Dear Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy,

On Monday February 4th 2019, INEOS Group and its subsidiary INEOS Shale issued a press statement that criticised the Government’s position on Shale Gas seismicity risks and argued that a relaxation of the ‘Traffic Light System’ limit was necessary if the Shale Gas Industry was to have a future in the UK.

Please give responses to the following questions:-

1. Were BEIS, or the Shale Gas Commissioner, or the responsible Government Ministers given prior notice by INEOS (or any third party on their behalf) that this statement was to be issued? Please give details and copies of any relevant correspondence, details and minutes of relevant meetings that took place between the parties, and any records of any other related discussions that were held in advance of the press release.
2. What approaches had INEOS (or any third party on their behalf) previously made to BEIS, the Shale Gas Commissioner, or the responsible Government Ministers to lobby for changes to the Traffic Light System? Please give relevant details of all such occasions.
3. Have any of the recognised Regulatory Agencies passed details to BEIS of approaches received from INEOS (or any third party on their behalf) in order to argue for changes to the Traffic Light System? Please supply details and copies of any such communications.
4. In the last three months, what statements or other communications has BEIS given to INEOS (or any third party on their behalf), either before or after the press statement on February 4th, relating either to the Traffic light System or more generally to the future development of the Shale Gas Industry in the UK?

Yours faithfully,

Richard Bales

BEIScorrespondence@beis.gov.uk on behalf of FOI Requests, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

BEIS ref: FOI2019/02110

Dear Mr Bales

Thank you for your request for information which was received on 6th
February. Your request has been passed on to the appropriate official at
the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to deal
with.

Your request is being considered under the terms of the Freedom of
Information Act 2000 and we will reply at the latest by 6th March.

If you have any queries about this email, please contact the Information
Rights Unit at BEIS. Please remember to quote the reference number above
in any future communications.

Kind regards,

Information Rights Unit

Information Rights Unit | Department for Business, Energy and Industrial
Strategy | 1 Victoria Street, London, SW1H 0ET | www.gov.uk/beis |
[email address] |

FOI Requests, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Bales,

Please find attached our response to your information request, our reference FOI2019/02110.

If you have any queries about this email, please contact the Information Rights & Records Unit at BEIS.

Please remember to quote the reference number above in any future communications.

Yours sincerely,

Information Rights & Records Unit
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
1 Victoria Street
London
SW1H 0ET
www.gov.uk/beis

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FOI Requests, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

3 Attachments

Dear Mr Bales,

Please find attached our response to your information request, our reference FOI2019/02110.

If you have any queries about this email, please contact the Information Rights & Records Unit at BEIS.

Please remember to quote the reference number above in any future communications.

Yours sincerely,

Information Rights & Records Unit
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
1 Victoria Street
London
SW1H 0ET
www.gov.uk/beis

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Dear Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy's handling of my FOI request 'INEOS Press Statement'.

As part of your response, you comment as follows:-
“Additionally, the Commissioner for Shale Gas is separate from BEIS and may hold relevant information. The Commissioner is not currently subject to the Freedom of Information Act, although this is under review with the Cabinet Office. However, we believe any environmental information she may hold would fall within scope of the EIRs. If you wish to make a request for information direct to the Commissioner’s office, she can be contacted at the following: Natascha Engel Commissioner for Shale Gas Email: [email address]”

BEIS previously responded to another FOI request (your ref FOI2018 24041) in which I sought to understand the recruitment process for the Shale Gas Commissioner. Your response included the following statements:-
a. “The Commissioner was appointed by the Minister of State for Energy & Clean Growth following a rigorous selection process run in accordance with governance code on public appointments”
b. “Remuneration levels were subject to BEIS Senior Civil Servant Recruitment Panel scrutiny and approval.”
c. “The Commissioner is an independent Ministerial appointment and is not required to have day to day supervision. The Commissioner’s performance will be assessed half yearly by the Senior Sponsor (BEIS SCS) on behalf of the Minister of State in accordance with their duties”
d. “The Commissioner can be reached for correspondence via Dept for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy at 1 Victoria Street, London, SW1H 0ET or via [email address]”

On your recommendation, I have contacted the Natascha Engel and made requests under the Environmental Information Regulations 2004, receipt of which she has acknowledged. I note that her response came quoting the following shorthand email address: Engel, Natascha (BEIS).

