This is for the few with specialised interest. I like to keep visitors to this blog up to date with what's happening on the local 'Mid Wales Connection Project' front. Early this year I raised some issues about the local public inquiry into the six wind farms currently being considered by an 'Independent' planning inspector. There had been some concern that a representative of the Department of Energy and Climate Change had been sharing 'top table' with the Inspector when he first outlined his plans for running the Public Inquiry. Looked very odd in that its a DECC Minister who will receive the Inspector's recommendations and decide. I did say in a Westminster debate that I would write to the Minister about this concern - but he wrote to me first. It did not address the points I was concerned about. So on 16th April, I wrote formally to the Minister of State for Climate Change. Here is my letter.
16 April 2013
Rt Hon Gregory Barker MP
Minister of State for Climate Change
Thank you for your letter of 20th March. It does raise one point on which further clarification would be helpful.
In your letter you refer to the “line” which the Inspector took during the PIM for the Mid Wales turbine applications and you reproduce some of the response from him to one or more requests from your officials. There is widespread anxiety among my constituents who express concern that:
(i) a representative of your department was engaged in discussions with and was present at the table with the Inspector at the first preliminary meeting and
(ii) that DECC and the Inspector appear to be engaged in yet further discussions and exchanges ‘behind the scenes’ without the public being made aware of the existence, nature or content of those exchanges.
In order completely to allay concerns over these aspects, it would be helpful if you would make available to me copies of all correspondence, exchanges and notes of discussions to from and between (or on behalf of) DECC and the Inspector and PINS from the first date leading to his appointment to the present (naturally redacting personal details).
Because of the great local concern over this matter I await hearing from you at the earliest opportunity.
I did not receive a reply, so I raised the matter in the chamber, when speaking on the Energy Bill, which led to a response that my letter could not be traced. So I sent it again, and received the following reply.
Department of Energy & Climate Change
3 Whitehall Place,
London SW1A 2AW Your ref:
T: +44(0)300 068 5677 Our ref: FOI/EIR Request 13/0725
www.decc.gov.uk 1 July 2013
Glyn Davies MP
House of Commons
Dear Mr Davies
Thank you for your letter of 16 April 2013 where you requested the following information:
“Copies of all correspondence, exchanges and notes of discussions to from and between (or on behalf of) DECC and the Inspector and PINS from the first date leading to his appointment to present (naturally redacting personal details)”.
As Anjoum Noorani, Greg Barker’s, Senior Private Secretary’s e-mail message to Mr Carlick, your Office Manager/Secretary, of 5 June 2013 explained, it appears that, for some reason, your letter was never received by our correspondence system.
Your request is now being considered under the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (‘the EIRs’) on the basis that the information you have sought disclosure of, does in our view, fall within the definition of ‘environmental information’ as stated in the EIRs.
We are writing to advise you that the time limit for responding to your request for information needs to be extended. This is because it includes some information provided by third parties that is not already in the public domain and it is necessary therefore to first seek their views before we can release that information.
Under the EIRs, we are required to respond to requests as soon as possible and in any case no later than 20 working days after receiving a request. However, by regulation 7 the period of 20 working days may be extended up to a total of 40 working days if we reasonably believe that the complexity and volume of the information requested means that it is impractical to comply with a request within the earlier period or to make a decision to refuse to do so.
In respect of your request, we believe that regulation 7 applies. Therefore, although we shall not be able to respond fully to your request within the 20 working day period, we shall do so as soon as possible within the extended period. We hope to provide you with a response by 17 July 2013.
If you are dissatisfied with the handling of your request, you have the right to ask for an internal review. Internal review requests should be submitted within 40 working days of the date of receipt of the response to your original letter and should be sent to the Information Rights Unit at:
Information Rights Unit (DECC Shared Services) Department for Business, Innovation & Skills
1 Victoria Street
Please remember to quote the reference number above in any future communications.
If you are not content with the outcome of the internal review, you have the right to apply directly to the Information Commissioner for a decision. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at: Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF
Section Head, National Infrastructure Consents
Now make of this what you will. But my guess is that I'm not going to get an answer that tells us anything meaningful. I'm afraid that's how it is. But I know there are a few of you who are interested in this stuff, so I thought I'd share it.