Welsh Assembly refuses to release information in case of ridicule

The Welsh Assembly has refused to disclose details of correspondence to an opposition politician on the grounds that the Cabinet could be exposing itself to ridicule.

Under the Freedom of Information Act, Liberal Democrat Jenny Randerson requested the disclosure of documents relating to the budget of the Assembly's economic development and transport division.

Government official Geraint James said:

"The convention of collective responsibility of Cabinet is a well-established principle of government that has been adopted by the executive of the Welsh Assembly Government. It is vitally important that Ministers feel free to be able to debate fully all possible angles before coming to an agreed position. This process is one in which Ministers and officials are encouraged to be imaginative and consider innovative ideas. The exposure of some of these discussions to the public domain, via a freedom of information request, may lead to individuals, or Cabinet, being targeted for ridicule through the media.

Such a prospect would, or would be likely to, inhibit the free and frank exchange of ideas. The result of this, in our view, would ultimately undermine the convention of collective responsibility and result in poorer decision making and thus poorer government for the people of Wales."

We're not telling you because you'll laugh (icwales website, 12 December 2005)