Recently in House of Commons Category

It must be Christmas ! Spy Blog is pleasantly surprised that this FOIA request:

FOIA: House of Commons - Commons Select Committee Reports - numbers & sales of printed paper copies

has been answered with a Substantive Reply, within the Statutory 20 working day limit, together with accompanying Excel spreadsheets.

We wish the FOIA staff at the House of Commons a Merry Christmas and a happy New Year !

To: [email address]
Subject: [FOIA reference] response

Date: Wed, 19 Dec 2012 13:14:44 +0000

Dear [name]

Thank you for your request for information which is copied below.

The information in this answer relates only to House of Commons Select Committee reports and does not include Joint Committee reports, which are normally printed by the House of Lords. The House of Lords is a separate public authority and can be contacted by email:

All House of Commons Select Committee reports are published on the web in HTML and PDF -- These may be read and downloaded without charge and contain links to pricing information for printed copies.

The majority of printing of Select Committee reports is carried out by the printing and publishing contractor for the House of Commons, The Stationery Office (TSO). The information given in the annexes is for Select Committee reports for the 2010-12 Session which were printed in financial year 2011/12. Some printing is also carried out by the House's internal print unit, for example, to supplement stocks; these copies are not sold to the public. Information is not held on printing of Select Committee reports carried out on office printers.

Data in annex A shows the approximate number of paper copies of Select Committee reports printed by TSO, broken down by HC number, subject matter and ISBN -- the data set does not contain full titles.

Data in annex B shows the number of paper copies of Select Committee reports printed by the House's internal print unit, broken down by HC number -- the data set does not contain titles.

The Houses of Parliament Shop (formerly the Parliamentary Bookshop) sells some paper copies of Select Committee reports to the public. Data in annex C shows the number of paper copies of Select Committee reports sold by the Shop, broken down by HC number, ISBN and sales -- the data set does not contain titles.

The House of Commons does not hold information on the number of sales of Select Committee reports by TSO or the money raised from those sales.

You may, if dissatisfied with the handling of your request, ask the House of Commons to conduct an internal review of any decision regarding your request. Requests for internal review should be addressed to: Freedom of Information Officer, Department of HR and Change, House of Commons London SW1 0AA or Please ensure that you specify the full reasons for the internal review 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,

Yours sincerely

[name of official] Freedom of Information Coordinator Information Rights and Information Security (IRIS) Service House of Commons

Download the Excel Spreadsheets (.xlsx)

The figures confirm what we had supected, that very few people actually read the printed copies of House of Commons Select Committee Reports:

  1. most of the Select Committee Reports have a print run of about only 200 copies
  2. - far fewer than the 650 members of members of Parliament

  3. almost none of these printed copies are actually sold to members of the public .

This strengthens our contention that the Internet (web pages and email) should now be the method of Officially publishing Select Committee Reports.

The House of Commons (and the Lords) should desist from their technologocially stupid practice of pretending that the "official" publication of a Select Committee Report has to be "embargoed" and wait for the printed version to become available.

In order to send a copy to the the printers, there will already be an electronic version of the test of the report which will have been "briefed" to mainstream media journalists, or leaked.

Since the mainstream media does not seem to honour these voluntary "embargos" anyway, then Parliament should publish Select Committee Reports online on the worldwide web first on say a Wednesday, in time for analysis and comment by the weekend newspapers, with the small number of printed copies to follow as required the week after.

Perhaps a few more Members of Parliament might actually then read the detail of such reports than appear to do so at present.

Freedom of Information Officer,
the House of Commons,
Department of HR and Change,
7 Millbank,


Sunday 9th December 2012

Dear Sirs

Under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, please disclose the
following information:

With reference to the Commons Select Committees Reports, for the
last calendar or financial year (whichever is most convenient)

Please disclose:

1) The approximate total number of paper copies of the Select
Committee reports actually printed.

2) The approximate number of paper copies of the Select Committee
reports actually printed, broken down by Title.

3) The approximate total number of paper copies of the Select
Committee reports actually sold to the public and / or the
approximate total amount of money so raised.

4) The approximate number of paper copies of the Select Committee
reports actually sold to the public and / or the approximate total
amount of money so raised, broken down by Title.

