New commissioner sets out FOI plans

Elizabeth Denham Image copyright ICO

The UK has already placed its monetary policy in the hands of a Canadian, the Bank of England governor Mark Carney.

Now it's going to fall to another Canadian to decide whether the British government's secrets should indeed remain secret.

She is Elizabeth Denham, who has recently taken up her new role as the UK's information commissioner, who oversees freedom of information (FOI) and data protection.

Previously she was the information commissioner in the Canadian province of British Columbia, where she was particularly noted for a hard-hitting investigation last year into a ministerial official deleting emails covered by an FOI request.

Ms Denham found that records had been wilfully destroyed, emails had not been properly preserved and FOI searches had been negligent.

Read full article New commissioner sets out FOI plans

How pharmacists push NHS services

Pharmacy shelves

Documents obtained by the BBC reveal the techniques used by large pharmacy companies to maximise their income from providing certain services for the NHS in England.

The NHS pays pharmacies for extra services on top of the essential functions laid down in their basic contract. But questions have been raised about whether staff are pressurised into over-prioritising these opportunities to boost revenue or may treat them as a lucrative but perfunctory box-ticking exercise.

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Treasury has the youngest officials

Treasury building

"Work with some of the country's brightest people." That's the slogan enticing job applicants on the recruitment pages of the Treasury's website.

So the clever folk running the nation's finances are clearly not keen on modesty - but are they lacking in maturity?

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Ethnic dimension to Birmingham's vote

Detailed voting data from Birmingham sheds extra light on the EU referendum result. It confirms that Leave support was strongly linked to local populations who were older and had lower educational qualifications, but also shows that the city's ethnic minority areas were more likely to support Remain.

Birmingham council is one of very few authorities that have so far published their referendum voting figures broken down by local wards. The BBC will be trying to obtain this information from as many councils as possible. Data at this level can add more local detail to the national pattern, particularly when comparing it to ward statistics from the 2011 census.

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'Jihadi John' death at centre of dispute

Mohammed Emwazi Image copyright Unknown

Mohammed Emwazi, the British jihadist who featured in beheading videos by so-called Islamic State and became known as "Jihadi John", is dead, according to, amongst others, Barack Obama and IS's own publication.

On the other hand, maybe he isn't dead, according to the University of Westminster in London, where he was a student, and the Information Commissioner's Office.

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Farage should be used 'sparingly' by Leave campaigners

Nigel Farage Image copyright Getty Images

UKIP leader Nigel Farage takes part alongside David Cameron in Tuesday's ITV special debate on the EU, but research from his own supporters questions his helpfulness to their cause.

Mr Farage should only be used "sparingly" when Brexit campaigners target blue-collar workers, because of his potential to alienate voters with "a divisive or reactionary tone on issues like immigration". That's according to a report produced for his own allies.

Read full article Farage should be used 'sparingly' by Leave campaigners

Revealed: The Bush-Major conversations

President George H.W.Bush and John Major in 1991
Image caption The two leaders discussed foreign affairs and their own domestic troubles

Sir John Major and George Bush senior overlapped in power between late 1990 and early 1993, and their close relationship is illustrated by transcripts of conversations obtained by the BBC.

It's tough at the top, whether you're the British prime minister or the US president, and it can be an irritating nuisance having to fight elections to stay there.

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FOI Commission: Why has it surprised observers?

Cabinet meeting, 2015, with Sir Jeremy Heywood on David Cameron's right Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Sir Jeremy Heywood (on Prime Minister David Cameron's right) has spoken of the "chilling effects" of FOI

Ministers have chosen not to make sweeping changes to the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, including ruling out fees for requests for information.

The decision follows publication of a report by an independent commission asked to examine the Act.

Read full article FOI Commission: Why has it surprised observers?

Blair and Clinton: the peace process and fatherhood

Tony Blair and Bill Clinton in 1997 Image copyright Getty Images

Records of conversations between Tony Blair and Bill Clinton between 1997 and 2000 - obtained by the BBC - shed new light on their terms in office.

Tony Blair and Bill Clinton told each other that their role was to act like "shrinks" offering therapy to global politicians, as they tried to reconcile various bitter international disputes during their time in office.

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Government loses 'pollutant of publicity' FOI case

Chimney spewing out smoke Image copyright Istock

The Cabinet Office has lost a tribunal case where it argued that publicly revealing how often a cabinet committee meets would harm the workings of government by introducing the "pollutant of publicity".

Last week the Information Rights Tribunal rejected the government appeal, in a strongly worded judgment which described the Cabinet Office's approach as "irresponsible", its key witness as "evasive and disingenuous", and her evidence as "of no value whatsoever".

Read full article Government loses 'pollutant of publicity' FOI case