HS2 report to DfT

Paul Thornton made this Freedom of Information request to High Speed Two (HS2) Limited

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

The request was refused by High Speed Two (HS2) Limited.

FOI Department
HS2 Ltd

I refer to the oral evidence session of the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee on Monday 11 Jul 2016 in which the witnesses were Philip Rutnam, Permanent Secretary, Department for Transport, David Prout, Director General, High Speed Rail Group, Department for Transport, and Simon Kirby, Chief Executive, HS2 Ltd. The record of this session is at this link:

http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidenc...

At question 55, in response to a follow up question from Sir Amyas Morse MP, Mr David Prout advises that an MPA report has assessed that one of the key risks “is whether or not we are trying to do it (the HS2 project) too fast.” He continues “We have therefore invited the company to make proposals and to offer us advice on whether or not we should extend the programme by up to 12 months. We have not received that advice yet.”

At question 58, Mr Simon Kirby confirms that to respond to the DfT request above, HS2 Ltd “will be producing a report in the Autumn..”

Under the provisions of the Environmental Information Regulations, I would be grateful if you would provide
1. The information contained in the request submitted to HS2 Ltd described by Mr Prout, along with any accompanying or referenced documentation provided to HS2 Ltd in relation to that request.
2. The information contained in the report anticipated by Mr Kirby or any alternative equivalent response that was eventually provided.
3. The information contained in any subsequent communications between HS2 Ltd and DfT that relates to the information contained in 2. above.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Paul Thornton

HS2Enquiries, High Speed Two (HS2) Limited

1 Attachment

Morning Mr Thornton

 

Thank you for your email to HS2.

 

I have passed your email onto the FIO team as requested.

 

Kind Regards

 

 

Sheila Robinson | Helpdesk | HS2 Ltd

Tel: 020 7944 4908 | [1][email address] | [2]Facebook | [3]Twitter
| [4]LinkedIn

High Speed Two (HS2) Limited, 2 Snowhill, Queensway, Birmingham, B4 6GA |
[5]www.gov.uk/hs2

[6]cid:image001.png@01D185EE.09244E60

 

 

 

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HS2Enquiries, High Speed Two (HS2) Limited

2 Attachments

Dear Dr Thornton,

 

Thank you for your email to HS2 Ltd. We are considering your request under
the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and aim to reply as soon as possible
and no later than 5 May.

 

Your reference number for the request is FOI17-1740.

 

Kind regards,

Jane Ivey

 

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Jane Ivey | Freedom of Information Manager | HS2 Ltd 

Tel: 020 7944 4908 | [1][email address] | [2]Facebook | [3]Twitter
| [4]LinkedIn

High Speed Two (HS2) Limited, One Canada Square, London E14 5AB  |
[5]www.gov.uk/hs2

 

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HS2 Helpdesk,

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Dear sir/madam,

I understand you recently contacted our
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All you need to do is click on the link
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HS2 Ltd
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High Speed Two (HS2) Limited, 2 Snowhill,
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[7]www.hs2.org.uk
 
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HS2Enquiries, High Speed Two (HS2) Limited

4 Attachments

Dear Dr Thornton,

 

Thank you for your email. We have treated your request under the Freedom
of Information Act 2000 and I attach our response.

 

Kind regards,

Jane Ivey

 

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Jane Ivey | Freedom of Information Manager | HS2 Ltd 

Tel: 020 7944 4908 | [1][email address] | [2]Facebook | [3]Twitter
| [4]LinkedIn

High Speed Two (HS2) Limited, One Canada Square, London E14 5AB  |
[5]www.gov.uk/hs2

 

 

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Ms Jane Ivey
Freedom of Information Manager
HS2 Ltd

Dear Ms Ivey,

Thank you for your email of the 5th May 2017 and the attached initial response to my request for information, your ref FOI17-1740.

I am writing to request review of the disappointing decision to withhold the information.

Firstly, from the evidence lying within the referenced Hansard record, it is unequivocal that the information requested here falls squarely within the terms of the Environmental Information Regulations, fitting the criteria at both regulation EIR 2(1)(c) and (e). The Information requested is information on measures such as policies, plans or programmes that will clearly and directly impact on the environmental elements and factors in both subsections (a) and (b). In addition, it is further clear from the evidence submitted to parliament that the requested information is on other economic analyses used within the framework of the measures and activities referred to in (c); Examination of the requested information may demonstrate the further direct engagement of other definitions under EIR section 2.

Should you have any persisting doubt in that regard, you should take account of the confirmation in the Arrhuss Convention Implementation Guide that the definition of environmental information should be interpreted broadly.

As I am sure you appreciate, under the provisions of the EIRs, there are no exemptions that might be engaged in respect of this information request.

Secondly, even if FOIA was the appropriate legislative framework for consideration of this request, the form of words you have adopted demonstrates confusion. Your annexe A, which claims to be the documentation of the public interest balancing exercise, largely comprises the arguments that more appropriately would clarify which exemptions you wish to claim and why. In the Appendix you claim the engagement of FOI36(2)(c) in respect of safe space arguments, but to the extent they might be engaged, safe space arguments, fall under FOIA36(2)(b). You have not clarified separately the distinct nature of the information or the distinct nature of the prejudice that would occur if FOIA36(2)(c) could be engaged such that the prejudice would be “otherwise” to that arising from the engagement of the claimed section FOIA36(2)(b)(ii). In addition, even though this requested material is described as “advice to the Secretary of State”, you have not claimed the engagement of FOIA36(2)(b)(i). See ICO guidance here;
https://ico.org.uk/media/for-organisatio...

