Online petitions documents from PICT

The request was successful.

Francis Irving

Dear Sir or Madam,

I would like to make a freedom of information request for electronic copies of any documents produced by PICT discussing or evaluating the possible deployment of electronic petitioning systems in Parliament.

Yours faithfully,

Francis Irving

FOICOMMONS, House of Commons

Dear Mr Irving,

Thank you for your email dated and received 21 July 2008.

We shall deal with your request promptly and let you have a response no
later than 18 August 2008.

If you have any queries about your request, please contact me.

Mandy Kelly
Freedom of Information Assistant
020 7219 8805

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FOICOMMONS, House of Commons

Dear Mr Irving

I have a response and information send to you in relation to your
request. However, it is not appropriate for this to be automatically
republished on your website.

The information to be sent to you is subject to Parliamentary copyright
which restricts the reproduction of Parliamentary material - this would
mean that the material could not posted to the whatdotheyknow web pages
without breaching copyright.

Therefore, I should be grateful if you could send me an alternative
email address for correspondence that does not automatically republish
responses and attachments onto the internet.

Yours sincerely

Bob Castle

_________________________________________________
Bob Castle
House of Commons Data Protection and Freedom of Information Officer

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Dear CASTLE, Bob,

Section 11(4) FOIA is subject to section 11(1). I am expressing a preference for you to respond to the request by replying to this email. Under section 11(1) you must give effect to my preference if it is "reasonably practicable" to do so.

Under section 11(2) you may give regard to all the circumstances, including cost, in deciding whether it is reasonably practicable. Practicable means "capable of being done or accomplished with available means or resources". It certainly seems that replying to an email is not an unreasonable cost, and something which you have the means and resources to do.

However, it seems that you feel this is not the case. Can you do one of the following:

a) Respond to my request by replying to this email with the information that I requested.

b) Under section 11(3), notify me as to your reasons for determining that it is not "reasonably practicable" for you to comply with my preference for the form of your response. When giving these reasons, note that the meaning of practicable is "capable of being done".

c) Reject my request under another section of the Act. If so please state which section, and your reasons for rejecting my request.

Please do not mention copyright law in your reply, as it is irrelevant. There is no section of the FOI Act which allows rejection of a request because of suspected future breach of copyright law.

You may, of course, wait for WhatDoTheyKnow to publish the response, and then either complain to them about copyright violation, or serve them with a take down notice.

But that is a separate matter - I'm currently writing to you as a private individual, requesting you respond to an FOI request by email. Only FOI law applies, not copyright law.

I would be grateful if you could do so.

Yours sincerely,

Francis

FOICOMMONS, House of Commons

Dear Mr Irving

As is clear from my previous email to you, a response to your request is
ready and information will be sent to an address that does not
automatically republish information on your web site.

Section 11 (1) refers to preferences given to the communication of the
information requested in one of three forms - electronic, inspection or
in a digest or summary. Your request of 21 July expresses your section
11 preference by asking for electronic copies of recorded information
and the House will meet that preference. We do not believe that the
section extends to an obligation in terms of the address to which those
communications should be sent.

In any event, even if that preference did apply it would not be
reasonable to comply because the information to be sent to you is
subject to Parliamentary copyright, which restricts the reproduction of
Parliamentary material.

FOI does not override copyright law. For more information FOI and
copyright please refer to "The ICO charter for responsible FOI requests"
which states:

"Disclosure of information under the Act or the Regulations will not
remove the copyright in it. Any information released may be subject to
copyright restrictions that you will have to abide by. If you have any
doubts about copyright, consult with the public authority about the
status of information. In some cases copyright may be waived or
information can be licensed for reuse."

http://www.ico.gov.uk/upload/documents/l...
actical_application/its_public_information_foi%20charter_final.pdf

For more information about Parliamentary copyright and licenses for
re-use please refer to:
http://www.parliament.uk/site_informatio...

Yours sincerely

Bob Castle

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Dear Bob,

I completely understand your objection, and why you are requesting that I give you an alternative email address.

However, it would be dishonest and pointless for me to do so. This is because I will publish your response on the Internet anyway, whatever email address you send it to me via. I have been doing this since long before the existence of WhatDoTheyKnow (see for example http://www.flourish.org/foi/2005-09-20-p... and
http://www.flourish.org/foi/2005-08-05-p....

My legal advice is that knowing that someone will later break Parliamentary copyright is not a ground under which you can refuse an FOI request. Section 17 (1)(b) says that you must "specify the exemption in question".

Please state clearly which section under Part II of the Act (if any) you are purporting to refuse my request.

Unless you reply with the information that I requested to this email address, I will be forced to go to the Information Commissioner. This is a real pain, and your life would be much easier if you just waived copyright and sent the information.

Not only do I believe your rejection to be illegal under FOI law, I also believe it to be bad public service. It is our Parliament, and it is here to serve us, including you.

It will not play out particularly well in the media if you decide to unnecessarily fight this one, when Parliament is perfectly free not to enforce its copyright on any of its documents.

Yours sincerely,

Francis Irving

FOICOMMONS, House of Commons

Dear Mr Irving
As already explained, the House is not refusing your request under s.17
FOIA. Under s.11(4) of the Act, the House may comply with a request by
any means which are reasonable in the circumstances. You have requested
the information in electronic form, which you are entitled to do under
s.11(1) FOIA. A response, with information to be disclosed, is ready and
will be sent to you in electronic form when you provide an address which
does not automatically re-publish this material.
Yours sincerely
Bob Castle

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Dear Bob,

Thank you for preparing the response and having it ready to send to me.

