Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Minutes of Evidence


Letter from Nirex to the Department of Trade and Industry

REQUEST FOR ACCESS TO LIST OF PREFERRED SITES

  Further to our telephone conversation, you will be aware Nirex has received a request for access to the list of 10 preferred sites that was drawn up the prior to the decision to choose Sellafield. The chronology of events is as follows:

    —  9 April—letter received from Marcus Wraight requesting access to the list.

    —  3 May—response sent from David Wild, declining access to the list on the basis of the John Battle MP statement from June 1997. In his letter, David made Mr Wraight aware of his right to appeal to the Nirex Independent Transparency Review Panel (IRTP).

    —  21 May—Jennifer Watson, Chair of the IRTP, received an appeal from Marcus Wraight. Subsequently, Ms Watson and her colleagues on the Panel, Professor Birkinshaw (Hull University Law School) and James Amos (Constitution Unit, UCL), reviewed all the documents, both present and historical, relevant to the case.

  Following the Panel's review of the case, I have recently received a request from Ms Watson for Nirex to seek clarification from the DTI on its policy on access to this information on the following grounds:

    —  It is now four years since the Battle statement;

    —  In that time, the Freedom of Information Act has been passed and the government has signalled its intention to be more open when it can.

  I believe Ms Watson and the Panel are suggesting the policy should be reviewed in terms of the provision for public interest disclosure contained within FOIA. I am therefore writing to ask whether the DTI would be prepared to carry out such a review.

Chris Murray

Managing Director

INDEPENDENT TRANSPARENCY REVIEW PANEL

TERMS OF REFERENCE

Background

  If an applicant is dissatisfied with Nirex's response to a request for information and the issue has not been resolved through further contact with Nirex, a formal complaint can be made to the Independent Review Panel. Compliants should be sent to the Chair of the Panel and must contain the original request for information, the response from Nirex, and the reasons for complaint. The Panel will investigate the complaint promptly and in accordance with its written Terms of Reference. Subsequently Nirex, with the consent of the applicant, will publish details of the complaint, the Panel's recommendations and any action in response to the recommendations.

Membership

  The Panel shall be appointed by Nirex and comprise three independent external specialists in freedom of information or/and open government. The current membership is:

    Jennifer Watson (Chair)

    James Amos

    Professor Patrick Birkinshaw

The Address of the Panel is:

    Jennifer Watson

    Independent Transparency Review Panel

    UK Nirex

    Curie Avenue

    Harwell

    Didcot

    OX11 0RH

COMPLAINTS

  1.  The role of the Panel is to investigate written complaints raised by persons or bodies who have applied for information held by Nirex. The complaint might be in relation to a refusal to disclose or (by way of example only) response time, response format, extent of usage rights or reasonableness of charging.

  2.  Nirex will provide the Panel with: 1[11]

    —  all information in the possession of Nirex which is relevant to the complaint,

    —  by arrangement, such access to Nirex premises and to staff as may be appropriate,

    —  by arrangement, such access to third parties as may be appropriate.

      —  The Panel shall conduct its investigations through meetings, correspondence or telephone conservations as appropriate.

      —  Access to the confidential information relevant to a complaint will be provided at Nirex's premises and shall not be posted to members or otherwise removed from Nirex premises.

      —  Nirex will advise the Panel in advance of any information associated with a compliant that is covered by the Official Secrets Act.

      —  At the Panel's request, Nirex will provide the Panel with legal advice in relation to the information concerned with a complaint, particularly any commercial, national or international obligations applying to the information.

      —  The Panel shall be entitled to call for further information from the complainant and, if appropriate, the complainant and/or representatives of Nirex may be invited to attend the proceedings of the Panel in person and make representations.

      —  The Panel shall conclude its Investigations promptly and shall then make written recommendation to the Nirex Managing Director, copied to the complainant.

      —  The proceedings and recommendations of the Panel shall be limited to the subject matter of the complaint and shall comply with the Code of Practice. In particular, the Panel cannot receive or release information in the course of its proceedings or recommend the release of information where this would cause a breach of law or other legal obligation, a breach of Government direction or policy, a breach of personal privacy or third party confidentiality or where information is protected by legal privilege.

      —  The Panel reserves the right to refuse to investigate a complaint by an applicant if in the opinion of the Panel the complaint is the same or similar to a complaint previously submitted by that applicant.

      —  The Panel reserves the right to refuse to investigate a complaint if in the opinion of the Panel the complaint is frivolous or vexatious.

      —  These Terms of Reference are without prejudice to any statutory rights in relation to the provision of information.


11   1 Always subject to paragraph 9 and to the relevant members of the Review Panel having adequate security screening and being bound by appropriate confidentiality obligations. Back


 
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