On the basis of the above, I must dispute your claim that “the Commissioner for Shale Gas is separate from BEIS”. The appointment was constructed, overseen and determined by BEIS and the Commissioner continues to be closely linked to the department in her day to day role. I accept that this matter is under examination, but must reserve my right to a full response under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act.
In the absence of any certainty that the Cabinet Office Review may reach any decision in the near future, please take this letter as a request for an Internal Review.

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/i...

Yours faithfully,

Richard Bales

BEIScorrespondence@beis.gov.uk on behalf of FOI Requests, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

BEIS IR ref: IR2019/07146 Original FOI ref: FOI2019/02110

Dear Mr Bales

Thank you for your request for an internal review which was received on
11th April. Your request has been passed on to the appropriate official at
the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to deal
with.

In line with the Information Commissioners guidance, internal reviews
should be responded to within 20 working days unless they are complex, in
which case a response should be sent within 40 working days. Please be
aware that this does not include weekends and bank holidays. The
Department aims to respond to requests for internal reviews as quickly as
possible. We hope to be in contact with you again shortly with a decision
on your request.

If you have any queries about this email, please contact the Information
Rights Unit at BEIS. Please remember to quote the reference number above
in any future communications.

Kind regards,
Information Rights Unit

Information Rights Unit | Department for Business, Energy and Industrial
Strategy | 1 Victoria Street, London, SW1H 0ET | www.gov.uk/beis |
[email address] |

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) is
making a difference by supporting sustained growth and higher skills
across the economy. BEIS: working together for growth

FOI Requests, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Bales,

Please see the attached reply to your request, our ref: IR2019/07146.

If you have any queries about this email, please contact the Information Rights & Records Unit at BEIS.

Please remember to quote the reference number above in any future communications.

Yours sincerely,

Information Rights & Records Unit
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
1 Victoria Street
London
SW1H 0ET
www.gov.uk/beis

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Richard Bales left an annotation ()

Emailed response to the Internal Review decision:-

FAO: Emily Bourne (Director of the Energy Development and Resilience Directorate)

Dear Ms Bourne,

I am in receipt of your response to my request for an Internal Review of my FOI request (your ref IR2019/07146, original ref FOI2019/02110). I note that you have upheld the original contention that the Commissioner for Shale Gas was not an employee of BEIS and that the department therefore has no responsibility under FOI /Environmental legislation for information that she may have held. You indicated that I have the right to apply to the Information Commissioner if I am not content with that decision.

I had previously been advised to refer directly to the Commissioner for Shale Gas, which I did as evidenced by the attached correspondence. Ms Engel acknowledged receipt and said she would reply ‘in due course’. Ms Engel is of course no longer in post and I am faced with the likelihood that I will have to request an another Internal Review to access whatever information she held.

Confusingly, on another matter I have now been advised by the BEIS Information Rights Unit (reference FOI2019/01852) as follows:

“As you may be aware the Commissioner for Shale Gas resigned on 27 April
2019. As the sponsor department for the role, all recorded information
formerly held by the Commissioner has now been passed to the Department
for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. “

It would appear that I now have to approach BEIS again to access the information, possession of which your Internal Review decision declined to acknowledge. Your decision letter was dated May 2nd, shortly after Ms Engel’s resignation on April 27th, so you may have been using out of date advice but nevertheless there appears to be some contradiction here.

I am very willing to pursue the Information Commissioner route, but in these strange circumstances can I invite you to reconsider the position and confirm or otherwise? A prompt response would be very welcome.

Yours sincerely
Richard Bales

Richard Bales left an annotation ()

Reply received from BEIS:-

Dear Mr Bales

Thank you for your email of 9 May regarding your Freedom of Information requests both to BEIS and to the Commissioner for Shale Gas. It may assist you if I explain the situation.

