Independent Ministerial Review

A Jordan made this Freedom of Information request to Highways Agency

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

The request was refused by Highways Agency.

Dear Highways Agency,

An Independent Review of Conemaster was requested by the Transport Minister on 12th October 2011.

The Highways Agency were tasked to implement this Independent Study.

1. Please provide un-edited copies of all correspondence and tasks from the Highways Agency and it's suppliers relating to this Independent Review including minutes, notes, emails and analysis since 12th October 2011.

2. How much did this review cost?

Yours faithfully,

A Jordan

Good Evening

Thank you for your e-mail to the Highways Agency Information Line dated today, Sunday, 27 May 2012. Your FOI enquiry regarding the Independent Review of Conemaster has been passed to the relevant team within the Highways Agency and they will respond to you within a maximum of 15 working days.

Your reference number for this enquiry is 13310270.

Kind regards

Niall O'Grady
Highways Agency Information Line
0300 123 5000
Highways Agency, National Traffic Ops. Centre, 3 Ridgeway, Quinton Bus. Park, Birmingham, B32 1AF.
Web: http://www.highways.gov.uk
GTN: 6186 8361

Safe roads, Reliable journeys, Informed travellers
Highways Agency, an Executive Agency of the Department for Transport.

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Smith, Ian (Bedford),

3 Attachments

Alan,
 
I refer to your most recent Freedom of Information Requests submitted to
us on 26th May 2012.
 
Please find attached my letter which sets out the Highways
Agency's response to these requests.
 
Regards,
 
Ian
 
Ian Smith
Highways Agency | Woodlands | Manton Lane | Bedford | MK41 7LW
Tel: +44 (0) 1234 796276 | Mobile: + 44 (0) 7525 968780
Web: [1]http://www.highways.gov.uk
GTN: 3013 6276

Safe roads, reliable journeys, informed travellers
Highways Agency, an executive agency of the Department for Transport.
 

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Dear Highways Agency,

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

I am writing to request an internal review of Highways Agency's handling of my FOI request 'Independent Ministerial Review'.
___________________________________

I a writing to request an internal review of the Agency’s decision, set out in its letter of June 19, to refuse my two requests of 26 May 2012 as vexatious.

I was surprised to see that your refusal notice refers to the First Tier Tribunal’s decision in the case of Independent Police Complaints Commission v Information Commissioner (EA/2011/0222). I question the relevance of that decision to the present circumstances.

The applicant in that case had made 25 FOI requests before making the requests that were held to be vexatious. I have made 5 previous requests.

The applicant’s previous requests had ‘ranged widely, even indiscriminately, over the whole spectrum of complaints that the IPCC investigates’ (para 1). My requests, as your refusal letter notes, relate to a single topic.

Just one of the requests in the IPCC case was for 438 investigation reports. The authority estimated that this would involve over 10,000 pages and that providing the information would require 2,208 hours of staff time, the equivalent of 298 days, that is more than one year’s work, based on 260 working days per year (see IPCC letter of 1.6.2011, available at http://tinyurl.com/bqtgttl). The work involved in dealing with my requests is not, by several orders of magnitude, remotely comparable.

The Tribunal in that case referred to requests which were “grossly oppressive” in terms of their demands on resources. That comment is clearly prompted by the vast scope of the requests concerned - a feature not present in this case. Similarly my requests are not “clearly motivated merely by a desire to cause a nuisance” nor are any of the other circumstances referred to in that case applicable.

In your letter of June 19 you state “you have submitted two Parliamentary Questions plus a total of six Freedom of Information requests”. I am surprised at the suggestion that I have submitted Parliamentary Questions: PQs can of course only be submitted by an MP. I have no power to instruct an MP to table a question nor to persuade one to do so against his better judgement. Perhaps you could explain how an MP’s decision to table PQs on a matter which he considers to be in the public interest constitutes vexatious behaviour on my part?

Your letter states that you have tried wherever possible to answer my previous requests. While I accept that you have answered four of my five previous requests I do not accept that you have genuinely tried to answer the fifth, dated 24.4.12. As I have previously explained this has been refused, partly on the basis of an exemption which, as a matter of law, is not available to the Highways Agency.

You refer to the Information Commissioner’s guidance on vexatious and repeated requests. May I draw your attention to the following passage in that guidance, which I believe is applicable here:

a request will not automatically be vexatious simply because it is made in the context of a dispute or forms part of a series of requests. There may be genuine reasons for this. For example, a series of successive linked requests may be necessary where disclosures are unclear or raise further questions that the requester could not have foreseen. Similarly, in the context of a dispute, a request may be a reasonable way to obtain new information not otherwise available to the individual. You should not use section 14 as an excuse to avoid awkward questions that have not yet been resolved satisfactorily.

