Cabinet Office refuses to release minutes of 1997 Devolution Meeting

In January I re-posted from the Wonko’s World blog details of the author’s request to the Cabinet Office to see notes from the meetings concerning the 1997 Devolution Act under Freedom of Information .(See Below)


A number of us sent in an FOI request as suggested and last week an answer was received – As we all got pretty much the same answer, I have once again copied from the blog and that answer can be seen below.

One thing that did strike me as being very interesting is the part just above the link to a section of Hansard, the record of debate in the house. In it, the FOI team refer to ‘devolution to Scotland and Wales and the English Regions – Not England, but the English Regions!


Part of EU policy is to break England in to nine regions as our country is ‘integrated’ in to the European Union – Does this part of the letter hint at that policy, and is this why release of this information has been suppressed twice before and this FOI request has been also been rejected?

Parliament from the Thames


From Wonko’s World


Original link –


In January I put in a Freedom of Information Request to the Cabinet Office asking for a copy of the minutes and Terms of Reference of the 1997 cabinet meetings on devolution that resulted in Scotland and Wales getting devolved national governments and an agreement that England would be dismembered along EU regional lines with huge glorified county councils begging for scraps under the table.

These minutes have been requested more than once and on every occasion they have been refused.  The Information Commissioner has ruled against the Cabinet Office withholding the minutes and been overruled.  The Information Commissioner has been to court and obtained a court order instructing the Cabinet Office to release the minutes and it has been vetoed by the Home Secretary.  Twice, by Home Secretary’s of different parties.  Clearly these minutes are a smoking gun and we have a right to see what’s in them.

Here is the response from the Cabinet Office:

Dear Mr Parr,


I refer to your request where you asked: “Under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act, I am requesting a copy of the minutes of the 1997 Cabinet meetings on devolution. I am also requesting a copy of the Terms of Reference for the cabinet committee headed by Lord Irvine that the minutes relate to and any legal or departmental advice provided to the cabinet in relation to these meetings.”

I am writing to advise you that following a search of our paper and electronic records, I have established that the information you requested is held by the Cabinet Office.Some of the information you have requested is exempt under section 21(1) of the Freedom of Information Act. Section 21 exempts information if this information is reasonably accessible to the applicant by other means. Section 21 is an absolute exemption and the Cabinet Office is not required to consider whether the public interest favours disclosure of this information.

The terms of reference for the Ministerial Committee on Devolution to Scotland and Wales and the English Regions (DSWR) were published in Hansard on 9 June 1997. I attach a link:

The remainder of the information you seek is exempt under section 35(1)(a) and (b) of the Freedom of Information Act. This is a qualified exemption and therefore subject to the public interest test. The information is exempt under section 35(1)(a) and (b), which relates to the formulation or development of government policy, and Ministerial communications. We accept that there is public interest in improving public understanding of the development of Government policy on devolution and the way Cabinet Government operates more generally. We recognise that the decisions Ministers make have a significant impact on the lives of citizens and there is a public interest in this process being transparent. We also recognise that greater transparency makes government more accountable to the electorate and increases trust.

However, there is a countervailing public interest in protecting the constitutional convention of Cabinet collective decision-making. Ministers will reach collective decisions more effectively if they are able to debate questions of policy freely and in confidence. The maintenance of this convention is fundamental to the continued effectiveness of Cabinet government, and its continued existence is therefore manifestly in the public interest.

In relation to the specific documents you have requested, the policy discussions in this area are ongoing and the adverse effect of disclosing these documents now would not be diminished by the fact that the documents date from 1997. The matters discussed at Cabinet are not matters of purely historic interest, but are important matters of current discussion and debate. We therefore conclude that the public interest in withholding the information outweighs the public interest in disclosure.

Once again I have to ask: what have these traitors got to hide?

