I sometimes get the feeling that one reason some people in the UK want to keep the monarchy is because of the Commonwealth. The Queen appears to offer us membership of a sort of international club who share a single head of state. Except they don’t:

There are 54 member states, of these 16 have the Queen as head of state, 33 members are republics and 5 members have distinct monarchs:

Whilst many countries may feel it is advantageous to be seen to be part of the Commonwealth a majority of these have a Republican system of Government and others are likely to follow.

It is worth taking a closer look at a recent ICO ruling to see just how desperate the Government is to keep information about the Royal’s secret.

The Government tried to use no less than eight separate exemptions to keep the information secret the ICO found that five of these exemptions were not relevant and two of the others should not have been used to withhold information. I have to concede that one of the exemptions was correctly applied but it related to less than 4% of the documents falling in the scope of the request.

Today is a good day for anyone who believes in transparency. The ICO has issued a polite yet damming ruling against the Governments attempt to protect the Royal Finances from scrutiny.

FOI requestors will be able to use the arguments in this Decision Notice to get more information about the Royal Family released more quickly.

The Government refused to disclose the information under:

  1. FOI section 21: Information Accessible By Other Means [relevant, applied to just four out of more than 100 documents]
  2. FOI section 31: Law Enforcement [not relevant]
  3. FOI section 36: Prejudice To Effective Conduct Of Public Affairs [relevant but public interest was still in favour of disclosure]
  4. FOI section 37: Communications With Her Majesty, With Other Members Of The Royal Household, And The Conferring By The Crown Of Any Honour Or Dignity [relevant but public interest was still in favour of disclosure]
  5. FOI section 38: Health And Safety [not relevant]
  6. FOI section 43: Commercial Interests [not relevant]
  7. EIR reg 12(5)(d): Confidentiality of the Proceedings [not relevant]
  8. EIR reg 12 (5)(f):Adverse impact on the interests of the person who provided the information [not relevant]

“The chairman of the House of Commons justice committee, which scrutinises secrecy laws, called for the disclosure of recent letters from the prince to cabinet ministers including Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper, on subjects thought to range from the standard of primary school education to the design of ecotowns.”

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/dec/18/prince-charles-letters

A recent response to my FOI request to the Department for Work and Pensions revealed that public funds have been used to pay for lots of phone numbers that don’t actually work for various reasons. The release appears to have party accidental. It looks like about 130 phone numbers that don’t work were identified as needing to be cancelled.

Apologies if you don’t like the formatting of the data that follows, I exported it to csv from an Excel file. The phone numbers listed omit the first zero.