I'm trying to understand exactly why you want an address which does not automatically republish the response on the Internet. This is especially puzzling as I have clearly stated that I will manually republish the information whatever address you send it to me via.

Since you have not specifically said why, I can guess. However, I may be wrong, and it would be quicker if you could tell me the actual reason, so we can sort this out in a way that is acceptable to both of us.

My guess is that you may be concerned that you are giving WhatDoTheyKnow a licence to publish by emailing an address knowing it will be automatically published on the internet

I would like to clearly state now that if you reply to this email address, I am not assuming Parliament to be licensing the documents for republication.

I hope that meets your objections, and you can now answer my request. If not, please state clearly not just what you want, but why you want it, so we can work this out.

Thanks for all your help,

Francis

FOICOMMONS, House of Commons

Dear Francis,
Thank you for your email dated 19 August. The points you raise are being
considered further. I will endeavour to respond again by no later than
29 August.
Yours sincerely
Bob

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FOICOMMONS, House of Commons

Dear Mr Irving

Thank you for your email dated 19 August. The House notes the points
you raise and your stated intentions in relation to the information.

To confirm, the information which is disclosable to you under the Act
has been prepared and is ready to be sent to you. You are asked to
provide an address which does not require the House to waive copyright
over the information which is sent.

Yours sincerely
Bob Castle

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Dear Bob,

Thanks for your reply, which helped only slightly. Thank you, however, for taking the time to consult about it within the House.

I am still not satisfied, so I would like to formally request an internal review of the House of Commons handling of my FOI request. You can read the correspondence of the request in full here:

http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/on...

Please pass this on to the person within the House who does reviews of FOI requests.

In particular I would like the review to address:

* That I still have not received the information that I requested.

* That a reason under the FOI act for my request being rejected has not been given.

* Why the House will not send a response to this email address, which will automatically publish the response. Whereas the House seemingly would happily send a response to another address which would result in the response being manually republished.

* Under what law, and why, the House is considering copyright law in relation to the future actions of others when replying to a request. As opposed to simply sending the reply, and then dealing with any consequence breach of copyright later.

* Why the House would not accept a reassurance that when emailing the automatically republishing address, they were not considered to be waiving copyright in this case.

* Separate from FOI law, a review of why the House will not waive copyright on the information I requested and allow republication of it, when that would be in the public interest, and the information is available to anybody in the world who wants it simply by requesting it privately.

* Any other points I raised in the correspondence with Bob Castle to be considered and addressed.

Thanks once again for your time Bob. Sorry this has had to come to a review, but I'm sure you understand why!

Francis

FOICOMMONS, House of Commons

Dear Mr Irving,

Thank you for your email dated 28 August 2008 in which you request an
internal review of the handling of your request. Our internal target
for conducting a review is 30 working days and we will endeavour to
provide you with a response no later than Thursday 9 October 2008.

Yours sincerely,

Bob Castle

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CASTLE, Bob, House of Commons

Dear Mr Irving

I am writing to let you know that we will not be able to meet our
internal target for providing a response to your request for an internal
review. The issues that you have asked us to review are complex and
necessitate a longer period of consideration.

We will endeavour to provide a final response by no later than 23
October.

Yours sincerely

Bob Castle

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Francis Irving left an annotation ()

Article in The Register about this: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/10/13/...

CASTLE, Bob, House of Commons

Dear Mr Irving

I regret that we are not yet in a position to respond to your request
for an internal review. As previously noted the issues that you have
asked us to review are complex and the need to consult interested
parties and test options is taking longer than hoped. It is anticipated
that we will be able to provide you with a substantive response to your
request for a review in the next few weeks.

Yours sincerely

Bob Castle

_________________________________________________
Bob Castle
House of Commons Data Protection and Freedom of Information Officer

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Kevin Wells left an annotation ()

I fail to see the copyright reason being a good excuse to to release it to the email address supplied.

In fact releasing it to a site like this, will make their job easier, as if some one else ask for the same information they can just point them to here.

Hi Bob,

I requested an internal review on 28 August.

As I am sure you know, the Information Commissioner's guidance on internal reviews says "in our view, in no case should the total time taken exceed 40 working days".

Can you tell me how the internal review of this request is progressing, and when you expect it to be completed?

Francis Irving

Ganesh Sittampalam left an annotation ()

Are they ever going to reply to this?

FOICOMMONS, House of Commons

Dear Mr Irving
I am sorry but the response to your request for an internal review is
not yet ready. I will write to you again early the New Year when I hope
that we can bring this matter to a conclusion
Yours sincerely
Bob Castle

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Christopher left an annotation ()

Come on!

Dear Bob,

You said just before Christmas that you would write again early in the New Year regarding the internal review of my request for PICT petitions documents.

http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/on...

I have still not heard from you.

I am now going to be forced to complain to the Information Commissioner, both about your refusal to answer my initial request, and about your slowness at conducting an internal review.

I would be most grateful if you could instead just send me the document. That would be much simpler, and I really can't understand why you don't just do that.

Please remember that Parliament exists to serve the people, which includes you, me and any British citizen reading this.

Thanks once again for your help,

Francis Irving

Francis Irving left an annotation ()

John Cross has made a request for documentation relating to the internal review of this request.

http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/co...

Ganesh Sittampalam left an annotation ()

The ICO has now found that copyright cannot be used as a reason not to release information: http://www.ico.gov.uk/upload/documents/d...

