Avid followers of this blog (all one of you) will know that I recently made a Freedom of Information request to obtain the OBR Forecasts provided ahead of Kwasi Kwarteng’s disastrous mini-Budget, and without any surprise whatsoever this request was rejected. Full details of the rejection are included below:
In essence, they have relied on three sections of the Freedom of Information Act to reject this claim, namely sections 35(1)(a), 29(1)(a) and 29(1)(b). Dealing with these in order:
35 Formulation of government policy, etc.
(1) Information held by a government department or by [F1the Welsh Assembly Government] is exempt information if it relates to—
(a) the formulation or development of government policy,Freedom of Information Act 2000
At its surface, this seems to apply, but it is important to note that this exemption only covers the formulation or development of government policy. As the then Chancellor made an announcement on 23 September 2022, it is fair to say that, by that time, the policy had finished its formulation and development stage. As such, the exemption cannot apply. Secondarily, the following section says the following:
(2) Once a decision as to government policy has been taken, any statistical information used to provide an informed background to the taking of the decision is not to be regarded—
(a) for the purposes of subsection (1)(a), as relating to the formulation or development of government policy,Freedom of Information Act 2000
This confirms that once a policy decision has been reached, the exemption for formulation and development can no longer be used.
29 The economy.
(1) Information is exempt information if its disclosure under this Act would, or would be likely to, prejudice—
(a) the economic interests of the United Kingdom or of any part of the United Kingdom, or
(b) the financial interests of any administration in the United Kingdom, as defined by section 28(2).Freedom of Information Act 2000
I have grouped these two together as my response is almost identical, namely that it is hard to see how the economic or financial interested of anything in the UK could be affected by information that was used to support (or not) policies which have almost entirely been rescinded.
Overall, this reads like an attempt to protect the Conservative party, not to protect the UK as a whole, which would, I feel, be far better off knowing what information was used to make a disastrous decision regarding the country’s fiscal position.
I have stated my case in reply and will keep pushing for further information.