Please provide the requested information, ideally by publishing it
on your public world wide website, or alternatively by email.

Ideally this should *not* be in the form of a "copy and paste"
locked Adobe .pdf file, or similar, attachment.

In the unlikely event that this information is not already
available in a standard electronic format, then please explain the
reasons why, when you provide the information in another format.

If you are proposing to make a charge for providing the information
requested, please provide full details in advance, together with an
explanation of any proposed charge.

If you decide to withhold any of the information requested, you
should clearly explain why you have done so in your response, by
reference to the Freedom of Information Act 2000 legislation.

If your decision to withhold is based upon an evaluation of the
Public Interest, then you should clearly explain which public
interests you have considered and why you have decided that the
public interest in maintaining the exception(s) outweighs the
public interest in releasing the information.

I look forward to receiving the information requested as soon as
possible and in any event, within the statutory 20 working days
from receipt of this email i.e. no later than Thursday 10th January
2013 (allowing for public holidays).

Yours Sincerely,

[tailored specific email address]

The Government has now, belatedly, published a response to the Petition on the Prime Minister's website, about the sneaky attempt to exclude Parliament from the Freedom of Information Act, back last may and June 2007.

This e-petition attracted 818 signatures.

For the benefit of any future historians, this seemingly reasonable Government response and explanation of current Freedom of Information Act policy, is ,of course, highly misleading.

What actually happened was that the Labour Government , colluded with Opposition MPs to try to sneak this Private Member's Bill through, not once, but twice, but the public furore expressed in the mainstream media, and online, seems to have forced them to beat a tactical retreat.

Subsequent revelations about MP's abuse of their laxly controlled expenses and allowances have been widely publicised, involving the Conservative Derek Conway and the supposedly neutral, but obviously partisan Labour Speaker of the House of Commons, Michael Martin, both regarding his own domestic expense claims, and his attempts to appeal against, and to obstruct, the decisions of the Information Commissioner and the Information Tribunal, stemming from Heather Brooks' and The Guardian newspaper's legitimate Freedom of Information Act requests regarding MPs' expenses.

Another effect of this Bill, had it passed, would have been the exclusion of other legitimate FOIA requests to the Houses of Parliament, which have nothing to do with MPs' expenses, such as our requests about the Designation of the formerly public access areas like Central Lobby or the Committee Rooms, under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 section 128 Designated (or Protected) Sites, and what we anticipate will be a flurry of requests, regarding the latest delayed, over budget, improperly specified etc. building project at the Palace of Westminster, the new Visitors Building and external Ramp, which seems to be a re-run of the Millennium Bridge affair, and cannot safely take the weight of a queue of visitors.

Foiparliament - epetition reply

28 April 2008

We received a petition asking:

"We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to oppose the Private Members Bill exempting Westminster from the FoI Act 2000."

Details of Petition:

"The Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill, from David Maclean MP (a member of the House of Commons Commission, which runs the House of Commons) plans to exempt the UK Parliament entirely from its own FoI Act. It seems to have informal support from some Ministers, and has passed its early stages with virtually no discussion or opposition. FoI would still apply to all the devolved parliaments/assemblies; what is so different about Westminster? Is it because MPs dont like us knowing about their expenses or other activities in detail? Westminster operates on our behalf and should remain fully accountable to us, just as it expects other public bodies to be accountable to it and to us."

Read the Government's response

The Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill would have had two effects: to remove the Houses of Parliament from the scope of the Freedom of Information Act and to create a new exemption to cover MPs' correspondence. This was a Private Members' Bill; it was not introduced by the Government.

The decision of the House of Lords was that the Bill should not progress any further and it fell at the end of the last Parliamentary session.

MPs' correspondence held by public authorities will continue to be subject to the Freedom of Information Act 2000. The Government recognises the concerns raised by MPs during the debate on the Bill, however The Information Commissioner has published guidance for those dealing with Freedom of Information requests for MPs' correspondence. It sets out the main exemptions that may apply to such information and reminds public authorities of their duty to consult with third parties when considering the release of information relating to them. Among other things, this is to ensure that personal information about constituents is not disclosed in a way that would breach their rights under the Data Protection Act.

