This is an HTML version of an attachment to the Freedom of Information request 'Aviation Environment Programme Board'.

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Department for Transport 
Great Minster House 
76 Marsham Street 
London 
  
SW1P 4DR 
Tim Henderson 
 
Email: xxx@xxx.xxx.xxx.xx 
 
Web Site: www.dft.gsi.gov.uk 
[By Email] 
 
 
 
 
20 October 2010 
 
 
 
 
Environmental Information Regulation (EIR) Request: Reference Number P0006915 
 
Dear Mr Henderson 
 
Thank you for your request of 26 September 2010 for minutes of meetings of the Aviation 
Environmental Programme Board (AEPB) since 17th March 2010. I confirm that we have 
handled your request under the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 ("the EIRs"). 
 
The AEPB has met three times from 17th March 2010 to 26th September 2010. These 
meetings were held on: 
  07 June 2010 (AEPB 12) ; 
  13 July 2010 (AEPB 13); and 
  15 September 2010 (AEPB 14).  
 
I attach along with this letter redacted versions of minutes of AEPB 12 and 13 but I am 
withholding minutes of AEPB 14. As you may be aware, EIRs introduce a duty for public 
authorities to disclose environmental information, subject to certain limited exceptions. 
Even where these exceptions apply, information can only be withheld where the public 
interest in maintaining the exception outweighs the public interest in disclosing the 
information. Government guidance on the regulations and these exceptions can be found 
on the Defra website1
 
I am withholding minutes of AEPB 14 as the content of the minutes has yet to be agreed 
by the board’s members. I am withholding this information under Regulation 12 (4) (d) of 
the EIR which states that information can be withheld if “the request relates to material 
which is still in the course of completion, to unfinished documents or to incomplete data”. 
In applying this exception, I have had to balance the public interest in withholding the 
information against the public interest in disclosure. The factors that I considered in 
weighing up where public interest lay were: 
 
 For disclosure – To release the draft minutes of AEPB 14 could help promote 
accountability and transparency in Government decision making; to facilitate a better 
understanding of the decisions made by public authorities; and to further the 
understanding of, and participation in, the public debate of issue of the day. 
 
                                            
1http://www.defra.gov.uk/corporate/policy/opengov/eir/guidance/full-guidance/index.htm 
 
 
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  Against disclosure – To release the draft minutes of the AEPB before they have been 
formally agreed and signed off by the board’s members could compromise the 
Department’s working relationships with various stakeholders, and the Department’s 
ability to conduct its business effectively.   
 
 
The minutes of AEPB 14 is likely to be agreed (or possibly amended) at the next Board 
meeting.  Once the minutes have been agreed and signed off by the board’s members, I 
will publish a copy, subject to any redactions that may need to be made in line with 
relevant EIR exceptions, on the DfT website. We consider that the intended publication of 
the minutes in the near future will to a large extent address the public interest 
considerations in favour of disclosure highlighted above. 
 
Having reviewed the contents of the AEPB 12 and 13 minutes, sections of text have been 
identified where the following exceptions apply: 
 
  Regulation 12 (4) (e), the request involves disclosure of internal 
communications. 
 
Regulation 12 (5) (a), where disclosure would adversely affect international 
relations. 
 
Regulation 12 (5) (b), where disclosure would adversely affect the course of 
justice and/or the ability of a person to receive a fair trial. 
 
Regulation 13, where information requested includes personal data. 
 
As mentioned above, the EIRs require a public authority to apply a presumption in favour 
of disclosure. Where exceptions apply, the public authority is expected to weigh up the 
benefits to the public of releasing the information against any harm or adverse effect that 
is likely to occur as a result of disclosure. A public interest test has therefore been applied 
to each section of text withheld. All relevant information is being released, except sections 
of text where the likely harm or adverse effect outweighs the benefits to the public of 
disclosure. Where text has been withheld, it is labelled with the exception applied. Further 
explanation of the reasons for applying these exceptions is provided below. 
 
Regulations 12 (4) (e)  – Internal communications 
 
The majority of text withheld is internal communication, recording discussions between 
officials on emerging thinking and advice to Ministers on policy formulation. 
 
