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Section highlightAccess to information
The Welsh Government has followed the principles of openness in government for many years. Find out how you can make a freedom of information request or see requests that have already been made.
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Removes a number of technical restrictions and controls on colleges without changing the principal powers of colleges to provide further, higher and secondary education.
Legislative programme 2012 - 2013 »
Addressing the Assembly in the Senedd today, the First Minister, Carwyn Jones, detailed the eight bills in the Welsh Government’s 5-year Legislative Programme that will be brought forward during the second year of the Welsh Assembly.Learn more »
Section highlightCommunity Infrastructure Levy
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2nd Supplementary Budget 2012-13 »
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Tra27 Electrification of the South Wales Mainline
18 February 2011
I wrote to you on 20 January following your request for information.
In your request you asked for:
• all Welsh Assembly Government documentation relating to, and comprising, the business case for electrification of the South Wales Mainline.
I have decided that the information that you have requested is exempt from disclosure. The information that we are exempting relates to the Welsh Assembly Government’s strong case to the UK Government that electrification of the Great Western Main Line to Swansea is essential to the economy and environment of Wales.
You may be aware that, as this is a non devolved issue, the business case is being prepared by the Department for Transport. We are working with the DfT on this and are pressing hard for the line to be electrified as far as Swansea in one phase.
We have decided that it is appropriate to exempt from disclosure copies of letters between Ministers and emails between officials and the Department for Transport about the business case for electrification of the Great Western Main Line.
These documents are being withheld under regulation 35(1)(a) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 because they relate to the formulation and development of policy.
The exception is subject to the public interest test under the Freedom of Information Act and substantial harm test under our Code of Practice on Access to Information. In applying the substantial harm test, we consider that advice from Civil Servants to Ministers could be restricted or diluted if, routinely, emails between Civil Servants and between Civil Servants and Ministers were disclosed and that this would harm the political process in that the ability of Ministers to defend important issues may be weakened. In addition, disclosure of Ministerial letters would mean that Ministers would not be able to engage in a free and open dialogue and on a ‘level playing field.
The arguments for withholding this information in this instance are that disclosing this information would be likely to lead to less candid and robust discussions about policy, that it would discourage officials and Ministers from exploring all possible options, and would be likely to lead to poorer recordkeeping. All of these would ultimately undermine the quality of government policy making and we believe this to be very much the case in this instance where the issue under consideration is of great importance and is at an important stage in the decision making process.
We believe this harm would be substantial enough to satisfy the test and so enable us to go on to consider the public interest arguments.
We consider that the public interest arguments in favour of disclosure are that:
• there is a public interest in understanding the process by which we are discussing the formulation of policy and determining the business case with the UK Government;
• grater transparency and openness can improve accountability and public trust;
• a greater understanding enables the public to decide for itself whether appropriate factors and options have been considered during the formulation of policy; and,
• a more informed debate gives a wider number of people the opportunity to contribute to that debate and enhances trust in the quality of the decision making.
However, we also believe there are the following public interest arguments for not releasing the briefing:
• in developing policy, Ministers and officials need to be able to have candid discussions about the various options and their implications. We believe that providing details of the options which are currently being considered and the arguments which are made would risk our ability to work in an open and collaborative way at present or in the future; and,
• releasing this information may result in relevant parties in the future being inhibited from asking the necessary questions to ensure that options and proposals are appropriate and cost effective. Alternatively, the release of this information may inhibit officials from adequately recording the details of discussions in the future.
Other considerations which may weigh against a decision to disclose information include:
• collective responsibility requires that Ministers should be able to express their views frankly in the expectation that they can argue freely in private while maintaining a united front when decisions have been made; and,
• this in turn requires that the privacy of opinions expressed in correspondence should be maintained. If Ministers feel inhibited from being frank and candid with one another because of the risk of subsequent disclosure, the quality of debate lying behind the collective decision will be diminished.
For these reasons, we have concluded in this case that the harm that would result from disclosure of the exempt information outweighs the public interest arguments in favour of disclosure.
Therefore, I believe the arguments outlined above outweigh those in favour of release (and also the presumption to disclose contained within the Regulations) and justify this information being withheld under regulation 35(1)(a) of the Act in this case.
Any information released under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 or Environmental Information Regulations 2004 will be listed in the Assembly Government’s Disclosure Log (at www.information.wales.gov.uk).
If you believe that I have not followed the relevant laws, or you are unhappy with this response, you may request an internal review by writing to:
Tim James, Deputy Director, Integrated Transport Division, Welsh Assembly Government, Cathays Park, Cardiff. CF10 3NQ
When dealing with any concerns, we will follow the principles set out in the Assembly Government’s Code of Practice on Complaints which is available on the Internet at www.wales.gov.uk or by post.
You also have the right to complain to the Information Commissioner. Normally, however, you should pursue the matter through our internal procedure before you complain to the Information Commissioner. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at:
Information Commissioner’s Office
Tel: 01625 545 745
Fax: 01625 524 510
Also, if you think that there has been maladministration in dealing with your request then you may make a complaint to the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales who can be contacted at:
Public Services Ombudsman for Wales
Ffordd yr Hen Gae