Your letter also suggests that the effect of my requests is to harrass the staff dealing with them. I draw your attention to another passage in the ICO guidance, describing the circumstances in which a request may be held to ‘harrass’:

It is an objective test – a reasonable person must be likely to regard the request as harassing or distressing. Relevant factors under this heading could include the volume and frequency of correspondence, the use of hostile, abusive or offensive language, an unreasonable fixation on an individual member of staff, or mingling requests with accusations and complaints.

None of these factors are present in this case.

I also refer you to the following passage from paragraph 26 of the First Tier Tribunal’s decision in the case of William Thackaray & Information Commissioner (EA/2011/0082 & 0083) which states:

The dogged pursuit of an investigation should not lightly be characterised as an obsessive campaign of harassment. It is inevitable that, in some circumstances, information disclosed in response to one request will generate a further request, designed to pursue a particular aspect of the matter in which the requester in interested.

That finding is clearly applicable in the present case.

Your letter states that

“In reaching our decision [that my requests are vexatious] we have considered the recent review of the Conemaster economic benefits, a considerable piece of publicly funded work commissioned by the Highways Agency in response to your approach to the Minister.”

This comment might be appropriate had the commissioned work shown that my persistently expressed concerns about the Highways Agency’s approach to Conemaster to be groundless. But on the contrary, the review expressly upholds my concerns. It is perverse of you to suggest that my requests are vexatious on the basis of a report which endorses my complaints, particularly in the light of the findings of the report and the lack of subsequent action by the Agency in response to those findings.

Finally, the ICO’s guidance states:
“Deciding whether a request is vexatious is a flexible balancing exercise, taking into account all the circumstances of the case....The key question is whether the request is likely to cause distress, disruption or irritation, without any proper or justified cause.”

My requests relate to a continuing unresolved concern, the basis of which has been independently upheld. It involves substantial, independently verified, benefits in terms of the protection of life and the saving of public funds. A reasonable person would not regard the work involved in answering them as disproportionate nor the requests themselves as vexatious.

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

Yours faithfully,

A Jordan

Thank you for your email to the Highways Agency.
 
If you are reporting a real time incident which requires immediate
attention please call the Highways Agency Information Line on 0300 123
5000.
 
The Highways Agency is responsible for operating, maintaining and
improving the Strategic Road Network in England on behalf of the Secretary
of State for Transport.  This consists of the Motorway network and the
Major Trunk roads. A map of the roads for which we are responsible can be
found here [1]http://www.highways.gov.uk/aboutus/139.a....
 
If your email relates to an issue which is not on the strategic road
network, for example a suburban, local or residential road, you should
forward your email to the relevant Local Authority who should be able to
assist you. You can find details of Local Authorities using the search
facility on the direct.gov website at:
[2]http://local.direct.gov.uk/LDGRedirect/S...
 
Your email will be passed to the relevant team within the Highways Agency
and they will respond to you within a maximum of 15 working days.
 
If you have made a request under the Freedom of Information Act your
request will be dealt with in line with our guidelines which are published
here: [3]http://www.highways.gov.uk/foiresponses/...
 
Yours sincerely
 
Highways Agency Information Line

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2. http://local.direct.gov.uk/LDGRedirect/S...
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Allen, Mark,

Dear Mr Jordan,
This is a short note to apologise for the delay in responding to your
request for an internal review. The review is almost complete and we hope
to provide a full response by 21 September.
Yours sincerely,
 
Mark Allen, Freedom of Information Officer
Highways Agency | Piccadilly Gate | Store Street | Manchester | M1 2WD
Tel: +44 (0) 161 9304491
Web: [1]http://www.highways.gov.uk
GTN: 4315 4491

Safe roads, reliable journeys, informed travellers
Highways Agency, an executive agency of the Department for Transport.
 

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Communications via the GSi may be automatically logged, monitored and/or
recorded for legal purposes.

References

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1. http://www.highways.gov.uk/

Allen, Mark,

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Jordan,
Please find attached a response to your request for an internal review.
Yours sincerely,
 
Mark Allen, Freedom of Information Officer
Highways Agency | Piccadilly Gate | Store Street | Manchester | M1 2WD
Tel: +44 (0) 161 9304491
Web: [1]http://www.highways.gov.uk
GTN: 4315 4491

Safe roads, reliable journeys, informed travellers
Highways Agency, an executive agency of the Department for Transport.
 

show quoted sections

Communications via the GSi may be automatically logged, monitored and/or
recorded for legal purposes.

References

Visible links
1. http://www.highways.gov.uk/