Francis Irving left an annotation ()

A request for the same information from the House of Lords, which jointly runs PICT, has been responded to as not held, for reasons relating to the legal corporate structure of both Houses and PICT.

http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/on...

KELLY, Mandy, House of Commons

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Irving,

Please find attached the response to your request for an internal review
of Freedom of Information request F08-260.

<<20090311 AJW signed Internal review response F08-260.pdf>>

Bob Castle
Head of Information Rights and Information Security

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Ganesh Sittampalam left an annotation ()

They are in part claiming an exemption under 43(2) - commercial interests. I've submitted a request to get them to explain this further: http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/co...

Francis Irving left an annotation ()

My thoughts about Parliament's reply:

* I suspect that Parliament's arguments about s.11(1) and s.43(2) are not correct under the law. We'll see what the ICO says.

* The letter gives no information about why they are requiring a formal license in this case. Notably, they have not required a formal license for mySociety to republish the letter itself. What's different or special about the petitions document?

* The licensed offered to mySociety doesn't seem acceptable to me. It only offers a 3 year license - part of the point of WhatDoTheyKnow is to archive in perpetuity.

CASTLE, Bob, House of Commons

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Irving,

I am very sorry but the following details should have been included with
Mr Walker's letter dated 11 March 2009, concerning the internal review
of your Freedom of Information request (F08-260).

<<20090316 Detail of Internal Review F08-260.pdf>>

Please accept my apologies.

Bob Castle
Head of Information Rights and Information Security

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Francis Irving

Dear CASTLE, Bob,

The internal review says that some of the information I have requested is "subject to copyright owned by third parties".

You haven't previously mentioned this.

Can you tell me which third parties have the copyright, and over what parts of the information that I've requested?

I am getting a proper verdict from mySociety about whether they can accept the license you've offered.

Yours sincerely,

Francis Irving

Francis Irving

Hi Bob,

Unfortunately, the team at mySociety* say they are unable to accept the license agreement which the House has offered them.

They say that in general they will not sign license agreements to reproduce public information which is released under FOI. They also have some additional objections to specific clauses of the contract.

However, since we last spoke, I note that circumstances have changed significantly within the House, with regard to transparency, and Freedom of Information.

I would like you to reconsider your decision and release the original online petitions document that I requested, to this email address.

Thanks once again for your help,

Francis Irving

* For the record, I do work at mySociety, but specifically did not get involved in this decision, to avoid a conflict of interest. I make this request in my own name, not on behalf of mySociety.

CASTLE, Bob, House of Commons

Hi Francis,

Thank you for your response. I will get back to you as soon as
possible.

Kind regards

Bob Castle

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Mark left an annotation ()

I made a request for the learning/training/etc programs that the handlers of Mr. Irving's request have enrolled in.

http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/le...

Mark left an annotation ()

On Feb 10, 2009 J. Cross made a request for the internal emails that the House of Commons were circulated in response to F. Irving's request:

http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/co...

J. Cross has met with delays as well. I've made a request for the learning/training/etc programs that the request handlers of J. Cross request have enrolled in:

http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/le...

Hi Bob,

In June, I wrote to ask you if the new regard for transparency held by the House following events regarding MPs' expenses means that policy has changed with regard to my FOI request for online petitions documents from PICT.

http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/on...

You said "Thank you for your response. I will get back to you as soon as possible.".

I have heard nothing from you in over two months since.

Can you please now send me the PICT petitions documents to this email address, or else confirm that the House still does not consider transparency of its operations to be important.

Thanks,

Francis

CASTLE, Bob, House of Commons

Hi Francis

I will certainly take this forward again but I an not sure that the situation would have altered from that set out in the response as clarified and discussed in the internal review.

Regards

Bob

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William Thackeray left an annotation ()

Francis, why not just take it to the ICO?

Ganesh Sittampalam left an annotation ()

I thought the annotation of 16th March implied that he had already done so, but I can't spot it on the FOI caseload snapshots released by the ICO in the last few months (e.g. http://www.ico.gov.uk/upload/documents/l.... Francis, what's the situation?

Francis Irving left an annotation ()

I haven't complained to the ICO yet. I'd written a letter all ready months ago, when they suddenly sent the license agreement. I didn't find the time to rewrite it in the light of that.

I'm now concerned that it is too late for me to complain:

"You should do this as soon as possible, or within two months following the final response of the public authority." http://www.ico.gov.uk/complaints/freedom...

What date counts as my "final response from the authority" do you think?

Ganesh Sittampalam left an annotation ()

I'd say their reply offering the licence was their final repsonse. Perhaps someone else will have to go through the dance again to get something that can be taken to the ICO. I can't, because I actually requested the information privately (and got it) last year, so it'd be a repeated request for me as well.

I do have this request which about the same issue but EIR, which I do fully intend to take to the ICO, though: http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/ro...

phisheep left an annotation ()

Francis, I think you should make the complaint to the ICO. It does not seem that the House has given you a 'final response' (as they promised to come back to you after rejection of the license agreement and did not do so) and so they are well out of time for doing so.

That in itself would seem to be grounds for complaint, let alone the earlier suggestion that a response be conditional on a license agreement with a third party, which does not seem to be contemplated in the Act.

Rather than worry yourself about whether you are out of time, leave that to the ICO.

Francis Irving left an annotation ()

Thanks for prompting me, phisheep. I've now complained to the ICO as follows:

-------------------------------------------------------------------

My complaint concerns the following request which I originally made on 21st July 2008 to the House of Commons, asking for IT documents relating to deployment of an electronic petitioning system.

