A5036 Port of Liverpool access scheme – EIR 101635: minutes of meetings

28/04/2021. The following comment is made in respect of what has been disclosed (which appears below).  The author’s comments are his own, unconnected with the Rimrose Valley Campaign (RVC) with whom he/we have no affiliation.  The observations are for information only and should not be considered FoI or legal advice.   The interest, on the part of www.englandhighways.co.uk, is the common issue; Highways England’s obstructive approach to Freedom of Information.  The RVC have apparently made at least 29 FoI requests and encountered resistance to the release of information, the Authority appears to be taking a stern line with them. Examples of the request (and the facility to make your own) can be found here – WhatDoTheyKnow – and searching, for example ‘Rimrose’. An example of the response received can be found here.

The Author was ‘accused’ of making 57 requests/reviews and being associated with 118 more! – see ‘statement of Ms Sian Jones‘ we were after information which the Authority stated (on multiple occasions) was ‘held’ but which, when a Tribunal found for us (not vexatious), the information could not be provided because it was ‘not held’.  Yet, earlier this year, the information was not just held, but released!

The Authority’s conduct was commented upon by a judge and subsequently, another remarked they should ‘comply with the law’.  As for the ICO, despite repeated concerns being presented, they provide no deterrent and therefore likely encourage the Authority’s cavalier attitude toward the legislation. With regard to the RVC emails disclosed (and which appear below), we note:

03/12/2020 @ 17:20 – it appears that whilst it was accepted ‘info should be given’, disagreement was being sought.

03/12/2020 @ 17:25 – information was to be provided ‘reluctantly’.

04/12/2020 @ 12:45.  It appears the Authority was not going to consider a new request afresh, on its own merits but would apply a previous approach.

This email also makes reference to resisting release due to the ‘damaging effect that releasing the records is likely to have on our relationships with stakeholders’; ‘commercial sensitivity’ is not mentioned.  A contractor ‘Peel’ has stated ‘ they will not talk to us on the record in future’; so only unrecorded, informal exchanges to side-step FoI?

The Authority understand there is no guarantee the Commissioner will rule in our favour but they ‘wouldn’t be much worse off than if we give way now. On the other hand, if she did rule in our favour, it could go a long way to closing down the FOI/EIR route for RVF in future‘.  The approach appears to be withhold information not because there is a valid reason but because it was worth a try – the ICO could rule against the Authority in which case, they would be no worse off than if they had disclosed BUT … if the ICO found for the Authority it could close down this means of seeking information.  The email continues:

‘I’m not saying that refusal is an easy option – far from it. But for myself, I’d quite like to give it a go’

The grounds for withholding the information  appears to be ‘have a crack at it’; an approach not emanating from the FoI department (what is the purpose of FoI staff if others can dictate conduct or ‘policy’?).

04/03/2021 @ 17:10 Thursday  – It appears the issuance of the response was delayed at the suggestion of the Project Director, A19 New Tees Crossing:

Personally, I don’t think we should soften it as it sends a clear message around the EIR. But given the timing with the meetings taking place next week with Baroness Vere, the MPs and RVF, it could also be like a red rag to a bull

When this should be sent out needs to be thought about too and is perhaps a question for [redacted], linking back to DfT?

04/03/2021. An Authority Assistant Project Manager, Regional Investment Programme (RIP) NW made changes to the draft FoIA response but:

The substantive change is to the grounds for refusal.

The Assistant project Manager appears to be doing the job of the FoI officer – why?

05/03/2021 – Highways England’s FoI officer was willing to delay the release of the request response to assist his colleagues and seemingly to prevent the matter being brought up ata forthcoming meeting with Baroness Vere:

To put you in the picture of deadlines for the review, the 20 working days is up on Monday (8th) so ideally it needs to go on or before then.

I’m happy to hang until Monday if that fits better with your time lines for the meetings or briefing DfT.

Possibly this should be considered in relation to the ICO guidance time-for-compliance-foia-guidance:

Requirement to respond promptly
21. The obligation to respond promptly means that an authority should comply with a request as soon as is reasonably practicable.

25. It also follows that an authority which provides its response close to, or on, the final day of the 20 working day limit ought to be able to both account for, and justify, the length of time taken to comply with the request.