The public interest issues weighed up are: 
 
 
For disclosure – Releasing information could help promote accountability and 
transparency in Government decision making. It would show the various 
options being discussed and how Government makes decisions. Releasing 
the information could help facilitate better understanding of, and participation 
in, the public debate about aviation environmental issues.   
 
 
Against disclosure – There needs to be a free space in which officials, can 
“think the unthinkable” and use imagination without the fear that potential 
policy options will be held up to public criticism without having ever been 
 
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sufficiently developed to justify informed debate.  Such fear could close off 
discussion and the development of better options. As internal 
communications, the purpose of the documents was to capture discussions 
and initial thinking as part of works in progress. They were not intended to 
provide a complete account of initial thinking, issues raised, views and advice 
provided by public officials or external stakeholders.  Disclosure would 
therefore misinform and confuse the public, as it would not reflect a fair and 
accurate summary of the issues. 
 
Regulation 12 (5) (a) – International relations 
 
Sections of text are withheld under this exception. Examples concern discussion around 
the UK position for the 2010 International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Assembly. In 
addition to the public interest issues regarding disclosure of internal communications, 
further public interest issues weighed up are therefore: 
 
 
Against disclosure – As the information consists of internal discussion about 
the potential UK negotiating position, disclosure would confuse the public and 
relevant stakeholders over what is the UK’s position. It would adversely affect 
the UK’s ability to communicate its position once an agreed position is 
reached, and influence those negotiations. 
 
 
Against disclosure – As the information consists of speculation about the 
position of other national governments and international organisations, 
disclosure at this stage would confuse the public and relevant stakeholders 
over what is the position of other national governments and international 
organisations. It would adversely affect the UK’s ability to influence 
negotiations within ICAO. Additionally, relations with those governments and 
organisations would be adversely affected or prejudiced by the disclosure of 
the information.  
 
Regulation 12 (5) (b) – Legal advice 
 
Sections of text are withheld because it records internal legal advice, or internal 
discussions about such advice. In addition to the public interest issues regarding 
disclosure of internal communication, a further public interest issue weighed up is 
therefore: 
 
 
Against disclosure – Disclosure of internal legal advice would undermine the 
ability of DfT legal advisers to provide fair and impartial legal advice, and 
could harm the ability of DfT to uphold its duties in legal proceedings. If legal 
advice obtained were to be routinely disclosed, public authorities would 
potentially be in a weakened position compared to other persons not bound 
by the EIR. 
 
 
Regulation 13 – Personal data 
 
Throughout all the documents, names of individual public officials below Senior Civil 
Servant grade have been withheld, where names are regarded as ‘personal data’, in 
 
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accordance with Regulation 13 of the EIR. Regulation 13 is not subject to a public interest 
test.  
 
 
If you are unhappy with the way the Department has handled your request or with the 
decisions made in relation to your request you may complain within 40 working days of 
the date of this letter by writing to the Department’s Information Rights Unit at: 
 
Zone D/04 
Ashdown House 
Sedlescombe Road North 
Hastings 
East Sussex TN37 7GA 
E-mail: xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx@xxx.xxx.xxx.xx     
 
Please see attached details of DfT’s complaints procedure and your right to complain to 
the Information Commissioner.  
 
If you have any queries about this letter, please contact me. Please remember to quote 
the reference number above in any future communications. 
 
 
 
 
 
Aviation Environment Division 
 

 
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Your right to complain to DfT and the Information Commissioner 
 

You have the right to complain within 40 working days of the date of this letter about the 
way in which your request for information was handled and/or about the decision not to 
disclose all or part of the information requested. In addition a complaint can be made that 
DfT has not complied with its publication scheme. 
 
Your complaint will be acknowledged and you will be advised of a target date by which to 
expect a response. Initially your complaint will be re-considered by the official who dealt 
with your request for information. If, after careful consideration, that official decides that 
his/her decision was correct, your complaint will automatically be referred to a senior 
independent official who will conduct a further review. You will be advised of the outcome 
of your complaint and if a decision is taken to disclose information originally withheld this 
will be done as soon as possible.  
 
If you are not content with the outcome of the internal review, you have the right to apply 
directly to the Information Commissioner for a decision. The Information Commissioner 
can be contacted at: 
  
 Information Commissioner’s Office  
 Wycliffe House  
 Water Lane 
 Wilmslow 
 Cheshire 
 SK9 5AF 
 
 
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