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Issue: 20/03/2019


Andy Slaughter MP tried again with FOI Bill
Andy Slaughter MP is resubmitting his Private Members Bill that would expand FOI to private contractors, saying that support is growing for the Bill's aims, inside and outside Westminster. The MP said: "I will be leading a 90-minute debate in Westminster Hall on extending FOI to cover private contractors and Housing Associations. Given the weight of expert as well as Parliamentary opinion this is an idea whose time has now come, and I hope I will hear a change of heart from the Minister". He added: "Stranger things have happened. The Homelessness Reduction Act 2017, the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 and the Civil Partnerships Bill (soon to be enacted) all started life as Private Members' Bills but won through on their merits with cross-party and public support. This can too."

London councils' FOI performance assessed
A new report by the Campaign for Freedom of Information reveals that some London councils are failing to comply with FOIA's time limits in 40% of the requests they receive, causing long delays before information is released. The ICO expects authorities to answer at least 90% of requests on time. The report finds that 25 out of 34 London councils surveyed fell short of this target in 2017/18, although some are close to answering 100% of requests on time. According to the Group, the scale of the problem had previously been obscured by the fact that many of the underperforming councils publish no statistics on their handling of requests. The Group criticised the ICO for not enforcing the rules enough. The report makes 14 recommendations on how FOI practice could be improved. Although the specific data relates to London local authorities, the issues are common to all public authorities and therefore the recommendations may be of wider relevance.

Holyrood asks how well freedom of information laws are working
The Scottish Parliament's Public Audit and Post-legislative Scrutiny Committee is undertaking post-legislative scrutiny of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002. The remit for the committee's post-legislative scrutiny is to consider whether the policy intentions of the act have been realised and are being delivered, and whether any further legislative or non-legislative changes are required to improve the effectiveness of it. Stakeholders are being asked to submit their written views to the PAPLS Committee on various questions. The deadline for written submissions is 5pm on Friday 10th May.

Campaign group publishes its response to ICO consultation
The Campaign for FOI has published its response to the ICO's recent consultation (now closed) on its draft access to information strategy. The group said that it strongly welcomed the proposal that the ICO should become more proactive and increase the impact of its regulation. However, it said it is not persuaded that the object of the ICO's proposals should be to increase public trust in accountability. It said "if the public lack trust in public authorities' openness and accountability that is more likely to reflect the authorities' failings than the ICO's. Equally, any improvement in public confidence in authorities' openness may have more to do with the approach of those at the top of the organisation than with the ICO's efforts. This is not a criticism of the ICO. We merely question whether the necessary connection exists between the ICO's efforts, however vigorous, and public confidence in the openness of public authorities."

Freedom of infomation JournalMore freedom of information news and articles

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Deborah Coombs
Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust

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Professional and practical Training Courses enable delegates to understand the legal requirements in key areas of compliance.  
The following is a selection of some of PDP's current courses.  
Matt Lewin Cornerstone Barristers
Matt Lewin Cornerstone Barristers
Since the Freedom of Information Act 2000 came fully into force in 2005 we have experienced a fundamental change in the relationship between UK government and its citizens as government information has become more publicly accessible. Greater transparency is also a key policy of the Coalition Government, and in light of the deficit reduction programme there is an ever increasing public interest in how public money is spent. This has led to the publication of a wide range of public sector datasets and proposals to expand the Freedom of Information Act through the Protection of Freedoms Bill. Information Officers are central to these developments and need to be fully aware of the Act and the impact of future changes to it.

This training session is designed to help those who are on the receiving end of requests for information and those who advise and assist them.

This training course can be used as credit towards gaining the Practitioner Certificate in Freedom of Information

Upcoming dates for this training course are:
  • London          Monday, 1st April 2019
  • London          Monday, 2nd September 2019
  • Belfast           Monday, 23rd September 2019
For further information and to make a booking,
  1. Visit PDP's website 
  2. Telephone PDP at +44 (0)207 014 3399
  3. Download our PDF Training Catalogue 
FOI Practical Training - Level 2 (Applying the Exemptions)
Liz Fitzsimons, Eversheds
Liz Fitsimons

Public sector bodies must make daily decisions on how to respond to requests for information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and how to apply the exemptions in the Act. Those decisions are increasingly reviewed and, in many cases, overturned by the Information Commissioner, the Information Tribunal and the Courts. As case law develops and changes, public authorities need to ensure that they understand when the exemptions can be applied, and what they have to demonstrate to apply them correctly.

