FOI veto gives ministers too much power

The High Court has today upheld the use of a ministerial veto to block the disclosure of Prince Charles’ correspondence with government departments. The Upper Tribunal had ruled that the government was required to disclose this correspondence to the Guardian under the Freedom of Information Act. That decision was vetoed. The High Court has today dismissed the Guardian’s judicial review of that veto.

Maurice Frankel, the director of the Campaign for Freedom of Information said:

“The Lord Chief Justice has highlighted the scale and power of the ministerial veto which it says could even be used to overturn a decision of the the Supreme Court – a situation uprecedented in domestic law. The only, very limited safeguard is judicial review.

But as this case shows, the veto will be upheld at judicial review even if the disclosure decision is thorough and well argued and contains no error or flaw. Ministers don’t have to show they are right and the tribunal or court is wrong, only that they have reasonable grounds for taking a different view about the public interest.

The veto is a powerful tool and judicial review too limited a safeguard. Ministers should have to appeal against decisions they dislike and not be able simply to overturn them.”

Further information

Maurice Frankel or Katherine Gundersen 0207 490 3958.

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