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Treasury to appeal against Information Commissioner’s human rights ruling

The Treasury is to appeal against the Information Commissioner’s ruling that it must disclose whether it holds attorney and solicitor general advice about the compatibility of the Financial Services and Markets Act with the Human Rights Act.

Last month, Money Marketing revealed that after a two year battle the IC had ruled the Treasury was wrong to reject a freedom of information request asking whether law officers’ advice had been sought by the Government on the issue as the Bill passed through Parliament.

But the Treasury has now appealed to the Information Tribunal who will decide whether to uphold the IC’s decision and force the Treasury to disclose the information.

The Information Commissioner’s May decision notice also attacked the length of time the Treasury took to conduct an internal review on the matter. The review took five months yet the IC suggests a reasonable time would be 20 days, with 40 days in exceptional circumstances.

Information commissioner Richard Thomas rejected the Treasury’s argument that the disclosure would undermine the constitutional position of law officers.

In the IC decision notice, he said due to the amount of concern expressed about this issue when the FSMA was going through Parliament, the disclosure that advice from law officers had been sought would provide reassurance to the public that fully informed decisions were being made.

Likewise, he said, if the information was not sought, it would raise legitimate and important issues about the basis for the Government making this decision.

In its decision notice the IC rejected requests for internal advice from Government lawyers to be disclosed on the matter, citing legal professional privilege.

The original FOI request was made in April 2005 by IFA Defence Union chairman Evan Owen.

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