Works to the Elizabeth Tower

John Smith made this Freedom of Information request to House of Commons

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 successful.

Dear House of Commons,

According to recent press coverage, various Parliamentary committees have approved the forthcoming work to the Elizabeth Tower. I understand from the coverage that these include the administration committee, the finance committee and the administration and works committee.

Please provide the following information:-

1. The papers about the work to the Elizabeth Tower which were considered by the relevant Parliamentary committees.

2. Information on what consideration was given to providing the workers on the Elizabeth Tower with ear protection, which would allow Big Ben to continue to chime during the works to the tower.

Yours faithfully,

John Smith

FOI Commons, House of Commons

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Smith,

 

Freedom of Information request F17-342

 

Thank you for your request for information dated 16 August 2017, received
by us on the same date, which is copied below.

 

We will endeavour to respond to your request promptly but in any case
within 20 working days i.e. on or before 14 September 2017.

 

If you have any queries about your request, please use the request number
quoted above and in the subject line of this email.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Sarah Price

IRIS Support Officer
Information Rights and Information Security (IRIS) Service | House of
Commons

 

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FOI Commons, House of Commons

Dear Mr Smith,

 

 

Freedom of Information request F17-342

 

Thank you for your request for information, as copied below. You asked for
papers about the work to the Elizabeth Tower, from a number of committees,
which we have sought to address below.

 

1) The papers about the work to the Elizabeth Tower which were considered
by the relevant parliamentary committees.

 

This information is held by the House of Commons.

 

Papers about the work to the Elizabeth Tower were considered by the
Administration Committee and Finance Committee of the House of Commons.
Please note, our response only deals with any papers which might have been
considered by Committees in the House of Commons and not the House of
Lords. These include papers where the Elizabeth Tower is the main subject,
and also those papers that substantively mention the Elizabeth Tower as
part of a wider update.

 

However, these papers are exempt from disclosure under section 34(1) of
the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA), which applies in order to
avoid an infringement of the privileges of the House of Commons. Those
privileges include the right of any committee of the House to decide
whether, when and how to publish information relating to its proceedings.
This is an absolute exemption and the public interest test does not apply.

 

2) Information on what consideration was given to providing the workers
on the Elizabeth Tower with ear protection, which would allow Big Ben to
continue to chime during the works to the tower.

 

Deliberations of the committees of the House of Commons are, in
themselves, part of parliamentary proceedings and therefore privileged.
Section 34 FOIA exempts information from disclosure so far as it is
required to avoid any infringement of the privileges of the House. Records
of a committee’s deliberations and considerations, other than those
published, are also exempt information under Section 34 of the Act. This
is an absolute exemption and the public interest test does not apply.

 

 

You may, if dissatisfied with the handling of your request, complain to
the House of Commons. Alternatively, if you are dissatisfied with the
outcome of your request you may ask the House of Commons to conduct an
internal review of any decision regarding your request. Complaints or
requests for internal review should be addressed to: Information Rights
and Information Security Service, Research & Information Team, House of
Commons, London SW1A 0AA or [1][House of Commons request email]Please ensure that
you specify the full reasons for your complaint or internal review along
with 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,[2]www.ico.gov.uk.

 

Kind regards,

 

Lauren

 

Lauren Puckey| IRIS Officer
Information Rights and Information Security (IRIS) Service |House of
Commons

Tel: 0207 219 4025 | Text Relay: 18001 219 4025 | Fifth Floor, 14 Tothill
St, London SW1H 9NB

 

 

Dear House of Commons,

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

I am writing to request an internal review of House of Commons's handling of my FOI request 'Works to the Elizabeth Tower'.

You have applied FOIA to my request, but I believe that the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 are the appropriate legislation and should have been applied.

In decision notice FER0495252, the Information Commissioner decided that a similar request about subsidence at the Palace of Westminster was environmental information as defined in the regulations.

