All-Party Parliamentary Save the Pub Group chair Greg Mulholland MP submitted an FOI request to HM Treasury last month, asking it to reveal all correspondence with officials, special advisers and ministers in the Department of Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) and the Department of Communities & Local Government that relate to pub companies or the BIS consultation, and all correspondence with
the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) and its members and members of the Independent Family Brewers of Britain.
He also asked for details of all Treasury documents, including minutes of meetings, that relate or refer to pub companies or the consultation, and all correspondence that mention the need for research to be commissioned.
Last year BIS commissioned London Economics to carry out research to analyse the impact of its statutory code proposals on the pub industry. The report was heavily criticised by Mulholland and other campaign groups.
However, in a response to Mulholland, seen by the Publican’s Morning Advertiser (PMA), the Treasury said while it does hold most of this information it refused to disclose the details as ministers and officials “need space to be able to discuss policy matters freely and frankly with other departments”.
It stated: “Release of this information, we consider, is likely to be detrimental to future policy considerations as both ministers and officials would be less candid in expressing their views or testing policy options.
“Furthermore, although the responses to the consultation have been published by BIS, the Government has not yet formally responded. Ministers and officials need space in which to develop plans having considered the consultation responses.
“Having considered the balance of the public inter-est in relation to the exemption, we have concluded that the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosure.”
Mulholland told the PMA: “We know that the BBPA and others have been lobbying the Chancellor, so to refuse to share documentation is outrageous.
“I will of course appeal this and take it to the Information Commissioner. They will certainly not get away with not saying what meetings have taken place.”