I am of course appealing to the Information Commissioner and I would ask that anyone else who joined me in requesting the minutes also appeals.  We can’t allow these people to continue to hide behind a veil of secrecy when the very existence of our nation is in their hands and negotiations with the Scottish separatists are being conducted in our name.


11 comments on “Cabinet Office refuses to release minutes of 1997 Devolution Meeting

  1. Grimble says:

    Are you really as mad as this column suggests?

    Every man and his dog knows that Labour’s manifesto in 1997 included a commitment to regional devolution. Indeed I’m sure someone could dig out a copy and send it to you.

    Let’s see if I can explain this in terms that even a Ukipper can understand. The whole point of devolution is to bring regional government closer to the people, just like state governments in the US and the Lande in Germany.

    If you treated England as a single entity for the purposes of devolution, you’d be “devolving” power to 85% of the whole UK as a single unit. That simply makes no logical sense – an English parliament wouldn’t be any more responsive to the needs of Cornwall or Northumberland than the UK one is.

    So Labour came up with a plan to devolve power to a number of roughly equal regional entities in the UK. Because of their strong national identities, it would have been ludicrously stupid to try to include bits of England into the “regions” of Scotland and Wales just to “even up” the exact size of the regions.

    Thus the plan to offer 9 regions within England regional devolution. Unfortunately for Labour, voters didn’t seem to like the plan, and it never happened – except for the limited devolution to London.

    But having seen how successfully the parliaments/assemblies in Scotland, Wales, and NI have lobbied for trgeted spending and extra powers, many in NE England for example bitterly regret having said “no”. they feel remote from London, and have none of the clout or spending that their neighbours north of the border do.

    As with all the mental Ukippers’ lunatic conspiracy theories, you’ve put the cart in front of the horse. UK governments have for decades collected data by region – it’s a crucial planning tool. And bcause of the relative population sizes, Scotland and Wales have each been treated as a single region, while England hs been 9 regions.

    The EU has always been passed this regional data as part of the normal exchange of info, just as it collects dta from every other member state. The different states have different ways of defining their regions, and the EU simply uses the data in whatever form the member state chooses to present it. The regionsizes vary massively from one country to the next, depending on how they’ve always done it.

    So no mystery, no conspiracy, ans simply a government implementing its mnifesto on the back of a landslide.


    • Cliff Dixon says:

      So,if there is no conspiracy then why have the government blocked attempts to see this information via Freedom of Information requests?

      If, as you say, it is merely a ‘crucial planning tool’ then why are the minutes not released to show that this is indeed what it is?

      Do you not find it interesting that the EU speak of 13 regions of the UK (With England being 9 of them) and that the information is shown in the public domain of a region known as ‘Arc Manche’ consisting of parts of France and the South of England combined?

      Giving greater power to people at a local level is best achieved by empowering local councils to act on behalf of their citizens and allowing these citizens binding local referendums on matters that affect them, not by splitting England in to regions that then need additional tiers of government to administer. Speaking of London having ‘devolution’, how much does the GLA cost again in council tax bills?

      • Grimble says:

        I don’t know why they’re not keen to release that particular info. Governments can be funny that way.

        This mania that I’ve read elsewhere about the EU regions is – with the greatest respect – one of those ridiculous conspiracy theories. The EU has had a thing about promoting regions for decades, and quite honestly it’s been a positive force for good in promoting arts and culture – Barcelona and Catalonia for example has greatly benefitted.

        But those who start with a mindset that the EU is some evil conspiracy can always find something that looks “suspicious”. Every week I see dozens of comments in the Telegraph comment threads that make me laugh out loud, they are so utterly ridiculous. There are 2 types of people in the UK – those of us who understand the complexities of the globalised economy of the 21st century because we work in it, and a bunch of folk who seem to sincerely believe the hopelessly-biased, and often simply lying, guff that the right-wing press feeds them.

