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?
From Wonko’s World
Original link – http://www.wonkosworld.co.uk/wordpress/2013/03/13/cabinet-office-refuse-to-release-minutes-of-1997-devolution-meetings/
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,
Ref: FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT REQUEST
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.