Sinclair v IC and Department for Energy and Climate Change (EA/2011/0052) concerned a request under the EIR from the Taxpayers’ Alliance for information on the potential financial and/or economic cost of Britain meeting a pledge to cut emissions by 42 per cent from 1990 levels by 2020. This pledge had been considered in connection with the Copenhagen Conference on climate change in 2009.
DECC refused this request, relying on regulations 12(5)(a) (disclosure would adversely affect international relations) and 12(4)(e) (internal communications).
In one of the first applications of the “aggregation” approach to the public interest test approved by the ECJ in the OFCOM case (on which, see here), the Commissioner held that the composite aggregated weight of the public interest factors in maintaining the two exceptions outweighed those which favoured disclosure – the international relations exception alone would not have sufficed.
The Tribunal was sufficiently impressed by DECC’s evidence to conclude that aggregation was not needed – the public interest in maintaining the international relations exception was sufficient to outweigh that in disclosure.
Interestingly, the Tribunal also considered an Article 10 ECHR argument: the appellant relied on that Article in support of his right to the requested information. The Tribunal found that Article 10 did not assist the appellant on the facts of his case. Its views on the application of Article 10 to information rights more generally was as follows.
In terms of authorities supporting the application of Article 10 to information rights, the high point was the Second Chamber decision in the ECtHR in Társaság a Szabadságjogokért v Hungary (Application no. 37374/05), in which the state had conceded that Article 10 rights were engaged where a civil liberties pressure group requested information about a complaint to the Constitutional Court.
Previous Grand Chamber authorities, however, had consistently rejected the proposition that Article 10 supported a right of access to official information.
The Tribunal is required to follow any clear and consistent Strasbourg jurisprudence. It found that “there is as yet no clear decision that Article 10 extends as far as Mr Sinclair submitted”.
11KBW’s Holly Stout appeared for the Information Commissioner.