Constitutional transcripts released

The Cabinet Office has released transcripts of constitutional negotiations between the Cayman Islands and UK government in compliance with a ruling last month from the Information Commissioner.

The Human Rights Committee had requested the transcripts be made public in a Freedom of Information request in March, but was turned down by the Cabinet Office, which cited confidentiality and the possibility of prejudicing international relations with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office as reasons for not releasing the documents.

Information Commissioner Jennifer Dilbert ruled that the transcripts of the three rounds of meetings should be released, pointing out that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office had agreed that the documents could be made public and dismissing the Cabinet Office’s reasons for refusing to release them..

Copies of the transcripts of the meetings held between September 2008 and February 2009, were given to Sara Collins, the former chairman of the now-defunct Human Rights Committee, which was party to the talks, and to all other participants in the negotiations, according to a statement from the Cabinet Office on Thursday. Copies have also been made available on the Cabinet Office website.

Cabinet Secretary Orrett Connor said: “In late November 2009, the UK reversed its original decision concerning the confidentiality of the talks. This required the Cabinet Office to carefully consider any obligation it might hold to individuals who had taken part in negotiations with the understanding that the proceedings would be private.

“There was additional concern that local and overseas parties to future negotiations might be inhibited by the precedent of discussions designated as private, becoming public after the fact.”

Mr. Connor said he believed that the Information Commissioner’s finding that the public interest outweighed any such concerns “demonstrates the integrity of the system of checks and balances built into the Freedom of Information Law by the Cabinet Office”.

The meetings, held in London and Cayman, determined the contents of a draft constitution for the Cayman Islands, on which the public voted to accept in a referendum in May last year.

Delegates from Cayman included representatives from the government, the Human Rights Committee, the Ministers Association, and the Seventh Day Adventists.

Ms Collins, following the Commissioner’s ruling last month, said the Human Rights Committee had felt it was “right that the people should know what was said on their behalf and that light should be shed on the talks in the form of this disclosure order”.

The transcripts that have been released run to more than 1,350 pages. The public can view them in the Freedom of Information document library of the Cabinet Office website ; in the resources section of the 2009 Constitution website ; and at the government website .

The Cabinet Office is also considering making audio records of the proceedings available to the public.

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