The Government’s plans to charge for FOI requests are really rather disappointing as the Government has previously had a relatively good record on FOI and in 2010, Eric Pickles even spoke out against Local Councils charging journalists for making FOI requests: “If town halls want to reduce the amount they spend on responding to freedom of information requests they should consider making the information freely available in the first place.” My aim in this blog post though is not to explain why charging for accountability is bad in principle but to explain the practical difficulties and additional bureaucracy that will result from introducing charges. Before I go any further, it is worth noting that although there can be charges for photocopying etc fees are very rarely charged in practice. The following extract from the WhatDoTheyKnow FAQ illustrates how even the present limited charging system is more bureaucratic than it needs to be. “Authorities often include unnecessary, scary, boilerplate in acknowledgement messages saying they “may” charge a fee. Ignore such notices. They hardly ever will actually charge a fee.” How much more red tape will there be if a routine charging system is implemented.

dealing with routine enquiries
One of the strengths of the present Freedom of Information Act 2000 is that you don’t need to use any magic form of words to invoke the Act. If someone ask a public body in writing for recorded information then they have made an FOI request even if they have never heard of the Act. This means that if someone emails their Local Council to ask what the opening times are for the library or for a copy of a particular form then they have made an FOI request. Public bodies often deal with these requests under “business as usual” but having front line staff even considering whether or not to charge the public for answering routine enquiries is a very unhelpful innovation.

dealing with requests for information about the handling of complaints etc
Often requests for information about how a complaint was handled are (or at least ought to be) dealt with partly under the Data Protection Act (the personal data part) and partly under FOI (everything else). The best approach is for the public body to consider the request under both sets of rules and release as much information as possible at no charge. The maximum charge for Data Protection Act requests is in most cases £10 – it would be unhelpful for public sector staff to have to apply two separate charging systems in respect of one request. Not to mention the poor member of the public already dissatisfied with the public body in question could end up paying twice to see information his/her taxes paid to create in the first place.

dealing with requests for environmental information
The UK has signed up to the Aarhus Convention which means we have to allow to access any public registers or lists of environmental information free of charge (Article 5) and in addition public authorities must make environmental information available for inspection at no charge (Article 6). The definition of ‘environmental information’ is a wide one and covers things people might not expect such as town planning, human health and safety, noise, radiation and biodiversity (see: ICO Guidance).
The upshot of all this is that a public sector employees when dealing with a request for information might have to consider providing all or part of the information under the Environmental Information Regulations even if the person requesting it refuses to pay the new FOI charge. The Government should really be trying to cut bureaucracy by making these two access to information laws as similar as possible and as simple as possible.

If you start charging for something and you don’t provide or you only provide all of it or you provide it late or there is a problem with it expect requests for refunds. Public bodies will have to have a procedure in place for deciding when to pay refunds and procedures for paying money back which could end up costing more than the modest fee the Government might be planning to introduce. Individual requesters may be more likely to request internal reviews and raise complaints with the ICO and other regulators if they feel they have not received what they have paid for. A no refunds policy might be an option but then you have to deal with the unhappy customer who finds out later that the information he/she had requested was on your website but much harder to find than it should have been.

people will ask for more information in one request
If people are charge say £15 per request they will be tempted to get as much information as they can in one go to get value for money rather than asking for what they think they need at that point in time. This will lead to longer and more complicated requests.

A small charge for each request may seem superficially attractive as a way of covering the cost of FOI but it will cause a number of practical difficulties when we should be trying to make accessing information from public bodies as simple as possible.

A guest post

Here are 366 Interesting things that we know because of FOI requests made using – one for every day of the leap year. This list focuses mainly on information released during the last six months. Our right to access information is about to come under attack from those who want to use the process of post-legislative scrutiny to weaken the Freedom of Information Act and we need to do all we can to defend it. As this shows, FOI works. Let’s keep it that way.

1) The name of every street in the country, from ‘B’ STATION ROAD to Zurich Gardens:

2) Who the members of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) are:

3) A contract between Courtserve and the Ministry of Justice prevents courts from publishing their own lists online:

4) The Electoral Commission’s advice to councils on inspecting General Election expenses Electoral Commission’s frustrates inquiries by journalists’ by recommending that they are not allowed to take notes:

5) In 2009/10 the NHS spent £29 million pounds on chaplains:

6) In 2008/09 HMRC missed its target for handling benefit claims within 9 working days:

7) Exactly what the ICO said to TalkTalk when it warned them over tracking the browsing history of users who installed its anti-malware software.

8 ) The Government wasted millions of pounds setting up a sub-optimal cycle journey planner:

9) In 2010 some Child Benefit Clements were being advised that it would take up to 26 weeks to process their claims due to high volumes of complaints being received:

10) What the BBC thought the risks were of its move to Media City in Salford:

11) Waltham Forest Council spent £7,000 on Olympic tickets:

12) The location of every Post Box in the country, with the collection times:

13) A list of all complaints that have been received by the electoral commission and the case outcomes. This showed for the first time that the Electoral Commission only took no action in 55% of cases where they had ruled that electoral law had been broken:

14) The Rules of the Boat Race:

15) How bus subsidy cuts are going to impact services across the country:

16) The real state of allotment provision and waiting lists across the UK:

17) What aspiring London cab drivers have to learn after TFL release a copy of the knowledge:

18) What the Chinese call senior Government officials:

19) GCHQ were concerned enough about interference from PLT home networking devices that they wrote to Ofcom about it:

20) Nottingham City Council raised thousands of pounds by adding google AdWords to their website:

21) The ins and outs of the Cross Thames Cable Car plan:

22) How east coast trains staff are trained before they can serve the public:

23) A list of all the pseudonyms used by Number 10 staff to write to members of the public:

24) How the Electoral Commission spent thousands of pounds on Government credit cards, including on models, chocolates, football shirts and “fruity Friday”

25) Lambeth Council spent £1072 producing a YouTube video on Swishing:

26) Southampton Council put trips to the London Dungeon on its credit cards:

27) How the ticketing settlement agreement governs how fare revenue is set and distributed between Train operating companies – even the government found that one useful:

28) What type of vehicles are licensed to operate as taxis in London:

29) How Leeds City council handled the consultation on Library Cuts after they released 77 pages of emails about it:

30) Where every parking ticket was issued in Derbyshire during the last 2.5 years:

31) The number of Sussex Police officers who were disciplined for improper use of the force Internet/data in 2009/10:

32) How the Foreign Office handles social media criticism, following the release of internal correspondence relating to former ambassador Frances Guy’s controversial blog about Sheikh Fadlallah that

33) What letters were sent by MPs to the Equality and Human Rights Commission:

34) What meeting minutes and reports can tell us about a 1999 fire at Royal Ordnance Speciality Metals, close to a depleted uranium store:

35) The hospitality register from Hillingdon Borough Council includes Wine, Lunches, event tickets and a free Ipod touch:

36) How many under 18’s were admitted for Alcohol poisoning and drug abuse at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd in 2011:

37) What an MOD report concluded on the alleged trafficking of human organs in Kosovo:

38) Kent County Council paid for trips to the Anomabu Beach Resort, Ghana, Canada, Sweden and Norway… plus one to Iceland to get their money back:


39) What the Cabinet Office was saying about the Open Source Advisory Panel: 

40) TFL will spend £89.83 million this financial year funding 1,610 Metropolitan Police officer posts an what those posts are. 

41) What assets are held by the Crown Estate 

42) Of 11,988 people vetted by Greater Manchester Police before the Labour Party Autumn Conference 2010, 24 were rejected: 

43) What undertakings were given by the Government to the IOC on security at the Olympic Games.

44) How many private police forces there are in the UK.

45) Brent Council spent money on flights with British Midland, Ryanair, EasyJet, Aer Lingus, Lufthansa and Virgin Atlantic and a stay at the Morgans Harbour Hotel in Jamaica:

46) How much the recent military action in Libya cost as well as what munitions were used by British forces:

47) What health and safety manuals aregiven to prison officers:

48) Birmingham City Council spent over £50,000 in 2009 on bottled water.

49) How much the court Post Office costs the tax payer

50) The five most expensive wines currently in stock in the Government Hospitality cellar

51) How safe TFL thinks Blackfriars Bridge is for London cyclists

52) What the forms look like that the police will send to you if they think there is a credible threat to your life:

53) How many people entered the UK on transfer agreements to work for less than minimum wage

54) The Metropolitan Police made £11,450 from selling CCTV footage to media companies in 2010/11:

55) What the ICO discovered when it carrie out a Data Protection Audit into NHS24:

56) Sussex Coast College were attempting charge a £75 flat fee for answering FOI requests:

57) Racist incidents occurred in 48% of schools in Essex 09/10 with Teachers & Governors among the perpetrators

 58) How many UK properties that have an entry on the land register in respect of a liability to repair the chancel.

 59) The Police uncovered and subsequently closed down 16 “drug factories” in Swindon during 2009.


60) Shop keepers who want to sell Oyster Cards have to pass a proficiency test and what training they are given:

61) What guidance is given by HMCTS to County Court Bailiffs, Civilian Enforcement Officers and Tipstaff:

 62) The Cost of Council Tax enforcement in Brighton, and how many are of summonsed for non payment:


63) Why the Metropolitan Police choose the codenames Weeting and Elevendon for their Phone hacking investigation: 

64) The location and opening hours of every public toilet in Coventry:

 65) What our ambassadors to France and China put in their Valedictory dispatches:


66) The cost of trips taken by the Department of Transport’s departmental security officer including to a South African holiday resort:

67) How many times unauthorised PNC checks were made or other police data was wrongly disclosed by officers of Greater Manchester Police:

68) Detailed statistics on the level of knife crime in London:

69) How many people have been arrested by Civil Nuclear Constabulary:

70) The criteria that TfL use when reporting delays:


71) How much Oil is kept in reserve by the Government:

72) Derby City Council officials took a trip to Berlin to lobby Bombardier to save UK jobs:

73) There are 5,300 non-doms in the United Kingdom;

74) How Centro decide which buses stop where. They allow a maximum of 12 per hour per stop:

75) Croydon Council spent £7,186,393.82 on consultants in 2010/11:

76) What was said durig some GMC fitness to practice hearings:

77) Hate Crime reporting and conviction statistics from West Midlands police:

78) What the RAF thought when 7 unauthorised civilian aircraft arrived unannounced at an RAF base:

79) 86% of DPA cases being handled by the ICO in July 2011 were self-reported breaches of the act:

80) The location and incident type of all fire brigade call outs in Lichfield from 2008 – 2011:

81) EU procurement law means that the UK Government can’t go 100% fairtrade:

82) A list of all primary schools with more than 400 pupils on their roll: 

83) London buses accept £5 Coins after The Big Red Book of guidance for all London drivers was released by TfL:

84) Details of proposed changes to the level of air support available to Cambridgeshire Police:

85) Usage data for each and every stop on the Croydon Tramlink

86) The Child Support Agency spend £68,804 on taxi fares to transport staff to and from work

