I have today appealed to the Information Commissioner about my request to the Duchy of Lancaster under EIR.
The Duchy have refused to provide the information I asked for in my Environmental Information Request. The reason given is that the Duchy of Lancaster is ‘not a “public authority” as defined within paragraph 2 of the Regulations”. So that is it then the end of the experiment then, well not quite.
Comments are appreciated.
The Duchy website says:
“Protecting the environment Duchy lands encompass areas of outstanding natural beauty. The Duchy of Lancaster endeavours to protect the quality of the land, while respecting the commercial needs of tenants. Land use is monitored by the Duchy’s management agents to ensure that activities will not impair soil quality, and a number of farms have adopted organic farming methods. Sustainability in energy and resources is encouraged in investment and operational property owned by the Duchy.”
Under the Freedom of Act 2000 a valid request requires an address for correspondence and a real name. The ICO accepts that an email address is a valid address.
The law is unfair in several respects:
- a person writing on behalf of a company can give the company name and not their own name.
- a man with a common English surname e.g. Smith can make a valid request under the name “Mr Smith” and has a much lower chance of being identified than a person with a less usual foreign name.
- a rich person might be able to pay a researcher or a lawyer to make the request in their name. This is perfectly legal.
I would support a change to the law so that anonymous requests had to be accepted by default with a provision to allow authorities to ask for a name to be provided where they can show they have a good reason to think a request might be vexatious.
What do you think? (please comment)
twelve questions to ask every MP in the UK about transparency/FOI
this blog entry is a work in progress – I will keep editing it as ideas come to me.
Is the Duchy of Lancaster (headed up by the Queen) subject to the Environmental Information Regulations 2004?
Only one way to find out…
I have made a request: Policies and minutes
I would welcome any suggestions you might have as to how best to make the argument that the Duchy does have environmental responsibilities and/or public functions. You can use the comments feature to do this.
The Government is putting forward plans for parts or the whole of an inquest to be heard in secret on the grounds of national security or the need to protect intelligence sources.
One of the main reasons for having inquests is to make sure there has been no misconduct leading to a death. When people die in the custody of the state e.g. prison or hospital there is a good chance that if misconduct did take place then public authorities were aware or involved. Without public scrutiny the chance of a cover up is unacceptably high. The same argument applies to deaths in the service of the Armed Forces of the Crown.
“The Information Sharing Orders would remove data protection restrictions that mean information can only be used for the purpose it was taken. “
Information tribunal today ordered publication of cabinet minutes from 2003.
The petition has now closed… but the work goes on.
Please comment if you have any ideas for the next campaign to improve access to information in the UK. It could be a petition, a pledge, a new resource or something totally different.
Thanks to everyone who signed and everyone who promoted this. I have not yet received a response from Number 10 but most petitions with this many signatures do get responses so I am expecting one.