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Newspaper wins latest battle over secret documents

A regional daily has won a third legal victory in its five-year battle to gain access to secret government documents about a controversial company takeover.

The Press in York has been trying since 2008 to gain access to Cabinet Office papers relating to Nestlé’s takeover of Rowntree confectioners in 1988, with a second tribunal taking place in June.

Judge David Williams has now rejected the Cabinet Office’s arguments that papers relating to the deal should remain confidential, following the upper tribunal hearing

It is the third victory for The Press in its Freedom of Information battle, with the Information Commissioner and two tribunals now finding in favour of the title.

The Cabinet Office has been told it has two weeks to appeal against the decision or release the documents.

News editor Gavin Aitchison, who made the original request for information, said: “We are pleased that Judge Williams has upheld the decision of the first tribunal.

“This is the third time the Cabinet Office’s case has been rejected and hopefully this time the documents will be made public. We have always argued that the York public have a right to see the unedited Government record of this major episode in local history.”

In his ruling, Judge Williams said he found no evidence that the first tribunal had erred in law, as had been argued by the Cabinet Office’s legal representative, James Cornwell.

He also challenged Mr Cornwell’s claims that there was no visible evidence for a lasting public interest in the case.

Part of the discussion at the hearing centred on the Government’s decision to replace the “30-year-rule”, which said cabinet papers should remain confidential for 30 years, with a 20-year-rule.

It is being phased in by the Government so the Nestlé papers are set to become public in January 2016 at the latest.

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  • October 24, 2013 at 8:24 am

    There’s better be some dynamite in these papers, eh Gav? Keep up the good work.

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