 


The email exchanges in chronological order:

From: A5036 Port of Liverpool
Sent: 03 December 2020 17:11
Subject: FW: Bill Esterson MP request

Hi both

Fyi – they must have heard what I said during project committee earlier about likely next steps with this. I didn’t quite anticipate that the cheeky little monkeys would add another 3 organizations to the list…

My first reaction is that now I need to reply to [redacted] explaining the EIR background to this, why we refused to supply the info before and why we’re refusing to supply it now too, that the appropriate route of appeal is the ICO, not the local MPs. This may well, I guess, put us on a collision course with said MPs, who may well raise the matter with [redacted], [redacted] and elsewhere – which I have no problem with, but you may feel differently?

Not something I’m going to be replying to this week (I’m still trying to get my IT to work for long enough to allow me to draft the reply to ICO about the appeal RVF have already made to them!) so time enough to think it over and let me know if you think I should deal with it in another way – and I’ll need you to check whatever I draft anyway.

Assistant Project Manager
Regional Investment Programme (RIP) NW
Highways England | 3 Piccadilly Place | Manchester | M1 3BN

Sent: 03 December 2020 17:20
To: A5036 Port of Liverpool <A5036PortofLiverpool@highwaysengland.co.uk>;
Subject: RE: Bill Esterson MP request

Hi [redcated]

With apologies in advance… I think that as we expressly asked them to be specific so we could look into the info, we should now give them the info. Obviously, anyone can disagree with me!

For your sanity, can we manage expectations and say we will look to provide any info we have but given the resource strain this puts on the team we will provide this by a date in the future?

I am guessing what they’re after will be pretty boring and not revelatory in any case? We’d need to give the organisations listed a notification that info will be published.

Kind regards,

Public Affairs Manager, North
Highways England | Piccadilly Gate | Store Street | Manchester | M1 2WD
Web: http://www.highwaysengland.co.uk

Sent: 03 December 2020 17:25
<A5036PortofLiverpool@highwaysengland.co.uk>;
Subject: RE: Bill Esterson MP request

Which is why we drafted the original response we did (which [redacted] then rejected)…

What’s the ‘time limit’ we apply to EIR requests, [redacted] – I can’t remember? We probably have no choice now, but stick to the limit and provide what we can find within that window would be my (reluctant) suggestion.

😣

Regional Investment Programme NW, Programme Leader
Highways England | Level 5 | 3 Piccadilly Place Manchester | M1 2BN

Sent: 03 December 2020 17:32
Subject: RE: Bill Esterson MP request

Can we not at the very least ask them to provide a time period from which they want the minutes from?

I have to ask what’s the point of the FOI Act when I see things like this.

Regards

Regional Investment Programme (RIP) North West
Highways England | 5th Floor | 3 Piccadilly Place | Manchester | M1 3BN

From: A5036 Port of Liverpool
Sent: 04 December 2020 12:45
Subject: RE: Bill Esterson MP request

Hi all

Dan’s last comment, about the FOI Act, is partly why I suggested we hold our nerve on this, and explain the history of the previous requests, why we rejected them and politely decline this one, at the same time making clear as gently as we can that RVF is making the MPs complicit in a concerted campaign of harassment that should properly be considered by the Information Commissioner (who I think will rule the campaign out of order).

I had an interesting conversation with [redacted] the FOI Officer, about this earlier. He pointed out that, even leaving the previous history aside, we should probably treat the email from [redacted] as a fresh FOI request, MPs effectively being members of the public too. Doing so is attractive for several reasons: first, that the timescales for responding to FOI/EIR requests are longer, giving me time to just focus on the existing ICO appeal; second, because we would then send an acknowledgement advising them of this fact, which would prepare the ground; and third, because it would allow us to follow the same logic as with the previous requests, enabling us to set out the reasons why we refused to supply the info.

Another reason I suggest continuing to follow the logic of what we’ve done so far is that if we accede, it will not be the end of the matter. On the list of organizations that was posted on RVF’s website, there are still another 8 stakeholders that they haven’t yet requested the minutes of meetings for. We can safely assume that we will then be asked for those 8, as well as the 8 we have so far refused, and the 4 new bodies included in the MPs’ request. In addition to that, we refused a further 7 organizations (back in February, when RVF submitted 8 EIR requests on the same day) that were not in fact on the list, so we can assume RVF will come back for those too. That’s 27 organizations we would have to search for – and I have little doubt that RVF will think of new requests to submit.