As you may be aware, the regulations define information as being on the environment if the information relates to:-

(a) the state of the elements of the environment, such as air and atmosphere, water, soil, land, landscape and natural sites including wetlands, coastal and marine areas, biological diversity and its components, including genetically modified organisms, and the interaction among these elements;

(b) factors, such as substances, energy, noise, radiation or waste, including radioactive waste, emissions, discharges and other releases into the environment, affecting or likely to affect the elements of the environment referred to in (a);

(c) measures (including administrative measures), such as policies, legislation, plans, programmes, environmental agreements, and activities affecting or likely to affect the elements and factors referred to in (a) and (b) as well as measures or activities designed to protect those elements;

(f) the state of human health and safety including the contamination of the food chain, where relevant, conditions of human life, cultural sites and built structures inasmuch as they are or may be affected by the state of the elements of the environment referred to in (a) or, through those elements, by any of the matters referred to in (b) and (c).

I would like you to consider the fact that the works to the Elizabeth Tower clearly involve measures which effect the environment as defined in the EIR - for example, material will be extracted from the environment in order to carry out repairs to the Elizabeth Tower and there will presumably be appropriate safeguards for the health and safety of people working on the tower. In addition, while the works are ongoing, Ben Big will only chime are certain defined occasions - in other words, it will still be emitting noise into the environment.

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

Yours faithfully,

John Smith

FOI Commons, House of Commons

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Smith,

 

Internal Review Request F17-342

 

Thank you for your email dated 23 September 2017 requesting an internal
review of Freedom of Information request ref: F17-342, which was received
by us on 25 September 2017.

 

We will endeavour to respond within 20 working days, i.e. on or before 23
October 2017. However, it may be necessary to extend this deadline by
another 20 working days, for example if the review is complicated and
requires the assistance of multiple resources. If this is the case, and
your review cannot be completed in the shorter timeframe, we will inform
you of this.

 

If you have any queries about the review, please contact me with the
reference in the subject line.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Lauren

 

 

Lauren Puckey | IRIS Officer
Information Rights and Information Security (IRIS) Service | House of
Commons

Tel: 0207 219 4025 | Text Relay: 18001 219 4025 | Fifth Floor, 14 Tothill
St, London SW1H 9NB

 

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Click [2]here for information about FOI in the House of Commons,

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FOI Commons, House of Commons

Dear Mr Smith,

 

 

Freedom of Information request F17-342 - Clarification

 

Thank you for your request for an internal review on our response to your
recent request asking for committee papers about the work to the Elizabeth
Tower.

 

We are always happy to carry out full internal reviews on our responses to
requests made under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA), which for
the House of Commons involves an independent senior manager checking all
details of how the request was handled.  On some occasions we try to deal
with complaints less formally in the first instance, which we hope
provides a better service to you, the requester.  This may also present a
quicker resolution, as well as saving taxpayer’s money by reducing the
need for a lengthy and expensive internal review.  On this occasion we
hope that this prompt and more detailed explanation will provide
assistance.

 

In your email copied below, you kindly laid out your belief that this
request was for environmental information, which should have been dealt
with under the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIRs). 
However, as we previously explained, all these unpublished committee
papers are subject to parliamentary privilege which gives the committees
the ultimate right to decide whether, when and how to publish information
relating to its proceedings. 

 

Regulation 3(4) of the EIR states that the EIR will not apply to the House
of Commons if complying would infringe parliamentary privilege. This means
that the House, on receiving a request for environmental information, must
instead consider it under the FOIA.   This is why your request was handled
in this manner.  Further information about how the exemption for
parliamentary privilege is applied to environmental information can be
found on page 10 of the ICO’s guidance here: 
[1]https://ico.org.uk/media/for-organisatio....

 

As you know, all the information you have requested has been exempted from
release under section 34 FOIA (parliamentary privilege).  However, I am
very sorry that we didn’t make our position clearer or explain the legal
situation to you better in our original response.  I sincerely hope this
information helps you now.  As stated before, you still have the right to
request a full internal review and if you still wish us to carry this out,
please let me know.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

 

         
Information Rights Manager
Information Rights and Information Security (IRIS) Service | House of
Commons

 

 

 

 

Dear FOI Commons,

Thank you for your email setting out the legal situation in relation to FOI and parliamentary privilege.

