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bloody red tape

An urn for an old Sailor and the MODs exasperating institutionalised culture of secrecy: Part 2

bloody red tape

Hello, last week I posted the start of a small saga in relation to me trying to find the specification for urns the Royal Navy need for committals at sea. Here is the post. I split it into three parts to make a bit of a story of it – also it goes on a bit and I didn’t want to bore you. Anyway their initial response to request was a a bit of a curates egg, please bear in mind that all I am after is the dimension of a box, not the servicing timetable for Trident submarines, so I try again…


Dear Sirs

Thank you very much for the response to my request for information, I appreciate the effort that has gone into responding. Please understand that I am not complaining, but I would like a little bit more information. My original request asked for a ‘cut and paste’ of the information I required and the response letter I received, whilst very thoughtful, omitted that key information.
I do this as many ex service personnel feel a strong connection to the armed forces but don’t know where to go for information, it is unlikely that many would consider an FOI request the appropriate route to find it, I hope you are able to provide the information so that we help to respect the wishes of ex service personnel.
Kind regards
Richard Martin
That was quite polite and to the point I thought – I got this response…

Mr Richard Martin

Email to:

11 December 2013
Dear Mr Martin,

Thank you for your email of 18 November in which you make the following clarification;

‘I …would like a little bit more information. My original request asked for a ‘cut and paste’ of the 
information I required and the response letter I received, whilst very thoughtful, omitted that key

I am treating your correspondence as a request for information under the Freedom of  Information
Act 2000.

The Joint Service Publication (JSP 751) you request a ‘cut and paste’ from is not in the public
domain as it is a restricted document that is kept under constant review. Section 35 of the FOI Act
exempts information relating to the formation of government policy, ministerial communications,
advice from government legal officers, and the operation of any ministerial private office from
release under the FOI Act. Therefore JSP 751 is exempt from release. The advice contained in our
previous letter to you contained unclassified advice relevant to your request.

With regard to the oak caskets, the individual families choose their casket from the range offered by
their chosen undertaker. The MOD pays for the casket, along with the other costs, if the funeral is
a Service (Publically Funded) funeral. Those who choose to have a private funeral receive a grant
towards the cost.

If you are not satisfied with this response or wish to complain about any aspect of the handling of
your request, then you should contact my office in the first instance. If informal resolution is not
possible and you are still dissatisfied then you may apply for an independent internal review by
contacting the Deputy Chief Information Officer, 2nd Floor, MOD Main Building, Whitehall, SW1A
2HB (e-mail Please note that any request for an internal review must be made
within 40 working days of the date on which the attempt to reach informal resolution has come to an

If you remain dissatisfied following an internal review, you may take your complaint to the
Information Commissioner under the provisions of Section 50 of the Freedom of Information Act.
Please note that the Information Commissioner will not investigate your case until the MOD internal
review process has been completed. Further details of the role and powers of the Information
Commissioner can be found on the Commissioner’s website,

Yours sincerely,

 Defence Personnel Secretariat


It is the dimensions of a box for goodness sake! I do understand that some things need to be kept secret, we entrust this Department with the protection of the Realm – I know. I get it … but please. All we want is to help the people who severed HM forces, to perform a ceremony in the way you prescribe. Or is it me and is their response correct and proportionate (please say no)?

Next week the final episode. I try one last valiant attempt to find the dimensions of the box …

As an aside, I did wonder  if you post anything on this subject get matter – you have a file created on you? So if you are reading this from GCHQ and you fancy telling me what the specification of the box is… Drop the spec in a brown paper envelope in the recycling bin next to me in Reagent’s  Park and say ” Valdimir, do you like soft furnishings, I hear chintz is all the rage this year?”

If I don’t get post the concluding part next week – it wasn’t me who decided to zip myself in the sports holdall..

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