        UKIP is a creature of the latter mindset – peope who think the world’s simple, and by doing one or two simple things we can solve all our problems. It’s junk, because the world never was simple, and now it’s more interdependent and complicated than ever. Leaving the EU and/or the ECHR ould solve one or two “problems”…. but would simultaneously create others – and those of us plugged into the real world know just how catastrophic some of those newly-created problems would be for our economy, and our standing in the world.

        I find the descent of England (not the UK, primarily England) into a fearful, insular place where everything is the fault of foreigners, deeply depressing. A nation which no longer has the self-confidence to play a leading role in the world’s largest free-trade bloc is a shameful shadow of its former self, and frankly deserves for its Celtic neighbours to cut it adrift to sink into a morass of self-pity.

      • Cliff Dixon says:

        As somebody who has fiends in Catalonia, I think you will find that the ‘region’ developed it’s own identity long before tha EU designated it as such – Look in to the history after the Spanish civil war and how the Barcelona football team stood as a pillar of Catalan society against the iron fist of the Franco regime.

        As for the EU being the world’s largest free trade bloc – The member states total percentage of world trade has been declining since the 70’s, whilst our old Commonwealth partners and the BRIC’s economies are surging ahead in growth figures year on year. UKIP promotes free trade with the world, not just with a declining set of states in a decaying soviet which suits only the ruling elites and not the people of those countries – The insular place you speak of is based in Brussels and does all the peoples of Europe harm.

      • Grimble says:

        Frankly I’m fed up with hearing this kind of fact-free guff.Stupid simpletons are taking over the UK, very stupid people with very small minds, very fixed prejudices, no connection to reality, and the idiotic notion that the sophisticated, interconnected, globalised world we live in can be dealt with by solutions worthy of a 7-year-old.

        You feel free to contineue to hold your views – just don’t expect normal people to take them seriously.

      • Cliff Dixon says:

        Grimble, if you actually spend some time with members of UKIP you will be hard pressed to find the ‘fixed prejudices’ you speak of. Our problem is with the unelected bureaucrats of the EU who are dragging Europe, with it’s wonderfully diverse range of cultures and people, down in to a bankrupted grey mass.

        You talk of an interconnected globalised world, but the EU with it’s mass of rules and regulations puts the member states at a disadvantage when dealing with that world. To give you an idea of how bad that situation is, here are some statistics –

        In 1991, the Eurozone’s share of world output was 21.8%. By 2011, that had fallen to 14.3%. By 2016, the IMF forecasts output to fall again to 12.4%. Over the last 10 years, average economic growth within the EU has been at 1.1% PA, one third of the world average.

        Compare that to the ‘Anglosphere’ including the US,Britain,Canada,Australia,India,South Africa and Malaysia – IMF forecasts predict a share of world ouput in 2016 of 35% and rising! Yet according to politicians such as Nick Clegg, we need to stay within the EU and hamstring ourself in our dealings with these wider global markets.

        Is it any wonder that the people of England consistently state in opinion polls that they wish to leave the EU?

      • Grimble says:

        There are so many complete misconceptions in there that’s it’s hard to know where to begin.

        One of the problems with UKIP and all who sail in her is that almost no-one has any concept of how international trade works. Its trade spokesman is an hereditary peer who has never held a day’s paid employment in his life. It’s no co-incidence that there are virtually zero members or supporters amongst those who work in the manufacturing and export sectors.

        Yet Ukippers never listen. They don’t listen to people like me, with 25 years experience in international manufacturing, they don’t listen to the CBI, or the Institute of Drectors, or the British Chambers of Commerce. They don’t listen to the Engineering Employers Federation, or the TUC who are so concerned about manufacturing jobs in the UK.

        In very simple terms, the bigger you are, the more people want to sell to you, so in turn they offer you the best terms to sell to them. The EU gets the best deals possible because other nations want to sell to 550 million affluent consumers. In crude terms, a market of 60 million will never get those same deals as easily. The forthcoming EU – US free trade deal will create a free trade zone including 33% of the world’s production and 50% of its trade. Any European nation left on the outside of that deal will be severely disadvantaged.

