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UK gov waves white flag on secret lobbying ruling

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The Department of Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform has decided not to appeal a legal ruling that it must release information on secret meetings between ministers, civil servants and lobbyists at the Confederation of British Industry.

The Department had until this Friday to take the Information Tribunal ruling to the High Court or release the information.

But in a statement today BERR, formerly known as the DTI, said:

BERR will not be appealing this Information Tribunal decision and some information requested by Friends of the Earth was released to them yesterday (27th May) following the Tribunal’s decision. The Tribunal has agreed with BERR that other information requested by Friends of the Earth can rightfully be withheld.

BERR sets great store by our ability to hold free and frank exchanges with the CBI and other external stakeholders. The Tribunal recognised that it is in the public interest to release certain information relating to our dialogue with stakeholders. It also recognised that is in the public interest for the more sensitive information to be withheld.

The case was originally brought by Friends of the Earth three years ago. It wanted details of meetings between Sir Digby Jones, then head of the CBI and trade minister Alan Johnson. It also wanted to know details of a corporate jolly involving senior civil servants and CBI staff. Digby Jones is now Digby Lord Jones of Birmingham Minister of State for Trade and Investment at BERR - presumably he's not allowed to take himself out for fat lunches any more.

The Information Commissioner granted FoE's request for the information but BERR appealed to the Information Tribunal.

BERR said keeping such information private would "protect the 'thinking space' necessary for good public policy formulation". The Information Tribunal said that there should be transparency in how lobby groups interact with government and: "There is a strong public interest in ensuring that there is not, and it is seen that there is not, any impropriety." ®

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