Benyon says sorry in writing for FOI blunder

We can bring you the full text of Waterways Minister Richard Benyon’s written statement of apology to the House of Commons for pre-empting the results of DEFRA’s second consultation on the new waterways charity, which includes the issue of whether the Canal and River Trust will be subject to FOI. Mr Benyon wrote:

“WRITTEN MINISTERIAL STATEMENT DEPARTMENT FOR ENVIRONMENT, FOOD AND RURAL AFFAIRS Public Consultation on the New Waterways Charity: Freedom of Information Act Date 27 October 2011

Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Natural Environment and Fisheries (Richard Benyon)

I should like to correct my response to a topical question on the application of the Freedom of Information Act to the new waterways charity (the Canal & River Trust) by the Hon Member for Chippenham (Duncan Hames) on 13 October (Hansard, column 471). The Government is publicly consulting on the point raised by the Honourable Member, and has not yet taken up a position on the matter. The consultation closed on 24 October, and we are now considering the consultation responses, prior to making a decision. A copy of the consultation document can be found at www.defra.gov.uk/consult/2011/09/12/waterways-1109/. The Government will publish its analysis of the responses and its own response later in the autumn.”

Many of those who responded to the consultation have made the point that the charity should be subject to the Freedom of Information Act as a safeguard against the abuse of power. Using the FOI Act to obtain information has helped boaters in resisting some of BW’s more draconian policies, such as the formerly secret proposals for mooring restrictions in Bathampton made in 2009, and BW’s heavy handed attempt to force liveaboard boaters to leave the Lee and Stort.

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