Wednesday, 8 December 2010

The death of David Kelly - Further Hutton Inquiry documents may be disclosed

This post largely consists of a reply to a Freedom of Information request from me to the Ministry of Justice.

The most interesting aspect of the reply from my point of view is the indication that the Ministry of Justice is examining what further Hutton Inquiry documents can be put into the public domain.

It is, in passing, good news that the documents relating to the Hutton Inquiry are stated to be securely archived.

[I had extensively to edit the reply because some aspect of the reply document prevented it copying and pasting straighforwardly. To the best of my knowledge the reply quoted below is an accurate representation of the original document.]

Our Ref: 68227 07 December 2010

Dear Dr Watt,

Hutton Inquiry Papers

Thank you for your email of 6 November in which you asked

1. What is the legal basis for the documents being secret for 30 years?
2. Where are the documents referred to currently stored and what steps are being taken to ensure that they are secure and safe from tampering?

Your request has been dealt with under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA). I am pleased to inform you that in respect of part one of your request some of this information is already in the public domain. As some of the information you are seeking is already available, it is exempt from disclosure under Section 21 (Information accessible to the applicant by other means) of the FOIA. I can confirm that the Department holds the information in relation to part two of your request and I have included this in my response.

Contrary to reports in the media since January 2010, neither Lord Hutton nor anyone else has declared that the information supplied to the Hutton Inquiry should be declared secret.

Lord Hutton said in his statement on Tuesday 26 January 2010 that he had requested that the post mortem examination report and other sensitive medical information relating to Dr Kelly not be disclosed for 70 years in view of the distress that could be caused to Dr Kelly s wife and daughters".

Furthermore, in his statement on 22 October, Lord Hutton explained that he had.

requested (not ordered) that the post mortem report should not be disclosed for 70 years. I made this request solely in order to protect Dr Kelly’s widow and daughters for the remainder of their lives (the daughters being in their twenties at that time) from the distress which they would suffer from further discussion of the details of Dr Kelly’s death in the media

In answering your first question it may be helpful to provide some background information on the records management of government information The phrase "30
year rule" is commonly used to describe the point at which records created by government departments are transferred to The National Archives (TNA) and at which most of these records are released to the public. In fact there is no single “rule” but two pieces of legislation that work together:

1 The Public Records Act, which requires government departments to transfer
records to TNA by the time they are 30 years old;
2. The Freedom of Information Act, which sets out what exemptions apply to those
records up to and beyond the 30 year mark.

At the end of the Hutton Inquiry the papers supplied to Lord Hutton were transferred to TNA, The Hutton Inquiry website []
states that the Department for Constitutional Affairs (DCA) was the sponsor department for the Hutton Inquiry. As a result of a machinery of government changes the Ministry of Justice is the successor to the Department of Constitutional Affairs and so is deciding what further information is being marked for disclosure beyond that which is already on the Inquiry’s website,

The decision on what information will be placed in the public domain and what should
be withheld, including for how long, is taken by the Ministry of Justice subject to the process set out in part 18 of Section 2 of the Section 46 Code of Practice. The Code of Practice can be found at:

If information is marked as not for disclosure for a specified period of time, it would be withheld citing exemptions under the Freedom of Information Act, though requests could still be made for those documents under the Act.

You may also like to know that many of the Hutton Inquiry’s papers are still available to the public via the Hutton Inquiry website:

Security is strict throughout the TNA site; only authorised personnel are allowed into the repository areas where records are stored. Special secure provision is made for the storage of documents of high intrinsic value or closed records. The Inquiry records are stored in such an area until their transfer is completed.

As part of our obligations under the FOIA, the Ministry of Justice has an independent
review process. If you are dissatisfied with this decision, you may write to request an internal review. The internal review will be carried out by someone who did not make the original decision, and they will re-assess how the Department handled the original request.

If you wish to request an internal review, please write or send an email to the Data
Access and Compliance Unit within two months of the date of this letter, at the
following address:
Data Access and Compliance Unit
Information Directorate
6th Floor
Post point 625
102 Petty France

If you remain dissatisfied after an internal review decision, you have the right to apply to the Information Commissioner’s Office under Section 50 of the FOIA. You can
contact the Information Commissioner’s Office at the following address:
Information Commissioner’s Office
Wycliffe House
Water Lane


Yours sincerely

Richard Bishop
Information Policy Division

1 comment:

  1. Andrew, there are some documents supplied to the Hutton Inquiry which were not even listed on the web site because of National Security implications. The very revealing and short first appearance by Secretary to the Inquiry Lee Hughes on 21 August 2003 makes interesting reading.(pages 149 ff:
    "Also there are a few, I think about three pages, that we will not place into the public domain for national security reasons.....There are witness statements provided to the Inquiry...or notes....chronologies.....diaries..." (but the Campbell diary is necessarily flushed out a month later) .." that we will either not place on the website or will redact.."

    So, there could be any number of these categories supplied to the inquiry but not listed anywhere, whether visible or not for release.