal River Thames is a mystery which is, at this point rather moot.

The memos and emails confirm that the Home Office was desperate to ensure that there was adequate signage so as to prevent the statutory defence of ignorance of the boundary from being invoked.

There are a couple of FOIA Section 24 National Security exemption redactions, which one could perhaps argue about, since Section 128 of SOCPA has nothing to do with real security, and everything to do with the suppression of political dissent, and of minor non-violent, non-threatening publicity stunts.

What is really infuriating, however, is the policy of censorship or redaction of the Names, Job Titles, Email Addresses , Postal Addresses and DirectTelephone Numbers of some of the officials in these memos and emails, on what seems to be spurious grounds

In each case, the full text of the memos and emails was disclosed (apart from some small Section 24 National Security redactions) but, for the most part, the people who were making the decisions and giving advice remain as faceless, nameless, contactless bureaucrats.

As an example of the sort of Freedom of Information Act requests which have nothing to do with MPs' expenses, but which would also be banned by David Maclean's Private Member's Bill which is rearing its ugly head again next Friday 19th May, the notorious Freedom of Information Act (Amendment) Bill, we have asked the House of Commons and the House of Lords about the Designation of the Public Areas of the Palace of Westminster and Portcullis House, under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 section 128.


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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