Justice CommitteeWritten evidence from Neil Craig

I understand an investigation into how FoI’s work is being made. Below is a blog article I did on some particular problems I have had with the Cabinet Office. the Scottish Environment protection Agency, Glasgow Corporation. The most serious problem I have found is that certain bodies claim never to have received a query. This is exacerbated by the fact that it is almost always us the case, in the simplest as well as the most complex questions, that officials treat the maximum time limit allowed (20 working days ie 28 full days + holidays—call it a month) is invariably treated as the minimum

This is particularly difficult if they claim not to have received the query and I suggest that officials should be asked to acknowledge such receipt immediately and automatically.

I would also like to repeat this from the blog:

Perhaps if the law is to be so continuously defied it is time for the ombudsman to bring an actual prosecution. Certainly any civil servant in any way involved in breaking the law to deny us our rights should be instantly fired, as indeed should any superior who refuses to fire them:
http://a-place-to-stand.blogspot.com/2011/11/fredom-of-information-enquiries-glasgow.html

Freedom of Information Enquiries—Glasgow Council, SEPA, BBC and the Coalition Break the Law

The law says that any member of the public can ask a public body for information and they have a legal duty to provide it, except in unusual situations like national security or material commercially sensitive to independent companies. This has to be done in 20 working days) ie 28 days and no matter how simple actual answers never take less. Unfortunately it is becoming ever more common to simply ignore them and say the email got lost in the post.

Back in August I asked Glasgow Council whether they had, before cancelling the Hogmanay celebrations because they were turning a massive loss on it with ticket prices of £19, whether they had offered to franchise it out to any commercial firm who might find £19 a head in an open air venue something they could profitably do?

In due course the Council wrote back saying they knew nothing about this because they were in no way involved and it is all the responsibility of Glasgow Leisure, which looks exactly like the council Museums and Parks Dept. When the council leader spoke to the BBC on the matter, taking credit for thus saving public money he seemed unaware that he was uninvolved.

I did contact Glasgow Leisure and have now reminded them that nearly two months later, they have not replied.

Another FoI was to the BBC asking them how often the BBC allowed politicians to speak on air compared to their proven electoral support. In particular on “Brian’s Big Debate” and “Question Time”. Have they, for example, had BNP representatives on twice as often as Green ones since the former get twice the vote of the latter.

The BBC refused to answer on the grounds that there is an “artistic” get out clause in the Act and the impartiality of political reporting is an artistic matter. In fact we all know the answer—the BBC have Greens on almost constantly and are given so much obsequious support that:

“I began, good naturedly, by observing that the climate didn’t seem to be playing ball at the moment, and that we were having a particularly cold winter while carbon emissions were powering ahead.

Miss Lucas reacted as if I’d physically molested her. She was outraged. It was no job of the BBC—the BBC!—to ask questions like that. Didn’t I realise that there could be no argument over the science?”

In fact we all know perfectly well the answer to the questions the BBC refused to answer—the BNP has been on QT once and Brian never, UKIP do slightly better on QT and the Greens appear on both regularly. Despite the BNP getting twice the vote and UKIP four times and neither have experience of being treated as if there could be “no argument” with their policies and the Greens get 40 times more coverage per vote than UKIP SEPA have once again been pushing their “radium at Dalgety Bay” fraud which has had a significant amount of coverage by the BBC, who know it is a lie, but not by the papers, who presumably care more about not being seen pushing an obvious lie. I sent them an FoI asking them, yet again to provide the evidence for their claim to have found radioactive paint or “radium and its daughter elements”.

They have, yet again, simply refused to answer the FoI enquiry.pointing to their website.

Earlier in the year I put up an FoI to the government asking, in light of David Cameron’s promise of a “unrelenting forensic” pursuit of growth, what forensic examination of the suggestion for putting money donated to scientific research partly in the form of prizes rather than grants. It has been proven that prizes would promote significantly more growth at no extra cost. The government refused to answer despite numerous repetitions of the enquiry, until I made an official complaint. The final answer was, of course, that though we have Cameron’s word that there is an “unrelenting forensic” attempt to find how to grow the economy in truth absolutely no slightest examination of the question whatsoever has been done.

Perhaps if the law is to be so continuously defied it is time for the ombudsman to bring an actual prosecution. Certainly any civil servant in any way involved in breaking the law to deny us our rights should be instantly fired, as indeed should any superior who refuses to fire them.

Neil Craig
“a lone wolf howling in despair in the intellectual wilderness of Scots politics”

You may be interested in my political blog: http://a-place-to-stand.blogspot.com/

Indexed: http://neilsindex.blogspot.com/

Prepared 25th July 2012