UK: Info commissioner rejects request for Diana letters
The content of private letters between the Government and Diana, Princess of Wales, should be kept secret, the information commissioner ruled today.
Rejecting a request by a member of the public under Freedom of Information laws for the correspondence to be made public, the Office of the Information Commissioner said it was of a "personal nature" and not related to government policy. Members of the Royal Family are exempt from the Freedom of Information Act but individual cases can be challenged on public interest grounds.
The request to view the correspondence was first made in October 2006. The Cabinet Office published seven telegrams from Diana to prime ministers of the day thanking them for birthday wishes, but all further correspondence was withheld on the grounds that it fell inside the exemption.
An internal review later upheld the decision, and stated that the public interest in keeping them secret "outweighed" the interest in making them public. The ICO, which is the appeal body for FoI requests, today upheld that decision.In a statement it said: "The ICO has upheld a decision by the Cabinet Office on the basis that the correspondence is of a personal nature and does not comment on government or public policy."
Deputy commissioner Graham Smith added: "It is important to draw a clear distinction between matters of public interest and matters about which the public may be merely curious."
The ruling was also critical of the Cabinet Office for breaching the Freedom of Information Act by failing to respond in time and explaining its reasons for rejecting the request.