Mining for truth in the Duchy

Posted: June 21, 2011 in constitution, duchy of cornwall, freedom of information

As many a Cornish campaigner will now know the Duchy of Cornwall is a very strange Janus faced beast.

It claims to be nothing but a private landed estate and so is exempt from the Freedom of Informations Act as is every other private company or organisation. However even the the quickest of research will soon show that this feudal relic has constitutional powers that enable it to intervene in the governmental decision making process. So, constitutional governmental powers that can effect our lives yet zero transparency. A totally unacceptable situation I hope you willl agree.

After e-mails sent to various bodies dealing with the freedom of information Lydia Medland of Access Info Europe very kindly responded with the following thoughts and questions that may be of interest to people trying to get a stright answer from our crooked Duchy.

Regarding FOI Requests

* Are there certain classes of information or documents that you are lacking? If so what specific information do you think should be made public? (expenses, budgets, reports, communication with public officials etc)

Regarding a possible campaign. If you want to call for certain things to be changed, I have the following questions, which would help you decide whether to approach the Duchy with your concerns directly or whether you want to hold a public campaign, or both.

* Are you more concerned about highlighting the what you feel are the current problems or do you want to campaign for more transparency?

If you want to campaign for transparency rather you could consider the following.

* Do you want the Duchy to be included under FOI? – how would you call for that?

* Do you want it to publish certain documents? How would you recommend which documents you would like to see made public pro-actively?

* Would you recommend that the Duchy adopt its own transparency policy similar to FOI? This could be a possibility if it appears too difficult in the short term for the institution to be included under FOI. I would recommend looking at the example of the World Bank who have adopted their own transparency policy which is effectively an access to information policy for the institution. Proposing this might well involve a public campaign and dialogue with the Duchy.

I understand that the preference is for all information to be published however it could be useful to identify specific classes of information of public interest and to call for commitments from the Duchy to respond to information requests from the public. See Annex A of the paper by Helen Darbishire on proactive publication for ideas of the types of information you might want to demand.

People working on the Duchy issue might like to contact the following organisations for further help and advice: Access Info Europe, Freedom of Information Advocates Network,, The Centre for the Freedom of Information, The Campaign for the Freedom of InformationThe Open Knowledge Foundation, Confirm or Deny, Your Right to Know. To learn more about the Freedom of Information Act in the UK try here, and to make requests for information via the internet use  


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