        I’ve no idea where you get your figures from, but as you well know, if you strip India out of your list (as I’ve just shown, the US actually destroys your argument) you’re left with a motley collection of mid-sized markets which are tiny in world terms.

        Then there’s the issue of what the UK’s exporting sector actually consists of (something Ukippers know nothing abourt, so never mention) – to a large extent, foreign-owned businesses only set up here to service the Single Market. Take out Nissan, Honda, Toyota, Vauxhall and Airbus and the UK’s exports would be decimated. None of those companies has the slightest interest in exporting to other parts of the world from their UK plants, it makes no economic sense for them. None of the above companies would ever sell the output from their UK plants to India, Australia or South Africa (except the odd small batch occasionally under special circumstances). Never. Ever.

        You may believe there’s some democratic argument for leaving the EU, but the economic argument is so one-sided it’s laughable, and that will becoame apparent is soon as the business lobby starts flexing its muscles over the next 4 years. So the question is, exactly how impoverished are you prepared to make our country just to satisfy some spurious 19th century notion of “sovereignty”??

      • Cliff Dixon says:

        I have to disagree with your point on UKIP members not knowing how international trade works. Amongst our number are entrepreneurs like Lord Hesketh, eminent economists such as Tim Congdon and people who have worked in the money markets such as Godfrey Bloom, Steve Woolfe and Nigel Farage himself.

        William Dartmouth, our trade spokesman, has more experience of work in the real world than the leaders of all three of the old establishment parties put together – Here is a link to his profile which shows that he has held a bit more than a day’s paid employment in his life 🙂

        Contrast that with chancellor George Osborne and his New Labour predecessors – Where is the real world experience?

        You mention the bodies that state that our EU membership is vital – Do you remember the CBI saying a few years ago that if we didn’t join the Euro we would be finished? The TUC is a trade union organisation, it should be working for the welfare of its members but has a vested interest via the comrades in Europe who wish to turn the EU in to a socialist superstate, so anything that they disagree with can’t be all bad!

        The UK is still the world’s 7th largest manufacturing nation, and imports far more from the EU than we export to it. If we left, do you think Mercedes would want to stop exporting cars to us? The trade terms that the EU gets are often coloured by the trade deals that other countries get from them, protectionism is the name of the game in Brussels and as such our companies are disadvantaged not only by ridiculous trading tariffs but by the internal paperwork and regulations of the EU such as emissions regulation which is driving up the costs of our manufacturing industries. The foreign firms that you mention setting up in the UK do so here because it is advantageous for them to do so – You say they don’t sell outside the UK from their UK plants, but I think you will find that Airbus export their planes all over the world including to Air India and Quantas. (Airbus owner EADS is also a part British company)

        Once again, there are many countries that have a free trade agreement with the EU without actually being part of the EU. Does China have to be part of the EU to trade with it? Indeed, Norway and Switzerland are both much smaller than the UK in economic terms and are European countries without EU membership – They enjoy free trade with the EU, have not had recessions over the past few years and have the third best and best standard of living of all the European countries. They survive and trade happily outside of the EU without submitting to the ridiculous rules and regulations (Not to mention punishing subscriptions) that we have to in the UK.

        One final point – You mentioned a number of motor manufacturers who use the UK for manufacturing and export to Europe. Recently, the EU central bank gave a grant to Ford to build a new Transit van production plant – This was sited outside the EU in Turkey, will be manufacturing vehicles to sell to Europe and resulted in the closure of the existing plant at Southampton. Conclusive proof that you don’t have to be inside the EU to sell vehicles to EU member states.

      • Grimble says:

        Cliff, firstly I was clearly misinformed about the work experience of the 10th Earl of Dartmouth, so apologies.

