Titles of Cabinet Papers Presented to Last Cabinet and Cabinet Committee Meetings

Joshua Grainger made this Official Information request to Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

The request was refused by Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

From: Joshua Grainger

Dear Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet,

I would like to request under the Official Information Act

* the titles of each paper, and the Minister responsible for that paper, that was presented for consideration to the last meetings of Cabinet and each Cabinet Committee.

In the event that this is seen as too sensitive to disclose, I would like to instead request the same information for the first Cabinet/Cabinet Committee meetings of 2009. This is because the Ombudsman has adopted a view that the strength of the withholding provisions of the OIA weaken over time.

If any withholding grounds apply I would greatly prefer that information instead be partially redacted, rather withholding the entire title. In considering your response to this OIA request you may wish to consider Ombudsman Opinion 179181, which dealt with the titles of reports presented to Ministers, particularly in regards to witholding grounds s9(2)(g)(i) and s9(2)(f)(iv). Although it is not exactly on point, it dealt with a similar subject matter.

Feel free to contact me if you wish me to clarify my request.

Yours faithfully,

Joshua Grainger

Link to this

From: Gillian Pettit
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet


Attachment 201306181010.pdf
422K Download View as HTML


 
 
 
Gillian Pettit
Cabinet Office
817-9749

Please consider the environment before printing this e-mail.

The information contained in this email message is for the attention of
the intended recipient only and is not necessarily the official view or
communication of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. If you
are not the intended recipient you must not disclose, copy or distribute
this message or the information in it. If you have received this message
in error, please destroy the email and notify the sender immediately.

Link to this

From: Joshua Grainger

Dear Rebecca Kitteridge,

My apologies: I hadn't thought through how someone would answer that bit of my request. I'll attempt to clarify now.

The alternative available in my request was meant to apply if there are grounds to withhold *all* of the documents (under any withholding ground). In the event that some documents are withheld and others aren't, I'll probably deal with it by way of a follow up OIA request depending on the severity of the withholding, rather than attempting to prescribe a rule now.

Thinking about it now, it would be good if there was a 'by committee' approach here. If there are grounds to withhold all papers from one Cabinet Committee, whereas for other committees they are released, I would like to request the papers from the equivalent committee for the first meeting of 2009, providing an equivalent committee existed (for example if CBC documents from the last meeting were withheld, but docs from ERD were released, only the CBC documents would be requested from 2009).

If any further clarification is needed please feel free to let me know.

Yours sincerely,

Joshua Grainger

Link to this

Alex Harris left an annotation ()

I think that's a failure of the duty to assist...

Link to this

Luke left an annotation ()

Joshua

From my point of view the original request was clear, but perhaps they see ambiguity that I don't. However I am definitely confused by your 18 June 2013 email that refers to the release of "documents" and "papers", whereas your original request refers to releasing "titles".

I think you ought to have been even clearer still than what you were in your clarifying email of 18 June 2013. So my suggested approach would have been to state definitively what you want, and then add alternatives thereafter in a number fashion:

1.) the titles of each paper, and the Minister responsible for that paper, that was presented for consideration to the last meetings of Cabinet and each Cabinet Committee.

2.) If in the event you believe there are grounds to withhold ALL of the information I have requested above, the following alternatives apply, in order of precedence:

2.1) partially redacted titles, rather withholding the entire title.

2.2) releasing instead the titles of each paper, and the Minister responsible for that paper, presented for consideration at the first meeting of 2009, e.g. ... .

Link to this

From: Sheralea Hornblow
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet


Attachment 201307091111.pdf
459K Download View as HTML


Sheralea Hornblow
PA to the Deputy Secretary of Cabinet
(Constitutional and Honours)
Dept. of the Prime Minister and Cabinet
Parliament Buildings
Wellington
Ph: 817 9630

Please consider the environment before printing this e-mail.

The information contained in this email message is for the attention of the intended recipient only and is not necessarily the official view or communication of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. If you are not the intended recipient you must not disclose, copy or distribute this message or the information in it. If you have received this message in error, please destroy the email and notify the sender immediately.

Link to this

Alex Harris left an annotation ()

Ombudsman. 9(2)(f)(iv) is unlikely to apply to 2009 Cabinet business as it is unlikely to be still requiring a decision after 4 years. 9(2)(f) (ii) and (g)(i) are unlikely to apply, in that it is hard to see how a title alone could either breach cabinet collective responsibility on a long-dead issue, or expose any free and frank advice (at least, not from the sorts of titles which normally come up). This is just Cabinet Office trying to pretend the law doesn't apply to them again.

Link to this

Luke left an annotation ()

1. I do not agree with the assessment, and I'm not convinced that the withholding grounds apply.

2. The way I read the reponse is that Ms Kitteridge's reply is premised on a "consistent position that it would not be in the public interest to do so". This is the foundation for her decision, and she then uses withholding grounds to support the "consistent position".

3. She compares it to agendas (agendas are withheld so let's also withhold titles too), and seeks to place a blanket ban on releasing titles of reports, rather than taking a case-by-case approach by looking at the actual information in the titles of those reports to determine what information in the titles needs protecting.

4. Every OIA request is judged on its merits. That means that the particular information requested needs to be assessed against each of the withholding grounds in the Act (contained in sections 6, 9, 18) to determine whether it is "necessary" (in terms of the Act) to withhold that information. If it is "necessary" to protect an interest (in the information), at that point, you then turn to deteriming whether it is outweighed by "other considerations" (in terms of the Act) that render it desirable, in the public interest, not to release it. But she considers the public interest at the beginning of her assessment, as well as the end.

5. She has not identified any such considerations, though nor have you. I encourage requesters to think about these and include such considerations in their requests as an appendix.

6. Sometimes officials can be over-sensitive about the information that is held by their agency to the extent that they believe it needs withholding when in fact there is insufficient cause to withhold that information. I get a sense of that from her reply.

7. It would be interesting to know how releasing titles would affect "collective and ministerial responsibility". I don't see how either of those responsibilities are impacted.

8. We are talking here about titles to reports, not the full-text of the reports themselves. I wonder if she kept that in mind.

9. I think there is a case to answer and therefore you may want to consider asking the Ombudsmand to investigate and review the decision. But it's not as if they are short on work.

Link to this

Things to do with this request

Anyone:
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet only: