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About the author

Martin Rosenbaum | 14:27 UK time, Thursday, 18 May 2006

I’m a BBC journalist who specialises in freedom of information (FOI). I’ve always enjoyed reading other people’s documents, so it’s the kind of journalism which I like.

FOI is the law which enables public access to government information. I train and advise other BBC journalists on how to exploit it, and I’ve made plenty of use myself by putting in requests for information to pursue stories.

I’ve been interested in FOI for some time. In 2004 I spent a sabbatical term at Oxford University researching how journalists in Ireland and Sweden used FOI in their own countries. See this.

I’m based in the BBC’s Political Programmes department at Westminster. When I’m not doing FOI work, I oversee some of our weekly and special political output for Radio 4 and the World Service. I also produce political radio documentaries myself. Their topics have ranged from the nature of British identity and exposing dirty tricks in election campaigning to the political impact of alternative comedy in the 1980s.

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Excellent topic on which to focus your attention.

Will you be addressing FOI strictly in the U.K., or will you be tackling FOI issues regardless of geography?

If by some chance you are branching out across the globe, I urge you to keep an eye open for two FOI matters that I am pursuing in the U.S. (where you'll often see the law's acronym FOIA, for FOI Act).

First, I'm renewing efforts to get the Pentagon to disclose the details of a project to produce 10,000 custom-made Christian Bibles containing "Army-provided photographs and text inserts" -- a project that the Dept. of Defense abruptly cancelled after receiving my FOIA request. See http://tpr.typepad.com/thepeacockreport/2006/04/fascism_in_amer.html for more information.

Also, I am embarking upon a FOIA campaign to get the Bush Administration to disclose documents on its partial financing of a petroleum facility construction project -- which is taking place in China, no less. The company benefitting from this "generosity" happens to be jointly owned by the Saudi Arabian government and a Chinese conglomerate. See http://tpr.typepad.com/thepeacockreport/2006/05/tpr_urges_publi.html for additional info, and stay tuned for additional devleopments.

  • 2.
  • At 10:11 AM on 24 May 2006,
  • Martin Rosenbaum wrote:

Thanks for that, Steve. The blog will mainly be about the UK, but will cover other countries too from time to time.

  • 3.
  • At 03:59 PM on 24 May 2006,
  • Paul Francis wrote:

It's good to see another blog dedicated to FOI matters. One issue that I have come across, having used the Act regularly since January 2005 is that public authorities (notably local councils, who I deal with mainly) are increasingly turning to the 23 qualified exemptions to withhold information and/or reject requests.
In 2005, I had hardly any requests refused on Section 36 grounds for example, but a quick trawl through requests made so far this year reveals that a far higher proportion of responses have cited it.
This is a trend I think needs close observation and it would be interesting to hear if others are having similar experiences.
Paul Francis, Political Editor, The Kent Messenger Group


  • 4.
  • At 09:24 AM on 11 Jul 2006,
  • Amitabh Thakur wrote:

Dear Martin,
I am a police officer of the rank of Suprintendent of Police in India. As you are a person dealing with FOI ( known as RTI in our country), you know very well that many of the silly informations (including those in the police department) are hidden by the government machinery in the name of Official secrecy. Most of the people remain ignorant about these in the way they are ignorant about most of their other rights. This is the situation in India (and I am sure in most of the other third world countries). I do not know what the situation is in a country like yours.
But one thing that is for sure is that we need to do a lot in this direction so that the rights of the individuals are curbed the least and their exploitation is reduced to the bare minimum. This will also have a direct impact on the corruption related aspects of the government functioning.
Amitabh Thakur, Lucknow, India

  • 5.
  • At 08:50 PM on 16 Sep 2006,
  • Orville Eastland wrote:

A few questions:
1. Do you do the FOIA dirty work yourself, or should we help you if we wish?
2. Would you be interested in filing FOIA requests to other Government agencies (UK and otherwise) regarding the BBC and its activities?

  • 6.
  • At 11:40 AM on 17 Sep 2006,
  • Martin Rosenbaum wrote:

Orville -

I and other BBC journalists put in FOI requests when we think it is useful to our journalism. It's up to you what FOI requests, if any, you make.

As yet, I haven't put any FOI requests to government agencies regarding the BBC's activities, but you never know ....

Dear Martin

I have just published my first podcast on Freedom of Information. This will be part of a monthly series of podcasts discussing recent decisions from the Information Commissioner's Office and the Information Tribunal and their impact on FOI practice.

I believe that this is a first for the UK.

The first episode is available for download now at : www.informationlaw.org.uk

This is my personal website and has lots of other links and downloads.

The raw feed is for the podcast is http://informationlaw.jellycast.com/podcast/feed/5

You may wish to mention this on your website/newsletter.

  • 8.
  • At 07:36 PM on 16 Nov 2006,
  • Paul Dockree wrote:

Freedom of Information Act? What Freedom?

So as a 56 year old, former child in London County Council care - how come I cannot get from my child care papers of more than 50 years ago anything relating to my late mother initial contact with them? The paperwork is held by my former local council now London County Council is no more?

I think I am being given the round around and have loss patience. There is a interesting story emerging from my research but this council appear to be withholding details of my late mother's contact with them, albeit with the baby me in tow. So what use is the Freedom of Information Act under which I requested her information from these people?

As the council themselves had earlier suggested if I forwarded proof of my mother's death I would be given what I was requesting.

So one of my 5 half siblings in South Africa provided said document (she died in the 1980s) which I sent to the council and waited. Suddenly the information I sought about my mother's "is your own personal data, which is exempt information under Section 40 of the Freedom of Information Act, this act covers the release of public data".

That seemed like a legal two step to get me back to the request I made earlier in the year on my own record. Talk about the two Ronnies sketch on the "Mastermind" show where Ronnie Corbett always answers the question before lasts to evoke humourous answers. But I am not laughing.

So I have made two requests over two decades and I got nothing that I hadn't already had before back in 1988/89. The Council kept referring to Section 40(I) which refers to personal data which is about the person requesting the information. Me that is.

I am also told there is no other legislation under which they would release a person's personal data.

So I am not convinced Freedom of Information exists as far as this particular Council is concerned.

  • 9.
  • At 10:37 PM on 16 Nov 2006,
  • Martin Rosenbaum wrote:

Paul -
If you are seeking personal data about yourself then you can ask for the information under the Data Protection Act. The council should have told you this. Hope that helps,
Martin

  • 10.
  • At 12:33 PM on 17 Nov 2006,
  • Matt Boyle wrote:

Dear Sir,

Can you advise me what the consequences are for any Department of State to respond to a Freedom of Information request with erroneous data?
Does the individual supply the erroneous information bear the responsibility?
I believe I may be aware of exactly such a situation.

  • 11.
  • At 01:44 PM on 17 Nov 2006,
  • Martin Rosenbaum wrote:

If you think you have been given erroneous data then you should ask the department involved to conduct an internal review of how your request was handled. If you are still not happy after that then you can complain to the Information Commissioner, who can overrule the department.

  • 12.
  • At 07:01 PM on 17 Nov 2006,
  • Paul Dockree wrote:

Thank you Martin,

Data Protection Act? I will try that - thank you very much. More sense in your three lines than a whole screed from my Council. You wrote "The council should have told you this". I believe there is a good reason why I am being given this sort of unhelpful response by The Council. I got the most useful stuff on myself in care from The London Metropolitan Archives.