87) How changes to the the delay-repay passenger compensation scheme were decided:

88) Traffic cones cost £11 each and the Highways Agency has 3,900 of them:

89) Chris Huhne MP was breaching the Data Protection Act:

90) Greater Manchester Police spent £379,015 on payments to informants in the 2009/10 financial year:

91) What exactly is on the national register of cranes:

92) How Kent police policed polling stations at the last general election:

93) Andy Coulson was vetted by FCO services prior to working at Number 10:

94) What NHS Direct staff really though of their empoyer:

95) What wine stocks are held by Liverpool University:

96) Information regarding the resignation of Assistant Commissioner John Yates:

97) The Governments  ePetition website cost £80,700 to build and will cost £32,000 a year to run

98) How much it cost the taxpayer to fund language classes taken by MPs, and who took which class:

99) Westminster is the most expensive London borough to police:


100) What the operations handbook for the Cambridge guided bus way tells drivers do in an emergency:

101) Contraband tobacco products seized by  UKBA are used as fuel at a Power Station in Slough:

102) TFL refunded passengers £1,062,865.26  in 12 months to September 2011 due to faulty Oyster card readers:

103) Which postcodes qualify for industrial development assistance from the Government:

104) Oil pollution emergency plans for various drill sites:

105) The basic wage of a government driver is £29,532.30:

106) The Welsh Assembley Government spent £3387 in 4 months flying members between North and South Wales:

107) The second most common reason for delays to patient transfers at Wirral PCT was “public funding”. 

108) How reliable the TfL cycle hire scheme is:

109) How many TASER complaints were received by the IPCC

110) How many Hampshire Police Officers disobeyed orders

111) Google wrote to the DCMS to express concern about the way the Government has implemented EU cookie law, warning that UK risks throwing away its competitive advantage if the Government doesn’t reconsider changes.

112) Bandwidth diagnostic data for BBC I-player, broken down by ISP:

113) University of Leeds fears a reduction in Postgraduate numbers from 2015 due to increased debt caused by higher fees:

114) Over 3 years, there were 1194 collisions involving Metropolitan Police Vehicles where injuries occurred, and 3 which resulted in fatalities:

115) Which projects received funding as part of the Arab partnership program:

116) The post-riots sentencing Guidelines from the MOJ:

117)  BBC have a contract with Berghaus for exclusive production of its protective clothing worn onscreen:

118) What happened when the 999 system failed in North Wales:

119) Who the 215 Peers are who had their expenses claims queried in 08/09

120) Northamptonshire County council have an office in Brussels:

121) What the Royal Navy wrote about the sinking of a British aircraft carrier during WWII:

122) Internal guidance on back to work/In work credits from the DWP

123) A tax break for the royals and the Queens plan to let Prince William start to take over her engagements:

124) The Metropolitan Police Diversity guide:

125) Details of 24 Hour Off licenses in London: 

126) Equal opportunities monitoring data on all social workers by post town:

127) Treasury Solicitor’s Department guidance on handling vexatious litigants

128) 5 years worth of clinical/nonclinical incidents, complaints and litigation threats for 1 NHS trust:

129) Islington has byelaws in place regulating how loud a Gramophone can be played in a shop/public place.

130) Data on prescription levels for certain drugs

131) What is in the GLA’s Members’ Handbook:

132) Communications between DFID and the office of the Quartet representative.

133) Details about 154 tribunal cases involving Ikea

134) What type of FOI requests are treated as high risk by the metropolitan police: including all requests from pesky journalists:

135) What is in the ACPO public order training manual:

136) Correspondence  between the FCO and the Governor of St Helena:

137) A copy of the DLR working timetable:

138) The number of pupils permanently excluded from schools in East Sussex has more than doubled in 5 years

139) How much is spent on chartering flights to deport people from the UK

140) Merseyside Police broke their spy drone during training but didn’t replace it because of the cuts:

141) What training notes are given to ticket inspectors

142) The BBC paid £10,131,423 in car allowances to its staff over the last 3 financial years

143) At 31 August 2011, £608,910,827 of court fines were still outstanding:

144) User statistics for the new(ish) Police National Database:

145) IPS received 81 complaints in 2010/11 about passports & supporting docs being sent to the wrong address

146) Retained papers on the Kennedy Assassination were released to the national archives followig this request.

147) Serving Hampshire Police officers have convictions for ABH, Battery, fraud, Theft, poss. of an offensive weapon & more:

148) The coordinates and a map of exactly where the army fired depleted uranium ammunition around Basra during the Iraq war 

149) Which ICO FOI decision notices that were appeaed to the information tribunal

150) 88,094 settlement applications were refused by UKBA over the past 11 years:

151) 653 Service personnel have been issued with epinephrine auto-injectors in case of anaphylactic shock

152) The Charity Commission receives a lot of dubious complaints about the RSPCA

153) What guidance was issued by the National Police Improvement Agency on the processing of digital images for evidential purposes

154) Statistics about Community Sentences broken down by force area:

155) How many lawyers are employed by each government department

156) How many deaths have occured at York hospital since 2001, broken down by cause of death

157) What the Ofcom report “Site Blocking” to reduce online copyright infringement has to say:

158) How many individuals are still entitled to drive despite having 12+ pts on their license, broken down by county & post town:

159) 713 attempts to deport people from the UK in 2011 were unsuccessful due to ‘disruptive behavior':

160) What caused delays to Chemotherapy treatment at The Christie NHS Foundation Trust:

161) Of 7916 immigration appeals lodged with UKBA in June/August 2011, only 3% were successful:

162) How NHS trust train mental health staff on how to deal with aggressive patients:

163) What a sample control order looks like and details of some of the individuals subject to control orders:

164) 13% of primary school teachers in Essex are male and 38 schools have no male teachers at all: 

165) If required Orange will provide emergency services details 999 calling phone/owner in 30 mins. Other operators take days:

166) Details of every Parking ticket issued in Lambeth since 2009:

167) A list of 46 MPs who were breaking the Data Protection Act in 2011

168) The average call waiting times for the Student Awards Agency for Scotland:

169) What UKBA had to say about the Zambrano judgement:

170) A report from Lothian and borders showed that the “oil spill” that Climate camp were blamed for wasn’t even oil

171) How many children taken into care by the Northern Health and Social Care Trust:

172) Drink and drug driving arrest figures from Sussex Police

173) How many people people recalled to prison in Norfolk and Suffolk over the past 3 years:

174) The names of all UK employers who conduct CRB checks on their staff:

175) Bristol University spent £5000 on a Gorilla:

176) A MHRA inspection report identified deficiencies at Guys St Thomas NHS Trust Pharmacy manufacturing Unit

177) The removal of the M4 bus lane decreased peak journey times between J1 and J4 by more than 10 seconds:

178) The final report arising from the CReSt research study commissioned by QCDA evaluating the 11-19 reform programme

179) The terms of the DCMS funding agreement with the Football Foundation:

180) The Department of Health has contracts with Capita totaling £92,203,515:

181) Nottinghamshire Police drink drive statistics for 2008-2011

182) The BBC shows have got 254 iPads and 1151 iPhones

183) By November 2011, 14 people had been prosecuted for non-completion of a census return

184) In September 2011 PSNI seized £510,000 in cash from a visitor to Maghaberry Prison

185) Police Handcuffs cost £16.95 and kitting out a Male PC costs £8.76 more than kitting out a female PC:

186) The terms of reference of Operation Weeting:

187) Less than a third of those accredited to attend the Lib Dem autumn conference were grass roots party members:

188) How much it cost Plymouth Council to host the America’s Cup

189) Between January 2009 & 30 September 2011 Prison Officers at HMP Preston seized 11 Cannabis plants:

190) The ICO risk register says there is a high risk of FOI casework suffering due to budget cuts

191) The location of CCTV Cameras in Coventry:

192) What animals are being kept in Zoos in Pembrokeshire:

193) The location of defective & non-standard construction properties in Leeds:

194) Ten primary schools in West Sussex do not employ any male teachers:

195) The amount spent by Staffordshire Police on defending employment tribunal claims

196) Since the start of the scheme there have been 81 accidents involving Barclay’s Cycle Hire customers (Nov 2011)

197) The number of redundancy notices  issued in Nov 2011 to RAF service personnel:

198) Between 2007 and 2010 Sussex Police arrested 46 people under the Animal Welfare Act 2006

199) Unemployment statistics for Leicester, broken down by ward

200) What conditions the Bank of England imposed on a toy company who wanted to print money:

201) The results of the latest well being survey of headteachers on the Isle of Wight:

202) The IPCC received 24 complaints about policing during the recent riots:

203) Copies of charity Commission inquiry reports published prior to 2005:

204) Scottish Prison Service information on prison officers’ second jobs:

205) Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal  statistics about domestic violence related prosecutions in Scotland:

206) Since 2008 Surrey police have spent £651,116 on obtaining copies of mobile phone records

207) The Gambling Commission have released the record of the hearing where Health lottery was granted an operating licence:

208) How many student at Southampton Solent University were caught cheating during the last 5 years:

209) Last year West Lothian Council spent £500,000 on snow clearing/gritting at local schools, over 8x the normal spend:

210) Data on inpatient an outpatient suicides at South West London and St George’s Mental Health Trust:

211) IPCC releases details of dispensations requested/granted to police forces allowing them not to investigate complaints:

212) Newcastle University have collected £170,375 in library fines over the last two years:

213) From 1 October 2009 to 30 Sep 2011, 10 civilian MOD employees received prison sentences, of which 6 were fired:

214) Details of attacks on firefighters in Dumfries and Galloway during 2011

215) The minutes/agendas of meetings of the Independent advisory group on sexual health and HIV:

216) South Wales Police release info on the number of people stopped for driving without a valid license

217) Details of the number of homes demolished by Leeds City Council as well as the costs of acquisition/demolition:

218) Horley Town Council plans to introduce its own currency

219) Average crown court waiting times by case type, gender and ethnicity from the MOJ

220) Longfield Acadamy spends circa £20K a year on marketing and PR

221) 25 people were refused accreditation to attend the 2011 labour party conference following police checks:

222) 23,019 people are on the waiting list for social housing in Camden and on average they’ll wait 4 years to be housed

223) Nottingham City Council appear to have spent £740 on changing the tram signs to include the word “only”:

224) Since March 2011 7550 drivers have been issued with PCNs after being caught just one bus lane camera in Hounslow: 

225) During the last 3 years, Southend Borough Council has spent £1,728,020.94 on maintaining its CCTV system:

226) Details of the proposed changes to the award criteria for medals granted to cadet force volunteers

227) South Wales Fire Service have attended 71 cat/kitten rescue incidents in 2011

228) Between Jan and Sep 2011 Westminster City Council received 401 complaints about its civil enforcement officers:

229) Between March and October 2011 there were 80 stabbings in Camden and 240 other crimes involving knives:

230) East London NHS Trust : there have been 190 suspected suicides amongst patients during in the last 10 years:

231) The terms of Reference and some other details about operations Elvenden and Tuleta

232) The location of active road studs that have the potential to cause problems for epileptics:

233) The Civil Service Code:

234) London Councils estimates that the switch to the 5 year freedom pass will save £1.3 Million

235) Firefighters from Central Scotland Fire & Rescue Service were shot at when reponding to a call out:

236) Companies House were involved in a dispute between the college of social work and the college of social workers:

237) In 2011, Bradford City spent £750 on elves

238) Met Police no longer know why people were “contained” in Trafalgar square on 26 March this year:

239) Greater Manchester Police release details of the numbers of officers disciplined for racist or homophobic misconduct:

240) The House of Commons have released the style guidelines for preparing Select Committee reports:

241) How many company directors have been prosecuted under the Health and Safety at work act during the last decade:

242) The locations of 244 council controlled CCTV cameras in Leeds:

243) Liverpool City Council have spent £942K on Christmas lights during the past 5 years:

244) What the HSE had to say to BP about the safety of its offshore drilling platforms: 

245) How many times pedestrians have been hit by buses in Camden since 2009:

246) What injuries were sustained by London’s firefighters since 01/01/2008:

247) Serco’s Boris Bike “critical improvement plan” revealed catalogue of problems:

248) How many GLA meetings were made inquorate in 2011 by assembly members walking out

249) The radiation levels on Christmas Island following UK nuclear tests:

250) What responses were received by TFL in response to the recent Private Hire consultation

251) The UKTI techcity website cost £53,000 to build

252) ICO release correspondence from Barnet Council about their DPA complaint against blogger @_MrMustard:

253) Copies of certificates of authorisation for 57 constituencies at the 2010 general election:

254) Details of all thefts on the railway during 2011. From cheese & beer to cable & a ticket machine:

255) Copies of documentation relating to the disclaimer of peerages

256) Since April 2009, 40,102 books have disappeared from Kent libraries

257) On the day that HS2 gets the go-ahead the DfT have revealed that the public consultation has cost £3.6 Million so far

258) The University of Manchester is spending over £1/4m on iPads for Medical students:

259) The make and model of all mobile phones owed by Bolton Council, and what they spent on calls:

260) What methodology was used by the treasury to estimate the cost of the recent Public Sector strikes

261) The location of every litter bin in Kensington and Chelsea. There are now a 1/3 less bins than in 2005:

262) Over 300 serving Met officers have criminal convictions.

263) What the official secrets act form signed by new MOD employees looks like:

264) What items were stolen from churches in Strathclyde over the last 12 months:

265) A copy of the Conservative Party constitution, usual price £10

266) Highland Council’s explaination as to how & why they treat FOI requests made by journalists differently to those made by the public:

267) During the past 5 years over half of all fires in North Wales were smoking related

268) How many former MOD employees have gone on to work for BAE systems :

269) Royal Mail ignore “no leaflets” signs on letter boxes; but have official opt-out system:

270) What blue plaques have been placed on buildings in Manchester

271) There have been 16 data protection breaches at the Student Loans Company over the last five years:

272) A Council accepted gift of chocolate, wine & flowers from planning applicant, but refuses to identify the donor:

273) 0.47% of post sent via Royal Mail has had the incorrect postage put on in

274) The highest paid employee of Brighton & Hove City Council earns £170,000 while the lowest paid earns £9,800:

275) Even the ICO suffered from security breaches and data losses:

276) What byelaws are currently in force in Bradford:

277) Slides and speakers notes for ICO presentations made since October 2009

278) Met. police received & used 1 photo taken by the public to help identify rioters. 5111 photos were released in total

279) Since 2007, 19 officers have worked for @cambscops whilst having criminal convictions, including for ABH, theft & arson

280) The number of engineers & the maintenance cost involved in keeping the Red Arrows in the air

281)How ICO has attempted to comply with the cookie rules that they are tasked with enforcing:

282) Just 5 people wrote to West Yorks. PTE to complain about fare rises:

283) The ticketing information guides provided to TFL Ticket Inspectors:

284) Heavily redacted FCO documents about Vojislav Seselj who is currently on trial at the Hague:

285) How the ICO review their polices following information tribunal cases

286) ACPO guidance on the the management of evidential material:

287) 225,000 emails have been sent to the PM via the number 10 website since the PM took office:

288) 229 people were convicted of offences connected to sham marriages during 2011:

289) Details of flaring by Shell/Exxon at the Mossmoran Chemical plant

290) The template letters used by Passenger Focus to respond to the public 

291) Details of Westminster City Council’s deal with O2 to provide WiFi across the borough

292) A report from Ernst and Young identifying how Bedford Hospital NHS trust hope to save £9.94 million

293) Issues with Newham Council’s CCTV system left them unable monitor Newham’s rds “Not only are we losing out a huge amount of income but more importantly we are not able to monitor the newham roads

294) The miistry of Justice spends thousands of pounds a year on a Parliamentary directories

295) Which ICO staff are ISEB qualified

296) 799 couples who got married in Vegas filed for divorce in 2010:

297) What the Electoral Commission said in letters sent to eBay about General Election votes being up for sale online:

298) Shifnal town council in Shropshire spent £954 on fixing the Mayoral Chain

299) Which MPs have been disqualified from 1900 onwards:

300) The redevelopment agreement signed with Langtree Artisan for the Bradford Odeon site:

301) A list of all domain names:

302) Over the past decade, Kent police have issued 7723 fixed penalty notices for having illegal number plates:

303) The Department of Transport spent £108,975 on developing their current website & spend circa £6500/month on hosting it:

304) What the Tate was saying internally about BP’s sponsorship:

305) The location and contact details for every Surestart centre in the country:

306) How much the House of Lords spends on Vellum per anum:

307) The software code for air transport models

308) Handbook on facilities and services for Members of the house of commons

309) The text of letters sent to those who received honours:

310) Certificates confirming that London synagogues can conduct marriage ceremonies

311) What the seal on UK diplomatic bags looks like

321) Copies of Royal Warrants granting courtesy titles to supreme court justices

313) Copies of extradition certficates

314) Copies of minutes of the Electoral Commission’s executive team

315) Eight years worth of authorisations made under s44 of the Prevention of Terrorism Act

316) Information on grant partnership grants awarded by the Electoral Commission:

317) A copy of the accounts for the short lived office of the E-envoy

318) Permitted discharge notices from the Department of Energy and Climate Change

319) The amount spent on by the Science and Technology Facilities Council on rehiring staff that were previously made redundant:

320) A copy of the certificate that designated Tzipi Livini’s visit to the UK a special mission and prevented her arrest.

321) A copy of the Speakers Brief, that aids the lords speaker in dealing with the issues of the day

322) Correspondence between WhatDoTheyKnow and the department of education.

323) A Copy of the permission note given to “The Bill” to dress its actors in real metropolitan police uniforms

324)  Details of SOCPA authorised demonstrations in the vicinity of Parliament

325) Treasury Guidance on Civil Service Grading

326) Who is eligible to use the Royal suite at Heathrow Airport:

327) Details of those provided with financial assistance to repatriate themselves when they are in danger of being forced into marriage:

328) The Guidelines used to ensure that Cabinet Meetings are Properly minuted:

329) A copy of the letter sent by the EDL to request that councils call Christmas Christmas

330) A copy of a prison service email warning offenders of the dangers of stating where they live or talking about gang affilliations whilst in prison.

331) Details of what support was made available to British Nationals who were evacuated from Libya

332) how the “Diamond Jubilee Unit” was created

333) 32 Copies of inHouse Magazine – produced by the House of Lords

334) Copy of permissions granted by the Commons Authorities that allowed Democracy Live to be launched

335) Data on the number of doubtful ballots cast at various elections

336) What Google and the ICO had to say about Google streetview:

337) What complaints made against Sheffield Taxi Drivers

338) The costs of refurbishing the British Embassy in Washington

339) Statistics from the Foreign office about people who go missing while abroad

340) Arrest statistics from Brits. on Holiday in Teneriffe

341) In the 2009-10 Financial year the FCO spent £24.8 Million on School fees

342) The amount of money seized by each UK Police force from criminals:

343) Details of meetings between the Home Office and Phorm

344) Correspondence on the classification of the Olympic Starting pistol as an offensive weapon

345) Highways Agency correspondence on the reduction of motorway litter

346) TfL Statistics on the number of pedestrian killed by collisions with buses since 2006

347) Details of the University of Oxford’s letter to the government epressing no confidence in the Education minister

348) A Study on Iraq Invasion by Lt Gen Chris Brown commissioned by the Ministry of Defence

349) Correspondence between Dick Fedorcio and Guto Hari on the arrest of Damian Green

350) A long running public bill committee cost £10,741.12

351) Information about the dedication of a memorial wall in Basra

352) An index to the parliamentary internet:

353) A copy of the letter sent to the Audit Commission on Fortnightly bin collections

354) TV Licensing contacts held by Capita released by the BBC

355) Internal audit reports from the Olympic Development Agency

356) Details of valid appeals under the Civil Service Code

357) Police logs on the protests on the Olympic Torch route before the Beijing Olympics

358) DWP guidance  and information about their Customer Compliance Department

359) What fines have been issued to students at Reading University for bad behaviour in halls:

360) Cardiff Council spent £2,158,696 on Microsoft Office licenses

361) Details of all the gifts and hospitality recieved by Ofcom

363) The DfT spends far more on PR and marketing than it spends on  FOI:

364) The number of times that the Royal Mail has threatened Legal Action for use of Postcode Data:

365) The business case for opening up various government datasets

366) What merchandise is for sale in the Downing Street Gift Shop:

 (header edited 19 Dec 2013)


The Prince of Wales website lists the following Royal Households, I have cross-referenced this list of the public register of Data Controllers held by the ICO:

(believe it or not there is an order of precedence for the Households, they are listed here in that order)

The Guardian reported that Prince Charles has been offered a veto over 12 government bills since 2005.

By searching TheyWorkForYou (user friendly version of Hansard) I decided to start a list of all bills and measures for which consent was received (search results).

