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DfE ordered to release information on Covid support for former CM

Information commissioner accuses it of 'blase' attitude to FoI

The Department for Enterprise has been ordered to release information about whether or not the former chief minister benefited from Covid schemes.

A Freedom of Information Request, submitted in June last year, asked if Howard Quayle - as owner of multiple holiday cottages - had claimed financial support.

The request asked the department to declare whether Mr Quayle received any money for the properties between 1 April 2020 and 16 June 2021.

It also sought clarification on whether details of any and all public money received had been declared on the Register of Financial Interests.

In addition the requester asked if he'd offered to repay the DOE any or all of potential taxpayer funded grant assistance.

The FOI request related to all covid support schemes - including the Coronavirus Strategic Capacity Scheme - which covered tourism accommodation affected by reduced footfall.

Responding to the initial request the Department for Enterprise refused to provide the information claiming exemptions.

However following a review of that decision the Information Commissioner says the department was wrong to do that and he was satisfied that it had the information sought.

The commissioner, Iain McDonald, says it was not justified in applying the exemption and had a pre-determined decision to apply an exemption and withhold the information.

He added that the department had shown a blasé approach to complying with its statutory obligations under the Freedom of Information Act.

The department has now been given 30 days to disclose the information it holds relating to the tourism support scheme and Mr Quayle.

It will have to establish if he received funds of any other kind and if the department does wish to apply for another exemption, this time, it will have to explain why.

You can find the full decision HERE.

Manx Radio contacted the Department for Enterprise for comment.

A spokesperson said: "The Department for Enterprise has a long-standing position that it does not comment on individual cases of financial assistance provided to businesses to ensure in each case that the integrity of sensitive information is upheld and that individuals or businesses are not dissuaded from coming forward for financial support.

"This position remains in regards to emergency support implemented throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
"A high level overview of financial support provided to businesses is outlined each year in the Enterprise Act 2008 Annual Report which is laid before Tynwald for scrutiny and made publicly available. 
"Following the Information Commissioner’s decision in this case the department will review its position and respond accordingly.”

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