The Department of Health’s case for withholding the Health Bill risk register has been rejected, it has been announced this morning.
John Healey, the former shadow health secretary, announced the information rights tribunal considering the issue had told his legal team that the DH’s appeal had been unsuccessful.
The DH had appealed against the Information Commissioner’s ruling that the register should have been released under the Freedom of Information Act.
Mr Healey’s November 2010 FOI request for the register to be released was initially rejected by the DH.
However today’s verdict does not necessarily mean that the register will be released immediately. The DH still has 20 days to consider whether it will appeal against the tribunal ruling, making it likely that the register will not be published until after the bill is signed into law, which is expected to happen later this month.
A notification from the tribunal said: The tribunal dismisses the DH’s appeal against the Information Commissioner’s decision that the 10 November 2010 Transition Risk Register should be disclosed, except in relation to the name of a junior official which should be redacted.”
Mr Healey said: “This is the second legal direction to the government to release the risk register.
“The judgement backs the public’s right to know about the risks the government is taking with its NHS plans. It gives strong legal support to a full and open debate about the NHS reorganisation.
“Ministers must now respect the law, release the risk register in full and let people make up their own minds on the NHS changes.
“Today’s legal judgement must put an end to the government’s efforts to keep this information secret. They have dragged out this process for 15 months, while parliament has been legislating for their NHS plans. It’s near the end of the eleventh hour for the NHS bill and parliament rightly expects this information before it takes the final irrevocable step to pass the legislation.
“The government could appeal, and prolong this legal row. But I call on the prime minister to accept today’s court verdict and order the Department of Health to publish the risk register immediately.”
A Department of Health spokesperson said: “We are still awaiting the detailed reasoning behind this decision. Once we have been able to examine the judgment we will work with colleagues across government and decide next steps.”
The time period allowing any appeal against the latest ruling will begin when the tribunal releases its detailed full decision on the issue, which is expected “in the near future”.