March 2008 Archives

The text of our Request for a Freedom of Information Act 2000 Internal Revue, to Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs, in response to:

HMRC response to FOIA request for general details of the Special Categories of tax returns of Celebrities and VIPs etc.

Text of our email Internal Review Request:

The Bill of Rights 1689 a historical piece of the English Constitution, which was intended to preserve the rights and freedoms of the public and of Members of Parliament from abuses by the Executive branch of Government, which, in the 17th Century was:

Whereas the late King James the Second by the Assistance of diverse evill Councellors Judges and Ministers imployed by him did endeavour to subvert and extirpate the Protestant Religion and the Lawes and Liberties of this Kingdome.

If you replace "the late King James the Second" with."Tony Blair"or "Gordon Brown", the words fit just as well.

We are astonished and furious, that this Bill of Rights, is being abused in the High Court to try to weasel out of having to disclose the early (and now very out of date) Gateway Reviews of the Home Office's Identity Cards Programme (as it was then, circa 2002 / 2003), by the lawyers for the Government's Office for Government Commerce, supported by, incredibly, lawyers for the Speaker of the House of Commons, in their Appeal against the Decision of the independent Information Tribunal, which ordered full disclosure, in the public interest.

Are the Government and their lawyers desperate, or evil ?

Why is the Speaker of the House of Commons helping the Executive branch of Government, to suppress freedom of speech and transparent open government, in a matter of huge public interest ?

[hat tip to UK Liberty for spotting this before us]


Bill of Rights 1688 ( "Act declared to be a Statute by Crown and Parliament Recognition Act 1689 (c. 1)")

That the Freedome of Speech and Debates or Proceedings in Parlyament ought not to be impeached or questioned in any Court or Place out of Parlyament.

See the history of this long running Freedom of Information Act disclosure suppression in our OGC Gateway Reviews of the Identity Cards Programme blog category archive.

We have had a response and a very partial disclosure by her Majesty's Revenue and Customs, to our sent by email and via a web form on 28th January 2008 i.e. a substantive response in 28 working days, which is technically in contravention of the Freedom of Information Act 2000, which specifies 20 working days, without exception
.
This is still a substantially better FOIA response performance than , for example the Home Office, although HMRC do not make it easy to find the appropriate contact page on their website, which requires a search engine query rather than a link from the home page, to find
http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/about/foi.htm

The actual response below, addresses all of the 11 numbered Questions which were asked, each to a lesser or non-existent degree.

HMRC are pretending that the request was for individually identifiable information, when it was only asked for high level, general categories of supposed VIPs and alleged Celebrities, who are being given special treatment regarding their income and perhaps corporation and value added tax returns. This situation was highlighted by the inability of Members of Parliament to file their tax returns to HMRC over the Government Gateway web page.

See HMRC tax record security only for a minority of the privileged, but not for the rest of us

Almost no information has been disclosed, in response to this request, except

10) Are these special category tax records included in the datasets handed over, through the statutory gateway, to the DWP Longitudinal Study? http://www.dwp.gov.uk/asd/longitudinal_study/ic_longitudinal_study.asp

[...]
Item 10): No, the data is not included in transfers.

Apparently "two Commissioners of HM Revenue and Customs have considered your request "

HMRC does not know neither who authorised the policy on Special categories in the first place, nor how long it has actually been in place, nor how much it costs to handle these Special Categories of tax returns.

How do they know that they are actually complying with the original Policy on Special Categories ? How can the public be re-assured that this Policy has not deteriorated into wasteful bureaucratic red tape, and function creep, and is now being applied to far more people than it was originally intended ?

How can the public be re-assured that people at risk who should be given more security to protect their identity and address details, are actually being included in the HMRC Special Categories at all ? e.g. are all the battered wives who have fled their violent partners being given the same protection as MPs or celebrities > If so, then who informs the HMRC of their "at risk" status ?

This FOIA response is also another example of a Government Department or public body trying to claim an exemption under "Health & Safety", which has got nothing to do with anything which comes under actual Health and Safety laws or regulations, no personal details are being requested.

Should we ask for an Internal Review ?

MySociety.org have made some improvements to their new, still under development, Freedom of Information ACt request website, which we commented on recently - foi.mysociety.org FOIA request submission and publication website seems to be operational

As expected, the suggestion we made about a Preview facility, so that people could check the formatting and spelling of their FOIA request before firing it off, was taken to heart, and, within only a few days, was implemented, together with an online spelling checker.

The website now has its own Domain Name, to add to the stable of essential MySociety.org tools like TheyWorkForYou,com, or PledgeBank.com. or FixMyStreet.com etc.

You can now access foi.mysociety.org via WhatDoTheyKnow.com

What is WhatDoTheyKnow for?

To help you find out inside information about what the UK government is doing.

How does the site work?

You choose the public body that you would like information from, then write a brief note describing what you want to know. We then send your request to the public body. Any response they make is automatically published on the website for you and anyone else to find and read.

Why would I bother to do this?

You pay taxes, and then Government does things with the money. All sorts of things that affect your life, from healthcare through to national defence. Some it does badly, some it does well. The more we find out about how Government works, the better able we are to make suggestions to improve the things that are done badly, and to celebrate the things that are done well.

Why would the public body bother to reply?

Under Freedom of Information law, they have to respond.

About this blog

This United Kingdom based blog has been spawned from Spy Blog, and is meant to provide a place to track our Freedom of Information Act 2000 requests to United Kingdom Government and other Public Authorities.

