A while ago now I appealed to the ICO and made the case that the Duchy of Lancaster is a public authority for the purposes of the Environmental Information Regulations.
The ICO essentially said that the Duchy was a private estate and not a public authority but I asked them to look again and to their credit they did and the case has been re-opened:
“I am grateful for the arguments submitted and the issue has been the cause of much debate. In short, I have decided to re-open the case and complete a more thorough examination of the facts presented. This does not necessarily represent a change of outcome, but simply an opportunity to re-evaluate the issue as a whole, as I felt that a simple case review on my part would not have done the matter justice.”
I have also found out that the Duchy of Lancaster itself is not registered but the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is listed (see http://www.ico.gov.uk/ESDWebPages/DoSearch.asp?reg=4146633). It would appear that a Government Minister is the data controller for all of the Duchy of Lancaster’s activities. It would be impossible to act as data controller for all the personal data of tenants without also controlling at least some ‘environmental information’ about land and buildings. This adds weight to my case that Duchy data is data held by a public authority.
I searched the public register of Data Controllers to see which Electoral Registration Officers were
registered for London Boroughs. Using various combinations of search terms including searches by place names I found that for 27 London Boroughs the Electoral Registration Officer had registered
(separately) as a Data Controller. I could not find any evidence that the Electoral Registration Officers for Bexley, Hackney, Haringey, Hounslow, Lambeth, Southwark were registered as Data
Controllers. Perhaps the ICO shed some light on this.
Request: Electoral Registration Officers
“I am pleased to enclose the following information, which I believe satisfies your request:
15 of our front line enquiry staff hold a professional qualification in
Librarianship or Information Science
You may reuse all or part of his information free of charge in any
format or medium. You must reuse it accurately and not in a misleading
Essex County Council
How could I reuse this inaccurately? I suppose I could say that 20 of their inquiry staff hold a professional qualification in Librarianship or Information Science but then I would not really be using the information at all.
My message to public authorities is stop and think before you use a disclaimer.
There is a really good blog post on this ruling that I could not hope to match but I will quote from the ruling:
“..the 1998 Act enables an interested party to inspect and copy certain documents related to the accounts of the Council. It does not create the type of general free-standing right of access to information as conferred by modern information rights legislation. Its history lies in democratic accountability, rather than the policy of transparency and openness behind the modern legislation. But in my view, as a matter of legal analysis, section 15(1) applies in this case, notwithstanding Veolia’s contention that this will lead to a breach of commercial confidentiality. … In the result Mr Dowen is entitled to inspect and copy these documents.”