In the Green Paper, 'The Governance of Britain', the Government reaffirmed its commitment to freedom of information and stated clearly that it is right that Parliament should be included within the scope of the Freedom of Information Act. Information held by the Houses of Parliament - including about MPs' interests - therefore remains within the Act's scope.

We have finally received a disclosure from the House of Commons authorities, regarding our Freedom of Information Act request about the the formerly public areas within the the Palace of Westminster and Portcullis House, which are now within the boundary of a Protected Site under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 Section 128 Offence of trespassing on designated site, as amended by the Terrorism Act 2006 section 12.Trespassing etc. on nuclear sites, as specified in the Statutory Instrument 2007 No. 930 The Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (Designated Sites under Section 128) Order 2007. specifically the map published in Schedule 8:


The paper hardcopy photopies reveal little of interest, except that it seems that the boundary around the main Palace of Westminster was originally going to extend some way into the River Thames, presumably along the as yet non-existent "security" boom or row of marker buoys.

How, exactly any Notices would have been fixed or how this law applies to the tidal River Thames is a mystery which is, at this point rather moot.

The memos and emails confirm that the Home Office was desperate to ensure that there was adequate signage so as to prevent the statutory defence of ignorance of the boundary from being invoked.

There are a couple of FOIA Section 24 National Security exemption redactions, which one could perhaps argue about, since Section 128 of SOCPA has nothing to do with real security, and everything to do with the suppression of political dissent, and of minor non-violent, non-threatening publicity stunts.

What is really infuriating, however, is the policy of censorship or redaction of the Names, Job Titles, Email Addresses , Postal Addresses and DirectTelephone Numbers of some of the officials in these memos and emails, on what seems to be spurious grounds

In each case, the full text of the memos and emails was disclosed (apart from some small Section 24 National Security redactions) but, for the most part, the people who were making the decisions and giving advice remain as faceless, nameless, contactless bureaucrats.

As an example of the sort of Freedom of Information Act requests which have nothing to do with MPs' expenses, but which would also be banned by David Maclean's Private Member's Bill which is rearing its ugly head again next Friday 19th May, the notorious Freedom of Information Act (Amendment) Bill, we have asked the House of Commons and the House of Lords about the Designation of the Public Areas of the Palace of Westminster and Portcullis House, under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 section 128.


About this blog

This United Kingdom based blog has been spawned from Spy Blog, and is meant to provide a place to track our Freedom of Information Act 2000 requests to United Kingdom Government and other Public Authorities.

If you have suggestions for other FOIA requests,  bearing in mind the large list of exemptions, then email them to us, or use the comments facility on this blog, and we will see  what we can do, without you yourself having to come under the direct scrutiny of  "Sir Humphrey Appleby" or his minions.

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Please feel free to email us your views about this website or news about the issues it tries to comment on:

email: blog @spy[dot]org[dot]uk

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Yes, Minister Series 1, Episode 1, "Open Government" First airtime BBC: 25 February 1980

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FOIA Links

Campaign for the Freedom of Information

Office of the Information Commissioner,
who is meant to regulate the Freedom of Information Act 2000 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Scottish Information Commissioner,
who similarly regulates the Freedom of Information Act (Scotland) 2002

Information Tribunal - deals with appeals against decisions by the Information Commissioners.

Freedom of Information pages - Department for Constitutional Affairs

Friends of the Earth FOIA Request Generator and links to contact details for Central Government Departments and their Publication Schemes

UK Government Information Asset Register - in theory, this should point you to the correct Government documents, but in practice...well see for yourself.

Access all Information is also logging some FOIA requests - prototype FOIA request submission, tracking and publication website

Blog Links

Spy Blog

UK Freedom of Information Act Blog - started by Steve Wood, now handed over to Katherine Gundersen

Your Right To Know - Heather Brooke

Informaticopia - Rod Ward

Open Secrets - a blog about freedom of information by BBC journalist Martin Rosenbaum

Panopticon blog - by Timothy Pitt-Payne and Anya Proops. Timothy Pitt-Payne is probably the leading legal expert on the UK's Freedom of Information Act law, often appearing on behlaf of the Information Commissioner's Office at the Information Tribunal.

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