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Advisory Group meeting – Tuesday, 24 October 2005 at 10.00am

Venue

Master's Lodge
St. John's College
Cambridge

Present

Tessa Stirling, (Chair)
FCO
SIS
GCHQ
Security Service
Home Office
Ministry of Defence
Professor Christopher Andrew, Corpus Christi
Professor Peter Hennessy, Queen Mary's
Alan Glennie, (Secretary)

Item 1. Minutes of the last meeting

The Group approved the draft summary of its previous discussion for publication on the Cabinet Office internet site.

Item 2. Publicising the Group

Websites

The Group received a presentation from the SIS representative on the recently launched SIS website. The website had been a phenomenal success and provided a general history of MI6/SIS.

It was expected that the appointment of Professor Keith Jeffery of Queen's University Belfast would be announced in November as the author of an official history of SIS. The history would cover the period 1909-1949. Professor Jeffery had already started work but there were still many decisions to be made about the book. SIS was currently reviewing its disclosure policy.

Future articles

Tessa said that the Group needed to discuss its strategy for publishing material on the Cabinet Office website. A number of possible authors and topics were considered. An article by Sir Stephen Lander, the former Director General of the Security Service, would be the first to be published. The Group agreed that it should aim to have an article published each quarter.

Item 3. The Lord Chancellor's intelligence ‘blanket’

The Security Service representative explained she was engaged with the Lord Chancellor's Advisory Council in an appeal the Council had received for access to material redacted from records released by the Security Service. In considering how to respond to the Advisory Council she would want to explain the importance to its current operational success of its policy that names are never released.

Item 4. Freedom of Information (FOI)

Departments confirmed they were continuing to receive large numbers of requests for records under FOI. Professor Hennessy said that the Waldegrave Initiative whereby historians had been able to write to departments to ask for records on particular topics to be released should be continued somehow. However, all requests for information now needed to be treated as FOI requests and everyone requesting information needed be treated in the same way.

Item 5. Next meeting

The arrangements for the next meeting to be held on Wednesday, 8 February 2006 would be notified later.

Cabinet Office
31 January 2006