Government documents concerning the near collapse of travel giant Thomas Cook in late 2011 cannot be disclosed in full, a tribunal has ruled, following a lengthy Freedom of Information battle between TTG and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Bis).
We can now reveal that TTG challenged Bis to produce documentation relating to a report prime minister David Cameron had asked for during Thomas Cook’s struggles almost four years ago. There was also a related internal advice note.
The government department initially denied our request to view the documents under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). An internal review was sought but the original decision was upheld.
TTG then took the case to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) - the government body that regulates the FOIA, which agreed that some of the information could be released.
In our correspondence with the ICO, TTG argued that there was a “plausible suspicion of wrongdoing” by Bis relating to both the 2012 Olympics, of which Thomas Cook was a sponsor, and taxpayer-controlled RBS, one of Thomas Cook’s lenders.
In its investigation the ICO found that some information could be disclosed. Bis appealed the decision and the case went to the First Tier Tribunal in London.
The hearing was held last month, with TTG present. Evidence was provided by witnesses from Thomas Cook, the CAA as well as Bis, some of which TTG was not party to as it was held behind closed doors.
Bis did not contest the release of all of the disputed information, but it argued that a significant amount be redacted, as it should be covered by certain exemptions in the FOIA.
This week the tribunal published its final decision, partially allowing the appeal by Bis. In its decision the tribunal said that it could not find any “form of wrongdoing”, adding that the government had taken a “responsible approach in the public interest”.
The ruling means the majority of the government’s documented reaction to Cook’s 2011 financial crisis remains censored. TTG is still deciding whether to appeal the decision.