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  • Department of Health loses battle over consultants’ cost letter

    Posted on September 22nd, 2009 admin No comments
    Would House be worried at the prospect of frank discussion being halted?

    Would House be worried at the prospect of frank discussion being halted?

    The Information Commissioner has ordered the Department of Health to release a letter from a former Treasury minister concerning the NHS consultant contract – which went £150m over budget.

    The Department of Health received a request under the Freedom of Information Act for the business case on the consultants’ contract which it provided to HM Treasury in 2002. The requester also asked for a copy of HM Treasury’s response.

    The matter was referred to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and, during the course of the investigation, the Department of Health did release its business case in full.

    However, it has maintained that the Treasury’s response should not be released on the grounds that it is covered by S.35 (formulation and development of government policy).

    The Information Commissioner agrees that the exemption applies. Nonetheless, the letter from a Treasury minister, which contains the response to the business case, must be released on public interest grounds.

    The Information Commissioner was not persuaded by the view that disclosure would affect the frankness and candour with which ministers would debate policy issues in the future.

    The Decision Notice [link] also highlights that this contract is no longer a ‘live’ issue, but that there has been significant public interest in whether the contract has delivered value for money.

    On WhatDoTheyKnow I have asked for the information here. [link]

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