You can see the full correspondence between me and the House on the following web page.

http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/on...

There are two parts to my complaint.

1. The House says they have the document that I requested, but they refuse to send it to me. I am complaining that the House has given no reason under FOIFA for refusing my request. In particular:

a) An exemption under section 17(1)(b) of FOIFA for my request being refused has not been given.

b) The House will not send a response to the WhatDoTheyKnow.com email address that I expressed a preference that they use. They say that this is because the address will automatically republish their response. Under section 11(1) of FOIFA, I believe that it is "reasonably practicable" for them to reply to such an address.

I draw the ICO's attention to decision notice FS50217416, which says:

"15. [...] With regard to copyright, the Commissioner considers that FOI does not provide an implied licence for commercial or other exploitation of released information, and that any person to whom information is released is still bound by an obligation to respect any intellectual property rights held within it. However he considers that issues of possible copyright infringement fall outside the scope of the Act and that if any breaches of such legislation were to transpire then the Company should more properly address these elsewhere [..]"

"18. The Commissioner has explained above why he does not consider issues regarding copyright and confidentiality fall within the scope of section 11 of the Act. This is because they do not deal with the question of whether it would be reasonably practicable to provide the information in the preferred format. Therefore the Commissioner considers any steps the Company considers it needs to take in order to allay its concerns in relation to copyright and confidentiality can also not be taken into account"

http://www.ico.gov.uk/upload/documents/d...

c) The House is considering copyright law in relation to the future actions of others when replying to a request. There is no provision within FOIFA for them to do this.

d) Following an internal review, the House offered mySociety, who run the WhatDoTheyKnow site, a license for republication. Firstly, I do not think such an offer alters the legal situation described in a)-c).

Additionally, the license was considered unacceptable by mySociety because it contained the following clauses:

* "not to reproduce ... departmental logos". The logos are an important part of the response documents, and for a proper archive must be reproduced by mySociety.

* "not to reproduce Material for the purposes of disparaging either House or bringing it into disrepute". Such a clause may stop important reporting similar to the Telegraph newspaper's on MPs' expenses earlier this year. It would be bad for Freedom of Information for authorities to try and stop such reporting using licenses on responses to requests.

* The term of the license is only 3 years. mySociety maintain a permanent archive of Freedom of Information responses, and would need a perpetual license.

* "to ensure [...] that no content is changed or lost". mySociety sometimes have to redact information from their archive to comply with other laws, e.g. data protection.

2. My original request was on 21st July 2008. On 28th August 2008 I requested an internal review from the House of Commons. The House responded to the review on 16th March 2009. This is well beyond the 40 days maximum which the ICO's guidance gives for internal reviews gives.

On 22nd June, the House said "I will get back to you as soon as possible." with regard to whether the House's response to the request had changed since the reporting on MPs' expenses by the Telegraph, which I hoped would have led to more transparency from the House. I reminded them on 4th September. It is now 2nd November, and they have still not got back to me.

Francis Irving left an annotation ()

The ICO have sent me this email, giving the case a reference number:

-------------------------------------------------------------------

25th November 2009

Case Reference Number FS50276715

Dear Mr Irving

Your information request to the House of Commons

Thank you for your correspondence dated 02/11/09 in which you make a complaint about the House of Commons’ decision not to release the information you requested.

Your case has been allocated to one of our case resolution teams who will contact you as soon as possible to explain how your case will be progressed. Due to the volume of complaints we are receiving at present it may be several months before you hear from us.

The Information Commissioners Office is an independent public body set up to promote public access to official information. We will rule on eligible complaints from people who are unhappy with the way public authorities have handled requests for information under The Freedom of Information Act 2000.

If you need to contact us about any aspect of your complaint about the House of Commons please contact our Freedom of Information Helpline on 08456 306060, or 01625 545745 if you would prefer to call a 'national rate' number, being sure to quote the reference number at the top of this letter.

Yours sincerely,

Sent on behalf of
Mr Andrew White
FOI Triage Team Leader
The Information Commissioner’s Office

Francis Irving left an annotation ()

Another message from the ICO:

---------------------------------

4 December 2009

Dear Mr Irving

Freedom of Information Act 2000
Request for information to the House of Commons

We last wrote to you on 25 November 2009 regarding your complaint about the House of Commons (the House). I am writing to inform you that your case has been allocated to me to investigate.

In order to reach a decision as to whether the Freedom of Information Act (the Act) has been correctly applied, I will need to carry out a thorough investigation. This may take some time as I will need to ensure that I am aware of all the relevant facts and that I carefully consider the application of the law to those facts.

Where possible the Information Commissioner (the Commissioner) aims to resolve complaints informally. If this is not possible, he will usually issue a Decision Notice to you and the public authority once an investigation has been completed. This will inform you of his decision and the reasons for it.

Where the Commissioner decides that a request has not been handled properly he may specify what steps he believes are necessary to remedy the situation. This can include requiring a public authority to release information which has previously been withheld. A copy of the Decision Notice will be placed on our website (with your details omitted). If you disagree with the decision that has been reached you have the right to appeal to the Information Tribunal.

Your request

Thank you for the information you have already provided. I understand that you made a request to the House on 21 July 2008 for an electronic copy of documents produced by PICT discussing or evaluating the possible deployment of electronic petitioning systems in Parliament.

The House provided a response to you on 14 August 2008 in which it confirmed its willingness to provide an electronic copy of the requested information, however refused to do so via the ‘what do they know’ website. The House asked you to provide an alternative email address.

