We asked for the final minutes of the 7th CHaIRS meeting due to have been held in September 2010. A reply was received which indicated that this meeting had been postponed and that no meeting had taken place of the group since February 2010.
This was later followed up with a new request asking for the minutes again.
WHAT DID WE ASK?
“I am seeking final minutes of the CHaIRS group meeting 7 to which you have previously supplied me with draft notes given the FSA provide secretarial support as a member of the Chemical Hazards and Identification Risk Surveillance group.
I am seeking the draft note of the 8th meeting schedueled to have taken place in March, and also dates for future meetings of the group for the coming year.
I am particularly interested in whether the minutes contain reference to “The Rhodia incident” white phosphorus poisoning of wildfowl at Rattlechain Mere(lagoon) referred to in previous CHaIRS meetings confirming that white phosphorus release is occurring from
Could you also advise me of how members of the public can approach The CHaIRS group in relation to presenting information which the individual members may not be aware of, or if members of the public are allowed to attend these meetings?”
WHAT DID THEY KNOW?
An initial response was received.
- “The information you requested is not currently held by the Food Standards Agency because the minutes of the 7th CHaIRS Group meeting are in draft form and are due to be finalised at the 8th meeting, which is not scheduled to take place until 16 May. Once finalised, I will arrange for the final minutes of the 7th meeting to be e-mailed to you.”
- “ I can confirm that meetings of the CHaIRS Group are not open to members of the public I would also like to reiterate a point made in earlier correspondence with you which is that the Environment Agency is ‘leading’ the Rhodia investigation. Consequently it would be up to the EA to share information with other members of the group as they see fit about the investigation and, where appropriate, obtain expert advice from members.”
When we had not received these minutes, we followed this up with a reminder email.
A response was received.
“You may wish to note that the CHaIRS group has requested that the ChaIRS Secretariat explores whether publicly available papers relating to the work of the group can in future be made available via our website. I am taking forward this action and will keep you updated on this issue.”
This was later confirmed that in future, minutes concerning the group would be published on the FSA website
This confirmed the statements made in the draft minutes previously obtained in another request.
On point 3 matters arising
“Update on Rhodia incident – GU updated members regarding the Rhodia incident informing them that following on from the FOI request received by the FSA the HPA had also received a further FOI request. GU added that the HPA had no new information to divulge, however, it was worth noting that there is still an ongoing interest in the case. JP also informed members that AHVLA had also received a letter from a local MP regarding Rhodia, which they had responded to. The Chair asked JP if she would forward a copy of the correspondence to the secretariat.”
This meeting recorded no further mention of Rattlechain in the minutes. It was later published on the FSA website. The action point was then noted to have been completed in the subsequent CHaIRs minutes on the FSA website.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN.
As a direct result of our FOI requests, this secretive quango of quangos have gone from meeting in secret with redacted minutes to progressively disseminating their recorded material. This can only be a good thing, and a victory for FOI.
The correspondence refered to in these minutes, the reply given to Tom Watson MP, is shown below. We have added comments in respect of these where appropriate below each page and where important new information has come to light included this also.
Not sure why an MP of the calibre of Tom Watson needs an explanation of how quangos work?
NB Final paragraph- they were informed by Sandwell Swanwatch- not Rhodia nor their regulator The Environment Agency
NB The evidence of absorbtion spoken of here is restricted by delay of testing for this chemical which is unlikely to remain within the tissues of the birds for very long. The amount found in the birds is that which has not already been absorbed.
Subsequent White phosphorus testing in the following Appendix did indeed confirm “systemic exposure” in dead birds found dead at Rattlechain lagoon. Does not testing more birds therefore allow the company to evade further criticism and cost when the evidence is not tested? Also note that in the case of the coot, the delay by Rhodia in taking this bird for post mortem only resulted in the gizzard being deposited for P4 analysis- so how could evidence of absorption even have been demonstrated in this case?
OUR FOLLOWING TABLE OFFERS AN IN DEPTH ANALYSIS OF THE DEAD WILDFOWL POISONED BY WHITE PHOSPHORUS ON RATTLECHAIN LAGOON- AND THE DELAY IN TESTING FOR THIS EVANESCENT CHEMICAL- WAS THIS DELIBERATE?- WE THINK SO. NB WE HAVE ASKED THE SCIENTISTS INVOLVED AT EAGE RIVER FLATS HOW LONG AFTER DEATH WAS P4 TESTING CARRIED OUT AND THE ANSWER WAS WITHIN 24 HOURS. Click table for larger view.