A third reason for continuing to resist is the damaging effect that releasing the records is likely to have on our relationships with stakeholders. We’ve already seen Peel backing off, saying they will not talk to us on the record in future; and we now have the Everton FC example, where RVF, knowing we’ve talked to the club, go and harass the stakeholder, who then come back to us, concerned that we’ve been misrepresenting them. But if this eventually became an appeal to the ICO, actually this evidence is likely to be quite useful in illustrating the malign purposes of the RVF campaign; and in adding weight to the argument that RVF are trying to impede the legitimate work of HE, and in fact impeding us from carrying out our statutory obligations to consult.

There is of course no guarantee that, if we call their bluff and force RVF and/or the
MPs to appeal to the IC, the Commissioner will rule in our favour – but we wouldn’t be much worse off than if we give way now. On the other hand, if she did rule in our favour, it could go a long way to closing down the FOI/EIR route for RVF in future.

I’m not saying that refusal is an easy option – far from it. But for myself, I’d quite like to give it a go. And who knows? Maybe the uncharacteristically spirited rebuttal published in the New Civil Engineer recently suggests more of an appetite for defending ourselves robustly!

Regional Investment Programme (RIP) NW
Highways England | 3 Piccadilly Place | Manchester | M1 3BN

Sent: 04 December 2020 14:09
Subject: RE: Bill Esterson MP request

Hi [redacted]

I’m inclined to agree with you if we can get support from the business, bearing in mind that [redacted] signed off the original CEO response. I understand that we want to work collaboratively with local stakeholders but if this proves to be a successful way of accessing information and bypassing the FOI processes, we may as well pack up and go home. It will be the start of an endless cycle of searching through records that will completely disrupt the delivery of the project. It doesn’t sit right with me at all

Regards

Regional Investment Programme (RIP) North West
Highways England | 5th Floor | 3 Piccadilly Place | Manchester | M1 3BN

Sent: 04 December 2020 16:27
Subject: RE: Bill Esterson MP request

Thanks both, I agree. And Paul, I agree with your idea about treating it as a new FOI request. Perhaps we could have a conversation about it next week? , it would also be helpful to get your views? We may also need to brief

Have a good weekend all,

Regional Investment Programme NW, Programme Leader
Highways England | Level 5 | 3 Piccadilly Place Manchester | M1 2BN

Fri 04/12/2020 16:33
RE: Bill Esterson MP request

Thanks all. Yes, happy to speak next week.

Have a good weekend.

Kind regards,

[redacted]
Highways England | Piccadilly Gate | Store Street | Manchester | M1 2WD

Sent: 07 December 2020 10:01
From: FOI Advice
Subject: EIR 101635 – Bill Esterson – A5036 copy of minutes and stakeholder meeting

Due to the current circumstances we understand there may be delays in responding to FOI requests eg where resources may be understandably
required elsewhere. The ICO are taking a pragmatic approach to this when
handling any complaints relating to delays. If there is likely to be a delay in responding to this request please let us know and we will update the requestor accordingly.
Please send all FOI responses to FOI Advice to review before any response is sent
Dear colleagues
Please find attached a Share link to a new EIR request relating to A5036 copy of minutes and stakeholder meeting.

Please consider the following when drafting your response:
Regulation 12(4)(b) – is this request manifestly unreasonable
Regulation 13 – all personal information should be redacted

Reference number: 101635

Due date: 6 January 2020
Please respond using the EIR response templates
Please read the Highways England style guide before drafting your response.

Advice and guidance can be found on the EIR Portal page.

Please advise if this request is not for your team or if required to be redirected elsewhere

Please BCC CCC Closed calls when sending out your response so they can close on their records.

Regards,

[redacted]
Freedom of Information Team
Highways England | Lateral | 8 City Walk | Leeds | LS11 9AT

From: A5036 Port of Liverpool
Sent: 08 December 2020 11:19
Subject: RE: Bill Esterson MP request

Hi all – finally managed to get into the inbox to read your replies…. I will endeavour to put something in diaries, if my IT manages to function for more than 2 minutes put together!

