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  • Plane crazy

    Posted on January 17th, 2012 admin No comments

    Where did I put those flares?

    You can’t fail to have noticed that the issue of maritime safety has shot up the news agenda recently.

     The apparently cack-handed way the ship was driven into the rocks and its subsequent sinking give a whole new meaning to the term “European bail-out”. Women, children and nationals from countries without a AAA rating abandon ship first.

     But the subject brings me back to an interesting squabble I’ve managed to get myself into with the Department of Transport.

     At the back end of last year I asked the following question: “Please could you provide me with a copy of all the SAFA Ramp Inspection Reports you hold dated from 1.1.10 to the present date where any Class 3 (major influence on safety) action has been recorded.”

     For those of you not familiar with the plane inspection regime my understanding is that official can swoop on aircraft at any time and then fill in a form about its airworthiness.

     As you can see from my question I just want the ones where there has been a Class 3 finding on the basis that if the experts say it has a problem which is a major influence on safety, that is in the public interest.

     But my request has been turned down. See the letter here. plane…………. The Department of Transport relied on S.27 (International Relations) and S.30 and S.31. All of which as we know are subject to the public interest test. Yet it is thought that the knowledge of which planes have major safety defects is best kept from us.

     This would be an interesting enough case on its own if it were not for the fact that I believe the Department of Transport then took aim at their own feet and fired off a volley of shots.

     While trawling the internet I found a spreadsheet that had been provided to an MP that gave details of all inspections that had been carried out by an agency of the Department of Transport on ships.

     I then asked a follow up question saying could I have all the detailed report sheets on those ships which when inspected were deemed the most dangerous, and were banned from setting sail until the defects were corrected.

     On this occasion there were no fears that the reports might adversely affect our relationships with foreign nations or that it would bring the whole inspection regime collapsing around our ears. Here are two of the reports I was provided with of ships that were too dangerous to be allowed to leave port in October last year.

     Here are the reports of two ships that were held in port last year because of safety fears. The OCEAN BRIDGE and the  ADINATH ONE

    By the incredible power of the internet you can even now see where both ships are. When I last looked Adinath One was near Malta and Ocean Bridge was somehwere off the coast of West Africa. But the main thing, I suppose is that they are both on the sea rather than under it.

    Anyhow, I’m looking forward to seeing how the Department of Transport can justify treating plane safety one way and ship safety completely differently. I’ll keep you posted.


  • S.43 exemption hits the buffers

    Posted on September 8th, 2009 admin 1 comment
    A silverlink train

    A silverlink train

    Another attempt by a public body to keep information secret with the use of the S.43 (Commercial Interests) exemption has failed.

    The Department for Transport’s (DfT) efforts to withhold the information relating to how much it paid a rail company when its workforce went on strike was rejected by the Information Commissioner.

    It was ruled that S.43 was not engaged and so the Commissioner did not even go on to consider the public interest arguments in the case.

    The case centred on an industrial dispute by workers on the Silverlink rail franchise in 2007 which ran between London Euston and Northampton.

    Officials from the DfT confirmed to the Commissioner that under a section of its agreement with Silverlink it was able to “reimburse or ameliorate net losses of the Franchise Operator arising from industrial action”.

    However, it refused to divulge how much this compensation was and the arguments it put up in defence of the use of S.43 remain somewhat of a mystery.

    The DfT said that to disclose it arguments for the support of S.43 would be a breach of the exemption in itself. The decision notice said: “The DfT has provided the Commissioner with submissions to support its use of the exemption, but has stated that it believes that these submissions cannot be put into the public domain.”

    So the rationale behind the DfT’s use of the exemption is in a confidential annex to the decision notice that we cannot see.

    However, the Commissioner gave the arguments – secret or not – short shrift and said the exemption did not apply. Because the exemption didn’t apply he also found the DfT guilty of a breach of procedure in that it should have explained the reasoning behind its application of S.43 to the applicant.

    The DfT has now been ordered to provide the applicant with information relating to did the DfT provide funding to Silverlink as compensation when the industrial action took place and if any changes were made with the incoming franchisee to compensate it for any losses caused by industrial action.

    The full decision notice can be seen here. [link]

    NOTE: For S.43 to be applicable the prejudice to an organisation has to be likely and substantial. Even then the public interest can weigh in favour of disclosure. It means that it practice it is very difficult to shield information using this exemption. The Ministry of Justice lost a similar case [Working on the chain gang], and the Royal Mail has withdrawn its appeal to the Information Tribunal over its attempt to keep secret how much it spends on management consultants.