Consent from Prince Charles (in capacity as Duke of Cornwall etc)

  • Abolition of Feudal Tenure etc (Scotland) Bill -15 December 1999 (Scottish Parliament) (source)
  • Charities Bill – 8 November 2005
  • Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies and Credit Unions Bill – 14 January 2010
  • Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Bill – 19 November 2001
  • Commons Bill – 18 January 2006
  • Communications Bill – 8 July 2003
  • Company Law Reform Bill – 23 May 2006
  • Companies (Audit, Investigations and Community Enterprise) Bill (14 July 2004)
  • Coroners and Justice Bill – 5 November 2009
  • Countryside and Rights of Way Bill – 23 November 2000
  • Crown Benefices (Parish Representatives) Measure – 13 January 2010
  • Energy Bill – 15 March 2011
  • Finance Bill 2004 – 20 July 2004
  • Gambling Bill – 6 April 2005
  • Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Bill – 18 November 2003)
  • Housing and Regeneration Bill – 17 July 2008
  • Hunting Bill – 15 November 2004
  • Land Registration Bill – 8 November 2001
  • Licensing Bill – 19 June 2003
  • Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Bill 29 April 2009
  • Localism Bill – 31 October 2011
  • London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Bill – 14 March 2006
  • Marine and Coastal Access Bill – 8 June 2009
  • Marine Navigation Aids Bill – 21 January 2011
  • Natural Environment and Rural Communities Bill – 27 March 2006
  • Planning Bill – 18 November 2008
  • Powers of Entry etc. Bill – 6 April 2010
  • Priests (Ordination of Women) Measure – 29 October 1993
  • Railways and Transport Safety Bill – 3 July 2003
  • Retail Development Bill – 8 July 2008
  • Road Safety Bill – 10 January 2006
  • Sovereign Grant Bill – 3 October 2011
  • Trustee Bill – 29 June 2000
  • Water Bill – 9 July 2003
  • Wreck Removal Convention – (source: Duchy of Cornwall FOI request page, Parliament website)

Earlier cases of Prince’s consent

  • The West of England and South Wales Drainage Company Incorporation Bill 1848 (the earliest known per Kirkhope)

Cases where legislation specifically refers to Duchy of Cornwall but where consent was not required

  • the Duchy of Cornwall Acts passed in 1844 (per Kirkhope, this might suggest that the practice of requiring Prince’s consent was invented after 1843)

Many people are aware that Acts of Parliament require Royal Assent but Queen’s Consent and Prince’s Consent are less well understood. The extracts from Erskine May, 24th edition below show the wide ranging impact of this obscure provision. The obscurity of Parliamentary procedures is partly hidden from the public due to the exorbitant cost of Erskine May – (see Richard Taylor’s Blog Post: Parliament Blown Open by Hackers)

Prince of Wales’s consent

“The Prince’s consent is required for a bill which affects the rights of the
principality of Wales and earldom of Chester, or which makes specific reference to, or special provision for, the Duchy of Cornwall; and the Prince’s consent may (depending on the circumstances) be required for a bill which amends an Act which does any of those things.”

“The need for consent arises from the Sovereign’s reversionary interest in the Duchy of Cornwall. For that reason, if a bill affects the Duchy of Cornwall in the same way as it affects other Crown land, separate Prince’s consent has not been required, the Queen’s consent being sufficient. The Prince’s consent was not required for provisions amending an Act which did not apply to the Duchy, even though those provisions referred expressly to communications with the heir to the Throne. A bill affecting the Duchy of Cornwall in its capacity as harbour authority for the Isles of Scilly has required the Prince’s consent. For the Duchy of Cornwall’s interest in intestacy and bona vacantia…”

Many people are aware that Acts of Parliament require Royal Assent but Queen’s Consent and Prince’s Consent are less well understood. The extracts from Erskine May, 24th edition below show the wide ranging impact of this obscure provision. The obscurity of Parliamentary procedures is partly hidden from the public due to the exorbitant cost of Erskine May – (see Richard Taylor’s Blog Post: Parliament Blown Open by Hackers)

Queen’s Consent

“Bills affecting the prerogative (being powers exercisable by the Sovereign for the performance of constitutional duties) on the one hand, or hereditary revenues, person al property or interests of the Crown , the Duchy of Lancaster or the Duchy of Cornwall on the other, require the signification of Queen’s consent in both Houses before they are passed.”

“When the Prince of Wales is of age, his own consent as Duke of Cornwall is given.”

“The Queen’s consent is expressed in terms to the effect that Her Majesty, having been informed of the purport of the bill, has consented to place her prerogative or interest, or both, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the bill.”

Queen’s consent in respect of her interest

“Consent in respect of the Queen’s interest is required for a bill which affects the hereditary revenues, personal property or personal interests of the Crown or the Duchies of Lancaster or Cornwall. This includes the Royal Household and the Royal Palaces (including the Palace of Westminster), the Crown Estate and the Crown Estate Commissioners, the Queen’s private estates, and the Queen’s interest as a landlord or an employer.”

“Recent provisions requiring such consent have included:
(a) restrictions on the use that might be made of premises on Duchy
(b) the creation of further statutory nuisances arising from land which
might have exposed the Crown to the risk of legal proceedings;
(c) the express application of data protection legislation to personal data
processed by the Royal Household and the Duchy of Lancaster;
(d) the abolition of the office of coroner of the Queen’s household, so that
deaths of members of the royal family were to be investigated under the
same rules as any other deaths;
(e) the application of legislation about construction contracts to contracts entered into on behalf of the Queen in right of the Duchy of Lancaster or on behalf of the Duchy of Cornwall;
(f) the designation of rights in gas importation and storage zones in areas outside the territorial sea as rights belonging to Her Majesty.”

Consent is also required for bills which relate to matters such as intestacy and bona vacantia in which the Crown and the Duchies have a historic interest, unless the effect is remote.

Consent is required if the repeal of a protective provision may have an adverse effect on the Queen’s interest, and is required even if the adverse effect resulting from the bill itself needs consent. Consent is required in respect of substantial consequences for the Queen of changes in the general law, but has not been required for insignificant or remote consequences of such changes. Where consent has already been given in respect of a particular change in the law, it has not been required to be given again in respect of further changes which could not have affected the basis on which the original consent was given. In cases where the effect of a bill is doubtful it is the practice to require the Queen’s consent. A bill relating to the civil service which required consent in respect of the prerogative also required consent in respect of the Queen’s interest because it applied to the Crown Estate Commissioners.”