Inbound Number Status Confirmed BU Description

800125122,Immediate Closure,Unknown,Continuous ring- no answer
800137625,Immediate Closure,Unknown,The number you have dialled is not recognised
800160709,Immediate Closure,JCP,”Stanford Jobcentre-they know it as a local number, no longer use 0800″
800181847,Immediate Closure,Unknown,The number you have dialled is not recognised
800212159,Immediate Closure,Unknown,The number you have dialled is not recognised
800212537,Immediate Closure,JCP,JCP Barrow Switchboard – no longer use 0800
800212539,Immediate Closure,JCP,JCP Cumbria Switchboard – no longer use 0800
800243640,Immediate Closure,Unknown,The number you have dialled is not recognised
800252438,Immediate Closure,Unknown,The number you have dialled is not recognised
800252991,Immediate Closure,Unknown,Continuous ring- no answer
800262652,Immediate Closure,Unknown,Continuous ring- no answer
800393949,Immediate Closure,Unknown,The number you have dialled is not recognised
800435499,Immediate Closure,JCP,This service is only available to Unemployed people in the Saffron Walden area – contact number given (local number not 08 number)
800441144,Immediate Closure,DCS,”Recorded message for BEL, advisory service for disabled, sick or carers. Number no longer in use. 0800882200″
800454938,Immediate Closure,Unknown,The number you have dialled is not recognised
800515923,Immediate Closure,JCP,JCP – Paisley – no longer uses 0800
800592339,Immediate Closure,Unknown,Continuous ring- no answer
800614243,Immediate Closure,Unknown,The number you have dialled is not recognised
800626289,Immediate Closure,Unknown,The number you have dialled is not recognised
800838276,Immediate Closure,Unknown,Continuous ring- no answer
800854691,Immediate Closure,Unknown,Continuous ring- no answer
800919110,Immediate Closure,Unknown,The number you have dialled is not recognised
8000234338,Immediate Closure,Unknown,The number you have dialled is not recognised
8000280206,Immediate Closure,JCP,Number not in use
8000282042,Immediate Closure,Unknown,Not DWP
8000282105,Immediate Closure,JCP,JCP Dunoon – no longer uses 0800
8000282107,Immediate Closure,JCP,Continuous ring- no answer
8000320043,Immediate Closure,Unknown,The number you have dialled is not recognised
8000320525,Immediate Closure,JCP,”Newcastle. Used to belong to BTW Team which has now been disbanded. Calls are still answered by any staff, but number no longer given out to cust.”
8000321181,Immediate Closure,Unknown,The number you have dialled is not recognised
8000323898,Immediate Closure,Unknown,Message – please enter your ID number followed by the hash key.
8000325884,Immediate Closure,Unknown,Message – please enter your ID number followed by the hash key.
8000326006,Immediate Closure,JCP,Employer Suite. Birmingham Broad Street. They are unaware of any 0800 numbers in use by them
8000326371,Immediate Closure,Unknown,Message – please enter your ID number followed by the hash key.
8000326372,Immediate Closure,Unknown,Message – please enter your ID number followed by the hash key.
8000327953,Immediate Closure,JCP,JCP-Unallocated following benefit centre restructuring – number not recognised
8000327954,Immediate Closure,Unknown,Continuous ring- no answer
8000328340,Immediate Closure,JCP,JCP-Unallocated following benefit centre restructuring
8000328348,Immediate Closure,JCP,JCP-Unallocated following benefit centre restructuring
8000328353,Immediate Closure,JCP,JCP-Unallocated following benefit centre restructuring
8000328354,Immediate Closure,JCP,JCP-Unallocated following benefit centre restructuring
8000328357,Immediate Closure,JCP,JCP-Unallocated following benefit centre restructuring
8000328358,Immediate Closure,JCP,JCP-Unallocated following benefit centre restructuring
8000328359,Immediate Closure,JCP,JCP-Unallocated following benefit centre restructuring
8000328361,Immediate Closure,Unknown,Continuous ring- no answer
8000328362,Immediate Closure,JCP,JCP-Unallocated following benefit centre restructuring
8000328364,Immediate Closure,JCP,JCP-Unallocated following benefit centre restructuring
8000328372,Immediate Closure,JCP,JCP-Unallocated following benefit centre restructuring
8000328555,Immediate Closure,Unknown,The number you have dialled is not recognised
8000850320,Immediate Closure,Unknown,The number you have dialled is not recognised
8000850331,Immediate Closure,Unknown,The number you have dialled is not recognised
8000851465,Immediate Closure,JCP,”Emergency Out Of Hours telephony service line – Chesterfield Jobcentre New Deal Team, not aware of 0800 numbers.”
8000854086,Immediate Closure,Unknown,The number you have dialled is not recognised
8000854216,Immediate Closure,Unknown,The number you have dialled is not recognised
8000855092,Immediate Closure,Unknown,The number you have dialled is not recognised
8000855140,Immediate Closure,Unknown,The number you have dialled is not recognised
8000855597,Immediate Closure,Unknown,Continuous ring- no answer
8000856927,Immediate Closure,Unknown,Continuous busy tone
8000857113,Immediate Closure,Unknown,The number you have dialled is not recognised
8000927035,Immediate Closure,Unknown,The number you have dialled is not recognised
8000927104,Immediate Closure,Unknown,The number you have dialled is not recognised
8000927107,Immediate Closure,Unknown,The number you have dialled is not recognised
8000927110,Immediate Closure,Unknown,The number you have dialled is not recognised
8000927309,Immediate Closure,Unknown,The number you have dialled is not recognised
8000927502,Immediate Closure,Unknown,The number you have dialled is not recognised
8000927505,Immediate Closure,Unknown,The number you have dialled is not recognised
8000927506,Immediate Closure,Unknown,The number you have dialled is not recognised
8000927508,Immediate Closure,Unknown,The number you have dialled is not recognised
8000927509,Immediate Closure,Unknown,The number you have dialled is not recognised
8000927510,Immediate Closure,Unknown,The number you have dialled is not recognised
