Subject: Appeal against decision on FOl 062
Thank you for your letter of 2 November 2005. It has been a number of
years since we last spoke. I hope all is well with you.
I write to appeal your decision to withhold full responses on questions 1
and 3 of my request. Please understand this email as an official request for
an Internal Review of your decision.
I do not believe that DETINI decision to withhold is either within the
letter nor the spirit of the Law (FOI Act 2000).
Further, Information Commissioner guidance on the law which has been available
to Public bodies for some time (well before your signing of the March 2004
contract with BT) specifically on confidentiality clauses as also been
A blanket confidentiality clause does not absolve the department of
its statutory obligations and the Information Commissioner has stated
in the guidance that he would look unfavourably on such blanket clauses.
You should also be aware that general confidentiality and the excuse of
"likely to prejudice BT’s commercial interests" may not apply for companies
who are regarded as a Monopoly. BT has the country’s largest recognised
monopoly. The Information Commissioner has also stated this consideration
in the published Awareness Guidelines.
I do not believe that BT, as a monopoly, can possibly be commercially
damaged by the release of any information.
Finally, I do not see any evidence of the Public Interest Test which I
believe you are obligated to complete. This information has undoubted
public interest. The department has spent tax payers money on a contract
with BT. I quote from your department’s own press release:
"This vitally important contract will deliver the Government’s broadband
vision of a fully connected Northern Ireland. In turn it will help
make Northern Ireland more competitive." – Ian Pearson, MP
"This will ensure that Northern Ireland is a seriously attractive area
for existing company expansion and new inward investment." – Bill Murphy, BT
"Broadband access to all rural areas will be a tremendous boost. Many rural
communities have already been campaigning to bring Broadband to their
locality. This demonstrates the demand for the service and having it
available to every household in Northern Ireland will ensure that a
rural /urban divide does not open up." – John Gilliland, UFU
The department itself recognises this contract of vital importance to
the Northern Ireland economy.
Finally, I note that the department has not yet updated the PDF document
on how to make a FOI request to include the correct email address. I was
assured at the time that this would be taken care of immediately (during
a telephone call from Ian Boyd).
I am also concerned that during the phone call from Ian Boyd that he seemed
to want to know, a) who I was, b) was I a competitor to BT, and c) to
what purpose I wanted the information. None of this information is relevant
to any FOI request. To Ian’s credit he did correct himself and said that
it should not matter, however – he should not have asked. For the record –
I am not in competition with BT or even in the Internet industry any longer
and have not been for a number of years.