[redacted]

Sent: 11 December 2020 10:15
Subject: A5036 MP FOI

Morning Both,

Spoke to [redacted] about the FOI from the MPs. He thinks he will be worth briefing [redacted]; something similar happened on Chichester so he will have come across it before. Think that Stakeholder environment was even more toxic than this! [redacted] has asked that we set out a high level ‘timeline’ summarising events to date and how we’ve ended up arriving at the position we have with FOIs and the arguments we’ve made. We can then decide the best way to approach things with [redacted]. [redacted] thinks he might want to flag it at a ministerial level…

[redacted], please could I ask you to help by setting something out? Think we might already have something?

Thank you,

[redacted]
Regional Investment Programme NW, Programme Leader
Highways England | Level 5 | 3 Piccadilly Place Manchester | M1 2BN

Sent: 11 December 2020 10:41
Subject: RE: A5036 MP FOI

Hi [redacted] – yes, no problem.

[redacted]also thought we should let Peter know about it when I spoke to him.

[redacted]
Regional Investment Programme (RIP) NW
Highways England | 3 Piccadilly Place | Manchester | M1 3BN

From: A5036 Port of Liverpool
Sent: 18 December 2020 19:10

Subject: RE: Bill Esterson MP EIR request

Hi [redacted]

With apologies that it has taken me longer than I thought it would (along with our new PS joining and the usual run of meetings, going to MRI on Monday afternoon didn’t help…), I’ve attached my first stab at a draft reply to [redacted] in Bill Esterson’s office. Also attached is a draft PIT test document, which you’ll recognize chunks of from previous EIR requests; and a timeline to illustrate how we’ve got to this point.

The draft reply is based on the template, and I think I need to think about whether it could be softened to some extent – any bright ideas welcomed.

I’m not sure the timeline is quite what you had in mind when you suggested it – I actually produced a more detailed version on a spreadsheet for my own future reference, and then tried to condense it down for this, but it’s perhaps not as condensed as [redacted]would be prepared to read? Again, any suggestions gratefully received.

I still need to update the background note I sent with the draft CEO reply, for [redacted]use, but I’ve saved it as it is for the moment in our FOI folder.

I’ve got leave booked on Monday & Tuesday, and I figure you will want time to read the attached, so I’ll pick it up again on Wednesday if that’s OK (but let me know if not, I’ll keep my phone to hand), make any corrections etc, and I can send it straight to [redacted], or you can – as you prefer! Given that they may not be about to read it and Xmas is just generally in the way, I think I will need to ask the FOI Team for a bit of an extension on the deadline (6 Jan), and advise [redacted]accordingly – which is not ideal, but excusable I hope.

Now I’m going to get a stiff drink & me tea!

[redacted]
Regional Investment Programme (RIP) NW
Highways England | 3 Piccadilly Place | Manchester | M1 3BN

Sent: 21 December 2020 10:19
Subject: RE: Bill Esterson MP EIR request

[redacted]

I hope you’re okay? I did hear about your visit [redacted], not pleasant even at the best of times. I hope you’ve had time to rest and recuperate. Fingers crossed it was just ‘one of those things’ and they’ve reassured you as such.

Thank you for all of this. I’ll get a pack of information over to [redacted] today/tomorrow and see how he wants to play it with [redacted]. I finish tomorrow evening, so we’ll miss each other until the new year, so please ask for the extension – I suspect there will be some to-ing and fro-ing. In terms of the letter, it’s the standard FOI response template so not sure how we ‘soften’ it, but can deal with that when we get a steer whether they’re going to back our approach or not.

I know we share similar views on Christmas(!), so I’ll just wish you a happy break from the screen, and FOIs, and a healthy, less sh1te 2021.

[redacted]
Regional Investment Programme NW, Programme Leader
Highways England | Level 5 | 3 Piccadilly Place Manchester | M1 2BN

Sent: 22 December 2020 11:57
Subject: Bill Esterson MP EIR request

[redacted]

When we spoke a couple of weeks ago, I said I would get a summary to you about the A5036 FOI from MPs Peter Dowd and Bill Esterton to flag with [redacted]. Apologies for the delay.