You corresponded with the House on a number of occasions, before requesting an internal review on 28 August 2008. The House responded on 13 and 16 March 2009 and confirmed its view that an electronic copy of the information requested could not be provided via the ‘what do they know’ website without raising copyright issues.

You complained to the ICO on 2 November 2009.

The scope of the case

The focus of my investigation will be to determine whether the House is required to provide the requested information via the ‘what do they know’ website as you have requested

Please contact me as soon as possible if there are matters other than this that you believe should be addressed. This will help avoid any unnecessary delay in investigating your complaint. If I do not hear from you within the next 10 working days, my investigation will focus only upon the matter identified above.

Next steps

I have reviewed the information on file and have discussed your complaint with colleagues. It has been agreed that I should call a meeting at which relevant parties from within the ICO can consider the complaint. This meeting has been set up for mid-January 2010.

I shall contact you following the meeting to let you know what has been agreed, and will update you on the progress of the investigation as appropriate but at least every 8 weeks thereafter, if your case has not been resolved. If you have any queries at any time you are welcome to write to me at casework@ico.gsi.gov.uk (if you ‘reply’ without changing the subject line on this email your response will be delivered directly to the correct electronic case file) or by telephone via 01625 545 745.

It may not be possible for me to respond to enquiries immediately due to other work commitments but I will aim to provide a response as promptly as possible and will ensure that a response is provided within 14 working days of the receipt of any enquiry.

I hope this information is useful.

Yours sincerely

Laura Booth
Senior Complaints Officer

Francis Irving left an annotation ()

I wrote back, asking the ICO to also consider the second part of my complaint, relating to the House of Commons taking more than 6 months to conduct the internal review.

Francis Irving left an annotation ()

The ICO replied:

---------------------------------------

7 December 2009

Dear Mr Irving

Freedom of Information Act 2000
Request for information to House of Commons

Thank you for your email.

In addition to the issue of publication of the requested information on the ‘what do they know’ website, I shall raise with the House any procedural, code of practice and good practice issues that come to my attention during the investigation.

I will keep you updated as outlined in my previous email.

Yours sincerely

Laura Booth
Senior Complaints Officer

phisheep left an annotation ()

Well done, Francis - looking forward to seeing how this turns out.

Francis Irving left an annotation ()

The ICO are going to compel the House to release the information via WhatDoTheyKnow. I received this email from them today:

-----------------------------------------

21 January 2010

Dear Mr Irving

Freedom of Information Act 2000
Request for information to the House of Commons

Further to our recent correspondence, I write to inform you that your complaint has been considered by a panel of ICO staff.

The decision was that the request is valid for the purposes of the Act and that it is reasonably practicable for the House of Commons to provide you with an electronic copy of the information requested via the ‘what do they know?’ website.

A Decision Notice will be drafted shortly to confirm the Commissioner’s view on this matter and to compel the House to disclose the requested information via ‘what do they know?’.

As I’m sure you are aware, each Decision Notice must complete an internal validation procedure prior to being served and therefore it may be some time before you hear from us again.

I hope this information is useful.

Yours sincerely

Laura Booth
Senior Complaints Officer

Francis Irving left an annotation ()

I sent this email back to the ICO on 21 Jan.

-----------------------------------------

Thank you Laura!

I'm impressed that the ICO is starting to reach decisions quicker, and give more specific timing information as they are going through the process.

Keep up the good work,

Francis

-----------------------------------------

I've just received another email from the ICO.

-----------------------------------------

4 February 2010

Dear Mr Irving

Freedom of Information Act 2000
Request for information to the House of Commons

Thank you for your email of 21 January 2010. I have highlighted your positive comments about the ICO’s service to my manager.

When I wrote to you on 21 January 2010, I also wrote to the House of Commons. The House of Commons stated its intention to submit further arguments in respect of this matter. In order to avoid unnecessary duplication of effort in this case, I responded to the House that I would delay drafting the Decision Notice until week commencing 1 February 2010.

The House has now submitted further arguments in respect of this case. These will be taken into account during the drafting of the Decision Notice and will be considered by the signatory before the Notice is finalised.

I appreciate this delay and uncertainty may be frustrating, however I aim to progress this case to a conclusion as swiftly as possible now that I have received the House of Commons’ further submissions.

Yours sincerely

Laura Booth
Senior Complaints Officer

Steve Elibank left an annotation ()

Has there been any update on what's going on with this?

Francis Irving left an annotation ()

I've heard nothing more since 4th February.

Ganesh Sittampalam left an annotation ()

Even for pretty simple complaints the ICO seems to take several weeks to get from "this is what we're going to say" to issuing the decision notice.

Ganesh Sittampalam left an annotation ()

Francis, any more news on this, or have the ICO just gone completely silent?

Francis Irving left an annotation ()

Silence since February - have just checked my spam folders for the last month to be sure.

Ganesh Sittampalam left an annotation ()

I emailed the ICO asking, since they've currently got a case of mine on hold awaiting the outcome of this, and got this response:

"I can confirm that the lead case on this issue is currently with the signatory to review and sign the Decision Notice. Once this has been finalised (which hopefully should be in the not too distant future) I should be in a position to progress your case. Thank you for your patience on this matter."

