It must be humiliating for the UK Met Office to have to protect Phil Jones and CRU. Even a seasoned bureaucrat must have winced in order to write the following:
Some of the information was provided to Professor Jones on the strict understanding by the data providers that this station data must not be publicly released and it cannot be determined which countries or stations data were given in confidence as records were not kept.
Here is the complete text of the UK Met Office’s most recent refusal of their station data.
Our Ref: 22-06-2009-131902-003 23 July 2009
Dear Mr McIntyre
Request for Information – Information not Held and Refusal to Disclose Information
Your correspondence dated 9 June 2009 has been considered to be a request for information in accordance with the Environmental Information Regulations 2004. The Ministry of Defence is permitted to withhold information where exceptions are considered justifiable.
You asked “You stated that CRUTEM3 data that you held was the value added data. Pursuant to the Environmental Information Regulations Act 2004, please provide me with this data in the digital form, together with any documents that you hold describing the procedures under which the data has been quality controlled and where deemed appropriate, adjusted to account for apparent non-climatic influences”.
Your request has been assessed and this letter is to inform you that the Met Office does hold some information covered by the request. We do not hold documents describing the procedures under which the data has been quality controlled or adjusted to account for apparent non-climatic influences.
The information held by the Met Office is withheld in accordance with the following exceptions pursuant to the Environmental Information Regulations Act 2004:
• Section 12 (5) (a) Information likely to prejudice relations between the United Kingdom and any International organisation;
• Section 12 (5) (e) Confidentiality of commercial or industrial information where such confidentiality is provided by law to protect a legitimate economic interest.
• Section 12 (5) (f) (i) (iii) The supplier was not under legal obligation to supply the information and has not consented to its disclosure.
As the above exceptions are qualified exceptions, a public interest test was undertaken by the Met Office to consider whether there are overriding reasons why disclosure of this information would not be in the public interest. The Met Office has duly considered these reasons in conjunction with the public interest in disclosing the requested information, in particular the benefits of assisting the public having information on environmental information, whereby they would hope to influence decisions from a position of knowledge rather than speculation.
Access to environmental information is particularly important as environmental issues affect
the whole population.
Consideration of Exception Regulation 12 (5) (a)
Much of the requested data comes from individual Scientists and Institutions from several countries. The Met Office received the data information from Professor Jones at the University of East Anglia on the strict understanding by the data providers that this station data must not be publicly released. If any of this information were released, scientists could be reluctant to share information and participate in scientific projects with the public sector organisations based in the UK in future. It would also damage the trust that scientists have in those scientists who happen to be employed in the public sector and could show the Met Office ignored the confidentiality in which the data information was provided.
We considered that if the public have information on environmental matters, they could hope to influence decisions from a position of knowledge rather than speculation. However, the effective conduct of international relations depends upon maintaining trust and confidence between states and international organisations. This relationship of trust allows for the free and frank exchange of information on the understanding that it will be treated in confidence. If the United Kingdom does not respect such confidences, its ability to protect and promote United Kingdom interests through international relations may be hampered. Competitors/ Collaborators could be damaged by the release of information which was given to us in confidence and this will detrimentally affect the ability of the Met Office (UK) to co-operate with meteorological organisations and governments of other countries. This could also provoke a negative reaction from scientist globally if their information which they have requested remains private is disclosed.
Consideration of Exception Regulation 12 (5) (e)
The information is also withheld in accordance with the exception under regulation 12 (5) (e) because the information comprises of Station Data which are commercially sensitive for many of the data sources (particularly European and African Meteorological services) release of any data could adversely affect relationships with other Institutions and individuals, who may plan to use their data for their own commercial interests. Some of this is documented in Hulme, 1996 but this is not a globally comprehensive summary.
The Met Office are not party to information which would allow us to determine which countries and stations data can or cannot be released as records were not kept, or given to the Met Office, therefore we cannot release data where we have no authority to do so. Competitors or collaborators could be damaged by the release of information which was given to us in confidence and could affect their ability to trade.
The Met Office uses the data solely and expressly to create a gridded product that we distribute without condition.
Consideration of Exception Regulation 12 (5) (f) (i) and (iii)
The information is also withheld in accordance with the exception under regulation 12 (5) (f) (i) (iii) as Professor Jones was not legally bound to release the data to the Met Office and has not consented to the disclosure to any other party. As stated above in 12 (5) (a) Some of the information was provided to Professor Jones on the strict understanding by the data providers that this station data must not be publicly released and it cannot be determined which countries or stations data were given in confidence as records were not kept. The Met Office received the data from Professor Jones on the proviso that it would not be released to any other source and to release it without authority would seriously affect the relationship between the United Kingdom and other Countries and Institutions.
I hope this answers your enquiry.
If you are not satisfied with this response or you wish to complain about any aspect of the handling of your request, then you should contact me in the first instance. If informal resolution is not possible and you are still dissatisfied then you may apply for an independent internal review by contacting the Head of Corporate Information, 6th Floor, MOD Main Building, Whitehall, SW1A 2HB (e-mail CIO-XD@mod.uk). Please note that any request for an internal review must be made within 40 working days of the date on which the attempt to reach informal resolution has come to an end.
If you remain dissatisfied following an internal review, you may take your complaint to the Information Commissioner under the provisions of Section 50 of the Freedom of Information Act. Please note that the Information Commissioner will not investigate your case until the MOD internal review process has been completed. Further details of the role and powers of the Information Commissioner can be found on the Commissioner’s website, http://www.ico.gov.uk.
Update Aug 4. Following reply sent:
Dear Ms Archer.
This is to acknowledge receipt of your letter of 23 July 2009. I request that you reconsider your decision for the following reasons.
You say that there is a strict understanding between CRU and data providers that station data not be publicly released. CRU’s actions show otherwise. CRU and Dr Jones have routinely posted station data online since 1990, with 1990, 1996 and 2003 versions being online at the time of my request to you. The 1990 version is online at CDIAC in the U.S. ( http://cdiac.ornl.gov/ftp/ndp020 ); from 1996 to until July 31, 2009, the 1996 version was online at CRU ( formerly accessible through http://www.cru.uea.ac.uk/advance10k/climdata.htm); from early 2003 to July 27, 2009, the 2003 version was online at CRU (formerly at ftp://ftp.cru.uea.ac.uk/data/). These latter two files were removed from public directories only after FOI/EIR requests for station data were submitted to the Met Office and CRU. Obviously any of the “lost” confidentiality agreements did not present a problem for placing data online up to 2003. Would you please consider your refusal in light of this additional information regarding online availability of earlier versions of these data sets between 1990 and July 31, 2009.
In addition, you stated that the Met Office had entered into an agreement with Dr Jones and/or CRU which included a proviso that the data “not be released to any other source”. Under the EIR, would you please provide me with the date of this agreement, the parties to the agreement, a copy of the clause containing the precise language of this proviso and a copy of the entire agreement or any other document evidencing that the Met Office had entered into such an agreement.