Monday, September 03, 2007

Disclosure "likely to improve quality of the deliberative process"

The Information Tribunal has upheld Friends of the Earth's appeal against the Information Commissioner and Export Credits Guarantee Department over a EIR request for inter-departmental documents relating to the Sakhalin oil and gas project. This is the first time that the Tribunal has determined that policy advice should be disclosed pre the decisional stage.
"While the Tribunal accepts that a final decision has yet to be made, the ECGD presented no evidence to the Tribunal or indeed to the Commissioner of how, and if so, to what extent ongoing interdepartmental or governmental deliberations regarding any prospective final decision would be harmed or might be harmed by disclosure of the 2003 inter-departmental responses in March 2005...The Tribunal is simply not willing to accept in the absence of such evidence that disclosure of the 2003 inter-departmental responses in March 2005 was likely to pose a threat to the candour of further deliberations or that the as at the time of the requestr was made in 2005, protective thinking time or space was required as a matter of overriding importance. There is simply no factual evidence to support the suggestion that time and space was required, let alone used, over the long period in question."

"The information requested in this case consists of a number of items of correspondence to ECGD from a number of the recipients [departments] of the notification. The Tribunal takes the view, having seen this information, that disclosure of at least one of the responses is highly unlikely to cause prejudice in terms of collective responsibility or candour when it comes to applying the public interest scales. On the contrary, the Tribunal feels most strongly that disclosure of the type of information in question in that particular exchange is, if anything, likely to improve the quality of the deliberative process." (Emphasis added)
Read the Tribunal's decision (Pdf)

No comments: