The government is refusing to release e-mails about David Cameron’s bid to bring back fox hunting – because they could put civil servants in danger.
Officials used the excuse as one of four to keep correspondence about the failed bloodsport vote under wraps.
The Mirror made a Freedom of Information request for messages about fox hunting between officials and ministers in Downing Street, the Cabinet Office and Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
Officials spent three months wrangling over the request, which would have spanned correspondence from March 1 to July 15, to decide if it carried a strong enough public interest to be published.
They have now released only two briefing notes and kept the contents of all e-mails under wraps, quoting four exemptions.
They said the request would involve publishing ‘personal information’ and would harm the behind-closed-doors building of government policy.
They also said it would expose confidential advice on ‘complex legal issues’ which lawyers gave to the government.
But their fourth and most eyebrow-raising reason was that publishing officials’ names could endanger their safety.
A Defra spokesman said: “Information consisting of the names of all civil servants, regardless of position, working on hunting policy is being withheld… [in the category of] information that if disclosed would endanger the safety of any individual.
[League Against Cruel Sports director Tom Quinn said:] “Of course people’s safety is important. But the government seems either to be buying into – or perpetrating – the pro-hunt lobby’s ludicrous claims that anyone opposing hunting is a violent thug.
“This is a tactic which those involved in hunting use to make it sound as if the only people who don’t like seeing animals ripped apart are violent animal rights extremists.”
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