8000927601,Immediate Closure,Unknown,The number you have dialled is not recognised
8000927602,Immediate Closure,Unknown,The number you have dialled is not recognised
8000927603,Immediate Closure,Unknown,The number you have dialled is not recognised
8000927604,Immediate Closure,Unknown,The number you have dialled is not recognised
8000927605,Immediate Closure,Unknown,The number you have dialled is not recognised
8000927607,Immediate Closure,Unknown,The number you have dialled is not recognised
8000927608,Immediate Closure,Unknown,The number you have dialled is not recognised
8000927609,Immediate Closure,Unknown,The number you have dialled is not recognised
8000927610,Immediate Closure,Unknown,Continuous ring- no answer
8001216217,Immediate Closure,JCP,The number you have dialled is not recognised
8001216458,Immediate Closure,DM,”Debt Centre in Wales – advised that this number to be closed, number no longer needed”
8001412218,Immediate Closure,Unknown,Continuous busy tone
8001412591,Immediate Closure,JCP,Christmas bonus 2008/09. If pymnt not recv’dby Mar’09 contact local office
8001412761,Immediate Closure,Unknown,The number you have dialled is not recognised
8001412767,Immediate Closure,Unknown,Continuous ring- no answer
8001691970,Immediate Closure,JCP,Crisis Loans – Number changed to 0845 608 8649. For living expenses only call 0800 169 9891
8003280247,Immediate Closure,Unknown,The number you have dialled is not recognised
8003280857,Immediate Closure,Unknown,The number you have dialled is not recognised
8003281730,Immediate Closure,Unknown,”JCP – Eastleigh, Hampshire – 0800 forwarded onto back of house number – Number not used by public”
8003281738,Immediate Closure,Unknown,The number you have dialled is not recognised
8003283834,Immediate Closure,JCP,Jobcentre Crisis Loan Advice – phoneline.The number you have dialled has changed please redial using 0800 587 6716
8003285176,Immediate Closure,Unknown,The number you have dialled is not recognised
8003286880,Immediate Closure,Unknown,Continuous ring- no answer
8003289758,Immediate Closure,JCP,”Ramsgate BDC.Answered by 01843 number, user not aware of any 0800 numbers in use”
8003890441,Immediate Closure,Unknown,Continuous ring- no answer
8003896895,Immediate Closure,Unknown,The number you have dialled is not recognised
8003897036,Immediate Closure,JCP,Hello the Broker Service? Wales finished on 28th March contact your local Job Centre for advice
8005870060,Immediate Closure,Unknown,The number you have dialled is not recognised
8005870553,Immediate Closure,Unknown,The number you have dialled is not recognised
8005872314,Immediate Closure,Unknown,The number you have dialled is not recognised
8005877456,Immediate Closure,Unknown,The number you have dialled is not recognised
8005877457,Immediate Closure,Unknown,The number you have dialled is not recognised
8005878749,Immediate Closure,PDCS,Message – Pension service message please enter the pin number you have been provided
8005878923,Immediate Closure,PDCS,The number you have dialled is not recognised
8005878925,Immediate Closure,PDCS,”TPS confirmed number, no longer required”
8005879135,Immediate Closure,JCP,This number is no longer available for Crisis Loan dial 0800 328 3036 or Social Fund on 0845 608 8629
8007310573,Immediate Closure,Unknown,Continuous ring- no answer
8007312120,Immediate Closure,Unknown,The number you have dialled is not recognised
8007312399,Immediate Closure,Unknown,Continuous ring- no answer
8007312536,Immediate Closure,Unknown,Continuous ring- no answer
8007312561,Immediate Closure,Unknown,Continuous ring- no answer
8007313736,Immediate Closure,Unknown,The number you have dialled is not recognised
8007313930,Immediate Closure,Unknown,The number you have dialled is not recognised
8007316789,Immediate Closure,Unknown,Not DWP
8007319671,Immediate Closure,Unknown,The number you have dialled is not recognised
8007830253,Immediate Closure,JCP,JCP – Wolverhampton – number forwarded onto front of house
8007831080,Immediate Closure,Unknown,The number you have dialled is not recognised
8007832119,Immediate Closure,Unknown,The number you have dialled is not recognised
8007834063,Immediate Closure,Unknown,The number you have dialled is not recognised
8007836030,Immediate Closure,Unknown,The number you have dialled is not recognised
8007838014,Immediate Closure,Unknown,The number you have dialled is not recognised
8007838216,Immediate Closure,JCP,JCP – Business Support back of house – 0800 number forwarded onto 01928853795
8007838223,Immediate Closure,Unknown,Continuous ring- no answer
8007838258,Immediate Closure,JCP,The number you have dialled is not recognised
8007839241,Immediate Closure,Unknown,The number you have dialled is not recognised
8007839619,Immediate Closure,Unknown,The number you have dialled is not recognised
8007839870,Immediate Closure,Unknown,The number you have dialled is not recognised
8009171741,Immediate Closure,Unknown,The number you have dialled is not recognised
8009171765,Immediate Closure,Unknown,The number you have dialled is not recognised
8009174160,Immediate Closure,Unknown,The number you have dialled is not recognised
8009174169,Immediate Closure,Unknown,The number you have dialled is not recognised
8009174700,Immediate Closure,Unknown,The number you have dialled is not recognised
8009174772,Immediate Closure,Unknown,The number you have dialled is not recognised
8009174774,Immediate Closure,Unknown,The number you have dialled is not recognised
8009176069,Immediate Closure,Unknown,The number you have dialled is not recognised
8005878924,Immediate Closure,PDCS,Fax
8000286569,Immediate Closure,JCP,JCP – Bulwell – no longer uses 0800
8007836157,Immediate Closure,PDCS,”PDCS TPS ~ 4 Options ~ Chase Claim already made, PC New Claims, Change in Circs, other”
8007836193,Immediate Closure,PDCS,”PDCS TPS ~ 4 Options ~ Chase Claim already made, PC New Claims, Change in Circs, other”
8005876712,Immediate Closure,PDCS,PDCS TPS PC New Claims Line