This training session considers in detail the practical application of the main FOI exemptions.

A discount is available for delegates booking both FOI Level 1 and FOI Level 2.

This training course can be used as credit towards gaining the Practitioner Certificate in Freedom of Information

Upcoming dates for this training course are:
  • London          Tuesday, 2nd April 2019
  • London          Tuesday, 3rd September 2019  
  • Belfast           Tuesday, 24th September 2019  
For further information and to make a booking,
  1. Visit PDP's website 
  2. Telephone PDP at +44 (0)207 014 3399
  3. Download our PDF Training Catalogue 
Damien Welfare, Cornerstone Barristers
Damien Welfare
Cornerstone Barristers
The competing demands of Freedom of Information and Data Protection legislation in the UK present challenges for all public bodies involved in collecting, holding and disclosing personal information. Understanding the interface between Freedom of Information laws (including the Environmental Information Regulations 2004) and the General Data Protection Regulation is essential for all those involved with information management in the public sector.

This session, which is designed for people who already work with FOI issues, explains the key principles underlying the differences between FOI and data protection laws, including when personal data should and should not be released in response to subject access requests and FOI/EIR requests. Delegates who do not have an existing understanding of the basics of FOI law are recommended to attend FOI Level 1 before attending this session.

The session includes:
  • knowing whether a request should be dealt with under the DPA or FOI law (or EIR)
  • the latest thinking on determining what is personal data
  • the interpretation and practical application of the personal data exemption
  • the legal principles governing access to third party personal information
  • applying relevant exemptions
  • disclosing staff information to outside third parties
  • analysing the practical implications of key decisions of the Commissioner and Information Rights Tribunal
  • disclosing third party data of professionals in the fields of health, education and social work
This session enables delegates to understand how to manage requests for information, and to achieve best practice within their organisation.

This training course can be used as credit towards gaining the Practitioner Certificate in Freedom of Information

Upcoming dates for this training course are:
  • London          Wednesday, 3rd April 2019
  • London          Wednesday, 4th September 2019
  • Belfast           Wednesday, 25th September 2019  
For further information and to make a booking,
  1. Visit PDP's website 
  2. Telephone PDP at +44 (0)207 014 3399
  3. Download our PDF Training Catalogue 
Understanding the Environmental Information Regulations
Damien WelfareCornerstone Barristers 
Damien Welfare
Cornerstone Barristers 
The Environmental Information Regulations 2004 cover a wide range of information which has often been assumed to fall under the Freedom of Information Act.

The scope of EIR is not restricted just to "green" subjects or information, but extends to land use, planning, transport, waste, energy, agriculture, housing development, public nuisance, and aspects of public health, food safety, buildings maintenance and cultural sites.

Public authorities and their advisors, and those contracting with the public sector or carrying out public functions, need to understand the scope of the Regulations in order to handle information requests correctly. This session explains the meaning and scope of the EIR. It examines in detail the boundary with FOI, based on decisions of the Information Commissioner and Information Tribunal and on guidance from DEFRA; including the potential role of a remoteness test in limiting the range of information covered. It analyses the "exceptions" and how to approach the public interest test.