However, I would ask you to reconsider your response to part 2 of my request, which asked:

"2. Information on what consideration was given to providing the workers on the Elizabeth Tower with ear protection, which would allow Big Ben to continue to chime during the works to the tower."

This part of my request did not only ask about the consideration given by parliamentary committees to ear protection - you appear to have interpreted part 2 in those terms, but the precise wording does not mention parliamentary committees at all. As you will be aware from ICO guidance, public authorities must read requests objectively and interpret requests based on the exact wording of each part of the request.

Part 2 of my request therefore relates to recorded information relating to consideration by officials of whether ear protection could be provided, as well as any consideration by the parliamentary committees.

I would be grateful if you can review the response to part 2 of the request and confirm whether there is any recorded information in the scope of that part of my request.

Yours sincerely,

John Smith

FOI Commons, House of Commons

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Smith,

 

 

Freedom of Information request F17-342

 

Thank you for your further email regarding your FOI request about works to
the Elizabeth Tower.  You have asked us to reconsider our response to the
second part of your request about what consideration was given to
providing the workers on the Elizabeth Tower with ear protection, and have
kindly clarified that you weren’t just asking for information that went
before our committees.

 

I am very sorry that we misinterpreted this part of your request and would
like to confirm that we will revisit this as quickly as possible.  We will
send you any recorded information in scope of that part of your request as
promptly as we can. 

 

Please accept my apologies for this error.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

         
Information Rights Manager
Information Rights and Information Security (IRIS) Service | House of
Commons

 

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Dear FOI Commons,

It is now more than 20 working days since I made my request. Please can you advise when you intend to respond?

Yours sincerely,

John Smith

FOI Commons, House of Commons

2 Attachments

Dear Mr Smith,

 

 

Information Request F17-342

 

Thank you for your clarification below about the scope of your original
request. You asked for the information regarding the consideration by
parliamentary officials to providing the workers on the Elizabeth Tower
with ear protection, which would allow Big Ben to continue to chime during
the works to the tower.

 

We are very sorry that we didn’t cover the whole scope of your request and
thank you for allowing us to revisit our response.  A limited amount of
recorded information relating to the considerations of parliamentary
officials (as opposed to committees) is held by the House of Commons.

 

After considerable searching we have not been able to locate any recorded
information about ear protection considered by parliamentary officials and
have concluded any conversations must have been carried out verbally.  At
the tender stage, and in accordance with the Construction (Design and
Management) Regulations 2015 (CDM 2015), the Project Team composed
Pre-Construction Information, which was incorporated into the Tender
Documentation. The document highlighted the health and safety risk posed
by the bells sounding and the need to remove this hazard for the duration
of the contract, but no specific reference to the option of ear protection
was considered.  Under Construction (Design & Management) regulations the
Duty Holders have a responsibility to ensure the construction work can be
carried out, so far as reasonable practicable, without risks to health and
safety of any person carrying out construction work.  The Health and
Safety Executive expand on this by identifying that risks should be
mitigated and Personal Protective Equipment should be used as a last
resort.

More recently, some further references were made in emails between
officials as a result of the media coverage of the bells being switched
off. Whilst most correspondence related to the practicalities of this
task, we hold two emails which mention consideration of using ear
protection and these emails are attached. Please note that some personal
data (names of more junior or operational staff) has been redacted from
these emails. This information is exempt by virtue of section 13 (1) of
the Environmental Information Regulations (EIRs), 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. In addition some information not related to the ear protection
issue, and therefore out of scope of your request, has been removed.

 

No other information is held by the House of Commons.

 

 

We sincerely appreciate your patience in this matter and hope that this
information helps.  You may still, if dissatisfied with the handling of
your request, ask the House of Commons to conduct an internal review of
any decision regarding your request. Complaints or requests for internal
review should be addressed to: Information Rights and Information Security
Service, Research & Information Team, House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA or
[1][House of Commons request email]. Please ensure that you specify the full
reasons for your complaint or internal review along with 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,
[2]www.ico.gov.uk.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

 

         
Information Rights Manager
Information Rights and Information Security (IRIS) Service | House of
Commons

 

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Click [4]here for information about FOI in the House of Commons,

or to see what we publish.

 

 

 

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