Multi-agency meeting on residential houseboats

Response to this request is long overdue. By law, under all circumstances, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs should have responded by now (details). You can complain by requesting an internal review.

Dear Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs,

Please treat this request for information as a request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000. I refer to your response to my information request Ref FOI2018/12182. Please provide the following information:

1. The document with the file name "170510_background-brief.docx" that was attached to the email from DEFRA dated 7th November 2017 inviting potential participants to indicate preferred dates for an initial meeting.

2. The letter from Secretary of State Michael Gove in response to letters from MPs raising concerns around illegally [sic] moored houseboats that was referred to in the DEFRA email of 7th November 2017 above.

Thank you. I look forward to your reply within 20 working days.

Yours faithfully,

P Smith

Helpline, Defra (MCU), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Thank you for your email. We have a target of replying to emails within 15
working days where a response is required, and 20 working days where a
case is handled under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 or the
Environmental Information Regulations 2004. If you need a reply before
then, please call the Defra Helpline on 03459 33 55 77, or visit
[1]https://www.gov.uk/government/organisati....
We often receive thousands of identical emails each month from organised
campaigns. Ministers and officials are made aware of these campaigns, but
unfortunately we cannot reply to each email when such large volumes are
received.
Best wishes,
Ministerial Contact Unit
 
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) This email and
any attachments is intended for the named recipient only. If you have
received it in error you have no authority to use, disclose, store or copy
any of its contents and you should destroy it and inform the sender.
Whilst this email and associated attachments will have been checked for
known viruses whilst within Defra systems we can accept no responsibility
once it has left our systems. Communications on Defra's computer systems
may be monitored and/or recorded to secure the effective operation of the
system and for other lawful purposes.

References

Visible links
1. https://www.gov.uk/government/organisati...

no-reply@defra.ecase.co.uk on behalf of Defra Information Rights Team, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Dear P Smith,

Thank you for your email of 17 August, requesting information on
Multi-agency meeting on residential houseboats.

We aim to answer your request no later than 18th September, which is 20
working days from the date we received it. If we are unable to meet this
deadline we will contact you to explain the reason.

If you have any queries about this letter please contact us.

Yours sincerely

Gladys McLean

Information Rights Team

[email address]

no-reply@defra.ecase.co.uk on behalf of informationrequests@defra.gsi.gov.uk, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

2 Attachments

Dear P Smith,

I am writing in response to your request for information, received 17th
August.

Yours sincerely,
Guy Mawhinney

Dear Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs,

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

I am writing to request an internal review of Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs's handling of my FOI request 'Multi-agency meeting on residential houseboats'.

Specifically I am requesting an internal review of the decision to withhold the document with the file name "170510_background-brief.docx" that was attached to the email from DEFRA dated 7th November 2017 inviting potential participants to indicate preferred dates for an initial meeting (which subsequently took place on 4th December 2017).

The exemption in s.35(1)(a) of the Freedom of Information Act has been applied incorrectly and inappropriately, in that the public interest test has been applied wrongly.

A letter from Dr Coffey MP to Marcus Jones MP dated 19th July 2018 states firstly that it was agreed at the meeting on 4th December 2017 that user groups would be invited to attend any future meetings and secondly that “there is every intention to ensure that the views of those who represent boat dwellers are taken into account”.

In addition, your letter IR2018/17795 in response to my request for an internal review of your response to my previous request for information regarding this meeting stated that

“Defra have confirmed stakeholders will be given the chance to put their views across during this process of policy making to ensure that there is a balanced and equitable discussion of the issues.”

and that

“The agenda and minutes give an overview of the issues that were discussed within this meeting with a view to identifying where new Government policy will be required.”

Given that “user groups” and “stakeholders” include organisations that represent boat dwellers, these organisations will thus be invited to attend future meetings. In order for user groups to fully understand the background to an invitation to such a meeting, it is necessary for them to know what was discussed at the meeting on 4th December 2017 and for this information to be publicly available to those members of the public who live on boats.

In addition, new Government policy will not be balanced and equitable if information is withheld from those who will be most affected by that policy. It will not be balanced and equitable, nor will discussions be objective, if those who will be most affected are not involved in discussions on an equitable basis at a formative stage of the new policy. As it stands, any such new Government policy is being discussed only with those whose agenda is to remove boat dwellers. This cannot be fair and equitable, and discussions cannot be objective if those who will be most adversely affected by any policy changes are excluded from the policy discussions and from prevented from obtaining information about the discussions.

The meeting in December 2017 was held in secret at the instigation of the Secretary of State Michael Gove, in response to letters from MPs raising concerns about “illegally [sic] moored houseboats”.

Given that the UK's estimated 50,000-plus boat dwellers have had no opportunity to put their case regarding the lawfulness of their moorings, and given that the group's activities could result in very serious consequences, namely the loss of their homes, the public interest in facilitating accountability and transparency outweighs the public interest in withholding this information.

In addition, a balanced and objective view of the issues cannot be achieved when more than 50,000 people who are directly affected are prevented from obtaining information created by a meeting that was held as the result of lobbying that they were unaware of, and the outcome of which is likely to have an extremely detrimental impact on their family and private lives.

DEFRA must therefore disclose the information because the public interest in disclosure outweighs the reasons for withholding the information. Therefore, in response to my request for review of your decision, please provide the document with the file name "170510_background-brief.docx" that was attached to the email from DEFRA dated 7th November 2017 inviting potential participants to indicate preferred dates for an initial meeting.

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

Yours faithfully,

P Smith

Helpline, Defra (MCU), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Thank you for your email. We have a target of replying to emails within 15
working days where a response is required, and 20 working days where a
case is handled under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 or the
Environmental Information Regulations 2004. If you need a reply before
then, please call the Defra Helpline on 03459 33 55 77, or visit
[1]https://www.gov.uk/government/organisati....
We often receive thousands of identical emails each month from organised
campaigns. Ministers and officials are made aware of these campaigns, but
unfortunately we cannot reply to each email when such large volumes are
received.
Best wishes,
Ministerial Contact Unit
 
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) This email and
any attachments is intended for the named recipient only. If you have
received it in error you have no authority to use, disclose, store or copy
any of its contents and you should destroy it and inform the sender.
Whilst this email and associated attachments will have been checked for
known viruses whilst within Defra systems we can accept no responsibility
once it has left our systems. Communications on Defra's computer systems
may be monitored and/or recorded to secure the effective operation of the
system and for other lawful purposes.

References

Visible links
1. https://www.gov.uk/government/organisati...

P Smith left an annotation ()

As DEFRA has not responded to the request for internal review, this has been referred to the Information Commissioner.

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