Francis Irving left an annotation ()

The ICO have released their decision notice FS50276715 on this request: http://www.ico.gov.uk/upload/documents/d... [New link April 2017: https://ico.org.uk/media/action-weve-tak... ]

Some quotes:

"The complainant made a request for information to the House of Commons via his account on the www.whatdotheyknow.com website. He requested a copy of a document, to be provided in electronic form. The public authority expressed its willingness to provide the information to the complainant by way of an alternative email address, however claimed that it would not be reasonably practicable for it to provide the information to the email address generated by the website, as to do so would raise copyright implications as the information provided to that address would be automatically published on the website. The Commissioner has investigated and considers that the public authority should provide the requested information to the complainant to the whatdotheyknow.com email address that was used to make the request."

"The Commissioner does not believe that issues relating to how an email address is connected to a publishing mechanism are relevant in terms of considering whether a valid address has been stated for correspondence."

Ian Partridge left an annotation ()

BBC FOI blog covers this victory - http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/opensecrets/2...

phisheep left an annotation ()

Excellent news, Francis.

Bet I'm not the only one wondering whether you'll get the information or a notice of appeal first though! I'll keep watching with interest until the fat lady has sung.

Alex Skene left an annotation ()

The Register article on the ICO decision:
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/06/11/...

Francis Irving

Hi Bob,

I'm writing once again about my Freedom of Information request of 21st July 2008 for "electronic copies of any documents produced by PICT discussing or evaluating the possible deployment of electronic petitioning systems in Parliament".

The full history of the request is here:
http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/on...

Ten days ago, the Information Commissioner released decision notice FS50276715 about this request. The "Steps required" section of this decision notice says:

"The Commissioner requires the public authority to take the following steps to ensure compliance with the Act:

"to provide the complaint with a copy of the requested information to the @whatdotheyknow.com email address from which he made his request for information dated 21 July 2008."

I am sure you are relieved that there is therefore no need for you to continue to consult about it in the House, and I look forward to you sending the document in reply to this email.

Thanks for all your time and patience in this long process.

Francis Irving

CASTLE, Bob, House of Commons

I am out of the office until 21 June. If you are submitting a FOI request please resend to [email address] For advice on data protection, FOI or information security please call the IRIS team on 8805

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CASTLE, Bob, House of Commons

Dear Mr Irving
Your request of 21 July 2008

I refer to the Decision Notice of 7 June 2010 from the Information Commissioner’s Office.

That Decision Notice has confirmed the correctness of the view we have taken that section 11 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 concerns the means by which information should be made available, not the address to which that information should be supplied, and that any subsequent republication of the information (such as by means of republication on a website) is a copyright issue outside of the FOI jurisdiction. In other words, those who receive information by means of an FOI request have no automatic right to re-publish the information, but may do so only with the consent of the copyright owner.

The Decision Notice makes the significant finding of fact that the www.whatdotheyknow.com website generates an e-mail address which is unique to the particular request, and that the website then automatically processes the response and publishes it to the website. Although this is not stated in the Decision Notice, such automatic processing and re-publishing is attributable only to a conscious decision by the operators of the website to install a program or otherwise cause or permit the systems concerned to re-publish the response.

I feel bound to observe that had these facts been disclosed by you, it might well have led to a much speedier resolution of the matter.

Be that as it may, we shall now communicate the information requested to the specific @whatdotheyknow.com email address from which you made your request for information dated 21 July 20008. As has been made clear by the Decision Notice of 7 June 2010, any subsequent re-publication of the information by the whatdotheyknow.com website is a copyright issue, outside the scope of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

The House of Commons is prepared to permit you to reproduce and to communicate copies of the work or works by electronic means free of charge, but only in accordance with the terms of the licence set out below.

The Material Covered by this Licence
The material supplied to you in answer to your request of 21 July 2008 as well as this letter (‘the Material’) may be reproduced under this Licence for the purposes described in this Licence.

Items Falling Outside the Scope of this Licence
Any items contained in the Material in which copyright owned by any person or organisation other than the House of Commons subsists.

How the Material may be Reproduced
In this Licence, to reproduce includes the following non-exclusive rights throughout the
world.

(i) publishing the Material in any medium. This includes featuring the Material on websites that can be accessed via the world-wide web or via an internal electronic network or on an Intranet;

(ii) translating the Material from English into other languages, provided that the translations are accurate and made by a competent translator;

(iii) copying the Material for research or private study
;
(iv) photocopying or scanning the Material.

Period
This Licence is for a period of five years from the date of this letter.

Charging
You may reproduce the Material without any charge.

Your Obligations

You must:
(i) reproduce the Material accurately,
(ii) identify the source of the Material and feature the following copyright statement if you publish the Material:
Parliamentary material is reproduced with the permission of the House of Commons,
(iii) not use the Material for the principal purpose of advertising or promoting a particular product or service, or in a way which could imply endorsement by Parliament or generally in a manner which is likely to mislead others;
(iv) not reproduce official imprints; Parliamentary logos and emblems, including the Parliamentary portcullis, Royal Arms or government departmental logos,
(v)allow us to inspect, on request, copies of any works that include the Material to check that you have kept to the terms of this Licence;
(iv) not reproduce the Material for overtly political purposes;
(v) not use the Material in ways which are knowingly or potentially libellous or slanderous of individuals, companies or organisations;
(vi) send us, if we ask for it, a copy of your standard End User Licence

Changes to the Terms of this Licence
We have the right to change the terms of this Licence. Your existing Licence will be honoured for the time it has left to run, unless you wish to terminate it and take out a new Licence on the revised terms.

Ending the Licence

We reserve the right to end this Licence if there is a significant breach of any of the terms.
You have the right to end the Licence at any time by e-mail or in writing.