Bill Esterson and Peter Dowd have consistently opposed the A5036 Port of Liverpool access scheme. Tim and I, met with Peter Dowd in January 2020. Mr Dowd re-stated his opposition to the scheme. A similar meeting with Mr Esterson was being arranged when the Covid-19 lockdown intervened. It has not yet been reinstated. Mr Esterson spoke against the scheme at a Friends of the Earth event in February 2020.

It is likely that the current request has been instigated by supporters of Rimrose Valley Friends, following the recent refusal by the project team to provide information requested under the Environmental Information Regulations.

Rimrose Valley Friends (RVF) is a small but very vocal group opposing the scheme. Since July 2019, RVF and its supporters have submitted at least 29 FOI/EIR requests in respect of the scheme. 21 of these requests asked for minutes and correspondence relating to specified stakeholders the project team have engaged with. After complying with earlier requests, the project team refused 8 requests submitted simultaneously in February 2020 as ‘manifestly unreasonable.’

RVF subsequently posted a list of 28 stakeholders known to have engaged with HE on their website, and asked supporters to submit FOI requests on their behalf. The project team complied with the first of the supporter requests received, providing information in respect of a small number of stakeholders; but refused a subsequent request for information relating to 8 more stakeholders, again on the grounds that the request was manifestly unreasonable.

The same information was then requested again by 7 separate supporters. The project team refused these on the grounds that they were ‘manifestly unreasonable,’ ‘vexatious,’ and represented a ‘concerted campaign to disrupt the work of the authority,’ in line with ICO guidance.

These last refusals were the subject of appeals to HE’s internal complaints procedure. The project team’s refusals were upheld by the FOI Officer. The proper route for appealing HE’s refusal to provide the information requested is to the ICO. It seems likely that RVF are aware that the project team has interpreted the guidance correctly, hence the approach to the MPs.

Attached is:

A draft response to the MPs, whose revised request for information following issue of the letter Peter signed on 1st December, has now been logged as an FOI under the regulations. The draft is based on the HE template and complies with the regulations.

Headline is we’re rejecting their request, having completed a public interest test akin to all the others carried out in relation to the same information requested over the past 18 months or so. PIT is also attached.

Summary timeline of the requests we’ve received and the subsequent complaints internally and to the Information Commissioners Office, to provide more detail to the bullet points above.

Mark Thomas will try and have a conversation with the MP offices after the Christmas break and we’re also seeking an extension to the FOI response, as I imagine it will need some debate internally. We had a productive conversation with Merseytravel last week; they have also been bombarded with FOI’s. Other private organisations (not subject to the Regulations) we speak to regularly are concerned about sensitive information being released and have said it may impact on how they engage with in the future. Going forwards we’re going to ask key stakeholders whether they have any objections to agreed meeting notes being published on our website to prevent the situation continuing and include that within Statements of Common Ground we need to agree ahead of consultation next year.

Thank you for looking at this for us.

I finish today, so if I don’t speak to you again have a good Christmas.

[redacted]
Regional Investment Programme NW, Programme Leader
Highways England | Level 5 | 3 Piccadilly Place Manchester | M1 2BN

Sent: 22 December 2020 13:06
Subject: FW: Bill Esterson MP EIR request

[redacted]

We briefly spoke about this last week and possibility of an intervention by the Roads Minister

I have attached a summary from [redacted] on the current requests against the background of the continual local opposition to the scheme

Can we discuss further in new year

Director – Regional Investment Programme
Highways England

From: A5036 Port of Liverpool
Sent: 24 December 2020 09:06
To: FOI Advice <FOIAdvice@highwaysengland.co.uk>
Subject: RE: EIR 101635 – Bill Esterson – A5036 copy of minutes and stakeholder meeting

Hi all,

Unfortunately, we are going to need an extension of time to respond to this one. SLT here want [redacted]& [redacted]to have sight of this request and our proposed response before sending it, and illness (mine) and Christmas have got in the way of that.

An additional fortnight should be sufficient, I think.

Thank you and happy Christmas!

[redacted]Regional Investment Programme (RIP) NW
Highways England | 3 Piccadilly Place | Manchester | M1 3BN

Sent: 07 January 2021 14:01
Subject: RE: Bill Esterson MP EIR request

[redacted]

I wanted to make sure we have been around the buoy on this one once more and agreed on an approach. If not, lets chat it over.

Thanks

[redacted]
Highways England | The Cube | 199 Wharfside Street | Birmingham | B1 1RN
Web: http://www.highways.gov.uk

[redacted]

Sorry to hear you have been ill, I hope you are feeling better now.

The only to extend this officially would be with a Regulation 7 notice for complex and voluminous, which I think this would probably meet the criteria for. The template for this is on page 10 of the attached.

Kind Regards

[redacted]
Freedom of Information Officer (HE)
Information & Technology
Highways England | Piccadilly Gate | Store Street | Manchester | M1 2WD

Sent: 07 January 2021 14:25
Subject: FW: Bill Esterson MP EIR request

Hi [redacted]

Just for your information – have you been able to get in touch with the MPs offices?

Regards

[redacted]
Regional Investment Programme
3 Piccadilly Place | Manchester | M1 2BN

Sent: 07 January 2021 15:44
Subject: RE: Bill Esterson MP EIR request

Hi [redacted]

Happy new year. I’m hoping this one will be better than the last…

I spoke to [redacted] about this before Christmas and my view was that the MPs are well versed in their role in this and are supporting RVF with their query with eyes open. As such, speaking to them will do little to change their approach. Replying to their letter on the basis of [redacted] outline is the best way forward.

Separately, we can certainly look to reconvene the meeting with Bill.

Grateful if you could advise what intervention is being looked at from the Minister? This will probably be counterproductive locally unless approached carefully is all I’m thinking!

[redacted]
Highways England | Piccadilly Gate | Store Street | Manchester | M1 2WD

Sent: 07 January 2021 16:17
Subject: RE: Bill Esterson MP EIR request

Thanks [redacted]

I agree we should try to keep the Minister out of the discussion at this stage.

[redacted] is less available on a Thursday, so I will catch up with her tomorrow

Regards

[redacted]
Regional Delivery Director – North West
Regional Investment Programme
3 Piccadilly Place | Manchester | M1 2BN

Sent: 21 January 2021 09:38

Hi [redacted]

I don’t have the attachments from your original email of 22 December. Please can you send these to me
Do you think that any of the correspondence we have had recently associated with the RVF open letter changes your draft response to the FOI response?

I agree we need to close this off asap.

I will review what you have proposed as a response and then we should respond to
[redacted] email below

Regards

[redacted]

Regional Delivery Director – North West
Regional Investment Programme
3 Piccadilly Place | Manchester | M1 2BN

Sent: 21 January 2021 10:16
Subject: RE: Bill Esterson MP EIR request

Thanks [redacted].
Copy of email with documents attached.

I don’t think the FRV letter changes our approach here, they’ve come in as two separate matters and we need to be careful not to try and tangle them up.

[redacted]
Regional Investment Programme NW, Programme Leader
Highways England | Level 5 | 3 Piccadilly Place Manchester | M1 2BN

Fri 22/01/2021 15:02
<A5036PortofLiverpool@highwaysengland.co.uk>

See below.

[redacted]

Friday, January 22, 2021 2:59:25 PM
Subject: RE: Bill Esterson MP EIR request

Hi [redacted]

I think [redacted] draft is strong and balanced. I am not sure of the protocol of how we respond to MPs, but if the initial request came to the Project inbox or to [redacted] then it is appropriate that he replies. If it came to [redacted] or [redacted], then we are effectively drafting a response for [redacted], so we would just need to change the signature etc. It may be better if [redacted] refers to who the email came to in his opening para.

The only bit of the letter that did not seem so clear to me was:

I am writing to advise you that we do hold information that is relevant to your request, but regret to inform you of my decision not to disclose this information. Would this be better as two sentences “ … request. However I regret to inform you …..”

The information you requested is being withheld in reliance on the exception in regulation 12(4)(b) of the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 because the request is manifestly unreasonable. Maybe “The information you requested is being withheld because the request is manifestly unreasonable based on the exception in regulation 12(4)(b) of the Environmental Information Regulations 2004.”

I would have no concern in signing this letter myself if the protocol calls for this

Let’s get the response out today and mop up afterwards Regards

[redacted]
Regional Delivery Director – North West
Regional Investment Programme
3 Piccadilly Place | Manchester | M1 2BN

From: A5036 Port of Liverpool
Sent: 02 March 2021 15:03
To: FOI Advice FOIAdvice@highwaysengland.co.uk
Subject: FW: A5036 Port of Liverpool access scheme – EIR 101635: minutes of meetings with stakeholders – Highways England’s response

Hi [redacted]

I’ve just been asked by Ministerial & Parliamentary Affairs team to provide some briefing for a meeting between Baroness Vere and Peter Dowd MP. It was a letter sent to the CEO by Messrs Dowd & Esterson that gave rise to the EIR at issue below.

Has [redacted] appeal to our internal review process been dealt with yet, or is it still ongoing? Not pressing for it to be done, just want to be sure that my briefing is as up to date as possible!

Thanks

[redacted]
Assistant Project Manager
Regional Investment Programme (RIP) NW
Highways England | 3 Piccadilly Place | Manchester | M1 3BN

Thu 04/03/2021 14:08
FOI Advice FOIAdvice@highwaysengland.co.uk
RE: A5036 Port of Liverpool access scheme – EIR 101635: minutes of meetings with stakeholders – Highways England’s response

Hi [redacted]

Please see attached for my proposed response to [redacted] for Bill Esterson MPs internal review. I’ve tried to keep it short and to the point focussing mainly on how we believe this request to be linked to the others we’d received and refused not long before.

Please take a look and any comments are welcome because I know we want to get the tone right considering its going back to an MPs office.

Kind Regards

[redacted]
Freedom of Information Officer (HE)
Information & Technology
Highways England | Piccadilly Gate | Store Street | Manchester | M1 2WD

Thu 04/03/2021 17:10
FW: A5036 Port of Liverpool access scheme – EIR 101635: minutes of meetings with stakeholders – Highways England’s response
To: FOI Advice FOIAdvice@highwaysengland.co.uk

Thank you, [redacted]. I think it is a really good, clear response.

[redacted], could I ask that you do a quick sanity check on it?

I’ve also copied [redacted] in to have a read. As he is picking up from me, he’ll end up picking up the fallout from this down the line. Personally, I don’t think we should soften it as it sends a clear message around the EIR. But given the timing with the meetings taking place next week with Baroness Vere, the MPs and RVF, it could also be like a red rag to a bull

When this should be sent out needs to be thought about too and is perhaps a question for [redacted], linking back to DfT? If nothing else we need to flag it as part of the briefing being prepared. I’ll raise it with him now.

As ever, thank you all for pulling this, the other reposnses and the PIT together.

[redacted]
Project Director, A19 New Tees Crossing
Highways England | Level 5 | 3 Piccadilly Place Manchester | M1 2BN

Thu 04/03/2021 17:43
To HE FoI
RE: A5036 Port of Liverpool access scheme – EIR 101635: minutes of meetings with stakeholders – Highways England’s response

Hi [redacted]

Thank you for this – very timely, as others have commented!

I have suggested a few changes to your draft – see attached. Some of these are just cosmetic – I think they could make it flow better, but entirely up to you obviously. The substantive change is to the grounds for refusal.

ICO guidance makes it clear that the Commissioner is chiefly interested in the burden on the authority, so I think we ought to say that here. I wouldn’t like to lose the word ‘vexatious’ because it is important, but it’s also subjective, so I think we need to include the more objective ‘burden’ word. It makes it a bit more of a mouthful (and you’ll notice I’ve suggested not repeating it in full the third time), but hopefully worth it.

I hope that’s OK, thanks again – your conclusion has given us a boost during a challenging week!

[redacted]
Assistant Project Manager
Regional Investment Programme (RIP) NW
Highways England | 3 Piccadilly Place | Manchester | M1 3BN

Thu 04/03/2021 18:02
RE: A5036 Port of Liverpool access scheme – EIR 101635: minutes of meetings with stakeholders – Highways England’s response

Yes, done that. Just a small change about the grounds (burden, as well as vexatiousness, as the ICO attach more importance to it).