The course equips practitioners to recognise and handle practical issues arising under the Regulations with confidence, and to avoid the pitfalls of dealing with information requests under the wrong regime. Topics covered include:
  • definition and scope of environmental information
  • application in the public and private sectors
  • differences between EIR and FOI
  • EIR exceptions, and how they compare with FOI exemptions
  • requests involving personal data
  • decisions of the Information Commissioner and Tribunal
  • charging
  • best practice: EIR requests and the duty to disseminate information
The session enables delegates to handle Environmental Information with confidence.
This training course can be used as credit towards gaining the Practitioner Certificate in Freedom of Information

Upcoming dates for this training course are:
  • London          Thursday, 4th April 2019
  • London          Thursday, 5th September 2019 
  • Belfast           Thursday, 26th September 2019
For further information and to make a booking,
  1. Visit PDP's website 
  2. Telephone PDP at +44 (0)207 014 3399
  3. Download our PDF Training Catalogue 

Next training sessions taking place in London, Bristol and Manchester

Records Management Levels 1 & 2
These highly practical sessions provide a thorough grounding and examine the core concepts of good records management practice  

Four-day intensive training sessions taking place 1st - 4th April 2019 
The four day Programme provides candidates with a solid knowledge of Freedom of Information law (and the Environmental Information Regulations), as well as an understanding of the practical implications for organisations of the legal requirements, including how to manage an FOI request from inception to completion
The latest edition (Volume 15, Issue 3), features the following articles:
FOI and procurement - how do they  interact? - Paul Gibbons, aka FOIMan
FOIA in 2018 - key cases - Louise Jones, Guildhall Chambers
Recent decisions of the Commissioner and Tribunal - Alison Berridge, Alexandra Littlewood & Ciar McAndrews

For more information, please visit PDP Journals

PDP Training Catalogue 2019 
Download our latest Training Catalogue for a comprehensive list of 2019 courses and qualifications for those working in Freedom of Information, Data Protection and Information Compliance

Flexible training options allow you to train alongside other commitments   
"I am very pleased to have achieved the Practitioner Certificate in Freedom of Information. The programme provides excellent knowledge and understanding on the practical applications of handling requests for information"
Louise Smith
Financial Ombudsman Service

"A very worthwhile qualification which I wholeheartedly recommend to colleagues"
Barbara Tyldesley
The Environment Agency

"I am so pleased to have passed the Practitioner Certificate in FOI. The 4 day course was excellent and I am now confident in my role as FOI Officer for Social Services. The course has helped me develop my skills and knowledge of FOI/EIR and DP and I would encourage anyone working in this area to attend."
Rachael Strand
Flintshire County Council

"The Practitioner Certificate in FOI was an excellent opportunity to receive specialised training and gain a recognised qualification. In particular, I found the instructors to be both knowledgeable and engaging. As a regulator in an overseas territory, I was easily able to translate the learning into practice. I have and do encourage other FOI practitioners to take advantage of this training programme."
Clara Smith
Information Commissioner's Office (Grand Cayman)

"I am delighted to have passed my examination, achieving this qualification and attending the courses have been a very positive experience which have boosted my confidence and enthusiasm for this subject. I found the courses very informative and the course handout binders are an excellent reference tool which is very relevant to the workplace."

Julie Johnson
Durham County Council

"I'm delighted to have passed the exam; it was hard work preparing for an exam, having not sat one for over 10 years, but the course materials really helped structure my revision. Passing has increased my confidence in dealing with the Act which will be of benefit to myself as well as my organisation."

Heledd Thomas
Comisiynydd y Gymraeg

"I found this to be a comprehensive course, which was well structured to be relevant and of interest to everyone from FOI beginners to more seasoned practitioners. The course tutors were very knowledgeable and clearly very interested in their respective topic areas, and the course was similarly detailed and well-taught."
Mark Reynolds

"I'm thrilled to have gained this qualification. FOI can be a complicated area to understand and apply, but the tutors were excellent in bringing it to life in an interesting way."
Angela Sanderson
Big Lottery Fund

"The Practitioner's Certificate has equipped me with the knowledge and confidence to undertake my role. I found the courses well presented and easy to follow. The case studies are particularly useful, as they give an insight into different scenarios that one may experience. I would recommend PDP to anyone wanting to gain this qualification."
Kim Starbuck
London Borough of Barking and Dagenham


"Both the thought provoking training and materials as well as passing the exam will help to ensure we provide a prompt quality service when dealing with information requests particularly as those involving planning can raise complex issues"
John Pierce
The Department for Communities and Local Government


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