My main point to the Council was specifically asking for information about my late mother, who was also fostered aged 9 months, as I was aged 10.

Can a request for information about my mum be tied to being a request for information on another person (me) even if it is my mother? And is it the Data Protection Act for one(me)and the Freedom of Information for another(mum)?

  • 13.
  • At 09:20 PM on 17 Nov 2006,
  • Martin Rosenbaum wrote:

Paul -
Yes, if you want information about yourself you apply for it under the Data Protection Act. But if the information is about someone else, you ask under the Freedom of Information Act. Sometimes you will not be given personal information about someone else because their right to privacy may be protected by the Data Protection Act, but this exemption does not apply if that person is dead. In your situation you should use both Acts.

  • 14.
  • At 03:49 AM on 19 Nov 2006,
  • Ken Massey wrote:

Hello, I wonder if you can help in this matter. The BBC are spending a lot of our money trying to stop the release of the Balen Report into possible bias by the BBC.

This report has been requested under the FOI act but the BBC are refusing to release it.

What would you say is the best route to take to have this report released? I presume your FOI campaigning will help in this regard.

Ken

  • 15.
  • At 05:08 PM on 19 Nov 2006,
  • Martin Rosenbaum wrote:

Ken -
Those who have requested the report from the BBC have followed the correct route for doing so already.
I have commented on the Balen Report from time to time. For example:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/opensecrets/2006/09/post_11.html

and:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/opensecrets/2006/10/the_impact_on_bbc_journalism.html

  • 16.
  • At 06:20 PM on 20 Nov 2006,
  • Ken wrote:

Thank you for your response (re Balen). Yours appears to be the only BBC blog where the "host" takes the trouble to respond - many thanks again for that.

  • 17.
  • At 03:26 PM on 01 Jan 2007,
  • ingo Wagenknecht wrote:

dear martin
Listening to Talk Sport between Christmas and new year, I believe george Galloway was standing in for someone esle that day, a listener phoned in and mention large numbers of riot police using local football derby's to train for 'serious civil disturbances'.
It was a friend of the chap who had phoned in, a conversation he had on the phone and he mentioned challenging a police officer about their numbers and riot gear, ie. why this many officers at a local game?, where usually just a few drunks get a warning? And the police officer apparently came up with the above explanation.
NOW, who is expecting serious civil disturbances?
And, are these the same people who try and tell us, during our Christmas break, that the prison population might go up next year by some 20.000, should the economy fail?

Can you shed some light on the above?
thanks Ingo

  • 18.
  • At 05:50 PM on 04 Jan 2007,
  • Martin Rosenbaum wrote:

Ingo -
Not really, I'm afraid. What you say is all a bit vague, but you could put some FOI requests to the Police to try to establish what if anything lies behind this.
Martin

  • 19.
  • At 08:00 PM on 04 Jan 2007,
  • Paul Dockree wrote:

Martin,

After reading the recent Independent newspaper article on the limitations of the Freedom of Information Act - if it perhaps may embarrass the current Government I have decided I maybe a victim of that mysterious "clearing house" of awkward requests.

I can think of no other reason for Greenwich Council's reluctance to let me have all my Child Care Records. I have obtained documents, written by my late mother, a late Labour MP, Wilfred Fienburgh acting on her behalf in a case involving me as a child and Westminster City Council answer to said MP. These papers came to me with exactly the same reference number as my child care record held by Greenwich Council. These interesting papers I got from the London Metropolitan Archives - who referred me to Greenwich Council for the complete file but Greenwich Council refuse to acknowledge my right to see any further papers.

They quote Section 40 and 40(i) of the FOI and seem to be saying via the phrase "my own personal data" I am not requesting my late mothers information but my own information under the wrong Act.

I think they are trying to confuse an awkward applicant.

  • 20.
  • At 09:36 AM on 23 Jan 2007,
  • Paul Dockree wrote:

Martin,

Forgive my Open Secret whinge and despite what I say below I do not expect YOU to publish it. It isn't relevant to anything

My blogs appear acceptable for most blog sites but I find it difficult to get my stuff on Nick Robinson's Newslog.

As required with all published blogs I stay polite, on topic and say nothing indiscreet about my Freedom of Information stuff - but nothing much gets posted. Last November was my last one I note so as a result I do not forward many there anymore.

But in this week of Fivelive being opened up to the listeners I have just decided to notice the fact.

I am hurt. Immodestly I thought some of my contributions were fairly good.

I know Blog sites cannot publish everything they receive but nothing I have sent recently has appeared. I never took a copy. I have a very bad memory so couldn't repeat most of it.

You need to know Mr Robinson's blogs are currently all over my areas of research on that maternal family research matter, you have kindly advised me on. Politicians, possible coverups, India, Bollywood films, its personalities and sponsors. But I behaved myself. Not a word.

I consider none but the production company Five Live Films Ltd are relevant to my case today - most of those I am researching are/were British and no longer with us.

But I think everything is connected in a quite amusing way.

That ship has just been wrecked near my childhood holiday place, Dawlish, Devon casting a black oil stain all over the area. If that isn't a metaphor for something? Jade Goody (half Jamaican) has a stand up fight with a Bollywood film star. I am half Jamaican too but hopeful more self controlled in my tussle with Greenwich Council and Five Star Films Ltd who channel some sponsorship through Bollywood films (still no answers from either source – quelle surprise)

Back to Newslog. Was it something I said or just chance? I will assume the latter as I like the BBC


www.chennaionline.com/events/Business/2004/01cadbury.asp


  • 21.
  • At 12:50 PM on 23 Jan 2007,
  • Paul Dockree wrote:

Martin,

Everything IS connected. I have just noticed the name of that ship being looted in Devon, MSC Napoli. After your patience with my whinge above - Oh I meant Five STAR Films Ltd both times - I have seen another anagram - my history is full of them already - so it will feel right at home.

MSC Napoli = Complains

  • 22.
  • At 04:41 PM on 26 Jan 2007,
  • Paul Dockree wrote:

Martin,

That Sherlock Holme's query about "the dog in the night time" - the fact that it didn't bark.

Neither did/does Greenwich Council!

Nigh on a year now and every letter lawyered up to the eenth degree. What do they think they are doing?

Because I am (very badly I expect) trying to be tactful (one family member of those sought was alive at the beginning of 2006 - he died in April) I am and was not naming names in Emails etc. So I accept I come across as slightly insane - but then this tale is.

But that is the thing with Greenwich Council - they didn't send around medical help for their former charge even when my opening gambit this time around when requesting access to ALL my child care papers was "I am not litigious - now please can I have my paperwork properly this time?"

Greenwich Council, prepared by my 1980s request no doubt - they just carried on blocking me, censoring my care paper work, misleading me about my rights and what I could have.

They never asked "What the hell are you talking about, Mr Dockree?"

Cover ups used to be a bit more elegant years ago I suppose. Now everyone assumes the public are all idiots. Sad really.

  • 23.
  • At 12:25 PM on 27 Jan 2007,
  • Paul Dockree wrote:

Martin,

I wish the gods of synchronicity would give me a break. I have been chuckling for days now and it has nowt to do with anything I have done.

I mention films a lot in my posts. Because of my poor memory (childcare I think) that is what I gauge things by. I likened this family search to the moment in Steven Speilberg's "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" when the computer took over from a scientist/musician in conversing with the aliens towards the end.

