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Government slammed over Hinkley contract publication delay

The government has been slammed by the Information Commissioner’s Office over a number of “unjustifiable” delays in publishing details of contracts for Hinkley Point C.

The ICO has rebuked the government for taking six months to disclose details of the awarding contracts following a Freedom of Information request by The Times.

The publication of the contracts, which the government released in November 2016, revealed that management consultancy Leigh Fisher could face an alleged conflict of interest row after it emerged that the firm, which had been advising the UK government over the £18bn nuclear project, was also working for EDF.

Leigh Fisher, which is owned by American firm Jacobs Engineering, had been awarded a £1.2m contract by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (now the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), even though a British subsidiary of the parent company was contracted to undertake work for EDF on the same scheme.

According to The Times, the advice from Leigh Fisher helped the government come to a decision on terms for the 35-year Hinkley Point C contract with EDF.

An ICO spokesperson said: “We are currently dealing with a complaint concerning the release of information about the Hinkley Point nuclear power project.

“Transparency is a cornerstone of a modern democracy and public authorities must respect people’s rights of access to information.

“That means responding to FOI requests within the statutory timeline of 20 working days, or with a reasonable permitted extension where weighing up the public interest is particularly complex.”

A spokesperson for LeighFisher said: “We believe that LeighFisher provided appropriate information to DECC concerning the fact that it is an affiliate of Jacobs Engineering UK. This affiliation is publicly known. Clear and robust procedures were in place to address confidentiality and to prevent conflicts of interest.”

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