16. May 2012 15:54
The UK cabinet’s veto on publication of the NHS transition risk register was an “unjustified” policy change, according to the Information Commissioner.
In a report to Parliament, Christopher Graham said the circumstances of the Health and Social Care Bill were not so “exceptional” as to justify the measure.
The cabinet’s decision was “a significant step” in the use of security legislation to conceal non-military information, he said.
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said that publication of the document noting possible consequences of the NHS reforms would endanger the “safe space” of policy development.
But the veto – only previously used in the context of war – could not validly be used for such purposes, Graham said, noting: “None of the criteria for ‘exceptional cases’... are met in the present case.”
A DH spokesperson responded that the NHS reform legislation took place at “a particularly sensitive time when the need for a ‘safe space’ was especially high”.
Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham said the Information Commissioner’s report was “severely embarrassing” for the Government.
Responding to a delegate’s query at the NICE Conference, Andrew Lansley insisted he had kept within the bounds of the Freedom of Information Act.