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Why were files kept hidden?
EMOTIONS were running high in York in 1988, when confectionery giant Rowntree was sold out of British hands.
Thousands backed our campaign, opposing the loss of an historic York company and calling for the matter to be referred to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission. But the deal went through uncontested.
Many of the fears have proved unfounded. Nestlé has invested heavily in York and is today one of the city’s biggest and most valued employers.
Nonetheless the takeover remains a major moment in York history, of intrinsic concern to many former employees and York citizens, and we have always believed the public had a right to know how the Government had handled the issue.
Today, we finally learn that John MacGregor, a senior Government Minister, was saying the same things as our readers and also that the matter was evidently never discussed in Cabinet.
That news is interesting for anyone with a concern for York, social history, and economic policy. But it is lamentable and puzzling that the Cabinet Office went to such extraordinary lengths to keep it secret, even in the face of legal rulings and a change in Government policy.
The Government has said nobody should have to wait more than 20 years, instead of the traditional 30, to see how Governments handled issues of concern to them. We hope the Cabinet Office will take heed in future cases, and avoid wasting public time and money so needlessly again.
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