Ministerial meetings: the latest guidance on how departments should publish vital transparency data

This week has been about one DC setting a series of stories running about scandal at the heart of government. A few weeks ago, it was a different DC and a different set of stories about a different scandal.

One of the minor threads of the Greensill scandal was the quality of data on ministerial meetings (and gifts, and hospitality) which departments are required to publish, as it transpired a ‘private drink’ between health secretary Matt Hancock, David Cameron and Lex Greensill had not been included in the Department of Health and Social Care’s releases.

An image of the spreadsheet template for UK government departments on publishing data about ministerial meetings
Meet sheet: the template for publishing ministerial meetings data

Though there is some public guidance on how departments should publish this data, much of it remains private. Tim Davies successfully obtained a version of it back in 2018 thanks to a Freedom of Information request, so I decided to do the same thing this time round.

Thanks to FoI, Cabinet Office have sent me the latest guidance. This appears to have been last updated in November 2017 — no different from the version Tim obtained a few years ago. (The passage from the Ministerial Code it quotes — 8.14, in annex D, page 9 of the guidance — has actually changed since in the Code itself.)

Cabinet Office also volunteered a couple of other pieces of information: a one-page pandemic-related update and a template spreadsheet for publishing the data. This was a pleasant surprise after a number of previous FoI battles (including for documents Cabinet Office had responsibility for telling other departments to publish but hadn’t published themselves in accordance with their own guidelines), and given the general downward trend in departmental disclosure.

I don’t think there’s anything earth-shattering in what I’ve been sent, but some points worthy of note:

Those documents in full:



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