The Department for Enterprise (‘the Department’) has provided an initial response to the Information Commissioner’s ruling to release information in respect of any financial support provided to the former Chief Minister Howard Quayle CBE and tourism accommodation which has been widely covered in the local media.
The Department firstly wishes to clarify that it treats the subject of Freedom of Information requests extremely seriously and has over the last five years published almost 100 responses without any challenge. In addition, the Department publishes a report each year listing all businesses who have been provided support under its Financial Assistance Support Schemes in the ordinary course of business.
Secondly, the Department acknowledges that there have been failings in the way in which it processed and determined this specific request. The policy principle behind the Department’s approach remains that it does not regularly disclose the breakdown of payments provided to any individual business under its Schemes. This is based on a determination that publishing such details may be detrimental to the commercial interests of a business and therefore deter applicants from coming forward for eligible support.
Thirdly, the Department would like to make it clear that Mr Quayle was at no time involved in any decision made to withhold the information and indeed was not afforded the opportunity to voluntarily disclose the information during this process for which it would like to apologise to Mr Quayle.
Finally, the Department can confirm that the amount of all financial support it provided under its Covid related Schemes for the period up to 31/03/21 had already been fully disclosed by Mr Quayle in Government’s annual accounts as a related party transaction, under Page 86 with a sum of £34,375 being declared.
Any amounts for the period 01/04/21 to 31/03/22 would be ordinarily declared in the following year’s accounts due for publication in the summer of 2022. However in the interest of full transparency, and having discussed with Mr Quayle, the Department can confirm that an additional sum of £22,750 will be disclosed in this year’s accounts and represents all payments provided to date under all of the Department’s Schemes.
The Information Commissioner’s ruling has wider implications on the level of disclosure the Department may need to consider for businesses who receive support across all of its Schemes, including but not limited to that provided during the pandemic. In conjunction with Treasury and other Departments who also have provided a wide range of support during this period, the Department for Enterprise will review its policies on such declarations.
The Department will respond directly to the Information Commissioner in full.