If you have suggestions for other FOIA requests,  bearing in mind the large list of exemptions, then email them to us, or use the comments facility on this blog, and we will see  what we can do, without you yourself having to come under the direct scrutiny of  "Sir Humphrey Appleby" or his minions.

Email Contact

Please feel free to email us your views about this website or news about the issues it tries to comment on:

email: blog @spy[dot]org[dot]uk

Here is our PGP public encryption key or download it via a PGP Keyserver.

WhatDoTheyKnow.com

WhatDoTheyKnow.com - FOIA request submission and publication website from MySociety.org

Campaign Button Links

Watching Them, Watching Us - UK Public CCTV Surveillance Regulation Campaign
UK Public CCTV Surveillance Regulation Campaign

NO2ID Campaign - cross party opposition to the NuLabour Compulsory Biometric ID Card
NO2ID Campaign - cross party opposition to the NuLabour Compulsory Biometric ID Card and National Identity Register centralised database.

Gary McKinnon is facing extradition to the USA under the controversial Extradition Act 2003, without any prima facie evidence or charges brought against him in a UK court. Try him here in the UK, under UK law.
Gary McKinnon is facing extradition to the USA under the controversial Extradition Act 2003, without any prima facie evidence or charges brought against him in a UK court. Try him here in the UK, under UK law.

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FreeFarid.com - Kafkaesque extradition of Farid Hilali under the European Arrest Warrant to Spain

Peaceful resistance to the curtailment of our rights to Free Assembly and Free Speech in the SOCPA Designated Area around Parliament Square and beyond
Parliament Protest blog - resistance to the Designated Area restricting peaceful demonstrations or lobbying in the vicinity of Parliament.

Petition to the European Commission and European Parliament against their vague Data Retention plans
Data Retention is No Solution - Petition to the European Commission and European Parliament against their vague Data Retention plans.

Save Parliament: Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill (and other issues)
Save Parliament - Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill (and other issues)

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Open Rights Group

The Big Opt Out Campaign - opt out of having your NHS Care Record medical records and personal details stored insecurely on a massive national centralised database.

Tor - the onion routing network
Tor - the onion routing network - "Tor aims to defend against traffic analysis, a form of network surveillance that threatens personal anonymity and privacy, confidential business activities and relationships, and state security. Communications are bounced around a distributed network of servers called onion routers, protecting you from websites that build profiles of your interests, local eavesdroppers that read your data or learn what sites you visit, and even the onion routers themselves."

Tor - the onion routing network
Anonymous Blogging with Wordpress and Tor - useful Guide published by Global Voices Advocacy with step by step software configuration screenshots (updated March 10th 2009).

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Amnesty International's irrepressible.info campaign

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BlogSafer - wiki with multilingual guides to anonymous blogging

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NGO in a box - Security Edition privacy and security software tools

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Home Office Watch blog, "a single repository of all the shambolic errors and mistakes made by the British Home Office compiled from Parliamentary Questions, news reports, and tip-offs by the Liberal Democrat Home Affairs team." - does this apply to the Conservative - Liberal Democrat coalition government as well ?

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Reporters Without Borders - Reporters Sans Frontières - campaign for journalists 'and bloggers' freedom in repressive countries and war zones.

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Committee to Protect Bloggers - "devoted to the protection of bloggers worldwide with a focus on highlighting the plight of bloggers threatened and imprisoned by their government."

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Icelanders are NOT terrorists ! - despite Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling's use of anti-terrorism legislation to seize the assets of Icelandic banks.

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No CCTV - The Campaign Against CCTV

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I'm a Photographer Not a Terrorist !

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Power 2010 cross party, political reform campaign

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Cracking the Black Box - "aims to expose technology that is being used in inappropriate ways. We hope to bring together the insights of experts and whistleblowers to shine a light into the dark recesses of systems that are responsible for causing many of the privacy problems faced by millions of people."

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Open Rights Group - Petition against the renewal of the Interception Modernisation Programme

Yes, Minister

Yes, Minister Series 1, Episode 1, "Open Government" First airtime BBC: 25 February 1980

"Bernard Woolley: "Well, yes, Sir...I mean, it [open government] is the Minister's policy after all."
Sir Arnold: "My dear boy, it is a contradiction in terms: you can be open or you can have government."

FOIA Links

Campaign for the Freedom of Information

Office of the Information Commissioner,
who is meant to regulate the Freedom of Information Act 2000 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Scottish Information Commissioner,
who similarly regulates the Freedom of Information Act (Scotland) 2002

Information Tribunal - deals with appeals against decisions by the Information Commissioners.

Freedom of Information pages - Department for Constitutional Affairs

Friends of the Earth FOIA Request Generator and links to contact details for Central Government Departments and their Publication Schemes

UK Government Information Asset Register - in theory, this should point you to the correct Government documents, but in practice...well see for yourself.

Access all Information is also logging some FOIA requests

foi.mysociety.org - prototype FOIA request submission, tracking and publication website

Blog Links

Spy Blog

UK Freedom of Information Act Blog - started by Steve Wood, now handed over to Katherine Gundersen

Your Right To Know - Heather Brooke

Informaticopia - Rod Ward

Open Secrets - a blog about freedom of information by BBC journalist Martin Rosenbaum

Panopticon blog - by Timothy Pitt-Payne and Anya Proops. Timothy Pitt-Payne is probably the leading legal expert on the UK's Freedom of Information Act law, often appearing on behlaf of the Information Commissioner's Office at the Information Tribunal.

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