Saturday, 18 July 2015

Goliath vs David on nuclear documents disclosure

I submitted this letter to The Times on 18 July
I strongly support your first leader on Saturday “Addicted to Secrets,” (18 July).
I am currently in a long running process of trying to obtain some important documents from the Department of Energy and Climate Change(DECC) on  set of key nuclear  investment decisions.

To date DECC has twice turned down my Freedom of Information application, which I initially submitted on 3 December last year. I asked DECC to release to me documentsI listed as provided to the European Commission is support of the UK application for State Aid agreement on the Hinkley Point C nuclear project.

These comprised:

a report by KPMG on potential distortions to competition; a report by Oxera on market failures, proportionality and potential distortions of competition; a study by Pöyry on potential distortions to the internal market and alternatives to new nuclear; report by Redpoint on the evolution of the UK electricity sector; & details of the Cost Discovery and Verification process, compiled by KPMG and LeighFisher;.

The intial refusal was based on the odd position that as DECC had handed them over to the European Commission, DECC no longer possessed them, as if there was only a single copy of each document, and that was now in Brussels.

Understandably, I challenged this nonsensical refusal to disclose the docuements. DECC upheld my appeal on the grounds that exceptions permit refusal :

industrial information’ (regulation 12(5)(e)) and ‘material in the course of completion, unfinished documents and incomplete data’ (regulation 12(4)(d)). The exceptions are qualified by the public interest test and DECC found in each case that on balance the public interest favoured maintaining the exception>”

I have subsequently appealed to the Information Commissioner. His Office is currently in several months long dialogue with DECC over disclosure.

But we are now nearly eight months since my original applicatrion, with me, an independent researcher, trying to secure documents from a Government Department with all its publicly-funded resources and lawyers.

It is literally Goliath vs David!

Beefing up the Freedom of Information Act, as your leader demands, should include timely disclosure periods for applicants.

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