Transparency and the Cabinet Office – a genuine goal or political positioning?

A self-explanatory copy of a letter I sent yesterday. I'll tell you shortly - one way or another - what the FOI question was about.

Christopher Graham

The Information Commissioner’s Office

Wycliffe House, Water Lane

Wilmslow, Cheshire


19th August 2013

cc: The Right Hon Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office

Dear  Mr Graham

On  June 7th 2013 I asked the Cabinet Office a very simple question, under the Freedom of Information process. It was a question that must have a factual answer that could have been provided within minutes, so there is no issue around complexity or cost of obtaining the answer.  My FOI question was acknowledged on that same day, June 7th  - the only part of this process that has been impressive.

Organisations are required to respond within 20 days. After receiving no response, on July 12th I asked what had happened to my request. I received no response to that email either.

On July 22nd I complained to the Head of Information at the Cabinet Office, Roger Smethurst. My complaint was acknowledged on July 31st, with no information provided in terms of when I would receive any response to either the original question or my complaint.

On August 12th I emailed to say that I would be contacting the Information Commissioner if I heard nothing by the end of the week. I have heard nothing.

I have never experienced from any public sector organisation this total disregard for the FOI process and disrespect for someone making an enquiry. The Cabinet Office are supposed to lead on transparency and I have always believed that Francis Maude did genuinely believe in that principle. This experience has shaken that view.

I would be grateful if you could look into this case and try to expedite an answer to the original question.

Yours sincerely,

Peter Smith

Managing Director, Spend Matters UK/Europe


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Voices (3)

  1. Bill Atthetill:

    The anticipation is killing me!

    I can only imagine it was about ‘commercial’ (aka ‘procurement’), so herewith some suggestions of what you asked Cabinet Office that simply required a yes or no answer…given they have refused to answer you…

    – Is Bill Crothers really from Northern Ireland, or does he adopt that accent to appear more aggressive than he really is? (Is he a big softy at heart?)

    – When Bill promotes ‘throat to choke’ in his new Crown Commercial Service operating model, does he mean ‘end-to-end’ – or is he simply referring to the throat of any Commercial Director who doesn’t agree with what he says?

    – If the DWP or MOJ etc saves £1m during negotiations with one of its key suppliers, but that supplier is also a key supplier to government aligned to a Crown Rep, does Cabinet Office also claim £1m?

    – Does Francis Maude go ‘commando’ when attending negotiations with key suppliers to government?

    1. Dan:

      Thanks Bill. That last one was especially appreciated at lunchtime…

  2. Feetontheground:

    Hope for your sake you aren’t planning on travelling through any airports in the new few weeks……….

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