Since my initial Email to a site that dealt with my surname, way back in October 2005 I haven't been in control of things. Like so many dominoes falling down, clack, clack.

You could describe dominoes as white, black and very, VERY dotty. That describes me too at the moment.

I pity poor Labour - a British equivalent of the Furies seems at work and I can only look on in disbelief and smile.

The "News Quiz" - the Chairwoman Sandy Tosvig shot the Governments fox by announcing that proposed amendment to the FOI. Way to go, BBC!

I have already mentioned the MSC Napoli in what I would call the Raleigh Dawlish Raynard area but as well as a controversial court decision in Exeter that has come back to bite the Home Secreatry - the woman - South Afica bound for a wine farm, whose personal crate was being looted whilst she had to watch it on television has just been named. Marilyn Simony. Rod Morgan has just resigned from his job working for the Home Office in the juvenile area and an MP from Birmingham called Liam Byrne has been put up to take some of the flack aimed at the beleagured Home Secretary, John Reid.

Rod Morgan chimed with me because Morgan should have been my surname too but I have my mother's foster family's name. Just as I was thinking "Spare the Rod (Morgan)---" I could swear I heard the Government briefing against the man and saying his contract wouldn't be renewed. So the Rod Morgan wasn't spared and the child not spoilt then.

The Liam Byrne story was in yesterdays Evening Standard - a paper I am not fond of every since the cartoon strip "Modesty Blaise" was dropped. I am sure if it had been around in Attila the Hun's day, he would have stopped reading it because it was way too right wing for him. I am grateful though to the Londoner's Diary telling me about a real life Mr Byrne (Johnnie Byrne from the book "No Love For Johnnie") who is an Immigration Minister climbing up what they describe as the greasy pole and who writes books with title like "Local Government Transformed" and "Reinventing Government Again". I dread to look up WHICH ward of Brum he represents -that would be way too much.

Martin, a man named Liam Byrne as a replacement spokesman for Labour doesn't work in my universe - Liam Byrne becomes "I'm blarney" (no offence intended, Liam)

Byrne, Birmingham AND Immigration - is he real or are the Standard pulling our legs?

As a thank you for his missive to the judges on sentencing, Tony Blair's "Dear John" letter to Mr Reid would be "Dire John letter" and our Ms Marilyn Simony "I'm real synonym, I"


  • 24.
  • At 01:48 PM on 28 Jan 2007,
  • Paul Dockree wrote:

Martin, I have to tell off the BBC for the TV license fee. How dare they!

Now that is out of the way. Seriously, the discussion of “The News Quiz” chairperson's outing of the proposed amendment to the Freedom of Information Act came up yesterday in my house. And that followed with the discussions of the Government limiting the License fee increase over the next few years and collateral damage like the castrating of programmes like “Panorama”. It has gone the way of ITV’s “Tonight with Trevor McDonald”. Programmes like those shouldn’t have a personality topping and tailing them. By the time Jeremy Vine’s done introducing the subject matter, the reporters/researchers barely have time to clear their throats before Vine is back again telling us what next week’s gobbet is to be about. Give it 2 years and we will have a Government sponsored spokesman filling the McDonald/Vine role with an epilogue like ”What you just saw of course didn’t really happen but if you do not vote us back into office – it may well do. And remember – WE KNOW WHERE YOU LIVE!”

The Dane of smallish statue, Sandie Toksvig showed size doesn’t matter in some instances. Do not mess about with the Nordic countries. My missus is from Finland and yesterday she came as near as she tends to in expressing anger. Discussing our pensions, she said she “was fed up with Gordon Brown raiding her pension pot” But that is what they do, this shameless lot. Pension pots raided annually, no back up for those who lose their pensions completely through mismanagement, despite Government assurances, gulf war syndrome heroes ignored.

I have already mentioned The Furies and believe me Labour do not want my wife on their case. With those from Finland it has something to do with the eyes. I always remember a poor ticket attendant on Charing Cross station literally quailed from one look from her and did as he was bid. He mentioned laser beams and I suppose she must bank down the fires with me because I haven’t seen it from her, although I deserve it often. My experience came from my goddaughter in Finland when she was very young. It is literally a sort of flash and I felt she was looking into my soul. She must have liked what she saw because we have remained good friends ever since. I know if I see my wife’s eyes flash and the eyebrow gets arched – this particular Elvis is going to leave the building.

Richard Ingram in the Independent reminded me it was the old style “Panorama” that had exposed Lady Shirley Porter and the Westminster Council many years back. I have declared my interest already, but think there may be unfinished and older business with that and other local Councils and with that threatened amendment to the FOI due (2 months was it?) the clock is ticking. Has the Government discovered forward thinking? I am sure that letter to the judges is because certain Government ministers can foresee themselves up before the beak for loitering within No. 10 with no intent – to do anything constructive. When the judge asks them if they have anything to say before sentence is passed on the miscreants, John Reid will remind the judge of his earlier missive about full prisons. “Perhaps care in the community, your honour?”

The Independent has also been harping on about the abundance of packaging on groceries this week but I think they need to provide illustration for some readers. I got the sub text or point on the first day. Several days of it – well?

“Too much packaging!” screams the headlines and there are photos of Tony Blair and every other Cabinet member below

In the fuss about the adoption of children in care by gay parents - the mantra is "the child is always paramount" Sitting in my seat I find that laughable. If you used a good telescope - I think you could just see me in the queue of those being giving a higher priority than myself - in my own life. Famous men, mostly dead are filling the front ranks and remember Martin, I do not know if the story is true. Behaviour from all concerned suggest someone is scared of something..

  • 25.
  • At 08:03 AM on 01 Mar 2007,
  • Paul Dockree wrote:

Martin,

As I won't be published - for now - can I sound off on your site?

Cadbury Schweppes have been in the news for all the wrong reasons recently, salmonella and fraud scares tardly reported. As I consider them nothing to do with my recent search I have criticised them simply as a consumer of some of their products and an ex cook who was taught the essential respect for hygiene in all foods stuff.

So when they quickly withdrew some Easter Egg products recently because of insufficient warnings for nut allergy sufferers I was pleased to believe the company were learning how to behave responsibly to their customers.

Maybe the company is being led by unwise advertising companys' advice for their two recent adverts. One for the Dr Pepper drink in the USA, where the company reportedly buried rare coins in most peculiar places,risking desecration.

Now for a few days I have been reading and hearing of a series adverts for the new Trident (Operation Trident - oops) chewing gum with most odd sounding (presumably) Caribbean stereo-types as the main spokespersons.

It teaches the word mastication to a wide audience which is no bad thing but what on earth is it saying to us in Great Britain in this year where the abolition of slavery is being remembered?

  • 26.
  • At 12:24 PM on 03 Mar 2007,
  • Paul Dockree wrote:

I mentioned unwise advice in my last post and it seems advice, unwise or not has gagged an item from being broadcast.

I caught the 10.00pm news on BBC on Friday 2nd March. I do not know if it has anything to do with anything but let anyone who gives a damn - my thoughts are with the BBC. As to my own selfish interests - they can wait (two decades and counting) and everyone will get nothing but discretion from me.

  • 27.
  • At 04:24 PM on 05 Mar 2007,
  • Paul Dockree wrote:

Martin,

I do not know if I mentioned it before but something akin to movement on my FOI request for my late mothers information. Also the late MPs involvement in my case under the FOI again.

