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PostPosted: Wed Apr 04, 2007 5:00 pm    Post subject: The Answer is clear. Reply with quote

The Freedom of Information Act is supposed to facilitate Tony Blair's claims to a transparent system of government. The latest reply from Tony's team regarding which government offices were involved in the decision to exclude Cornwall from the Framework Convention for the Protection of Nation Minorities, and their reasons why they cannot disclose information, exposes a massive loophole in the F.O.I. Act.


The Email...





I refer to your email of 7th December 2006, requesting information under the Freedom of Information Act (Ref no: F0001961).

In his email of 8th January 2007, Ian Naysmith provided most of the information that you had requested in your email of 7th December 2006. This information included the fact that all Government departments had been consulted on the question of whether the Cornish should be included under the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (the Framework Convention). He also explained that the Department needed further time to consider your request for all correspondence relating to that same question, namely which government departments (national and local) have been consulted in regard to the inclusion, or otherwise, of the Cornish within the Framework Convention. That was because this information engaged an exemption and we needed additional time to consider the public interest test.

I can confirm that the Department holds the correspondence relating to the question of which government departments were consulted in relation to the inclusion or otherwise of the Cornish within the Framework Convention. However, this information is being withheld as it is exempt by virtue of Section 35(1) (a) and (b) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000. Section 35(1)(a) provides that information is exempt if it relates to the formulation or development of government policy or (s 35(1)(b)) Ministerial communications, including proceedings of any committee of the Cabinet.

Section 35 is a qualified exemption. Therefore, we have had to consider whether the public interest in withholding the information is outweighed by the public interest in disclosing it.

We believe that there is a public interest in having access to the Government’s internal consideration of the question of whether the Cornish should be included under the Framework Convention. This information is of particular interest to you and to others who support the inclusion of the Cornish. In addition, we recognise that as knowledge of the way Government works increases, the public contribution to the policy making process could become more effective.

However, in order to reach the best possible decision on any matter of policy, Ministers need to feel free to discuss all the available options freely and frankly with one another and with their officials without fearing that these discussions will be made public. Such a concern would be likely to have an inhibiting and detrimental effect on the candour of advice and views expressed in such discussions, which would jeopardise the fully informed and thoroughly considered decision-making process that currently exists through impairing the quality of advice presented to Ministers. This would, in turn, undermine the quality of policy making. There is in particular a strong public interest in maintaining the convention of Ministerial collective responsibility for government policy, and it is this convention which section 35(1)(b) is designed to protect.

We have therefore concluded that the public interest in maintaining the exemptions outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information.

The Department, as an organisation, aims to be as helpful as possible in the way it deals with requests for information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and the Environmental Information Regulations 2004. If, however, you are not satisfied with the way in which your request has been handled or the outcome, information about the Department's review procedures and how to apply for an internal review of your case is contained on the Department's website at www.communities.gov.uk. This also explains your right to apply directly to the Information Commissioner for a decision in the event that you remain dissatisfied following the authority's review.

Please contact me if you have any queries about this email.

Yours sincerely
Jennifer Ashby
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 04, 2007 7:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
However, in order to reach the best possible decision on any matter of policy, Ministers need to feel free to discuss all the available options freely and frankly with one another and with their officials without fearing that these discussions will be made public.


So the government have a clause to bypass any FOI request - as long as they can say that they have been discussing a matter between themselves it's allowed to be exempt?

Doesn't this make the FOI a pointless service?
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 05, 2007 12:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Do we know whether this clause is invoked all the time or only when someone has said something they should not have.

One can't help feeling that an ignorant like (and this is just an example) John Prescott, who probably reflects your average Yorkshire attitude, may well have said something along the lines of 'The Cornish? Who the f***?'.

His embarrassment would clearly be more important than the Cornish self image.
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Cawsando



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PostPosted: Fri Apr 06, 2007 3:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Is the stannary parliament still pursuing this? Are they likely to have any success?
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 06, 2007 9:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Is the stannary parliament still pursuing this? Are they likely to have any success?


I would imagine so. I should think they will pursue the review procedures offered but not expect to get any results from it. I think that would have to be done so as to exhaust the system so to speak, once all avenues have been tried (and failed) then the information can be passed onto Europe. Each time the UK Gov reject CSP attempts to press for the truth regarding Cornwall's unique status it's another point added to their Human Rights case that was lodged a year ago.

You can download the full Human Rights case document from the CSP website, you'll have to register as an Archive member first which is no different than signing up for a mail list really.
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 08, 2007 6:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The MySociety.com people are going to produce a website to make it much simpler to make a request under the FOI.

Find out more here: http://www.mysociety.org/projects

It might also be worth recording attempts to get information on the petition of 50,000 and what the gov did with it, who was the consulted etc.
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 22, 2007 3:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Two interesting snipets from the internet!

Recognition of Minorities in Europe: Protecting rights and dignity: http://www.minorityrights.org/admin/Download/pdf/Recognition2004.pdf

The Right to Equality and Non-Discrimination With Regard to Language: http://www.murdoch.edu.au/elaw/issues/v10n1/higgins101.html
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PostPosted: Mon May 14, 2007 3:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote


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PostPosted: Mon May 14, 2007 3:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote


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PostPosted: Mon May 14, 2007 3:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The bit in the brackets, not seen that before in a URL, what web page did you go to the link page from?
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 1549 - War between Cornish and English... The 5th, the final engagment came, the rebels (Cornish) were outmanoevred and surrounded, and great was the slaughter and cruel was the fight, and such was the valour and stoutness of these men that the Lord Grey reported himself that he never in all the wars that he had been did he know the like. The Devonshire men went north up the valley of the Exe, where they were overtaken and cut to pieces by Sir Gawen Carew, who left the corpses of their leaders, hanging on gibbets from Dunster to Bath.  


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