Parliamentary Beer and Wood Panel Industry Groups

FOI request to House of Commons

23 March

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REQUEST FOR ALL PARTY PARLIAMENTARY BEER GROUP ACCOUNTS

Dear Mr Castle

Under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 I would like to request a breakdown of the accounts
for the All Party Parliamentary Beer Group for the past three years (financial or calendar according to which is most convenient). This would include details of revenue and also expenditure.
Additionally, could you tell me if records are kept of the amount of alcohol donated to this group. If such records exist please tell me that amount for the most recent year.

My preferred format to receive this information is by electronic means. If you need any clarification of this request please feel free to telephone or email me. In addition, if FOI requests of a similar nature have already been asked could you please include your responses to those requests.

I would be grateful if you could confirm in writing that you have received this request, and I look forward to hearing from you within the 20-working day statutory time period.

Regards,
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FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REQUEST FOR ALL PARTY PARLIAMENTARY GROUP SETUP; ACCOUNTS FOR WOOD PANEL INDUSTRY GROUP

Dear Mr Castle

Under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 I would like to know about All Party Parliamentary Groups. Specifically:

1. How many groups have failed to gain official status as APPGs in the past two years? Please list these groups.
2. A detailed breakdown of the accounts for APPG for the Wood Panel Industry for the past two years (financial or calendar according to how accounts are kept).
3. All correspondence related to the initial formation of the APPG for the Wood Panel Industry.

My preferred format to receive this information is by electronic means. Under Section 16 of the FOIA there is a duty on public authorities to provide advice and assistance to requesters. If for any reason this request is not answerable in its present format I would expect you to contact me to discuss ways to make it so.

If FOI requests of a similar nature have already been asked could you please include your responses to those requests.

I would be grateful if you could confirm in writing that you have received this request, and I look forward to hearing from you within the 20-working day statutory time period.

Regards,
—-
Response from House of Commons
Received 22 April 2009

Dear Ms Roberts
Thank you for your request in two parts for information dated 23 March 2009.
You asked for information in relation to all Party Parliamentary Groups. The response is given below.

    General point on All Party Groups and FOI

All-Party Groups (APGs) are informal cross-party groups that have no official status within Parliament. They are essentially run by and for Members of the Commons and Lords and do not receive funding or administrative support from the House of Commons. Therefore, the House does not hold the information you are seeking.
However the House does maintain a list of such groups and a register that provides information about the support available to them from outside bodies including any financial support above a certain level.
The House’s rules require that where the group receives during a calendar year one or more benefits whose total value is £1000 or more from a single source outside Parliament, this must be cited on the Register of All-Party Groups. For financial benefits this means registering the amount and the donor. For material benefits (ie provision of goods or services) this means registering the nature of the benefit and the name of the donor. We register income rather than expenditure, hence a group may register a donation of £5000 but there is no requirement to register how it spent that sum.
The list, Register and rules can be found via the following link.
http://www.parliament.uk/about/how/members/apg.cfm

Your requests:
Part 1 (F09-104)
I would like to request a breakdown of the accounts for the All Party Parliamentary Beer Group for the past three years (financial or calendar according to which is most convenient). This would include details of revenue and also expenditure.
Additionally, could you tell me if records are kept of the amount of alcohol donated to this group. If such records exist please tell me that amount for the most recent year.
Please refer to general point above – no information is held other than might be contained in the Register
Part 2 (F09-105
1) How many groups have failed to gain official status as APPGs in the past two years? Please list these groups.
None
2) A detailed breakdown of the accounts for APPG for the Wood Panel Industry for the past two years (financial or calendar according to how accounts are kept).
Please refer to general point above – this information is not held by the House of Commons
3) All correspondence related to the initial formation of the APPG for the Wood Panel Industry.

    Your request is refused

– In accordance with section 34(2) of the Freedom of Information Act, there is no duty on the House to confirm or deny the existence of information relating to the subject matter of your request because to do so would interfere with the functioning of the Office of Registrar of Members Interests’ in a manner which would infringe the privileges of the House. Further, any such information, if held, would relate to discussions and decisions made by the Registrar in accordance with the Standing Orders of the House, and to papers produced under the auspices of the Office of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards and the Select Committee on Standards and Privileges.
This is an absolute exemption and the public interest test does not apply.
You may, if dissatisfied with the treatment of your request, ask the House of Commons to conduct an internal review of this decision. Requests for internal review should be addressed to: Freedom of Information Officer, Department of Finance and Administration, House of Commons London SW1 OAA or [email protected] . If the decision to apply s.34 of the 2000 Act in respect of your request is upheld by review, a certificate signed by the Speaker may be issued. This certificate would provide conclusive evidence that the exemption was required for the purpose described above.

Yours sincerely,
Bob Castle
Head of Information Rights and Information Security
House of Commons
020 7219 2032
—-
Internal Review requested via email 12 May 2009

I seek an internal review. It is an outrageous abuse of parliamentary privilege to depend on it in for something so anodyne as the creation of an all-party parliamentary group on the wood panel industry. One would think there is something to hide by such obfuscation. Perhaps that lobbyists set up the group? Surely the House has learned by now to treat the public with some respect when it comes to openness and accountability.
Regards,

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