Line to take - LTT50 - Disclosure of minutes

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  • Section/Regulation: s35, s36
  • Issue: Disclosure of minutes
  • Source: Information Tribunal
  • Details: Guardian & Brooke / BBC (8 January 2007); Evening Standard / DfES (23 February 2007)
  • Related Lines to Take: LTT43
  • Related Documents: EA/2006/0011, EA/2006/0013 (Guardian), EA/2006/0006 (Evening Standard)
  • Contact: EW
  • Date: 05/07/2007
  • Policy Reference: LTT50
  • © Copyright Information Commissioner's Office, re-used with permission
  • Original source linked from here: LTT

Line to take

Because public authorities should keep proper minutes of meetings for the purposes of effective administration, the argument that disclosing minutes in one case may discourage proper minute keeping in the future is not compelling.

Further Information

In the case of Guardian & Brooke v The In formation Commissioner & the BBC, which concerned a request for minutes of a BBC Board of Governor’s meeting not disclosed by virtue of s36, it was argued that keeping proper minutes was, “part of the process of carrying out proper deliberations,” and that disclosure in a particular case might discourage proper minute keeping in future.

The Tribunal did not accept this argument, stating that, “For purposes of effective administration a responsible public authority ought to keep suitable minutes of important meetings, whether or not the minutes may be disclosed to the public at a later date.” (para 107)

In this case, the Tribunal further noted that the BBC had failed in any event to keep minutes of a meeting which took place the day after the meeting from which the minutes were requested. In consequence it said, “If a public authority does not follow satisfactory practices in keeping records of meetings, we are not inclined to think that the prospect of disclosure will make that situation significantly worse.” (para 107)

The Tribunal drew similar conclusions in the case of DfES v The In formation Commissioner and the Evening Standard. Here, it was suggested that standards in record keeping are already hard to maintain (without the ‘threat’ of disclosure); and the Tribunal noted that the minutes requested in the case were indeed ‘fairly skeletal.’

It concluded however that, “We do not consider that we should be deflected from ordering disclosure by the possibility that minutes will become still less informative [...] Good practice should prevail over any traditional sensitivity as we move into an era of greater transparency.” (para 83)

Further quotes from ICO decision notices on this subject, as well as the complete quotes from the above Tribunal decisions, are available in a briefing note prepared for a Select Committee on the impact of FOI on record keeping.