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Information Tribunal - join the Appeal or not ? - now set for 12,13,14 and 16th March 2007 at Procession House, London

We seem to slow shuffling along into the unexplored swamps of the Freedom of Information Act appeals process.

We have received a heavy packet of papers from the Information Tribunal as an "interested party" in the pending Appeal by the Office for Government Commerce against the Information Commissioner's Decision Notice in favour of disclosing the early, and now obsolete, Gateway Reviews of the Home Office's potentially disastrous Identity Cards Programme scheme.

See "Treasury hires expensive lawyers to try to overturn the Decision Notice in our favour regarding Gateway Reviews of the Identity Cards Programme"

This is all well and good, but if we do "join the appeal", it will then be held partly or totally in private, precisely to prevent us, the original Freedom of Information Act request complainant from being shown or hearing any extracts of the Gateway Review reports in question.

Both the lawyers for the Information Commissioner and the Treasury Solicitor Grainne Ross, would not object to us being joined to the Appeal, but they both point out the limited value of any possible written or oral submissions that we could make, since the Gateway Review documents would still be kept secret from us during the proceedings.

We agree with these views, and so we are resigned to having to wait whilst large sums of public money are wasted on legal fees during this Appeal, which we firmly believe should still find in our favour i.e. in favour of the public interest of full public disclosure and publication of these documents.

The other hugely frustrating thing is the it seems that the Oral hearing for the Appeal is set for a 4 day hearing not before 5th March 2007
i.e. 2 years and 3 months after the original Freedom of Information Act request

This lengthy delay, and complicated proceedings, and expensive legal fees paid for by the taxpayer, run completely counter to the supposed "open government" policy, which the Freedom of Information Act is supposed to promote.

We will write to John Angel, the Chairman of the Information Tribunal accordingly.


According to the Information Tribunal Pending Appeals document dated 6th December 2006 (.pdf), It looks as if the Appeal hearing is now set for

Full hearing 12,13,14 and 16th March 2007 at Procession House London

Information Tribunal P.O. Box 6987 Leicester LE1 6ZX

Tel: 0845 600 0877
Direct Line 0116 249 4322
Fax 0116 249 4253
E-mail informationtribunal@tribunals.gsi.gov.uk
Website www.information tribunal.gov.uk

Our ref: EA/2006/0068


Date 25 Oct. 06

Dear Mr. XXX

Re Office of Government Commerce v the information Commissioner

The Tribunal has received notice from the Office of Government Commerce in relation to the information Commissioner's Decision Notice to which you are the named complainant. The Tribunal considers it would be desirable as someone with an interest in the proceedings to be invited to apply to be joined as a party to the appeal under rulle 7 of the Information tribunal (Enforcement Appeals) Rules 2005, a copy of which is enclosed.

See Statutory Instrument 2005 No. 14 The Information Tribunal (Enforcement Appeals) Rules 2005 section 7 Joinder of other persons to appeals

In order for you to consider this invitation we enclose the notice of appeal and Commissioner's reply. Also we enclose the directions order which sets out the steps which need to be taken by the parties to prepare.for the hearing. You will see that the appeal in relation to your complaint is being considered with another appeal, because common questions of law and fact arise in both appeals. We enclose the notice of appeal in that appeal to help you with your decision on whether to apply to be joined.

Our appeal is EA/2006/068 (ICO reference FS50070196)

This other appeal is case EA/2006/081 (ICO references FS50132936 and FS50083104) which was refers to a request for the "traffic light status" of the Identity Cards Programme, which is supposed to be one of the outputs of the Gateway Reviews.

This was originally framed as a Parliamentary Written Question by the then Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesman Mark Oaten MP for WInchester, to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, before it got turned into a Freedom of Information Act Request to be handled by Her Majesty's Treasury's Office for Government Commerce, by mutual consent.

See the Information Commissioner's Decision Notice database for summaries and links to the full text of both Decision Notices against the Office for Government Commerce

The arguments by the Treasury and OGC for keeping things secret, and those by the Information Commissioner citing the public interest and the duty of civil servants and private sector consultants, to give their best possible professional advice, regardless of whether or not this anonymous adbice is published some time in the future, are virtually the same as in our Decision Notice.

It seems unlikely that Mark Oaten MP will see any value in being joined to this appeal either, for the same reasons as mentioned above.

Please not that if joined you will be subject to the direction order and that some evidence will withheld [sic] from you before and at the hearing in order to maintain confidentiality. For an explanation as to why this is necessary we would refer you to the Tribunal's practice direction dated March 2006, which is available on our web site.

See the Information Tribunal's Practice Directions (.pdf)

If you wish to be joined you must do so by 10th November 2006 by writing to the Tribunal at the above address.

Yours sincerely

Information Tribunal
proper Officer

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