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Whitehall is appealing an order to fully disclose the minutes of committees at the department of health that decided on introducing MMR in the UK.
The information commissioner, in a ruling backing the FOIA Centre, had rejected a series of redactions made to the minutes under five separate exemptions.
He ordered the department of health (DoH) to disclose all the minutes fully to us by today or lodge an appeal to the information tribunal.
The department had disclosed redacted versions of the minutes in response to three separate requests under the freedom of information act by the FOIA Centre acting on behalf of a parent of one child allegedly seriously harmed by the MMR triple vaccination.
The department told us today that it is appealing to the information tribunal against the rejection of its use of one exemption, although not the other four. It has therefore disclosed new versions of the minutes with some of the redactions removed.
The department said: “The information commiss-ioner upheld your complaint and ordered the department to disclose the information.
“The department is currently appealing those de-cisions relating to redaction of names of committee members and civil servants in respect of specific contributions made at the meetings.”
“However the department is not appealing the information commissioner's decisions in relation to [four exemptions under] section 36, 38, 41 and 43 [of FOIA]. Therefore, we have made new versions of the minutes available with only the names of committee members and civil servants, who are not known to be deceased, redacted.”
It added that copies of the minutes for two specific committee meetings “have only recently been found.” The department today disclosed these minutes, adding: “We apologise that this set of minutes were not found and sent to you earlier.”
Documents on MMR were obtained by the FOIA Centre acting on behalf of one of the parents of a child in the group litigation against various pharmaceutical companies.
We anticipated that the government would appeal what was such a ground-breaking ruling made by the information commissioner.
We believe that this battle on accountability is to policy decision-making what the struggle over disclosure of MPs’ expenses was with regards to the spending of public money. It is a critical test for FOIA in the UK.