Commenting on the complaint, the Permanent Secretary said the government acknowledged that, with the destruction of feeding grounds in Cardiff Bay. She said the Depreciation Expense Habitats Directive permitted projects which affect sites classified as special protection areas to be carried out for imperative reasons of socio-economic public interest, provided that compensation measures were taken. She added that the review of the barrage project consisted of internal discussions, advice from senior officials, legal opinion, and consideration of the history and the facts of the case.
Legal advice had been obtained about the nature of the government’s obligations under European law and officials from the Welsh Office had given advice about the financial implications of stopping the barrage project that information was confidential. The Permanent Secretary went on to say that the Welsh Office had considered carefully Ms C’s information request. had concluded that, because the internal review took the form of confidential internal discussions and advice on a particularly sensitive issue.
A study of the papers confirms that the review addressed two largely separate issues. I examined the Secretary of State’s statement of 1 December and found it to contain facts relevant to his decision to proceed with the barrage project, and an analysis of those facts. I then compared the information in the statement with that in the Welsh Office papers. They also contain a small amount of purely factual, non-legal, information additional to what was discussed in the statement; and some more detailed analysis.
I went on to consider whether Exemption 2 applied to this extra information. In general, it doesI conclude, therefore, that the extra facts in the Welsh Office papers (apart from those in the legal advice) would be disclosed. I suggested to the Permanent Secretary that the four pieces of additional information should be supplied to the interest group. She replied that there has been extensive correspondence between