I have found out today thanks to Wikipedia about a committee that I can’t imagine many people know about.

“The subject of the Convention goes to the heart of the relationship between people and governments. The Convention is not only an environmental agreement, it is also a Convention about government accountability, transparency and responsiveness.” Source: UNECE

“All good stuff” I hear you say “…but this is a body formed by international agreement, they won’t return my calls”.

But that is what is really interesting is that unlike most (all other?) international treaties the compliance mechanism can be triggered by members of the public:

“The compliance mechanism may be triggered in four ways:

(4) members of the public may make communications concerning a Party’s compliance with the convention.”
Source: UNECE

When to contact the Committee

“In considering any communication from the public, the Compliance Committee will take into account the extent to which any domestic remedy (i.e. review or appeals process) was available to the person making the communication, except where such a remedy would have been unreasonably prolonged or inadequate. Before making a communication to the Committee, the member of the public should consider whether the problem could be resolved by using such appeals mechanisms.”
Source: UNECE

In the UK it is fairly easy to appeal to the ICO although some cases take a long time to resolve so an argument could be made that it might be appropriate to communicate to the Committee. Also if the ICO will not accept that an authority is subject to the Environmental Information Regulations the ICO cannot issue a decision notice and thus no appeal can be made to the Information Tribunal. A judicial review might be considered an “unreasonably prolonged and inadequate remedy”, in fact someone has already made that argument an they have put it better than I ever could:

“Road Sense maintains that the Judicial Review process is so difficult and expensive for individuals or small associations to pursue in Scotland that it prejudices the ability of a non-governmental body to challenge decisions taken, perhaps unlawfully, by the Scottish Government”
Source: UNECE and someone else has written a very detailed communication about why the UK’s judicial review process is inadequate for the purposes of the convention.

Applicability to Duchy of Lancaster case
I am keeping all my options open for the Duchy of Lancaster appeal but I am still hopeful that the ICO will make the right ruling in the first place.

“Peter Bottomley (Worthing West): To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, with reference to the KPMG Report to the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) reviewing lessons learned from the London Metropolitan University case,

 (a) whether
     (i) KMPG,
     (ii) HEFCE and
     (iii) his Department

has seen in full the BDO Stoy Hayward review of London Metropolitan University’s approach to student records and the level of accuracy of its student-data completions;

 (b) how much money has been
     (A) repaid to HEFCE by the university and
     (B) withheld by HEFCE from the university in relation to the matter and

 (c) whether the Secretary of State has been informed of active or dormant legal restraints on making public
     (1) the BDO Stoy Hayward review and
     (2) the redacted parts of the KPMG review.”

Written Questions for Answer on Monday 30 November 2009 – Question 5 (303384)


Section 15 of the Defamation Act 1996 gives qualified privilege to “A fair and accurate report of proceedings in public of a legislature anywhere in the world”, which includes the United Kingdom Parliament. This means that provided a statement is made without malice defamation proceedings will not succeed provided the publisher does not refuse a request ‘to publish in a suitable manner a reasonable letter or statement by way of explanation or contradiction’.


The quote is taken the Parliament.uk website but I have added line breaks and indentation where appropriate and made similar formatting changes.

“I can inform you that I have now written to the Duchy of Lancaster to obtain their submissions where the Commissioner requires further information in order to consider whether it constitutes a public authority under the Environmental Information Regulations.”

email received 2 December 2009