Since 2011 I’ve been locked in a battle with HM Treasury over George Osborne’s attendance at the conference in St.Moritz, Switzerland. Rather than tell me they don’t hold that information (which is what I was expecting), whoever replied to me, probably an uninformed intern, told me they DO hold information relating to the Bilderberg meeting.
For those who aren’t aware, the Freedom of Information Act is probably the most important piece of legislation in the country, if not the world. It gives the average citizen the right to access any recorded information ranging from local government files to environmental documents. The list is literally endless. I used it to see how the guy who holds the UK’s credit card spends his time away from the microscope at secret meetings in the Alps.
To cut a long story short, the maximum time that this whole process should have taken from start to finish was about six to eight months, depending on how far you take it. This time scale is within the statute for FOI requests. The body that you are asking for information from have a responsibility, by law, to provide you with this information within a set time. The Treasury did not meet this deadline. I can only imagine why they dragged their heels.
So after two years, not six months, of battling with the Treasury for this information and finally sending a complaint to the Information Commissioners Office, I received a twelve page document from the ICO outlining the reasons as to why I wasn’t allowed the information. When you aren’t allowed the information you asked for, they throw something called exemptions your way. I was thrown every exemption under the sun. They really didn’t want this information in my hands, or anyone’s hands for that matter.
When I did receive the twelve page document and read through it, at first I was disappointed. Two years of my life down the drain, for what? No information at all? They thought that telling me how much the trip to Switzerland cost would shut me up. After the expenses scandal, they seem to think this is all people care about. I couldn’t care less about the cost of his personal trip. But then someone told me to read between the lines. I re-read it, between the lines, and what I had was everything I needed. In some kind of twisted fate, they have actually released to me the reasons they can’t give me the information. And this information, is probably just as telling as if they’d given me what I was after.
What you are about to read has never been released, and from what I understand has never been done before. A FOI request that has been taken all the way to the Information Commissioners Office relating to the Bilderberg Group.
Below you will find my three documents relating to my correspondence with Her Majesty’s Treasury and the Information Commissioners Office dating back to June 2011.
My initial request was sent on June 13th 2011, the day after the conference finished. Note how I received my first response on July 12th 2011. The 20 working day reply was broken by one day. I’m not going to cry over that.
Also note on page 2:
‘The Treasury does hold additional information relating to the Chancellor’s discussions at Bilderberg.’
What you must note here are the exemptions stated by the Treasury to not disclose the information to me.
Section 27(1)(b) – Information is exempt information if its disclosure under this Act would, or would be likely to, prejudice relations between the United Kingdom and any international organization or international court.
Section 29 (1)(a) – Information is exempt if its disclosure under this Act would, or would be likely to, prejudice the economic interests of the United Kingdom or of any part of the United Kingdom.
The icing on the cake though?
Section 35(1)(a) – information relating to the formulation or development of government policy.
Hold on a second. Doesn’t the Bilderberg official website (www.bilderbergmeetings.org) state:
‘…no detailed agenda, no resolutions are proposed, no votes are taken, and no policy statements are issued.’
But even if there was any doubt that the 35 (1)(a) exemption would hold, Section 36 (2)(b)(i) would cover it. This exemption states:
Section 36 (2)(b)(i) – covering the free and frank provision of advice.
It goes onto state on the second and third paragraph of page 4,
‘Some of the information in the readout from the Chancellor’s discussions also contains elements which are intended to inform future Government policy.’
‘The information Commissioner has recognized that policy development needs a degree of freedom to enable the process to work effectively, and that there is public interest in protecting information where release would be likely to have a detrimental impact on the ongoing formulation of policy.’
For those who think it’s a talking shop, think no more. There is still only the smallest chance that this could be a talking shop. But to be honest, all of those hopes went out of the window the day I received this email.
Because of an unsatisfactory reply from the Treasury, the next stage was to take it to the Information Commissioners Office. Earlier in the year I finally received a 12 page document which would be the final call on this matter. I could take it to a First-Tier Tribunal, but after two years I’m exhausted and don’t want to go down a road that would probably end up costing me a lot of money.
As expected, the ICO sided with the Treasury and withheld the information. The 12 pages go into greater detail as to why the information was withheld but doesn’t shed much more light on the subject than it did in the previous internal review.
What we have here are three documents that have only been seen by a handful of people. The reason I haven’t published them already is because I was waiting for the right time. Now that the UK is the home of Bilderberg 2013 and with the press storm mounting, now seems a good a time as any.
No longer can the Bilderberg Group claim to be a ‘talking shop’ or a ‘forum for discussion’. It may not be direct, but these few pieces of paper prove that whatever is spoken about inside these conferences does directly effect policy at the highest level of government.
What’s ironic is that both Osborne and Cameron seem to be advocates for transparency. After the MP’s expenses scandal and more recently the lobbying scandal, the public quite obviously need more transparency.
In The Observer in September 2010, David Cameron jumped on the transparency bandwagon:
“For too long those in power made decisions behind closed doors, released information behind a veil of jargon and denied people the power to hold them to account. This coalition is driving a wrecking ball through that culture – and it’s called transparency…”
In 2010, after he officially became Chancellor, George Osborne said:
‘We have already begun to implement the most radical transparency agenda the country has ever seen.’
David Cameron went on to say in May 2010:
“I want to get on with it, to make a start on this transparency revolution that we’re planning. In time, I want our government to be one of the most open and transparent in the world.”