Look out here for more on MMR
Whitehall health officials have abandoned their appeal against an order to fully disclose the minutes of committees that decided on introducing MMR in the UK.
The department of health (DoH) in January lodged an appeal against a ruling by the information commissioner that the minutes should be disclosed without any redactions.
The DoH 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 information commissioner, in a ruling backing the FOIA Centre, rejected a series of redactions made to the minutes under five separate exemptions.
The department was appealing to the information tribunal against the rejection of its use of one exemption, although not the other four. It was appealing in an attempt to maintain the redaction of details identifying who made specific comments at the meetings.
In a letter confirming the withdrawal of the appeal, the department told us: “In line with the practices of confidentiality that applied at the time, 1986-1992, the department has argued against publication of these committee minutes in a way that would identify individuals’ comments.
“Since January, the department has contacted as many as possible of the individuals attending these committee meetings and consulted them about the potential release of unredacted minutes.
“Following that consultation, the department has now decided to withdraw from the appeals.”
The department has duly disclosed an unredacted version of the requested committee minutes.
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. Look out for more revelations on MMR on our website.
The government’s decision to drop this appeal leaves the ground-breaking ruling made by the information commissioner intact.
As we have noted before, this ruling struck a huge blow in favour of accountability on policy decision-making that is parallel with the order to disclose MPs’ expenses with regards to the spending of public money.
FOIA has arrived not only as a force to hold public bodies to account over the spending of public money, but also over the way in which they make policy decisions.