        See how easy it is to admit you’re wrong when someone else is shown to have superior knowledge in a particular area? Ukippers should try it sometimes. Your lack of curiosity is also noticeable – you and your party could learn an enormous amount about international manufacturing from someone like myself, yet you appear utterly uninterested, as you appear to believe you “know it all” already. But you clearly don’t.

        It is more than just co-incidence that neither that gentleman nor any of the others you mention has any experience of the real world of people making and selling physical objects, as opposed to shifting invisible packages of money around on virtual markets. The latter offers virtually zero insight into the former. And it’s the former which according to HMRC comprises 83% of the UK’s exports.

        Do all Ukippers read the same “UKIP manual on how the world works”? or do you all just use the same tiny range of pre-biased sources of information? I ask because dozens of you make the same spectacularly irrelevant points time after time.

        Left to its own devices, business would, in almost all circumstances, opt for a single world currency. Most of those in business couldn’t give a toss about politics, but they do care about, and hate, exchange rate variability and transaction costs. Privately, a large proportion of our exporters would jump at the chance to produce in Euros the stuff they sell in Euros. Indeed Nissan in Sunderland run the plant (which exports more than 80% to the EU26) on a ‘virtual Euro’ basis, asking British subcontractors to invoice it in Euros.

        So yes, the CBI and others would prefer Britain to be part of a successful Eurozone. And looking at how much Germany benefitted from membership, we’ll never know how much more successful (in purely business terms) our exporting sector could have been if it had been inside as well. I suspect we could have attracted far more investment from the Continent.

        It is to UKIP’s utter and eternal shame that it is so contemptuously dismissive of the experience, expertise, and indeed the legitimate needs, of British industry. To repeat – you don’t ask, you don’t listen, you don’t try to understand. But sticking your fingers in your ears won’t work, because you’re going to be steamrollered flat by a massively-funded campaign by British business and the City in the run-up to any referendum.

        Briefly on your other points: 100% of Airbus’s UK production goes to France. Airbus pays miles over the odds for its UK-built wings, and could save itself a fortune by switching production to Toulouse. That would transfer 140,000 jobs from the UK to France. And as Airbus is majority owned by the French and German governments, you don’t have to be a genius to work out what they’d do if we left the EU.

        Your assertions on trade tarifffs are, with the benefit of my 25 years experience, simply 100% fact-free. As part of the equal-largest trade bloc on the planet, we get far better deals with many trade partners than we would as a medium-sized market and a country which – let’s be frank – is not universally well-liked throughout the world. No amount of ill-informed pretence or propaganda from UKIP can change the universal facts of world trade. And there’s no point in simply continuing to churn out the same “lines” over and over again – there are tens of thousands of Brits working in international business who will simply turn round and tell the world you’re lying.

        The saga of the Transit plant simply proves my point. Production transferred to Turkey because wages are vastly lower there. Like Turkey, we could do a deal with the EU which would allow controlled access to the Single Market – but we’d have to accept a far lower standard of living to compete.

        You need to meaningfully address the issue of our foreign-owned export sector – I went through this before, and you just ignore it. Nothing will persuade Nissan or Toyota or General Motors to build cars for the EU26 in the UK if those exports are subject to the same tariffs that China or South Korea are subject to. They’ll simply move production to their existing plants back inside the Single Market, or elsewhere to lower-cost economies. Again, pretending this issue doesn’t exist won’t work, as I can assure you the voices of those companies will make themselves heard in a referendum.

        Finally, you haven’t woken up to the sheer lobbying power of the City. Ukippers appear to fool themselves that the City – like manufacturing industry – is so thick that it can’t see past the irritants of stupid regulations to the bigger issues beyond. As the wonderful Gillian Tett of the FT said on Question Time this week, the French and Germans will never, ever, allow a City outside the EU to continue to conduct the majority of Euro trading. The continental banks will move trading to Frankfurt or Paris, and large numbers of jobs and vast earnings for the UK will follow.

