The Minister for Education, Sports and Culture, Julie Edge, has apologised to the Speaker of the House, Juan Watterson for withholding information from Tynwald.
It comes after Mr Watterson put in a written question to the minister about feasibility studies and masterplans regarding the Castle Rushen High School development.
The development is a plan to replace the current southern school buildings, which has been a long-running project and has had nearly £100,000 spent on studies and briefings.
The written response said: ‘The department are not currently in a position to publish the cost of producing the masterplan report for 2023.’
It later said: ‘No feasibility studies will be published until final costings and plans are agreed and approved.’
When Mr Watterson received the written response he put a Freedom of Information request in and copied Ms Edge in.
He received a response which included documents with redacted information in answer to the same question, with some of the information he requested having already been published in an FoI response in 2021.
The answer to the request was published February 16.
In Tynwald this week, Mr Watterson asked Julie Edge, further to the written response, why she believes that the 2019 strategic brief and the 2021 feasibility study for the new Castle Rushen High School should not be published before final costings and plans have been approved.
Ms Edge responded: ‘ There are a number of reasons why both in December and at this stage it would not be appropriate to share full versions of both the previous 2019 strategic brief and the 2021 feasibility study.
‘Applicable statutory exemptions under the Freedom of Information Act 2015 have been applied to withhold the redacted information and publication from Tynwald.
‘In December the department was preparing a business case for the Treasury’s consideration based on the conceptual design that had been prepared.’
She added: ‘As the redacted versions of both the 2019 strategic briefing and the 2021 feasibility study had previously been published in the FoI disclosure log, I would like to apologise to the honourable member because the department did not share the redacted versions with honourable members when requested in December 2022 and I would like to thank him for highlighting this.’
She said that the department had assumed that full release of un edacted versions of the 2019 strategic brief and 2021 feasibility study were being requested.
She later said: ‘I don’t know who puts an FoI in’.
When Mr Watterson mentioned that she was copied in on the FoI request on January 18, she said: ‘If I was responding to every single individual email myself I probably wouldn’t have time to come and stand in here, but we all know how important our role is and you have had a response from my personal assistant and we have the answer on the freedom of information log.’
A second question from Mr Watterson asked Ms Edge under what circumstances she considers it acceptable to withhold from Tynwald information which is available to the public under the Freedom of Information Act 2015.
The minister said that the department will seek to disclose information but will also consider whether that information should be disclosed to the public. She said that it is not acceptable to withhold information where the exemption does not apply.