I wrote to the London Metropolitan Archives telling them of my difficulties getting access to the full and complete child care file.

I was telephoned and spoke at the beginning of February this year when the person (who originally sent paperwork on my mother, her local MP and the Westminster County Council's answer to the MP for North Islington) rang me. All those released missives in 2003, were dated between December 1951 and February 1952.

After much discussion I was encourage to appeal the original appeal decision and it was suggested that advice was also coming from Greenwich too. Of course it was mentioned in the decision letter originally but when you stop beating your head against a wall it feels SO much better. I wrote to you a few months after for advice.

So on the London Metropolitan Archive lady's advice - about a month ago I sent my written appeal off to The Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane
WILMSLOW' Cheshire SK9 5AF and await developments

  • 28.
  • At 12:28 PM on 06 Mar 2007,
  • Paul Dockree wrote:

Martin,

I have just received a reply from The Information Commissioner's Office.

Why am I not surprised - it has taken them a month to ask me for 3 bits of papers. Meanwhile my case, which has been given a reference number, is CLOSED.

The bits of paper required?

1. My initial request for information to Greenwich Council

2. Greenwich Council's initial response and

3. My request for a review.

So whilst I can get these to the Wilmslow office almost by return of post - I fully expect a decision on my appeal a few years after my demise at this rate.

Under the ICO's "Our Current Response Times" is the following:

"All written complaints and enquiries will receive a response within 14 calendar days of receipt".

Boy, as their (Information Commisioner's Office) response letter dates my complaint letter as 31 January 2007 - they have broken this pledge already or the Royal Mail delivery system is worse than I thought! I didn't send it in the middle of February but the same day I wrote it.

  • 29.
  • At 12:23 AM on 09 Mar 2007,
  • Charles wrote:

How can you talk about FOI when the BBC does not release the Balden report?

  • 30.
  • At 04:07 PM on 09 Mar 2007,
  • Paul Dockree wrote:

Charles - remind me who gave the public the so called FOI Act.

The BBC or The Government? Is it down to playground tactics now? The Government's Freedom of Information is bigger than the BBC's?

I have no idea what the Balden report is but it is getting a mention here - on a BBC site.

  • 31.
  • At 04:58 PM on 12 Mar 2007,
  • Paul Dockree wrote:

Martin,

The Freedom Of Information Act and the Act of Speaking Freely about information - albeit via text messages.

This issue must be discussed one day. I heard that police chief Ali Desai on Simon Mayo today and he has a book out about his current employers - the Police Service. Can an author serve two masters - himself and his employers and still function effectively?

Could that have happened years ago with what I presume is a critical tome about Mr Desai's own view of the treatment he has received from supervisors in recent years?

But also today - hooray, I thought - common sense at last. BBC's Newslog has relented and I got a post on - about Green issues. Well it is a start.

That line about everything and everybody being connected. Green issues and Barack Obama's supposed slave trade ancestry can all be tied in I think but I wont push it.

Perhaps I will write a book about it one day. Martin, did I ever tell you whom have been suggested as some of my ancestors? Oh, the shame. LOL

  • 32.
  • At 01:24 PM on 19 Mar 2007,
  • Paul Dockree wrote:

Martin - I am in the queue of the Information Commissioner's Office with my appeal for my mothers stuff under FOI . A 3 page letter to tell me they had nothing to tell me - yet - maybe ever! My request passed to a Case Worker - his/her current workload unknown. I think it is a "no brainer" as our USA cousins would say but everything is so difficult nowadays.

From that unlikely venue (where blue pencilling is frowned on) and via careful reading the next day, I got my independent advice on the date to look out for in that other matter.

This will make interesting reading one day - unless it is one big wind up. But I have a sense of these things and would be surprised were it to be.

  • 33.
  • At 05:38 PM on 05 Apr 2007,
  • Paul Dockree wrote:

Martin,

In the interest of freedom of my information.

Sir Michael Lyons, reportedly known to certain Government Ministers (particularly one who has reportedly given him a couple of roles) and from Birmingham local council circles has insisted he will be impartial.

Why then am I worried and the phrase of "parachuted in" comes to mind.

No. They wouldn't dare. Would they? LOL

  • 34.
  • At 03:28 PM on 15 Apr 2007,
  • Paul Dockree wrote:

Martin,

I think my independent source has told me that Freedom of My Information no longer exists in Great Britain if it is at odds with certain areas. Blue Pencil has confirmed it.

Despite my disbelief they would - they HAVE dared! LOL

Shameless to the last redoubt!

  • 35.
  • At 11:11 AM on 24 Apr 2007,
  • Des McConaghy wrote:

Martin

Paul Dockree (5 April) doubted the impartiality of Ministers appointing Sir Michael Lyons as a trusted helper from Birmingham local government circles. To some extent there is undoubtedly a policy of Ministers “parachuting in” like minded advisers. But what’s so new about that?! Recent examples of “sofa government” should highlight the latent patronage systems of our own and most societies. But in the case of the Lyons’ Report on local government there is genuine confusion. We are a unitary state without a formal constitution or guaranteed local or regional powers. So as the new global economy became a reality it was easy – one might say “natural” – for Ministers to bypass and disregard all other alternative centers of fiscal and electoral power. That included parliament and, of course, local government. Whitehall has long taken over most formal local government functions, though it still hides behind outsourced agencies, privatisation and now even “compacts” with a new resurgent voluntary sector. As a commissioning Minister the Chancellor of the Exchequer has been mainly concerned with fostering a “global London” for this global economy and hasn’t had time to notice if we still have room for traditional local government or, for that matter, a great independent public broadcasting corporation. Neither I think has Lyons.


  • 36.
  • At 04:13 PM on 01 May 2007,
  • Paul Dockree wrote:

Des McConaghy - thanks for that view particularly on the Lyons Report. I am not up on that area but it has filled in some aspects of Lyons for me. I found his disinterest in TV in general interesting too.

Martin, the Information Commissioner himself was quoted on the noon news on Radio 4 - stating to a Parliamentary Select Committee what I think was a criticism of too much surveillance within the UK. A CCTV for one in 14 of us? I foolishly felt he still had my appeal request at the top of his things to do and he pops up on surveillance of the general public.

How did he know that was to be my next appeal subject? But I do wish he wasn't so able in multi tasking. Be a man like me, Mr Information Commissioner and concentrate on one thing at a time. Now about my late mothers information, sir. LOL

  • 37.
  • At 05:53 PM on 18 May 2007,
  • malcolm miller wrote:


Do we know how many complaints or instances there have been of MP's constituents' correspondence being released under FOI?

To whom shall I send such a request !?

  • 38.
  • At 08:04 PM on 20 May 2007,
  • Paul Dockree wrote:

Martin, I am an impatient man and I note we are fast approaching the fourth month for my slam dunk appeal for certain child care papers. Six months since I informed certain parties of other factors and no end in sight on either front.

So meanwhile David Maclean and his shameless FOI Amendment Bill comes and goes and comes again and now heads towards the House of Lords where I hope they will put the thing out of my misery.

But I am really ashamed of this country's representatives at the moment, so will not hold my breath.

I have been doing stupid recently (playing nice)as I am exhausted and this country doesn't deserve it - that ceases immediately. Time for someone to actually talk to me I think.

