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.
A version of this article by the Campaign’s director, Maurice Frankel, appeared in Press Gazette on 2 May 2008.
In the past, officials’ advice to ministers, and the discussions leading to it, have been confidential. You could see it after 30 years, but not before. The Freedom of Information Act has shattered that convention.
This article by the Campaign’s director, Maurice Frankel, was published in The Independent on 28 March 2008.
Should policy discussions between officials be disclosed under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act? Or should they be withheld to reassure civil servants that they can speak frankly, safe from the press and public’s prying eyes?
These issues were central to two recent High Court cases. Each involved the Government challenging rulings by the Information Tribunal that such material should be disclosed.
The High Court has dismissed the government’s appeal against the Information Tribunal in the first case of its kind under the Environmental Information Regulations. The Tribunal had ruled that the Export Credits Guarantee Department should disclose the submissions it received from other government departments in 2003 about the so-called “Sakhalin project”. This involved a $650 million project to extract oil and gas off the coast of the Sakhalin island, north of Japan, which involved risks to the survival of grey whales, an endangered species. Friends of the Earth had applied for the submissions under the EIRs.