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MPs support daily’s call for release of secret papers

A regional daily newspaper has received backing from politicians in its on-going quest to reveal secret government papers about Nestlé’s takeover of York confectioner Rowntree in 1988.

Labour MP Hugh Bayley and Conservative MP Julian Sturdy have joined forces to back The Press’s upcoming Information Rights Tribunal with the Cabinet Office over access to the papers.

The Information Commissioner ruled last October that five documents held by the Cabinet Office should be released, but the Office has appealed that decision.

A tribunal is expected to decide the matter in May, and both of York’s MPs have now written to the tribunal office, supporting The Press’s stance.

Gavin Aitchison, news editor at The Press, said: “I am pleased both York MPs have backed us in the forthcoming tribunal hearing. They, like The Press, have argued that there is a strong public interest in the information being made public.”

Nestlé’s takeover of Rowntree was controversial, partly because Nestlé was effectively protected by Swiss law from such takeover attempts.

More than 13,500 people signed the then Yorkshire Evening Press’s Hands Off Rowntree petition coupons, which were sent to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and more than 1,500 Rowntree workers and supporters held a rally outside the Houses of Parliament.

Both MPs backed The Press’s argument that the files were old enough that they could be released without causing any harm.

Mr Bayley said it was in the public interest to release the documents and there was an ‘inconsistency’ in the Cabinet Office refusing to release the documents, given the change in Government policy.

Last year the government changed the rules on government papers so that they can be released after 20 years, instead of 30.

The Press has argued that this should mean the 24-year-old documents can be released.