Benefits and Work has a rather pessimistic appraisal of the DWP’s appeal against my FOI victory on benefit deaths:
Unfortunately, this is far from the final stage in the proceedings if the DWP are determined to avoid publication. If they lose at the tribunal they can then go on to the high court, the court of appeal and the supreme court.
In addition, the government are now considering changing the law to give ministers an unchallengeable power to veto any freedom of information disclosure they choose.
Given that there unlikely to be anyone with pockets deep enough to take the DWP all the way to the supreme court to get these figures released, it seems certain the DWP can prevent their publication if they choose.
While the information is accurate, there are certain points that may be used against the Department:
Since all its arguments are rehashed versions of what it has already said, it may be possible to claim that the appeal is an abuse of process and have it thrown out. There needs to be at least a 50/50 chance of success and simply making the same claims again won’t cut any ice.
Also, the amount of money the DWP is throwing into this may cut against it. The Department’s claim is that the information is exempt from disclosure because it will be published in due course (a false claim as there is a one-year limit on that exemption and that time is up). But the Department has employed a £49,000-a-year Treasury barrister, no less, to fight this case, showing that it is prepared to spend far more public money on preventing this information from coming out than the £600 to which the FOI Act limits public authority expenditure in publishing the information.
Logic therefore forces one to consider: Why does the DWP want to spend so much money preventing this information from being published – especially if its defence is that it will be published in the near future anyway?
If the tribunal’s answer to that question doesn’t mitigate against the DWP, you can be sure that the UN’s will.
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