Assignment

This Licence may not be assigned.

Governing Law

This Licence is governed by English law and is subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales.

You will be deemed to have accepted the above terms by doing, or causing or permitting to be done, any act restricted by the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. The House of Commons reserves the right to commence proceedings if any term of the licence set out in this letter is not observed.

I am sending this letter to the postal address to which the Decision Notice has been sent, and also to the e-mail address used by you in making your request of 21 July 2008.

Yours sincerely

Bob Castle
Head of Information Rights and Information Security
House of Commons

show quoted sections

phisheep left an annotation ()

Well, that is an interesting and extraordinary response.

Francis, I have a couple of potentially useful angles on this which I'll post in the next day or so (can't get onto it right away as I have some teaching commitments).

Francis Irving

Thanks for your mail, Bob.

You say: "we shall now communicate the information requested to the specific whatdotheyknow.com email address from which you made your request for information dated 21 July 20008."

WhatDoTheyKnow has not yet received that communication. Can you tell me what date you are sending it on?

Thanks once again,

Francis Irving

CASTLE, Bob, House of Commons

You are welcome Francis.
We will send the response soon, certainly within the deadline set by the Commissioner in his Notice.
Regards
Bob Castle

show quoted sections

Steve Elibank left an annotation ()

"I feel bound to observe that had these facts been disclosed by you, it might well have led to a much speedier resolution of the matter."

Surely they knew this anyway and based their entire case on it?!

phisheep left an annotation ()

Some notes Francis. Dreadfully abbreviated I’m afraid, as my initial draft went on for pages. Paragraph references in my headings are to the letter, in my responses are to the Decision Notice.

Looks like they are gearing up for a copyright fight.

Para 3 “has confirmed the correctness of the view we have taken that section 11 …”

Disingenuous. Section 11 isn’t engaged (para 34) but section 8(1)(b) is (paras 27, 41). So the House’s implication that it could send the information to an alternative email address is false.

Para 3 “in other words …”

Utterly false. The ICO did not say this, because it is outside their jurisdiction. The house is merely asserting (yet again) that republication would be a breach of copyright. It is not at all clear that it would be.

Para 4 “The Decision Notice makes the significant finding of fact …”

Since it is quite clear from their response on 14th August 2008 that the House knew this already, I am not sure it counts as a ‘significant finding of fact’. I wonder why they said it then? …

Para 4 “such automatic processing and re-publishing is attributable only to …”

… ah, it is so they can try to set up a copyright claim against whatdotheyknow

That is just sneaky.

Just as well that this claim is false. Such republishing its not attributable ONLY to a decision of the website operators, but ALSO to a conscious decision of the House of Commons (albeit because of a legal requirement) to release (potentially) copyright material to a public place. And we know it is conscious because they referred to that ‘significant finding of fact’. Hoist. Petard. There's a jolly good defence buried in this.

Para 5 “I feel bound to observe …”

Duplicitous, since the House clearly knew this since 14th August 2008.

Para 6 “any subsequent re-publication … is a copyright issue”

‘may be’ a copyright issue would be more accurate.

Para 7 “only in accordance with the terms of the licence set out below”

I’m not sure they can restrict in this way. If you decline the terms of the licence they would still be obliged to release the information.

Besides, the licence is potentially self-contradictory. Under “Your Obligations” (i) you must reproduce the material accurately and (iv) you must not reproduce official imprints. So if the document has a portcullis on it you are stuffed either way.

Plus, it expressly forbids republication of third party copyrights, which the House has already told you there are some of in the document.

Since it would be easier for the House to make a claim based on breach of agreement rather than vanilla copyright law, which is what they seem to be trying to set up, I would be inclined to expressly reject these terms before they release the information to you and oblige them to release the information anyway. Besides, that'll make them wish they had released it earlier!

I don't blame Bob for this. Someone else wrote it, or it would have said 'Dear Francis' at the top.

FOICOMMONS, House of Commons

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Irving

You asked for the following information: "...electronic copies of any
documents produced by PICT discussing or evaluating the possible
deployment of electronic petitioning systems in Parliament. The response
follows.

Documents produced by PICT to which you are entitled access are attached -
where necessary and as indicated, these have been edited to remove
personal data and information not relevant to your request.

Details of third parties and staff of the House of Commons who are not
senior officials have been removed. This information is exempt by virtue
of section 40 (2) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the exemption
for personal information), as disclosure of this information to the public
generally, in the House's view, would not be consistent with data
protection principles in the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA). This is an
absolute exemption and the public interest test does not apply.

To the extent that any additional information is held, exemptions apply to
the 'right to know'.

The Procedure Committee of the House of Commons considered the issue of
e-petitioning in Parliament. The Procedure Committee's First Report of
Session 2007-08, e-Petitions, ordered by the House of Commons to be
printed 19 March 2008 (HC 136 of Session 2007-08) is available here:

[1]http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa...

and at

[2]http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa...

PICT supported the Committee's enquiry by providing advice on technical
aspects of such a system. However, in accordance with section 34(2) of
the Freedom of Information Act, there is no duty on the House to provide
any further description because to do so would interfere with the
functioning of the Committee in a manner which would infringe the
privileges of the House. Further, any such information, if held, would
relate to discussions and decisions and papers produced under the auspices
of the Select Committee. These are exempt from disclosure under section 34
(1) of the Freedom of Information Act in order to avoid an infringement of
the privileges of the House of Commons.

