A general record of my ongoing battle with all forms of nonsense.

Friday 11 September 2009

The public isn't interested in why the GCC is trying to mislead Trading Standards

I received the GCC's response to my Freedom of Information Act Inquiry yesterday evening. The GCC avoided responding to almost every point. You can read the full text of their response here and here.

Two points stand out. Firstly, I was very clear in asking for all previous versions of the document, yet they only returned the final version without specifically stating that it was the only version.

Secondly, and more interesting is their response to my request for copies of internal communications discussing the content of the letter.

The emails are considered to be exempt under S36 of the FOIA because the disclosure of the information would, or would be likely to, inhibit the free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation. The GCC considers it is important that an exchange of views can take place between relevant parties to allow for proper space for deliberation without the exchange being made public. Additionally, the GCC needs to be able to think through the implications of particular options and consider how to properly approach the trading standards offices. Consequently, the public interest test has been applied by the "qualified person" at the GCC and the decision was that the public interest in withholding the information outweighed the public interest in disclosure and therefore it was considered appropriate to rely on FOIA s36 in this case.

Now the only way I can see this inhibiting the free exchange of ideas is if those ideas are not in the public interest. If those ideas included strategies for deliberately misleading trading standards by misrepresenting evidence, then you'd expect that the free exchange of those ideas may be inhibited. But then I'd have thought that inhibiting those ideas was very strongly in the public interest.

But if the ideas exchanged were how best to represent the evidence and how important it is to be honest with trading standards, then it is important that these ideas are not inhibited. But then honest ideas that are genuinely intended to help the public are not likely to inhibited by the prospect of them being made public.

Now I am willing to accept that some of the GCC's staff may have been less than complimentary when referring to me in their internal communications. And I don't have a problem with that.

Paul Ghuman of the GCC, I make you an offer to protect your staff from embarrassment. Pop those communications over to your lawyers at Capsticks and let them know what you want to remove. Then ask them to send the censored copy to me, declaring that nothing material to the decision making process was removed.

If you'd prefer not to do this, I'll ask my MP to send the next request for information. He has been very helpful before when I have been campaigning against quackery.

His next open bureaux is at 5pm on the 18th September.

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