Guidance on Ministerial Meetings

Hello all,

Last year I submitted an FOI request for the guidance that Cabinet Office give to Ministers on their hospitality and meeting disclosures. It was bizarrely refused, on grounds that this guidance many change in future, so it can’t be released now.

Finally after ICO intervention, the guidance has been shared here: Guidance for departments on how to publish ministerial gifts, hospitality, travel and meetings - a Freedom of Information request to Cabinet Office - WhatDoTheyKnow

The document details what gets counted as a meeting or not, and where the loopholes for non-disclosure of meetings might be.

I thought this may be of interest to some on this list. It also appears Cabinet Office are trying to hold onto their objection that this information changes, and so publishing it risks being misleading. I’ve asked them by reply to consider including this in a regular publication scheme - and this might be something others engaging with CO may want to follow up.

All the best


History below:

---------- Forwarded message ---------
From: Tim Davies <>
Date: Mon, Jan 22, 2018 at 2:33 PM
Subject: Guidance on Ministerial Meetings - Was: [opengovuk] FYI - PM transparency commitments letter
To: Tim Hughes <>

Hello all,

A quick update on the below. I submitted an FOI asking Cabinet Office to publish the guidance they provide to departments on how to prepare registers of Ministerial gifts, hospitality, travel and meetings, as these were mentioned in the PMs letter on transparency - but are often not published consistently.

At How to publish ministerial gifts, hospitality, travel and meetings - GOV.UK they state:

“The Cabinet Office Propriety and Ethics team provides guidance on how to prepare your data - including CSV (comma-separated values) templates, timing and appropriate approval processes.”

But my request for this guidance has been turned down on the grounds that:

“The guidance issued to departments on preparing this data is regularly updated to take account of feedback from users and developments in the Government’s transparency agenda. Therefore, we consider that this information is exempt from disclosure under section 35(1)(a) (formulation and development of government policy). While we recognise there is a public interest in understanding how this transparency information is prepared, we consider that this is outweighed by the public interest in not providing information that may be soon out of date and therefore potentially misleading and inaccurate. On balance it is therefore not in the public interest to release this material.”

Anyone got thoughts on this? Seems very odd to me that the basis on which transparency information is published would be against the public interest to release…

I’ll ask for an internal review - but would welcome reflections from anyone else who has had a similar response from Govt around guidance resources.

All the best


On Sun, Dec 17, 2017 at 3:25 PM, Tim Davies <> wrote:

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Thanks Andreas, Rachel,

This is really interesting to see - and would deserve wider analysis from the network: is anyone on this list is doing a write-up across all the updated guidance - please do share!

One area I think we do need to keep a focus on is around ministerial meeting registers. The guidance notes are very basic, and don’t include the template or information on how notes are to be prepared (I’ve submitted a quick FOI request for this, as searching didn’t turn anything up) - nor does it provide details on timeliness other than to say quarterly which, at most lax interpretation, still means it can be 5 months+ before we learn about some meetings. Is anyone else looking into ministerial meeting and hospitality logs data, and how we could increase the quality of this?

I’ve also been looking the updated guidance note on Publication of Central Government Tenders and Contracts looks good in terms of making clear now that tender documents and actual contract texts should be attached to Contracts Finder, and including the Model Transparency Clause in the annexes to suggest that contracts do include terms on transparency clearly. Some good specific progress for bits of UK Open Gov Network work in here.

This will be important to track implementation of - and I’d be really interested to hear if members of the network are tracking particular contracting processes, or the contracts from particular departments, and would be interested in keeping a qualitative watch on this?

All the best


Tim Davies

On Fri 15th Dec 2017, 10:36am, Rachel Davies Teka <> wrote:

Following up on Andreas’s email, the PM letter accompanies new guidance from GDS on publishing core transparency data: How to publish central government transparency data - GOV.UK

Rachel Davies Teka

Head of Advocacy

Transparency International UK


T: +44 (0)20 3096 7698


On Thu 14th Dec 2017, 1:20pm, Andreas Pavlou <> wrote:

Dear Network,

As some of you may have seen on Twitter, the Prime Minister has written to ministers to remind them of the governments transparency commitments (Although the irony is not lost on me that whilst the letter talks about ensuring open and reusable formats, it is published in a non-readable/scrapable format).



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Thanks, Tim. This is useful. We’ll take a look and get back to you with thoughts if you want to discuss.