Against that background, it becomes clear that, in reality, no section of FOIA36 can properly be engaged in respect of this request because the prejudice test is not fulfilled. There is no evidence to support the certainty of your claims that publication of the information in this case “would” cause the claimed prejudice. Even the lower standard of a need to show that publication of this particular information "would be likely" to cause the prejudice claimed is unfulfilled. At best you provide a non-specific hypothetical prejudice and it is wholly dubious that in this case it is real or actual. The extent that HS2 Ltd might not exchange free and frank views or might engage in “self-censoring” is more likely to be affected by the internal corporate environment within HS2 Ltd. It is more plausible that the publication of this material would have protective effect for those individuals who produce and exchange independent professional analysis and assessments that are contrary to the aspirations of their senior managers. Staff of HS2 Ltd already know, or should know, that their (anonimised) contributions might be published under FOI/EIR. To the extent that any resulting chilling effect might exist, it must already exist and it will not be significantly altered by publication in respect of this particular request.

It is further the case that to the extent that employees of public authorities require a safe space in which to deliberate and make decisions, that facility is provided for during the period of preparation. In the circumstances of this request, the material requested here is sufficiently aged. The need for that safe space is sufficiently past.

Thirdly, whichever legislative framework is engaged the assessment of balance of public interests in the response to the request is wholly inadequate. The arguments recognised in favour of publication have been wholly devalued. The claimed public interest arguments in favour of withholding the information have been over valued and are mainly repeated, additional or blurred justifications for claiming that the exemption is engaged.

There is no specific public interest justification for the exemption to be applied in this particular case.

Indeed, the entire justification is in respect of prejudice of future reports and is based on the notion that “HS2 Ltd” would self-censor if “they” felt that the reports, assessments and any emails relating to the reports would be routinely released soon after completion. This is either a claim that public interest arguments can never override the engagement of the exemption or that staff of HS2 Ltd currently believe that the provisions of FOIA/EIR do not apply.

The claim that HS2 Ltd “endeavours to make information regarding the progress of the project proactively available via our website” is widely at variance with the experience of people living along the proposed line, confirmed by the parliamentary ombudsman. In any event this claimed aspiration is no more than a fulfilment of an obligation under EIR section 4. The notion that this somehow erodes the public interest in the publication of requested information is ludicrous.

Similarly, the scale of the HS2 project (geographically, environmentally and financially) and its potential impacts upon the general public are exactly reasons why information should be published on request, so as to additionally enable public and political scrutiny. To suggest that the information that has been published to date, and the parliamentary scrutiny to date, are both sufficient such that further requested information need not be published is wholly contrary to the purpose of both the EIRs and the FOIA. That the suggestion has been made does reflect that the attitude within HS2 Ltd that was identified by the parliamentary ombudsman persists.

Further, in adjudicating the public interest, (including consideration of parliamentary scrutiny) HS2 Ltd should take clear account of the expectations of the Chair of the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee, Meg Hillier MP, as shown in the oral evidence session referenced with my information request. I have reproduced the section below. There is a clear expectation that the report produced by HS2 should have been published by the time of my request.

In conclusion I observe that the both the EIR and FOIA require the provision of responses promptly and the 20 day provisions are maximums. I note that this response was delayed to the maximum with no evidence of sufficient content or scrutiny to justify that delay. I see nothing here to justify a similar further delay in the provision of the information. The information should have been published before the election. It still should be.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Paul Thornton

Q60 Chair: Will that be a public report to the Department?

Philip Rutnam: It will be advice to the Department; obviously it will ultimately be a matter for Ministers to take decisions on what the timetable is—

Q61 Chair: But once they have made the decision, will the High Speed 2 Ltd report be available publicly? I can see that it will be advisory while the decision is being made, but after the event will those figures and that information be made available to the public, so we can see the assumptions it is built on?

Philip Rutnam: We will need to see what the report is first—

David Prout: We have asked the company for an interim report in the autumn, followed by what we call baseline 7—a further baselining of cost and schedule that will be available next Easter—before we award the main work civils contracts. That is the right way to do it in terms of the programme, because those are the key milestones that we face going forward.

Q62 Chair: So by next spring, people will have a very clear idea. Phase 1 will be affected if there is a change.

HS2Enquiries, High Speed Two (HS2) Limited

2 Attachments

 

Dear Mr Thornton

 

Thank you for your email which has been forwarded to Freedom of
Information.

 

Kind regards

 

Simone Wright | Helpdesk | HS2 Ltd

Tel: 020 7944 4908 | [1][email address] | [2]Facebook | [3]Twitter
| [4]LinkedIn

High Speed Two (HS2) Limited, 2 Snowhill, Queensway, Birmingham, B4 6GA |
[5]www.gov.uk/hs2

 

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HS2Enquiries, High Speed Two (HS2) Limited

Dear Mr Thornton,

Thank you for your email to HS2 Ltd received today.

I confirm that we will conduct an internal review of the response as required under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.
We aim to respond as soon as possible and within 20 working days (no later than 6 June).

Please note our reference number for this review FOI17-1740R.

Kind regards,

M Choudhari

M Choudhari | Freedom of Information Advisor | HS2 Ltd 
Tel: 020 7944 4908 | [email address] | Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn
High Speed Two (HS2) Ltd, One Canada Square, 19th Floor,  London E14 5AB| www.gov.uk/hs2

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HS2Enquiries, High Speed Two (HS2) Limited

3 Attachments

Dear Dr Thornton,

Thank you for your email dated 7 May.

As requested, we have completed an internal review on the above FOI17-1740R. Please find attached our response.

Please note that our reference for this request is FOI17-1740R.

Kind regards,

M Choudhari

M Choudhari | Freedom of Information Advisor | HS2 Ltd 
Tel: 020 7944 4908 | [email address] | Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn
High Speed Two (HS2) Ltd, One Canada Square, 19th Floor,  London E14 5AB| www.gov.uk/hs2

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