I have recently submitted an e-petition on fixed time limits for internal reviews. I was actually reasonably pleased to see today that more than 15 people had signed because even though I suspect most people would support it if they took the time to find abut the issue but I know that it isn’t exactly an issue that captivates the imagination of the public.

The Government’s E-petitions does however show that the public has a serious appetite for transparency in specific cases:

The public demand for transparency is not just limited to bolting the door after the banker/MP/News of the World journalist has bolted. There are also people calling for transparency from football clubs lobbyists, restaurants, think tanks and travel agents

and that’s before we even get to the public sector (family courts, QUANGOs…)

The challenge that FOI campaigners face is that many of the changes needed to really energise FOI law are fairly technical and generic while the public’s attention is focussed on a few high profile cases. The British public are not wrong to focus on the really really important stuff. It is up to us as FOI campaigners to try explain where the systematic problems with UK FOI law are and why they matter by reference to specific cases that the public care about. We need to highlight the loopholes and abuses using real examples that impact on peoples every day life whether it is what they eat or where they park or their next holiday. If we do this well the UK could one day have the best FOI laws in the world.

“…I am writing to seven of my elected representatives in the European Parliament about the implications of EU procurement law with respect to Fair Trade. I really need your help to fix a problem with EU law.

Recently the UK Government consulted on proposed procurement rules including “At least 50% of tea and coffee is certified to be fairly traded.”[1] The public wanted the Government to go much further than 50%:

“The majority of those who responded on this criterion felt it was not ambitious enough and should be either increased to 100% for tea and coffee or that other products such as bananas and cocoa should be included.”[1]

But EU procurement law stops the UK public sector from going 100% Fair Trade:

“We are keeping this criterion as it stands as there is significant cost. The 50% also allows some flexibility as EU public procurement laws make it impossible to specify fairly traded produce and other methods need to be used.”[1]

EU procurement law is presumably designed to stop discrimination against certain types of suppliers but in this case discrimination in favour of Fair Trade suppliers is exactly what is needed.

I feel very angry about this law and the implications it has for Fair Trade. Please could you each let me know what can be done to get this changed and what you personally will be willing to do to fix this. I know that some MEPs favour leaving the EU but this is unlikely to happen in the short term so I would ask those MPs to try to get EU law changed to allow public bodies in member states to go 100% Fair Trade if they choose to.


Yours sincerely,

This FOI release reveals a lot of public support for going 100% fair trade on tea and coffee:

“There were no comments that didn’t support inclusion of this criterion 50% fair trade]. The majority of those who responded on this criterion felt it was not ambitious enough and should be either increased to 100% for tea and coffee or that other products such as bananas and cocoa should be included”

But Government can’t go to 100% because:
“The 50% also allows some flexibility as EU public procurement laws make it impossible to specify fairly traded produce and other methods need to be used.”

The whole point of fair trade is excluding non-fair trade suppliers from the buying process. Someone has to get this fixed.

Prime Minister’s Questions is televised and covered by the media and the right to question government ministers about the work of government departments is well known. The Parliament website describes it thus:

“In addition to oral questions, MPs and Peers can ask government ministers questions for written answer. These are often used to obtain detailed information about policies and statistics on the activities of government departments. ” Source: Written answers Parliament website.

The “Department” drop down menu on TheyWorkForYou search page reveals that your MP can ask questions of bodies that are not classed as Government Departments, I list these below with my comments (I have excluded Lord Chancellor and Government Law Officers from this list):

  • Administration Committeesearch – considers the services provided to MPs by the House of Commons.
  • Church Commissioners -search – manages an investment portfolio (mostly in company shares and property) to support the Church of England
  • Duchy of Lancastersearch – one of two Royal Duchies in England, see Wikipedia: Duchy of Lancaster
  • Electoral Commission Committeesearch – a body created under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 to scrutinise the Electoral Commission
  • European Communitysearch – it appears that MPs can ask the Lord Privy Seal questions about the European Community
  • House of Commonssearch – MPs have asked House of Commons about security arrangements, first aid and spam emails under this heading.
  • House of Commons Commissionsearch – the overall supervisory body of the House of Commons Administration in the United Kingdom
  • Leader of the Councilsearch – another name for Leader of the House of Commons, only one question found under this heading.
  • Leader of the Housesearch – MP has asked about the use of hand held devices in the Commons under this heading, another has asked about the time taken to answer written questions
  • Palace of Westminstersearch – no questions under this heading since 1981, when Mr. Garel-Jones asked the Lord President of the Council whether the State opening of Parliament would be televised.
  • President of the Councilsearch – many questions relate to work of Government but some questions relate to Parliamentary scrutiny e.g. in 2002 Mr Graham Allen submitted a question: “To ask the President of the Council if he will list for each Government Bill to be introduced this session the form of pre-legislative scrutiny to which it will be subject.”
  • Privy Councilsearch – The Privy Council essentially, a law making body through which the Queen makes Orders – see also Wikipedia:Privy Council of the United Kingdom. Most of these questions however appear to relate to the Government Department called the Privy Council Office
  • Public Accounts Commissionsearch – the Public Accounts Commission examines the National Audit Office Estimates and considers reports from the appointed auditor of the National Audit Office.
  • Public Accounts Committeesearch – only one question found under this heading and this dates back to 2001. The Committee of Public Accounts examines “accounts showing the appropriation of the sums granted to Parliament to meet the public expenditure, …”