A TIMELINE OF POLITICAL EVASION
We started our campaign by making a simple request from the Government: “You organised Exercise Cygnus so that we could learn about our national pandemic capabilities. Can you please disclose the Cygnus Reports?” The Department of Health used section 12 of the Freedom of Information Act (and later section 35 to evade transparency. We then applied for Judicial Review, arguing that the Government had a duty to disclose the Reports under the Civil Contingencies Act. Eventually, the Department of Health was forced to disclose Public Health England’s overview report of Cygnus, but affirmed it did not have the other reports mentioned in our witness evidence, in particular a population triage report. Relying on this affirmation, we withdrew from Judicial Review. On 18 December 2020, the Telegraph published a document which showed the Department of Health had received a population triage report from NHS England in 2017.
"full copy of any report and/or conclusions of Exercise Cygnus including any documents showing conclusions relating to challenges to the supply of PPE and ventilators"
The Department of Health (and Social Care) uses section 12 to close down our request as "too wide"
"The reports that were prepared as part of the Cygnus Exercise...a report produced on each aspect of the exercise, such as NHS, social care and each Local Resilience Forum"
"The Department is currently assessing the public interest in release under section 35, but requires further time... We anticipate this process will take no longer than a further 20 working days to complete. We therefore aim to respond fully to your request by 17 July."
The Information Commissioner's Office orders the Department of Health to respond to our Freedom of Information request within 20 working days
"Today, I am publishing the report into Exercise Cygnus... I will deposit copies of the reports in the Libraries of both Houses and it will be available on gov.uk"
The Department of Health refers us to the report disclosed by the Health Secretary, and apologises for the delayed response to our FOI request
“Two reports submitted by NHSE to the former CMO Dame Sally Davies following Exercise Cygnus:
Pandemic Influenza Briefing paper – NHS Surge and Triage... Pandemic Influenza Briefing paper – Adult social care and community healthcare”
“The Department is currently assessing the public interest in release under Section 36... We anticipate this process will take no longer than a further 20 working days to complete. We therefore aim to respond fully to your request by 18 February 2021.”
"The fact that the DHSC has repeatedly delayed even making a decision while it has 'assessed the public interest' over several months represents a fundamental subversion of the Freedom of Information process because my legal team cannot challenge the DHSC’s decision at Tribunal until after it has made a decision."
"in the opinion of... a Minister of the Crown... disclosure would prejudice the free and frank provision of advice or exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation, or would otherwise prejudice, or would be likely otherwise to prejudice, the effective conduct of public affairs."
We submit 996 pages of evidence, arguing the Department of Health must disclose the reports which followed Exercise Cygnus, including a "pandemic surge" document and others
Judge refuses to allow our case to be heard in court, saying that a response to our FOI request should have been received by now
We renew our application for permission to take the Department of Health to court
The Government Legal Department suggests we should withdraw our legal action after the Health Secretary discloses PHE's Cygnus Report
We write to the GLD, saying that we do not believe the Health Secretary has disclosed all relevant documents
The Government Legal Department asserts that the Department of Health has no further documents related to our application for Judicial Review
On the basis of categorical denial by the GLD that the Department of Health holds the Cygnus Reports we seek, we withdraw our application for Judicial Review and decide to expand our campaign beyond the Department of Health
Documented evidence that the Department of Health received - as "Lesson Identified 5" from Exercise Cygnus - a report on pandemic surge and population triage from NHSE in December 2017