Whilst I will not be pro-active in anything to prejudice whatever, I will watch with bemusement what will be done about me not playing ridiculous roles any more.

My what I consider months on end fair mindedness seems to have been wasted whilst ridiculous games are being played with me not involved.

Yes, that good telescope I mentioned many months ago. Were you to look through it I do not think you would see me at all now with the new people crowding in there.

  • 39.
  • At 03:49 PM on 21 May 2007,
  • Brian Cordon wrote:

M.P.'s have voted to exempt themselves from:
The Freedom of Information Act
The coming No Smoking ban

Are there any more items I should be aware of?

  • 40.
  • At 10:12 AM on 22 May 2007,
  • Jeremy Thomas wrote:

I have been following the debate regarding the Freedom of Information Act and the House of Commons debate on Friday. I looked at Hansard and saw that my own MP had voted in favour of the bill. I wrote to him expressing my disappointment and he replied to say:
"I voted for the closure motion which enabled a vote to be taken - I did not support the Bill."
I am not clear at what he means or what the debate was on Friday?
Are you able to clarify the difference?

  • 41.
  • At 06:56 PM on 22 May 2007,
  • Martin Rosenbaum wrote:

Jeremy -
Before the actual vote on the Bill, there had to be a vote on a closure motion to end the debate. On the whole the MPs who voted for closure were supporters of the Bill, as they wanted to stop the filibustering from the Bill's opponents and move on to a vote which would see it passed. But it is possible for an MP to have supported the closure motion for some reason, while not backing the Bill itself.

  • 42.
  • At 07:13 AM on 24 May 2007,
  • Paul Dockree wrote:

Martin,

Now Richard Thomas is proposing clamping down on frivolous FOI requests! You do not know how irritating this all is and seems off the point for me.

Is it suggested someone asking via FOI how much is spent on a branded chocolate(! Oh you spoil us Mr Ambassador) in British Embassies or Tony Blair's make up or how many eligible unmarried males there are in the armed services is stopping the Information Commission getting around to my all too serious request?

Dear Martin

Thank you for the mention of our blog, IMPACT, in your post "Is the Gateway Open?" ({http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/opensecrets/2007/05/post_18.html)

Keep up the good work!

  • 44.
  • At 05:40 PM on 01 Jun 2007,
  • Paul Dockree wrote:

Martin, This family search under FOI is difficult. I have kept quiet but nothing is happening towards it being resolved although I have been reluctantly in Greenwich recently doing a job search under tuition. Greenwich? That was difficult to take but last week I had to visit the burnt out shell of what of the Cutty Sark was there. When as a child I played around it it had only been there a year.

And to protect themselves someone is playing dirty but I will let that go for now. Yup this FOI lark is difficult but I feel I found out more about The Balen Report fuss at least. Take care

  • 45.
  • At 01:14 PM on 11 Jun 2007,
  • Paul Dockree wrote:

Martin,

A lot of information on the news is prefaced with the words "got under the Freedom of Information Act". Stuff that is not immediately available.

So I have asked for family history under that self same Act, given the same info to the media and I think I am being gagged by whoever for about 17 more days. Why? Oh that is a difficult one. More Brown than Greenfield sites I would suggest. LOL

Because no one is correcting me on the matter, for the purpose of avoiding embarrassment I can only assume.

What a shameful bunch of personages Governing this country currently - wolves led by donkeys I would say. Ah well.

I am deluded too - they may as well look for this mythical legacy that everyone craves. Let them get on with it.

  • 46.
  • At 01:47 PM on 20 Jun 2007,
  • Paul Dockree wrote:

Martin,

I read my newspaper in a fairly odd way and unless I am very much mistaken I understand that one can be discussed by the legal minds at Queens Bar level without actually knowing about it. It is really lucky I DO read my newspaper in that way or I may never have known about it. So unilateral interference seems to be the dish of the last several days. Someone promises something and the legal eagles respond "The computer - it say NO!" I am never approached so of course I do not matter.

And as I mentioned "them getting on with it" - they have - with me not involved? Boy. Freedom of Information has a long way to go in Great Briatin.

One of my posts didn't make it on the main thread. Why not? I was responding to Joseph's point on the Balen Report. And I didn't give him both barrels - you ought to see my work when I am really riled! LOL

  • 47.
  • At 03:21 PM on 24 Jun 2007,
  • Paul Dockree wrote:

Freedom of MY information seems to come under a separate legislation. Lawyers are ruling the roost in my family search it appears, Martin. A daily writ if I am not mistaken. I am going to roast them alive if this ever finds the light of day, which I doubt. I had more faith in Great Britain before all this started.

Do you like anagrams at all Martin? "J" I think is Aunt Jinnie.

Subject: W R Haines Shrewsbury Shropshire The End Justifies The means The Rule Of Law

Anagram: So sit Weep. Brethren Faithful. You're Sane. Mel D. She is Harsh. Renews hush writ. J

But remember, Martin. It is JUST an anagram. It means nothing whatsoever - so neither do I - mean nothing to certain parties that is. So whilst I not nearly worthy enough to apologise , no offence to anyone. LOL

  • 48.
  • At 09:21 AM on 25 Jun 2007,
  • Paul Dockree wrote:

Yes Martin,

More news may be this morning. A Mr Mark Severs from West Yorkshire seems to confirm legal restraints in place. From possible kin too!

Freedom Of Information. I haven't considered it that deeply before but it is really an odd feeling. That may be you are being discussed - knowing that you would not normally be allowed to be aware of said talks and also having having no say whatsoever in them or the decisions made. For suspected criminals mayhap but an innocent "Who Do You Think You Are" enquiry?

Why do some people have access to high legal channels in what at its basic is my family search and the general public member who started said search not allowed to have equal access?

In Gordon Brown's new and inclusive Britain this is still allowed? Well Gordon has fallen at the first hurdle as far as I am concerned. I will keep watching all this silliness knowing I could "nuke them" (Mr Sever's words) any time I like. I am much too kind sometimes to the small part of Britain that actually IS little. LOL

  • 49.
  • At 05:20 PM on 26 Jun 2007,
  • Paul Dockree wrote:

Martin, I have had to let them get on with it. I hope my dismissal of them was polite but they keep trying to peak my interest but who cares? Oh Hulk (as in Greenman) is a nickname.

Subject: Graham Rankin, Ales, FRANCE Oort Kuiper Are we there yet? Astronomy

Anagram: Hulk - Keep faith - Rotten cage - Money arrears I or we err - Story - Manana

Manana - another language(nothing is happening in Spain tomorrow is it? - a new Prime Minister perhaps? - LOL) Tomorrow or next year. Months of this and it IS cruel if I am right about the reason for the delay. I gave full credit to the rule of law and got nowt for it but obviscation.

So much credence is given to political figures, Lords and Dames, lawyers and media figures - but only in their world. Us mere mortals have lesser concerns like - who was my mum really? And in truth - it should ONLY concern me and my nearest and dearest. Damn it all! It is private. Why have limits on who has access to certain information at all else.

I think my information has been used to play football with. And I got a good kicking as a result.

  • 50.
  • At 07:58 AM on 27 Jun 2007,
  • Paul Dockree wrote:

Yes, Martin,

Tick, tick, tick. I am so proud of my countrys openness now the reins of power are about to change.

It is really bemusing because none of this is real and if anything old news to all the poor people I have been boring about parts of this for over a year, including you. But thanks you all for listening. I would have run mad else. "And he still may" I hear you all chorus. LOL

Subject: I read Hemingway Doctor John F Morgan Harrogate North Yorkshire

Anagram: Greenman - Aah the horror! e.g. Ginny/Jack Ford - A history. Hid. Tomorrow!

  • 51.
  • At 04:26 PM on 27 Jun 2007,
  • Paul Dockree wrote:

I actually yawn now at the helplessness of it all. And I have just listened to our new Prime Minister's pledge on how it will be from now on. Goodness - after this lot - "low skullduggery"? - he had better mean it!

In the interest of full disclosure - tomorrow the reason for inaction will be allowing for a "house warming period" for our new Prime Minister. A short period, of say 2 decades? You see if I am not right. LOL

Subject: David Boulter Paris The "Yo Blair" Middle East that

Anagram: P. Dire! I had to abort it! Mel D. Use the Blair last day. V

P = me? V=Ginny?

  • 52.
  • At 09:23 AM on 28 Jun 2007,
  • Paul Dockree wrote:

Martin, Told you, old son. I have "heard" that everyone in Great Britain - including widows of those mentioned are involved in deciding my life EXCEPT me. "Tromp" is apt. It seems to mean trample underfoot. No change there then. Has this country forgotten all sense of fairness?

Subject: Phillip Griffin Manchester At least on second July Good riddance

Anagram: Depression. Ginnie/Ford held again. Fit Catchall Tromp. Second July

Oh and nothing will happen on 2 July because someone else will be stopped in the street in Lincolns Inn and be asked to put a spoke into something I still do not know whether is true or not.

If it isn't true - why all the fuss and me all unaware? LOL

  • 53.
  • At 08:20 AM on 29 Jun 2007,
  • Paul Dockree wrote:

Martin,

Morning. Sometimes I have to admit I just have fun and wistfully make up dreams via anagrams - one Mary Harris from London W11 wrote and I said "Hi Tine" she did. The suggestion was a Law Bar expressing regret and relenting. I am sceptical - so many other "promises"

My wedding anniversary tomorrow - the wife has put up with me for so long. LOL.

Freedom of Information? Because of a particular and formerly even bigger neighbouring country Finland has had to tread a delicate path in that regard in the last hundred years. It was almost sneered at and called "Finlandisation" but in my opinion "needs must" and how many people recall in the Winter War with Russia, Finland was formrly for a short time an enemy during the Second World War to Great Britain?

A "foe" I believe even Winston Churchill himself praised at the time. But now the Finnish society there seems so open. As a result those I know there like my missus - do not care as Britain seems to about this silly selfish business. Helped to keep me grounded though.

Anyway to celebrate my wedding anniversary tomorrow - I gave myself another gift of optimism this morning. Sigh. Freedom of My Information I call it - but wishful thinking may be more accurate. LOL

Subject: Does the Brown cabinet really represent a fresh start

Anagram: Sirs Present - Abbey loan - Clears - Drat Her! Fee - Nett Worth

  • 54.
  • At 05:02 PM on 30 Jun 2007,
  • Paul Dockree wrote:

Freedom of My information update!

It is my anniversary today so although I have seen more anagrams I will not check my habit till tomorrow. An Irritant to someone and Due Diligence for truth passed? These are law terms and if these anagram solutions are NOT real then someone is misbehaving badly using certain names in this fashion. Not funny at all.

We will see. I recorded the Bart Simpson radio show, Martin and look forward to hearing it later.

  • 55.
  • At 10:52 AM on 01 Jul 2007,
  • Paul Dockree wrote:

Someone on Broadcasting House this morning asked a Government representative with I presume a perfectly straight face what exactly was discussed at the latest COBRA meeting - called because of these latest terrorism incidents. As another listener pointed out in so many words "Oh-yes that IS going to be answered on radio for EVERYONE to know - not!" Freedom of TOO much Information.

Life goes on I thought as I fed a neighbours hungry moggy - "In the dogs and cats, in the flies and rats" Peter Gabriel's take in his song "I Grieve".

Despite personal, national or international disasters, life MUST go on. Our press blows hot or cold on actual bulldog spirit of members of the public and possible looming annihilation. No help to anyone.

So the suspect anagram maker is actually asking me to say it is a load of "Trollope"> Geraldine McEwan put a marvellous professional face on an Anthony Trollope harridan in the TV series "The Barchester Chronicles alongside the late Donald Pleasance and the soon to be well know Alan Rickman. "Fie, Mr Slope, fie!" quoth Ms McEwan.

Anagram maker seemingly includes the old admonishment "fie" plus hazed (bullied - see Martin I was being wound up)) and remittance to peak my interest. But instead I celebrated my "Coral" wedding anniversary (told me all unknowingly by a couple of cannily dressed strangers) partly at that aptly plural named bookies but always with my missus.

Real life does go on and the moggies of this world must be noticed and lovely wives shopping needs met. LOL

On to another disappointing day perhaps?

  • 56.
  • At 12:05 PM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • Warren Swaine wrote:

I recently made a FOI request for copies of emails sent by one of the sponsors of failed attempt to restrict the FOI Act to my town's senior councillors.

I know they are hiding some emails as I have a copy of one they claim doesn't exist, but after my request, this was sent to all senior council executives. I'd like your view on whether this email constitutes contempt of the act?

[I have removed the recipients names and the name of the town]

---------------------
Dear All

Hopefully you will have all seen the article in the recent xxxxxx@xxxxxx newsletter regarding the forthcoming E-Tidy! I thought I would briefly follow up on this with "warning" following a recent Freedom of Information (FoI) request for ALL emails from a particular Cllr to all Senior Officers! Although the Cllr challenged this request with the Information Commissioner it was upheld as a valid request. If no emails had been held by XXX staff then this would not have been a problem.

Please consider all emails that you hold about, to and/or from Cllrs or indeed any member of the public.

[rest of email snipped]

Warren -
My view would be that may well be against the spirit but not the letter of the FOI Act (which doesn't stipulate what information you have to keep, only what you have to release when you do happen to hold it). It may also conflict with principles of good governance and records management.

  • 58.
  • At 05:47 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Paul Dockree wrote:

Martin,

Allegedly the reported third ploy is in use.

Ploys Number one and two have not released possible family history information. 6 months and counting.

This country is really depressing me.

Freedom Of Information Act? Acting perhaps that we have freedom of information in Great Britain I think would be a tad more accurate.

  • 59.
  • At 07:48 AM on 11 Jul 2007,
  • Paul Dockree wrote:

Martin,

Sigh. FOI? You can keep it, old son. I give up - again! LOL

Subject: Letters Flooded Neglected North

Anagram: Cede - Sod - Tell need length for tort


  • 60.
  • At 04:07 PM on 11 Jul 2007,
  • Anonymous wrote:

"Don't publish this blog"?

Title on the Main Page, Martin, of todays blog. You must have read my mind. But as I am not talking to certain personages - I want it at least known about.

