In early April 2012, I posted on the Tribunal’s decision in the NHS risk registers case (you can see my post here and also Robin Hopkins’ follow up post here). In summary, the Tribunal concluded that the ‘transition risk register’ ought to have been disclosed but the ‘strategic risk register’ was lawfully withheld on an application of s. 35 FOIA. Today, the Government has announced that it is exercising its power of veto in respect of the order to disclose the ‘transition risk register’. Apart from the fact that the veto obviously represents an important twist in the NHS risk registers case, what is interesting about the veto decision is that it potentially represents a sea-change in the Government’s thinking on the use of the veto. To date, the veto has been used in only three cases, all of which involved requests for disclosure of Cabinet minutes. What is striking about today’s announcement is that the veto is being applied, not in respect of Cabinet minutes, but rather in respect of a risk assessment document which was prepared in respect of the Government’s controversial plans to reform the NHS. Notably, the statement made by the Secretary of State for Health, Andrew Lansley, confirms that the decision to issue the veto was influenced by the need to ensure that there was a ‘safe space where officials are able to give ministers full and frank advice in developing policies and programmes’ (see further this link to the statement). This compares with the emphasis on providing a ‘safe space’ for cabinet ministers which was highlighted in the context of the previous vetoes. The important question which the use of the veto in the risk registers case effectively poses is whether we are going to see a more prolific use of the powers of veto in the future. If we are, that may well have important political ramifications for the Coalition Government as well as generally recasting the FOIA landscape. See further my posts on the first two vetoes which you can find here and also my 2009 paper which considered the use of the veto which you can find here. The Commissioner has stated that he will report to Parliament on the use of the veto next week.