The First Tier Information Tribunal has heard an appeal by the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs against a Decision by the Information Commissioner’s Office on 2 November 2009 that it must release all information requested by the Campaign for Clean Air in London (CCAL) on 22 January 2009.
CCAL’s original request was for:
“…a copy of any minutes, papers, correspondence or other material relating directly to any meeting (including sent subsequent to it) that takes places between Lord Hunt and Mayor Johnson. I believe the meeting may include discussions about the western extension of the congestion charging zone and air quality”.
CCAL’s barristers asked the Information Tribunal to reject the Government’s attempt to rely on exemptions in the Environmental Information Regulations which it had failed to raise before the Information Commissioner or in its original decision. The Government admitted there was no particular justification for its failure to raise the exemptions earlier in the process, or why the Tribunal should consider themnow. Instead, it argued the Tribunal was obliged to consider any exemption that may be applicable, whether it had been raised previously or not. The Tribunal ruled within minutes that the Government was not allowed to run the new arguments.
As a result, the Government accepted that it “does not have much of an appeal left” and said it intends to seek permission to appeal the Tribunal’s ruling.
The Tribunal will publish written reasons for its decision before the end of this week after which the Government is expected to lodge formally its application for permission to appeal. If the appeal is granted, it would be heard by the Upper Tier of the Information Tribunal. In the meantime, the remainder of the proceedings are stayed.
Simon Birkett, Founder of CCAL, said:
“Finally, CCAL wishes to thank again its legal team comprising leading barristers, Gerry Facenna and Laura Elizabeth John, and Phil Michaels Head of Legal at Friends of the Earth. Without this tremendous legal team, CCAL would never have been able to win this case.”
The Commission was represented by Ben Lask.