» Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Information Commissioner

Asked if the Prime Minister was minded to accept the Information Commissioner’s ruling on releasing Cabinet notes, the Prime Minister’s Spokesman (PMS) told the assembled press that as the Cabinet Office had said, we would have to give proper consideration to the ruling. We would have to balance off the requirements of openness and transparency against considerations relating to the proper and effective functioning of Government.

Asked when the Government would be making its decision, the PMS said he did not have that information. Put that the Information Commissioner was making a point of opinion that the issue was so important that information should be released, rather than ruling on whether or not these pages were exempt under the terms of the act, the PMS replied that the Government would have to consider its position on the matter and whether it would be against the ruling.

Put that the Government was not rejecting the ruling out of hand, the PMS reiterated that it was a judgement that had come from the Information Commissioner and it would have to be considered. There were requirements for openness and transparency, but these had to be balanced against the proper and effective functioning of Government. At the heart of that system, as the Cabinet Office had been saying, was the constitutional convention of collective Cabinet responsibility.

Asked if the Prime Minister recognised the Information Commissioner’s role as a representative of public opinion, rather than a straightforward interpreter of it, the PMS said the Information Commissioner’s role and responsibilities were well established and were set out in legislation.

Asked if the Government actually had the power to refuse to hand over the information, the PMS replied that we had to decide whether or not we were going to appeal against the judgement. Asked if the Government could be ordered to do it, the PMS said that he was not sure if there were any precedents for that or what the legal position would be. The next stage of the process was to decide if we were going to appeal.

Asked if the Prime Minister had closed off the option of a full public inquiry, the PMS said that when the Prime Minister had been asked about this before, during the spring and summer of last year for instance, his position then was that it was not something to be considered while the troops were in Iraq. This had been the longstanding position.

Asked if the ruling by the Information Commissioner was a one-off, the PMS replied that that was a question for the Information Commission.

original source.

Briefing took place at 16:45 | Search for related news

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