The apology floods in but "too late, too late, the not so young man cried!" "Anan" is Web nickname

Subject: Stewart Arnold, Swanland, East Riding of Yorkshire. The apparent lack - accountable and regional government

Anagram: Anan - Law thee stink - given real roasting - part loan - Dowds order - demon pact - fatal - Ginny's heart broken - cruel AC

Number of letters:
Subject = 89
Anagram = 89

  • 61.
  • At 08:35 AM on 12 Jul 2007,
  • Paul Dockree wrote:

Martin,

Whilst Alastair Campbell's diary extracts drives a coach and two horse pass the road sign that says "Caution and discretion required" - shank's pony will do for me. At least I nod to said sign, very repectfully too. So the subject below speaks to me at least. LOL

Subject: Fanatics will not be defeated by theological argument

Anagram: Greenman illogical law Babysit. Effected De-Tooth. Aunt

  • 62.
  • At 08:40 AM on 16 Jul 2007,
  • Paul Dockree wrote:

My relatives are I believe keeping me informed but I am not surprised any more about what the delay will be next week, next month. Forgers rioting was suggested but I got a fuller picture why
I cannot expect to hear from The Information Commission any time this millennium, Martin. And fine if legal procedures may be harmed I am happy with that.

But I think I am not meant to know certain stuff officially so it makes this situation interesting to say the least. Watching what are the wheels of justice grind exceeding slow for just one person - whilst those same wheels are spinning around like crazy for others. That figure of "blind justice" - she has been peeking through one side of that blindfold. LOL!

I also find it hilarious that I am writing all this stuff and it will help in my trial when I am committed or like Homer Simpson, there may be a collective cry of "Doh!"

  • 63.
  • At 02:40 PM on 16 Jul 2007,
  • Paul Dockree wrote:

Martin, My area is seemingly a police free zone - the feral kids running around freely to cause havoc last - my road last Saturday.

Today when seemingly told a halt was put on my family search appeal via law enforcement concerns - I get a man arrested right in front of me in my place of worship - the bookies.

I controlled myself and I declined the opportunity to put my family search complaints to the officer concerned - he was busy but I didn't misunderstand why suddenly my area has the law enforcer's attention.

Boy they pick their moments. But maybe the policeman WAS from the Met!

  • 64.
  • At 12:46 PM on 23 Aug 2007,
  • Michael Shilliday wrote:

This FOI request might interest you - there is no where near enough podcasting on the BBC!

http://sluggerotoole.com/index.php/weblog/comments/podcasting-the-bbc/

  • 65.
  • At 06:44 AM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Paul Dockree wrote:

Freedom of Information overseas. My wife hasn't lived in here Finland for nearly 40 years but she still belongs. Her Info needed and obtained at TWO locations in less than half an hour in TOTAL. Her passport, herself, a few judious queries and a small fee. In one place she got her info in 5 languages and in the other - it was formally notified. As I said - no more than thirty minutes in total. And then on to important things like shopping for bread and cheese.

Remarkable. I was born and have live there in Great Britain all my life and I might as well not exist as far as getting my mother's or my information is concerned. In effect - two decades trying And the Government are proud they recently have introduced FOI to us?

  • 66.
  • At 10:17 AM on 19 Sep 2007,
  • Anonymous wrote:

Hello Martin,

I really am amused and depressed at the same time. Britain.s Media or the legal system is acting oddly if not misbehaving and I have yet to find out which! My day in court?

I read that Freedom Of Information was bypassed many times in somewhere called Kings County in the USA by this "tort legislation" I have often mentioned. On more important matters than my little family thing. But that Great Britain should have its legal system used as a seemingly vindictive tool for so long? I likened it to trying to hold spilt milk in a colander.

I have thought about putting it all on the Internet - perhaps on one of my many sites (it would become a talking pont at least) or via my camera - perhaps in film form on YouTube (whoever seems to think they could stop a determined me - LOL) but I have too much respect for the late MP in case I am completely deluded. No more damage, Paul.

So on it goes with me seemingly being told I am not allowed to know - under legal torts! But no one tells me I am wrong!

Subject: Two face court on terror charges

Anagram: Ace, a Crown Court go refresh tort

Martin, in Kings County it was used to bypass FOI and hide shameful and much worse behaviour.

Makes me think at least! And is that colander empty yet? LOL

  • 67.
  • At 02:15 PM on 21 Sep 2007,
  • Paul Dockree wrote:

Martin, oops - sorry. But that unclaimed text above was me.

But my Independent source seemed to claim they were going to enlighten me on my late mother as the Information Commissioners Office seems very tardy. I suspect I was asked to appeal to them in the first place in order to allow them my care papers and then as you know - nothing.

Same again from my independent source - nothing - except that the Law of Great Britain MUST be obeyed. Tout Law, seemingly. I think I am going to live in Finland. LOL

Subject: Pair found guilty of bus stop killing
Anagram: Paul, Ugly Pig of Inn Tout Silks, Forbid

  • 68.
  • At 03:03 PM on 24 Sep 2007,
  • Paul Dockree wrote:

Martin,

I am disappointed so will become silent like the late Marcel Marceau - except NOT deceased. I will just watch the world wag stupid.

My Independent source is not even subtle anymore - yesterdays front page looked at a certain way - LOL - yet still do nothing. Today -

Winter Wonderland = Law Inn deter - drown.

Nice. And FiveLive censor me because I mentioned humourously I hope the Bank of England. Considering who the late MP seemingly suggested was possibly a maternal grandfather of someone was - no clues there then to the truth of it all.

Take care.

  • 69.
  • At 05:06 PM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • andrew james wrote:

Dear Martin, at a dinner party last night i had a very interesting conversation with an academic who felt that FOI had actually reduced the amount of information we get from the government.

I'm not sure i believe it, but he made a good point about it being harder to get some types of information now, because gvt depts insist on going through the FOI process when before it was simply a case of picking up the phone or using the internet and asking them.

What do you think? And do you know where i can read other people's views on this theory.

Cheers, Andy.

Andy -

FOI has formalised the process of getting information from public authorities.
The net effect has definitely been to increase the information obtainable, by providing legal rights (as well as going some way towards changing the culture).
However, I would agree that there are some circumstances in which information flow has been reduced. This is most likely where it was previously provided to a personal contact or effectively as a kind of favour, and this informal assistance is now being put on a more formal and sometimes less helpful basis.
Of course if FOI really does succeed in changing the culture of government, then that could be a temporary phenomenon.

  • 71.
  • At 04:21 PM on 18 Nov 2007,
  • Martyn Boyd wrote:

Dear Martin,

I read the decision document. I have had a similar experience - though I didn't go so extensively into it - with the PSNI over an RTA and with regard to firearms licensing on which they seem to just stagger from blunder to blunder not really seeming to know what they are doing. Well done in chasing them Public servants must be kept constantly aware of to whom they are accountable - THE PUIBLIC.

regards,

Martyn Boyd

Hi! Love the blog....and I am heading to London Feb. 11-13...could we grab a sandwich or a pint?

CD

  • 73.
  • At 10:08 AM on 08 Jan 2008,
  • Paul wrote:

Martin,

I too appear to be "chasing secrets" - the title of a TV movie yesterday I could not watch as it felt so close to home. Love across racial boundaries - a little girl - hated by someone she addresses as Grandfather - taken in and brought up by neighbours.

I got my Information Office appeal result and it boils down to just three words - "it was decided".

My appeal for my late mothers information - started out under the Freedom of Information Act and further info was requested from me and given under the same. However in turning down my request - a letter dated 4 January 2008 tells me on 15 March 2007 it was decided to consider it under the Data Protection Legislation. I was also told I was sent a letter informing me of this odd decision - I do not recall it but then neither was a copy in 4 January 2008 letter either. I will check my records.

