Timeline of Rowntree files battle

York Press: With banners and placards aloft, defiant Rowntree supporters gather before setting off on a protest trip to Westminster in May, 1988 With banners and placards aloft, defiant Rowntree supporters gather before setting off on a protest trip to Westminster in May, 1988

NOV 2008: Under the Freedom of Information Act, The Press asks the Cabinet Office for all its documents from April to August 1988 relating to the takeover of Rowntree

JAN 2009: The Cabinet Office releases some letters, which form the basis of an article in The Press. It withholds other documents and refuses to say whether the matter was discussed in Cabinet.

It says there is “clearly” a public interest in ministerial deliberations being made public but says that is outweighed by arguments against disclosure. At this point, the 30-year-rule still exists, meaning Cabinet papers routinely remain secret for 30 years unless a greater public interest in releasing them can be demonstrated

SEP 2010: In an unrelated matter involving the Cabinet Office, tribunal judge David Farrer outlines guidance on assessing the weight of arguments for and against disclosure in any given case. He says papers may justifiably be released where the case for maintaining secrecy has been “significantly weakened”

OCT 2010: The Press re-applies for the withheld Nestlé-Rowntree papers, citing Judge Farrer’s guidelines. The Cabinet Office repeats its earlier decision and an internal review request by The Press fails

NOV 2010: The Press refers the matter to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO)

JAN 2011: Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg announces that the 30-year-rule will be replaced by a 20-year-rule. Later that month, Justice Secretary Ken Clarke provides a written Parliamentary statement to that effect.

OCT 2011: The ICO rules in favour of The Press. The Cabinet Office appeals

SEP 2012: A tribunal hearing is held in London. By now, The Press and ICO can also argue it is accepted by Parliament that files older than 20 years should be made public. Judge John Angel rules in favour of The Press and ICO, but the Cabinet Office again appeals

OCT 2013: After an upper tribunal hearing in London, Judge Williams upholds the original decision, rejecting the Cabinet Office’s appeal

DEC 2013: The Cabinet Office gives up the fight and releases the documents.

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