Letter from Nirex to the Department of
Trade and Industry
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 Aprilletter received from
Marcus Wraight requesting access to the list.
3 Mayresponse 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 MayJennifer 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
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.
INDEPENDENT TRANSPARENCY REVIEW PANEL
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.
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:
Professor Patrick Birkinshaw
The Address of the Panel is:
Independent Transparency Review Panel
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
2. Nirex will provide the Panel with: 1
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
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
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
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