HL Deb 15 March 2000 vol 610 cc205-6WA
Lord Patten

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will publish Civil Service advice to Ministers on mergers in the same way that they propose that there should be full disclosure of the main points of Office of Fair Trading advice on whether cases should be referred for a full investigation by the Competition Commission. [HL1349]

The Minister for Science, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville)

The Government are fully committed to a policy of openness. In pursuing this, the Competition Commission has been looking at ways of increasing transparency. In addition, the Director-General of Fair Trading is considering ways of publishing his advice to the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry on key mergers. In many cases Ministers already make public the reasons for their decisions on merger cases.

However, the Government do not anticipate publishing advice from officials to Ministers on mergers. Disclosure might prejudice the free and frank provision of advice, as well as the free and frank discussion of it within government. Such advice is exempt from disclosure under the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information, and the Freedom of Information Bill proposes similar protection.