Do you want me to ask [redacted] to hang fire with it, though? Not sure how much odds it makes, could be simpler to say in the briefing that the route of appeal is now just to ICO. Might also confirm to DfT that we are serious about applying the same laws to MPs as to the rest of us…

[redacted]

Fri 05/03/2021 08:04
From FOI Advice FOIAdvice@highwaysengland.co.uk
RE: A5036 Port of Liverpool access scheme – EIR 101635: minutes of meetings with

Hi [redacted]

No problem at all.

[redacted] has provided some comments back which I have taken on board, so the response is ready to be sent.

To put you in the picture of deadlines for the review, the 20 working days is up on Monday (8th) so ideally it needs to go on or before then. I’m happy to hang until Monday if that fits better with your time lines for the meetings or briefing DfT.

Let me know what you thoughts are and whether you have preference either way for when it is sent.

Kind Regards

[redacted]
Freedom of Information Officer (HE)
Information & Technology
Highways England | Piccadilly Gate | Store Street | Manchester | M1 2WD

Fri 05/03/2021 08:10
FOI Advice <FOIAdvice@highwaysengland.co.uk>
RE: A5036 Port of Liverpool access scheme – EIR 101635: minutes of meetings with stakeholders – Highways England’s response

Hi [redacted]

Thanks for looking over this. Yes completely happy with your proposed changes and the reasoning, like I said I wanted to make sure the message was right with it going back to the MPs office.

The only thing I haven’t changed or done anything with is the comment you made on the heading. I tend to just keep it to ‘Internal Review’ because I refer to which case it is about in the body of the response and it keeps it short and to the point.

Thank you again for taking a look at the response, as you’ll see I’ve responded to [redacted] e-mail as well so just waiting on any feedback on when it is best to send before this is issued.

If you have any questions or want to discuss further please get in touch.

Kind Regards

[redacted]
Freedom of Information Officer (HE)
Information & Technology
Highways England | Piccadilly Gate | Store Street | Manchester | M1 2WD

Sent: 05 March 2021 12:40
To: FOI Advice <FOIAdvice@highwaysengland.co.uk>; A5036 Port of Liverpool
<A5036PortofLiverpool@highwaysengland.co.uk>
Subject: RE: A5036 Port of Liverpool access scheme – EIR 101635: minutes of meetings with stakeholders – Highways England’s response

Thanks [redacted]. Might be worth checking with [redacted] about release date, as she is coordinating the ministerial briefing with DfT. I know she’s aware of the history of this one and will have read the briefing note too. It looks like [redacted] will be in the briefing next week so perhaps best if she sees this alongside the note on his behalf.

[redacted]

Project Director, A19 New Tees Crossing
Highways England | Level 5 | 3 Piccadilly Place Manchester | M1 2BN

From: FOI Advice
Sent: 05 March 2021 12:58
To: A5036 Port of Liverpool
<A5036PortofLiverpool@highwaysengland.co.uk>
Subject: RE: A5036 Port of Liverpool access scheme – EIR 101635: minutes of meetings with stakeholders – Highways England’s response

Thanks [redacted]

Is that [redacted]?

Kind Regards

[redacted]
Freedom of Information Officer (HE)
Information & Technology
Highways England | Piccadilly Gate | Store Street | Manchester | M1 2WD

From: ( Manchester )
Sent: 05 March 2021 12:59
To: FOI Advice <FOIAdvice@highwaysengland.co.uk>;
A5036 Port of Liverpool <A5036PortofLiverpool@highwaysengland.co.uk>
Subject: RE: A5036 Port of Liverpool access scheme – EIR 101635: minutes of meetings with stakeholders – Highways England’s response

Yes it is [redacted]

Regards

[redacted]
Project Manager
Regional Investment Programme (RIP) North West
Highways England | 5th Floor | 3 Piccadilly Place | Manchester | M1 3BN

Fri 05/03/2021 13:08
FOI Advice FOIAdvice@highwaysengland.co.uk
RE: A5036 Port of Liverpool access scheme – EIR 101635: minutes of meetings with stakeholders – Highways England’s response
A5036 Port of Liverpool A5036PortofLiverpool@highwaysengland.co.uk

Thanks [redacted]

Kind Regards

[redacted]
Freedom of Information Officer (HE)
Information & Technology
Highways England | Piccadilly Gate | Store Street | Manchester | M1 2WD