But those 3 words settled my fate 9 months ago. I cannot get my late mother's info under those rules and I wouldn't have waited patiently for this long - to have the same stunt pulled that my previous local council pulled. Who I also understood was cheering me on to Appeal what I saw was a lost cause last January.

I will ask for this 15 March letter but it is like someone moving the goal posts just as a penalty kick is taken. Not on.

If you wanted a perfect example of how to decribe "unattributable" in three word - "it was decided" would do. Not by whom, when, why or how.

"Chasing Secrets" - chasing Open Secrets perhaps?

  • 74.
  • At 07:19 PM on 10 Jan 2008,
  • Paul wrote:

The first draft of my letter to the Information Commissioner's Office should have been written on asbestos paper - but my better half reigned me in. Thank goodness. Good manners cost nothing except an extreme effort sometimes on my part due to the fact she is twisting my arm.

So I trust it was concise and professional and addressed the relevant point of the decision not to uphold my appeal against the local council.

Time, gentlemen, please. It takes so long, Martin and when it is negative as far as the applicant is concerned - that delay is an irritating factor. So I withdrew from the process in other areas and let them get on with it.

I suspect to disapproval.

Subject: Obesity a life style choice
Anagram: Fie ill ace - Hey, bio test cosy

Cosy? In all modesty it is for me - its a little thing called truth - but I "got a life"

And just told a new family member born in Finland yesterday. That wasn't kept secret - family rejoicing and it is a boy!


  • 75.
  • At 12:31 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Paul wrote:

I have been sent the mentioned missive of 15 March 2007 and it is the same shell game. I cannot have my late mother's information under the DPA and "personal information" (mine of course) cannot be given under the FOI legislation.

The ridiculous thing is, Martin, I got on this treadmill by my former local Council offering an identified file about my late mother if I would forward her death certificate (this letter was date June 7 2006!)

"After perusing your file, we have identified that there is information contained on the file that pertains to your mother......... If you are able to provide us with verification of your mother's death by way of a copy of her Death Certificate, we will be able to release the additional information to you."

I made the mistake of accepting their offer and providing, via my oldest half sister in South Africa, the required document.

Here endeth the attempt. A year and a half of silliness.

  • 76.
  • At 06:40 PM on 13 Feb 2008,
  • Greenman wrote:

I give up on Freedom of my late mother's information but it seems Martin, someone can still inconvenience me. What a series of sorry chapters this is turning out to be for Freedom of Information here.

I have offered up my whole life, unpaid, for a year, given up my old computer for inspection and run away from the Job Centre. And now MySpace is TheirSpace.

No explanation except seemingly someone may object to my earlier search. No evidence of possible accepted guilt there then! LOL

And am I any further forward? No!

Subject: Boris: How I will get knives off the streets

Anagram: Browser's still fine - few kith veto - hogties

Kith? Not of mine. LOL

I have to accept my reading of the news headlines - as I get nowt else. Ah well - onyergo Great Britain.

  • 77.
  • At 08:15 AM on 24 Feb 2008,
  • Terry wrote:

I was wondering Martin if you have signed the official secrets act in your capacity as a BBC journalist ? This same question goes for Frank Gardner the Security Correspondent as well.

As a journalist I imagine that you recieve a lot of information that you shouldn't ? If so, do you find you have to make a judgement on disclosure which is covered by the OSA ? Or do you just make the judgement without recourse to the OSA, but on the basis of responsible citizenship ?

  • 78.
  • At 04:46 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Michael wrote:

Terry (24th Feb 2008, above),

You may wish to take a look at the BBC's response to this question, which the Corporation was asked under FOI:

BBC FOI Response

Terry - I haven't signed the Official Secrets Act. I would make a judgment on any information that reaches me, in the light of the law, BBC policies and my own notion of responsible journalism.

  • 80.
  • At 10:45 AM on 03 Mar 2008,
  • Rosa wrote:

I believe this is concerning kew bridge area in 1954. The way i understood it to have occurred though may well be different to your understanding of how it occurred. Not sure really.

  • 81.
  • At 10:35 AM on 05 Mar 2008,
  • Andrew X wrote:

You really need to take a look at this:

'How Phorm plans to tap your internet connection - Under the hood of BT's data pimping machine'

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/02/29/phorm_documents/

Forget lost disk and unencrypted laptops. BT, hand in hand with ex-spyware maker Phorm, are planning to intercept millions of peoples web browsing and identify every page you visit in order to better target ads to you.

VirginMedia and Carphone Warehouse are also entering into identical arrangements.

This isn't just the postman reading your mail, he's stood behind you reading every detail of your online life.

  • 82.
  • At 02:47 PM on 05 Mar 2008,
  • Andrew X wrote:

Following on from my last post.

If you feel strongly about the issue raised re: BT, TalkTalk, VirginMedia etc and Phorm you can petition No. 10 directly at:

http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/ispphorm/

  • 83.
  • At 03:23 PM on 05 Mar 2008,
  • Andrew X wrote:

Further to my previous post, if you feel strongly about this issue you can petition No. 10 directly.

http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/ispphorm/

  • 84.
  • At 04:05 PM on 25 Mar 2008,
  • Alan Brown wrote:

Hi Martin,

The tone of your blog's covering paragraphs seem to express surprise that the South African FOI laws cover private businesses.

If you read the UK FOI, it is clear that private businesses and organisations in the UK ARE covered by FOI legislation in the following instances:

1: Acting as a regulator
2: Acting under contract to a goverment agency (any level, including councils)
3: Performing activities which would otherwise be performed by a government agency.

HOWEVER - and this is the bit "BUT" - the secretary of state for constitutional affairs has to declare that they are subject to FOI rules.

As far as I'm aware there has yet to be a single case of this happening.

As a result, organisations such as the ASA (A trade association which portrays itself as an advertising regulator), ICSTIS (A trade association which portrays itself as the premium rate regulator - it has only recently been unofficially delegated any powers by OFCOM), various trade societies such as the law society, medical council, architecture disciplinary bodies, etc etc etc are all effectively shielded from FOI rules.

In the case of ASA and ICSTIS I know this from first hand experience - they have both refused to handle complaints and refused to disclose information, stating that they are not obliged to.

In other cases there is a vested public interest in results of cases - a definite right to know about shoddy lawyers, bad architects, etc etc etc - as well as general stats which societies are unwilling to provide.

Bear in mind that trade bodies have such disciplinary and "regulatory" bodies primarily to avoid government legislated regulators or court intervention. As such they should be forced to be as open and transparent as any government agency - perhaps more so.

I'll add one more point - I have attempted to contact the Home office department of constiutional affairs about this issue and been given a form reply regarding FOI not applying to private organisations unless the Secretary of State directs otherwise. Upon attempting to follow up on this (specifically on the ASA and ISCTIS issues), I have been met with a complete wall of silence - no phone calls returned and emails unacknowledged.


Is this deliberate?

I am extremely concerned about sidestepping of FOI responsibilities by councils and departments such as OFCOM contracting out responsibilities and I am quite worried about the issues of non-legislated governance with no public accountability.

If this makes me a kook then so be it, perhaps I am paranoid, but it really does seem to me that a lot of "authority" figures would prefer their inner workings be kept secret and this usually means they have something to hide.

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