At the time of your original request to BEIS on the 6 February 2019 the Commissioner for Shale Gas had been appointed. Her role was separate from BEIS and she was not an employee of the department. Your request was therefore answered on the basis of information held only by BEIS. As parts 1 and 2 of your request also mentioned the Commissioner for Shale Gas, we advised that you may also like to contact the Commissioner about any relevant information she may hold. This was correct at the time your request was answered and this response was therefore upheld at the Internal Review of that response. Your right under the EIRs to complain to the Information Commissioner’s Office should you not be content was explained in the response to the original request and in the response to the Internal Review.

I note that you made a request for information to the Commissioner for Shale Gas on 4 April 2019 and I understand you did not receive a response. As you will be aware Ms Engel resigned on 27th April. BEIS is the sponsor Department for the Commissioner’s post so all records previously held by Ms Engel have now been passed to BEIS for safe keeping. In these circumstances, if you would like BEIS to provide a response to the request you made to the Commissioner based on any information we now have in our possession from her office please let us know.

Yours sincerely,

Information Rights & Records Unit

Richard Bales left an annotation ()

Replied to BEIS email of 14th May,

Dear Information Rights and Records Unit,

Thankyou for your reply of today’s date, confirming my understanding of the situation resulting from the resignation of the Commissioner for Shale Gas. You ask whether I would like BEIS to provide a response to the request I made to the Commissioner based on any information you now have in your possession from her office. I can confirm that is the case, and would further request that you indicate whether you are satisfied that you now hold all such information from all relevant sources.

For the avoidance of doubt, the following questions were put to Ms Engel and remain unanswered:-

1. Were you, as Shale Gas Commissioner, given prior notice by INEOS (or any third party on their behalf) that this statement was to be issued? Please give details and copies of any relevant correspondence, details and minutes of relevant meetings that you held with INEOS (or any third party acting on their behalf), and any records of any other related discussions that were held in advance of the press release.
2. What approaches had INEOS (or any third party on their behalf) previously made to yourself to lobby for changes to the Traffic Light System or to discuss or encourage your support for their position on this matter? Please give relevant details of all such occasions.
3. Have any of the recognised Regulatory Agencies passed details to yourself of approaches received from INEOS (or any third party on their behalf) in order to argue for changes to the Traffic Light System? Please supply details and copies of any such communications.
4. In the period from December 1st 2018 to date, what other statements or communications have you given to INEOS (or any third party on their behalf), either before or after the press statement on February 4th, relating either to the Traffic light System or more generally to the facilitation of the development of the Shale Gas Industry in the UK?
Thankyou for your assistance.

Yours sincerely
Richard Bales

Richard Bales left an annotation ()

Response from BEIS, so it begins all over again:-

BEIS ref: FOI2019/09618
Dear Mr Bales
Thank you for your request for information which was received on 15th May. Your request has been passed on to the appropriate official at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to deal with.
Your request is being considered under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and we will reply at the latest by 13th June.
If you have any queries about this email, please contact the Information Rights Unit at BEIS. Please remember to quote the reference number above in any future communications.
Kind regards,
Information Rights Unit

Dear FOI Requests,

Once again, you have failed to meet the deadline for a response to my request and have given no notification of the delay or the reason. Please respond by return.

Yours sincerely,

Richard Bales

Dear FOI Requests,
It is disappointing to note that you have neither given full response to my FOI request, nor acknowledged my prompt of June 14th. Given that you have already confirmed that relevant information is held by BEIS, and that I was effectively invited to make a further request to gain access, there should be little excuse for delay. In any event, you have legal obligations to reply. Please do so without further prevarication.

Yours sincerely,

Richard Bales

Richard Bales left an annotation ()

Complaint reported to Information Commissioner, 19th June.

Richard Bales left an annotation ()

Final reply received from BEIS on 24th June:-

I am writing to advise you that, following a search of our records, the information you requested is not held by this Department.