Therefore, for the reasons stated above, I am applying the provisions of
the section 34 exemption to your request. In doing so I am refusing the
right of access to information as described in section 1(1) of the Act
and, other than confirming that PICT has been involved in this process, I
am neither confirming nor denying the existence of any relevant
documentation. This is an absolute exemption and the public interest test
does not apply.

The then Government's Response was set out in a Written Ministerial
Statement 22 July 2008 HC Deb 22 July 2008 col 96WS:

[3]http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa...

See also the press release published by the then Leader of the House now
stored on the National Archives website:

[4]http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.u...

Following on from above statement PICT has been tasked with making
proposals for the commissioning and procurement of the necessary processes
and systems. At this stage of the process the disclosure of proposals and
plans would hinder the planning and procurement process and would
prejudice or be likely to prejudice the commercial interests of the House
of Commons and exemption in section 43 of the FOIA applies. This is a
qualified or non-absolute exemption and the public interest test applies.

We have considered the public interest in transparency in the spending of
public money, in public money being used effectively and public
authorities getting value for money and in procurement processes being
conducted in an open and honest way. However, whilst there may be a
public interest in access to this information, we consider that in this
case and at this time it is not in the wider public interest to disclose
as there is a risk that the House's bargaining position for the future
will be prejudiced. As soon as this process has been concluded the
exemption may no longer apply.

You may, if dissatisfied with the treatment of your request, ask the House
of Commons to conduct an internal review of this decision. Requests for
internal review should be addressed to: Freedom of Information Officer,
Department of Finance and Administration?, House of Commons London SW1 0AA
or [5][House of Commons request email]. Please ensure that you specify the nature
of your complaint and any arguments or points that you wish to make in
support of your position.

If the decision to apply s.34 of the 2000 Act in respect of your request
is upheld by review, then certificates signed by the Speaker will be
issued. The certificates will provide conclusive evidence that the
exemptions were required for the reasons given above.

You may like to known that the Procedure Committee followed up the matter
in the last Parliament:

Procedure Committee's Second Report of 2008-09 on e-Petitions: Call for
Government action, ordered by the House of Commons to be printed 29 April
2009 (HC 493 of Session 2008-09):
[6]http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa...

Procedure Committee's First Special Report of 2008-09, e-Petitions: Call
for Government Action: Government Response to the Committee's Second
Report of Session 2008-09, ordered by the House of Commons to be printed
15 July 2009 (HC 952 of Session 2008-09):
[7]http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa...

The House of Commons is prepared to permit you to reproduce and to
communicate copies of the work or works contained in this response by
electronic means free of charge, but only in accordance with the terms of
the licence set out below.

The Material Covered by this Licence

The material supplied to you in answer to this request may be reproduced
under this Licence for the purposes described in this Licence.

Items Falling Outside the Scope of this Licence

Any items contained in the Material in which copyright owned by any person
or organisation other than the House of Commons subsists.

How the Material may be Reproduced

In this Licence, to reproduce includes the following non-exclusive rights
throughout the world.

(i) publishing the Material in any medium. This includes featuring the
Material on websites that can be accessed via the world-wide web or via an
internal electronic network or on an Intranet;

(ii) translating the Material from English into other languages, provided
that the translations are accurate and made by a competent translator;

(iii) copying the Material for research or private study;

(iv) photocopying or scanning the Material.

Period

This Licence is for a period of five years from the date of this response.

Charging

You may reproduce the Material without any charge.

Your Obligations

You must:

(i) reproduce the Material accurately,

(ii) identify the source of the Material and feature the following
copyright statement if you publish the Material: Parliamentary material
is reproduced with the permission of the House of Commons,

(iii) not use the Material for the principal purpose of advertising or
promoting a particular product or service, or in a way which could imply
endorsement by Parliament or generally in a manner which is likely to
mislead others;

(iv) not reproduce official imprints; Parliamentary logos and emblems,
including the Parliamentary portcullis, Royal Arms or government
departmental logos,

(v) allow us to inspect, on request, copies of any works that include
the Material to check that you have kept to the terms of this Licence;

(vi) not reproduce the Material for overtly political purposes;

(vii) not use the Material in ways which are knowingly or potentially
libellous or slanderous of individuals, companies or organisations;

(viii) send us, if we ask for it, a copy of your standard End User
Licence

Changes to the Terms of this Licence

We have the right to change the terms of this Licence. Your existing
Licence will be honoured for the time it has left to run, unless you wish
to terminate it and take out a new Licence on the revised terms.

Ending the Licence

We reserve the right to end this Licence if there is a significant breach
of any of the terms. You have the right to end the Licence at any time by
e-mail or in writing.

Assignment

This Licence may not be assigned.

Governing Law

This Licence is governed by English law and is subject to the exclusive
jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales.

You will be deemed to have accepted the above terms by doing, or causing
or permitting to be done, any act restricted by the Copyright Designs and
Patents Act 1988. The House of Commons reserves the right to commence
proceedings if any term of the licence set out in this letter is not
observed.

You may, if dissatisfied with the treatment of your request, ask the House
of Commons to conduct an internal review of this decision. Requests for
internal review should be addressed to: Freedom of Information Officer,
Department of Resources, House of Commons London SW1A OAA or
[8][House of Commons request email] . Please ensure that you specify the nature of
your complaint and any arguments or points that you wish to make.

If you remain dissatisfied, you may appeal to the Information Commissioner
at Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire SK9 5AF.

Bob Castle

Head of Information Rights and Information Security

House of Commons

show quoted sections

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