British Embassy funding for "Palestinians [to] better understand and effectively use the Israeli planning laws"

Guy Freeman made this Freedom of Information request to Foreign and Commonwealth Office

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

The authority would like to / has responded by postal mail to this request.

Dear Sir or Madam,

I would like you to make available, under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act 2000, any documents, reports, emails and minutes of meetings or other relevant materials of discussions, correspondence or other business relating to the British Embassy in Tel Aviv's funding recently referred to by the Embassy's spokesperson as follows:

"£450,000 over 4 years to support projects in east Jerusalem and the West Bank that help Palestinians better understand and effectively use the Israeli planning laws to gain permission both retrospectively for existing homes, and prospectively for new homes on their side of the Green Line." [Source: The Jerusalem Post newspaper, July 30, 2009. http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?p... ]

In particular, but without prejudice to any other materials that may fall within the parameters of the request as outlined in the first two paragraphs, I would like to have made available the following information (and any correspondence or other written materials concerning the following):

* How the £450,000 is to be divided for each of the four years, what the four years are, and which projects the money is going to;

* Under what procedures did the projects receive the money, and information concerning the openness and transparency of these procedures to other organisations;

* Under what part of the Embassy's budget was the money drawn from;

* Considerations of the Israeli government's opinion concerning this funding;

* The validated consequences of this funding in quantitative terms, for example, of court cases undertaken and won, number of new planning permission requests submitted, and so on;

* Why the funding is deliberately aimed at "Palestinians" when information concerning the planning laws in Israel would also be useful to other non-"Palestinian" residents of the State of Israel.

If there are any difficulties in fulfilling this request, please get in touch with me so that I may make my request clearer.

I'm looking forward to as swift and comprehensive a response as possible.

Yours faithfully,

Guy Freeman

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

FOI Request, Ref: 0614-09

Dear Mr Freeman

Thank you for your Freedom of Information request. It has been passed to the relevant section within the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to deal with. They will be in touch with you should your request need clarification.

We received your request on 31 July 2009 and will aim to respond within 20 working days.

Yours Sincerely

Mark Lowen
Information Management Group
Information Rights Team

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Foreign and Commonwealth Office

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Freeman,
Please see the attached letter.

Regards,

Norman Leinster

Norman Leinster
Open Government Liaison Officer
Near East Group,
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
King Charles Street
LONDON
SW1A 2AH
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7008 3416
Fax: +44 (0) 20 7008 2462
Email: [1][email address] [2]www.fco.gov.uk

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Dear Mr. Leinster,

Thank you for your update. I look forward to the information being published as soon as it is practical to do so.

Yours sincerely,

Guy Freeman

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

1 Attachment

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Dear Sir or Madam,

Thank you for the update. I hope this new delay is sufficient to bring this request to a happy conclusion.

Yours faithfully,

Guy Freeman

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

2 Attachments

Dear Mr Freeman,

Please see the attached.

Yours sincerely,

Near East Group

Near East Group| Middle East and North Africa Directorate | Foreign and
Commonwealth Office | London SW1A 2AH |

***********************************************************************************
Visit [1]http://www.fco.gov.uk for British foreign policy news and travel
advice and [2]http://blogs.fco.gov.uk to read our blogs.

Please note that all messages sent and received by members of the Foreign
& Commonwealth Office and its missions overseas may be automatically
logged, monitored and/or recorded in accordance with the
Telecommunications (Lawful Business Practice) (Interception of
Communications) Regulations 2000. We keep and use information in line with
the Data Protection Act 1998. We may release this personal information to
other UK government departments and public authorities.

***********************************************************************************

References

Visible links
1. http://www.fco.gov.uk/
2. http://blogs.fco.gov.uk/

Dear Sir or Madam,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of Foreign and Commonwealth Office's handling of my FOI request 'British Embassy funding for "Palestinians [to] better understand and effectively use the Israeli planning laws"'.

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address:
http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/br...

First of all, thank you for sending me much of the information that I requested.

However, I would like a review of the result of the public interest test which led to your withholding some of the information under section 35(1)(a) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000. You state that the case against disclosure is that "officials need to be able to conduct rigorous and candid risk assessments of their policies and programmes including considerations of the pros and cons without there being premature disclosure which might close off better options and inhibit the free and frank discussion of all policy options". However, in this case the disclosure would not be premature with respect to closing off better options, as the funding has already been given. The public interest would also be served not just through greater transparency, but in this case by a deeper understanding of how the Government's policy goals are being met, which is quite separate from the process of formulating the policies themselves.

Furthermore, I don't believe that all of the correspondence could have been withheld under Section 35(1)(a). For example, Section 35(4) states that "regard shall be had to the particular public interest in the disclosure of factual information which has been used, or is intended to be used, to provide an informed background to decision-taking." Also, Section 35(2) states "Once a decision as to government policy has been taken [as here], any statistical information used to provide an informed background to the taking of the decision is not to be regarded for the purposes of subsection (1)(a), as relating to the formulation or development of government policy". Are there really no parts of the correspondence that would count as factual or statistical information?

Lastly, I don't believe that "policy formulation" can refer to a funding decision. According to the ICO, referring to the White Paper "Modernising Government", it refers to "the process by which governments translate their political vision into programmes and actions"; but "policy is unlikely to ... be about purely operational or administrative matters. For instance decisions about applications for ... grants are not likely to involve the formulation of policy but rather its application".

Thank you once more, and I look forward to a speedy and successful review. I do, of course, retain the right to appeal further to the ICO if you do not release all of the information which you should under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act 2000, but I hope this step will not be necessary.

Yours faithfully,

Guy Freeman

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Dear Mr Freeman

Thank you for your request for an internal review of your FOI request. It has been passed to the relevant department within the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to deal with. They will be in touch with you with an outcome.

Yours sincerely

Jackie Till
Information Rights
Information Management Group | Information & Technology Directorate | Foreign & Commonwealth Office
email: [FCO request email]
... visit our blogs at http://blogs.fco.gov.uk

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Foreign and Commonwealth Office

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Freeman,

Please find attached a letter in response to your FOI Appeal.

Kind regards,

Victoria

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Guy Freeman left an annotation ()

Internal review was very unhelpful (and very late!). An appeal to the ICO has been sent.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

1 Attachment

  • Attachment

    20101115 FOI letter to Guy Freeman release of additional material revised.doc

    137K Download View as HTML

Dear Mr Freeman,

Please see my letter attached above.

I'd be grateful if you could let me know where I can send you a medium
bundle of documents by post. I sadly can't send it by email, there are
too many attachments.

Look forward to hearing from you. Just to let you know, the FCO post box
closes at 4pm every day.

Your sincerely

Angie Wilkinson

Deputy Head of Information Rights Team

Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

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References

Visible links
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Guy Freeman left an annotation ()

Apparently some more stuff WAS releasable. Although Section 27 is back in play. I'm curious what the ICO will say.