        Again, there’s no point in trying to dispute this – it’s so self-evidently true that to do so opens you to ridicule. And there is no more powerful lobby in the UK than that of the big banks in the City.

        You and your party have a chance to avoid severe embarrassment in the forthcoming referendum campaign by listening, learning, and abandoning the arrogant stance that you know as much or more than those who spend their lives in particular sectors. If you fail to do this, the electorate will be faced by a highly professional and well-informed business lobby with all its back-up evidence at its fingertips on one side, and a bunch of arrogant clueless amateurs on the other, and will choose accordingly.

        Incidentally you should also be deeply worried about how thin-skinned and easily riled Farage showed himself to be in Scotland. The referendum campaign will be a rough old affair, and I can’t see him lasting the next 4 years of tough questioning and hostile crowds without self-combusting.

        Have a nice day.

      • Cliff Dixon says:

        Firstly, thanks for admitting you were wrong about William Dartmouth. You also admitted earlier in the thread that you couldn’t explain the reason why the government would not release details of the devolution meetings, so we can see that you are basing comments around unspecified facts.

        Addressing your other points…..

        Germany – The Euro suits Germany on a trade basis because the currency when tied to other states in the EU is massively undervalued, assisting exports. Unfortunately, that impacts the ‘less efficient’ states in the Eurozone hence the need for bailouts that the German people are now getting quite twitchy about.

        Trading in ‘one currency’ – Handy within the EU, not so handy in the emerging markets outside of it. I work for a company that deals extensively with suppliers in China and South Korea in the communications market – Nobody outside of Europe asks for payment in Euros.

        Airbus – Production is already switching to Toulouse and the UK operation will just be for parts – This is whilst within the Eurozone and is down to the French trade unions refusing to accept redundancies in a poor French economy. They did the same to the Coventry Peugeout plant when it was the most efficient in the company, it is easier to get rid of English workers than French.

        Ford and the Turkish transit plant – The only reason that production is cheaper in Turkey is because they are not subject to EU working time directives and the excess cost of energy production caused by the green regulations and carbon emmissions statutes. Turkey is outside the EU but will export Ford vans to the EU because it is cheaper to do so – If the UK is outside the EU but has the same free trade agreement as Turkey (Which article 50 of the Lisbon treaty guarantees to those who leave) then we can export to EU states without the handicaps.
        If you want to see production to lower cost economies, then the example of Corus is perfect – Lakshmi Mittal got paid to move what was left of the British Steel industry to India by the EU because he got a sunsidy in ‘Carbon credits’ for reducing emissions.

        As for the City – 80% of all the financial services in the EU are conducted within England.The EU are attempting to impose a ‘transaction tax’ on the City, which will impair it’s ability to trade in a global market. This has already caused some companies to transfer their businesses to cities outside of the EU (Zurich will have a field day with this one), the markets will operate wherever there is financial advantage so the idea that Frankfurt will benefit within the financial straight jacket is absurd. In a global market, what the French and Germans want will be irrelevant if you look at the figures perviosuly provided on percentage of world trade – The transaction tax will simply pull them down too.

  2. shaun toft says:

    There may have been an issue of constitutional cover up agreed cross party due to Cornwall’s wading in to the devolution debate. Many people are unaware of Cornwall’s unique constitutional relationship with England/Britain (enshrined in the duchy charters and other various parliamentary acts) and devolution to Cornwall would have inevitably required a new constitution, and of course a thorough examination of the old arrangement. There is much evidence to suggest that there has been a ‘gerrymandering’ of this constitutional relationship over the centuries (too much information to go into detail to here but many sources are available), and so to include Cornwall along with the northern regions could have been an embarrassment for multiple parties.
    Here is a link to a news article on which also questions the reason why the 50,000 signature request from the Cornish at that time was ignored despite it being the biggest and most grass root expression of desire for devolution at that time, as well as the issue over FOI requests over the devolution meetings.

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