FOI: Labour tries to dig up Tory past

#1
Labour tries to dig up Tory past

Labour is trying to use new openness laws to dig up electioneering material about Conservative leader Michael Howard's time in government.
Requests for the documents have been put in by a range of Labour politicians and party members, a party spokesman told the BBC News website.

They include queries about Mr Howard's role in the poll tax and claims he fast-tracked a passport application.

Ministers are normally barred access to the private files of past governments.

The Freedom of Information Act, which came into force this month, allows people access to the files of public bodies. Our questions shine a spotlight on many of the most unsavoury and embarrassing aspects of Labour's period in office

There are exemptions, such as civil servants' advice to ministers, but some can be overridden if the subject is in the public interest.

The Conservatives last week posed 120 questions under the new laws, aimed at causing embarrassment to the government.

The Liberal Democrats are also trying to unearth new material about the inner workings of government.

Labour's move confirms that the laws are being seen as a significant political tool.

A party spokesman said: "We are going to make Michael Howard's record an absolutely central part of our election campaign.

"The more people know about his record, the less likely they are to want him as prime minister.

"Anything we get which shows what a disastrous record he has we will use."

The party wants to obtain documents about Mr Howard's role as local government minister in planning the poll tax.

They hope to reveal advice he received from outside government and his reaction to it.

His attitude to rising jobless levels is also in the spotlight for the information requests.

And Labour activists are also asking for papers about claims that he fast-tracked an application for a new passport for Spectator journalist Petronella Wyatt.

Her father, Lord Wyatt, says in his diaries that his wife had asked Mr Howard, then home secretary, to help and as a result the passport was to be ready for collection the next morning.

Mr Howard has called the claim "a little bit of fantasy" and a "whole load of rubbish".

He says he cannot remember the request but there was a complicated application process which could not have been done as the diaries suggested.

And he has recently accused Labour of being negative in trying to target him.

The Tory requests for information under the new laws cover such issues as relations between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown; and whether there was a cover-up on the origins of the foot-and-mouth epidemic.

Lib Dem MPs are trying to get more information about who the prime minister has met, the minutes of Cabinet committee meetings and information on the poll tax.

They also want to get papers on plans for ID cards - both Labour's current proposals and when the idea was considered by the last Tory government.
Most amusing. It may be time for an FOI request to Liabour or No 10 regarding their FOI requests (an abuse of the system) and a further FOI request to the Department for Constitutional Affairs to request information regarding the relative priority allocated to FOI requests from individuals and political parties.

Once I have a bit more time next week, a few requests go in! :twisted:
 
#2
A quick one on FOI, if I may, to any aspiring aplicants and seekers of knowledge!

Be very VERY clear what information you want. Although the ombudsman will seek to apply good faith, you will not receive a full blown story in 10 chapters detailing misrule and bad governance if you haven't specified the kernel of truth that you are after.

Only ask for one piece of info per request. A request detailing huge numbers of linked and cross referenced questions will simply result in either reams of generated Whitehall speak to baffle you, or an equally confusing and cross referenced load of tosh - which won't actually lie at any stage! If you want to know something, keep it simple.

And lastly, there are a host of exemptions that the Government can deploy to obfuscate you:

1. Information accessible to the applicant by other means (absolute) - Section 21

2. Information intended for future publication (public interest test) – Section 22

3. Information supplied by or relating to bodies dealing with security matters (absolute) – Section 23

4. National security (public interest test) – Section 24

5. Defence (public interest test) – Section 26

6. International relations (public interest test) – Section 27

7. Relations within the United Kingdom (public interest test) – Section 28

8. The economy (public interest test) – Section 29

9. Investigations and proceedings conducted by public authorities (public interest test) – Section 30

10. Law enforcement (public interest test) – Section 31

11. Court records (absolute) – Section 32

12. Audit (public interest test) – Section 33

13. Parliamentary privilege (absolute) – Section 34

14. Formulation of government policy (public interest test) – Section 35

15. Prejudice to the effective conduct of public affairs (absolute for information held by the House of Parliament; for all other information covered by this section, public interest test) – Section 36

16. Communication with Her Majesty etc. and honours (public interest test) – Section 37

17. Health and safety (public interest test) – Section 38

18. Environmental information (public interest test) – Section 39

19. Personal information (absolute exemption for subject access requests and in certain other situations, the public interest test applies to third party requests) – Section 40

20. Information provided in confidence (absolute) – Section 41

21. Legal professional privilege (public interest test) – Section 42

22. Commercial interests (public interest test) – Section 43

23. Legal prohibitions on disclosure (absolute) – Section 44
As you can see, virtually every request could be quashed!

I have just spent the best part of 2 months preparing all our office's files for FOI - and handling all the shredding. FOI search is initially conducted using a standard issue database. If the query isn't absolutely correct, nothing will be forthcoming.

Good luck!! :D
 
#4
Government Departments have further been instructed ONLY to process requests that state they are made under the FOI act.

You MUST use the act name, Freedom of Information Act, FOI or FOIA.

Happy hunting.

Beebs :wink:
 
#5
Are there any "chinks in the armour"? For example, say that I am interested in a controversial piece of information that the Cabinet Office and No 10 will have, and are unlikely to release. I know that this will have been sent to the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence. So, do I blitz all four, in the hope that one organisation is more forthcoming (purposefully or inadvertently) than others?

Also, what about information sent to other individuals or parties who may be sympathetic, for example, to the Leader of the Opposition or the Parliamentary Ombudsman? Can the recipient release information independently of the originator?
 
#6
blessed baby cakes said:
Government Departments have further been instructed ONLY to process requests that state they are made under the FOI act.

You MUST use the act name, Freedom of Information Act, FOI or FOIA.
Beebs where is that stated - I have been told repeatedly that any request does not have to state FOIA. As a result there have been lots of debates over 'how do you know what is a FOIA request and what is not'. The basis I am working on is that if it is something that you would have dealt with pre-FOIA, carry on as before (recruitment info etc). Anything else treat as potential FOIA request?
 
#7
So this government will try to fool us into thinking that Howard isn't the man for the job but their man is 8O and the past 8 years have been good for us :roll:

So now instead of policies to decide who is good for us, its now down to good old US tactics in muck spreading :evil:

the levels this government will stoop to to stay in power :roll:
 
#8
doomsayer said:
blessed baby cakes said:
Government Departments have further been instructed ONLY to process requests that state they are made under the FOI act.

You MUST use the act name, Freedom of Information Act, FOI or FOIA.
Beebs where is that stated - I have been told repeatedly that any request does not have to state FOIA. As a result there have been lots of debates over 'how do you know what is a FOIA request and what is not'. The basis I am working on is that if it is something that you would have dealt with pre-FOIA, carry on as before (recruitment info etc). Anything else treat as potential FOIA request?
it's a horses mouth quote. Deal as if request is general and say sorry no can do unless the act is mentioned then treat as a request as per act guidelines.

Beebs
 
#9
it's a horses mouth quote. Deal as if request is general and say sorry no can do unless the act is mentioned then treat as a request as per act guidelines.
What if I submit a request regarding this aspect of the FoI procedure under FoI?!? :twisted:
 

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