Sunday, 30 November 2008

QUANGOS Spend public cash to get more public cash

The Sunday Times today reported that public bodies are spending about £2m a year on political consultants to help them lobby ministers and MPs for more tax payers' money. Some departments have failed to respond so their could be many more hidden lobbying contracts.

In the USA they have a handy little law to prevent public funds being spent on lobbying:

Sec. 1352. Limitation on use of appropriated funds to influence
certain Federal contracting and financial transactions

(a)(1) None of the funds appropriated by any Act may be expended
by the recipient of a Federal contract, grant, loan, or cooperative
agreement to pay any person for influencing or attempting to
influence an officer or employee of any agency, a Member of
Congress, an officer or employee of Congress, or an employee of a
Member of Congress in connection with any Federal action described
in paragraph (2) of this subsection.

(2) The prohibition in paragraph (1) of this subsection applies
with respect to the following Federal actions:
(A) The awarding of any Federal contract.
(B) The making of any Federal grant.
(C) The making of any Federal loan.
(D) The entering into of any cooperative agreement.
(E) The extension, continuation, renewal, amendment, or
modification of any Federal contract, grant, loan, or cooperative

Got to get us one of those laws. In the mean time we have to use freedom of information to make them accountable.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Friday, 14 November 2008

29 Signatures - can you make it 30?

"The current law is not sensible - a company owned by one local authority is subject to the Act but a company owned by two local authorities is not.

A more sensible approach is to make all companies owned two thirds or more by any number of public authorities subject to the Act."

Saturday, 8 November 2008


The Department of Communities and Local Government told to improve its handling of Freedom of Information requests after delays of up to 400 days.

"In accordance with his enforcement strategy, the Information Commissioner has conducted
an audit of a number of section 50 complaints concerning the Department for Communities
and Local Government (the ‘Department’). As a result, the Commissioner is of the view that
the Department’s procedures do not conform to the following Code of Practice issued by the
Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs in November 2004:..."

Practice Notice

Saturday, 25 October 2008

SITPRO Limited - no publication scheme

"Your request has served to highlight to the current management that when SITPRO became a Company Limited by Guarantee in 2001 the need for a separate Publication Scheme for SITPRO was overlooked. Previously, SITPRO was substantially part of the then DTI and would, we believe, have been deemed to have been covered by that Department’s scheme. We are now working to remedy that situation and publish a Scheme to fulfil the Information Commissioner’s latest model publication scheme guidance. Such schemes are to be in place by 1 January 2009. The SITPRO scheme will be available on our web site ( by that time."

Sitpro response letter

SITPRO Limited appear to have forgotten to put in place a publication scheme, but at least they have been open about it

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Petition now live

"We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to support a change to the law to make companies owned two thirds or more by public authorities subject to the Freedom of Information Act 2000."


See also more details on the Number 10 Petition site.

Submitted by John Cross of Confirm or Deny – Deadline to sign up by: 23 January 2009

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Access to Information Held by Public Companies

Petition Coming Soon... on Number 10 website - I hope!

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to support a change to the law to make companies owned two thirds or more by public authorities subject to the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

Friday, 10 October 2008

I Believe in Open

"I Believe In Open is a national movement to increase government transparency in Canada. We're organizing citizens to push politicians to make five commitments..."

1. Support reforms that increase government transparency and accountability.

2. Make campaign promises specific and measurable, and report progress on promises and their metrics at least semi-annually.

3. Publish the content of his or her daily schedule, including meetings with lobbyists and special interest groups.

4. Support reforms allowing free access to scientific and survey data gathered by government institutions.

5. Support reforms that make it easier for Canadians to obtain government information they have a right to know.

Sunday, 5 October 2008


We know most about human history for times and places where people wrote things down, what they wrote down was kept, and we can still read what they wrote. Paper is pretty fragile really but seemingly digital records are even more fragile.

"In one study published in the journal Science, 13% of Internet references in scholarly articles were inactive after only 27 months." 1

I have recently become interested in the UK Web Archiving Consortium. This is a publicly funded consortium whose members include the National Archives and the British Library. They archive "important" blogs and websites, not necessarily official ones, take for example the "Not the Alan Milburn" blog:

Sometimes it's interesting to see what a politician said then compared to what they are saying now or you might want to record the terms and conditions page for an offer that seems to good to be true. If you just want to archive one page as it is now then why not check out

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Wales Audit Inspection Dates are Published

The Accounts and Audit (Wales) Regulations 2005 require that accounts and other documents of local authorities in Wales must be available for public inspection (by electors of that authority) for 20 working days before the date appointed by the auditor. The Wales Audit Office have recently published a list of dates in response to a request made under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

Response email from Wales Audit Office
Dates of Inspection for Public Authorities in Wales

The inspection period runs for twenty working days from the date listed in the document (15 for probation trusts and probation boards).

The list includes inspection dates for:

  • fire authorities
  • joint committees
  • local authorities
  • national park authorities
  • pension funds
  • police authorities
  • probation boards

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Support transparent lobbying

Get your MP to sign this Early Day Motion: EDM 1637 - Transparency in Lobbying

"That this House notes the strong public cynicism about the influence of corporate lobbyists on British politics; further notes that individuals and organisations engaging in lobbying activities are able to do so effectively hidden from public scrutiny; remains concerned that lobbyists are not subject to levels of scrutiny similar to that which political parties and politicians have been subject since 2000; believes that greater transparency over the activities of lobbyists and their relations with hon. Members is needed to help restore trust in hon. Members and Parliament; and therefore calls for a mandatory register of individuals and organisations that are involved in lobbying hon. Members and civil servants and the introduction of an enforceable code of ethics for lobbying activities to ensure their transparency."

103 MPs have already signed up.
You can write to your MP using

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John Cross

Monday, 5 May 2008

Now we know the rules of the Boat Race!

The University of Oxford have recently released the 'rules of the Boat Race' in response to a request under the Freedom of Information Act. The Joint Understanding limits training in term-time to 20 hours a week, sets out who can and cannot participate in the race and even reuires disclosure of financial support received by crew members.

"No bursaries or other grants, scholarships, gifts, payments or loans, whether in cash or kind, guarantees or equivalent indirect financing shall be funded or offered to squad members, either by the Clubs, their affiliated organisations or their members, or by any other body with a sporting purpose except with the agreement of the Panel."

The University of Cambridge received a similar request but stated that they did not have a copy of the Joint Understanding.

Request for Joint Understanding regulating Boat Race and response from Oxford

Why Northern Rock is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act [TECH2008/2]

Northern Rock undertakings are exempt due to Part 6 of this statutory instrument:

Nortern Rock Transfer Order

NHS Openness Code [TECH2008/1]

The NHS Openness Code (1995) sets out the basic principles for public access to information about the NHS. It was intended to ensure
greater access by the public. Even though the code predates the Freedom of Information Act 2000 it is still possible to refer to the code when requesting information from health authorities.

NHS Openness Code

Sunday, 4 May 2008

Confirm or Deny: First Post

Welcome to my new blog about Freedom of Information in the United Kingdom: "Confirm or Deny".