Written Evidence from Jason Evans (FOI 07)

 

 Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee

 The Cabinet Office Freedom of Information Clearing House inquiry

 

I, Jason Jonathan Evans, will say as follows:-

 

  1. I provide this statement in response to the Call for Evidence relating to The Cabinet Office Freedom of Information Clearing House inquiry.
  2. I am the Founder of Factor 8, a non-profit organisation which advocates on behalf of those impacted by infected blood products in the 1970s and 1980s.
  3. I have been campaigning on and investigating that issue since 2015. My father was one of the victims and died as a result in 1993 when I was four years old.
  4. I would like to refer this inquiry to the oral evidence that I provided on 11th June 2021 to the Infected Blood Inquiry. I think this is very relevant to the matters being considered: https://www.infectedbloodinquiry.org.uk/sites/default/files/documents/Transcript%20-%20London%20-%20Friday%2011%20June%202021%20%28Jason%20Evans%29.pdf
    1. Specifically in relation to the following transcript page numbers: 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 71.
  5. I have had fairly substantial experience in making FOI requests to the Cabinet Office which relate to the contaminated blood scandal.
  6. I have seen evidence which shows my requests to a range of government departments about the contaminated blood scandal have been redirected to the Clearing House.
  7. There have been at least 6 occasions where I have referred FOI requests I have made to the Cabinet Office to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). On 3 occasions the ICO has issued a decision notice against the Cabinet Office either fully or partly in my favour.
  8. It is practically par for the course in my experience for the Cabinet Office not to respond to FOI’s properly within the statutory time limit.
    1. They have become increasingly likely to rely on exemptions to withhold material.
    2. Over time, I have become disenthused from making FOI’s to the Cabinet Office, and other government departments which refer my FOI’s to Clearing House, because of the poor and unfair way in which they are dealt with.
  9. I have met, on several occasions, with Brian Williams (Head of the Cabinet Office Inquiries Sponsor Team), Sue Gray and various cabinet ministers such as Damian Green, Oliver Dowden and Penny Mordaunt. On one occasion, in January 2020, I had a very brief in-person exchange with Brian Williams at the Cabinet Office about the Cabinet Office’s handling of my FOI’s, during which he said “sorry”. I think at that point we both knew the repeated failure of the Cabinet Office to respond to my FOI requests in a timely manner was almost a joke. He seemed embarrassed on behalf of the Cabinet Office.
  10. I have a substantial collection of internal Treasury and Cabinet Office emails discussing the handling of my FOI requests which I am happy to supply to this Inquiry if requested.
    1. That correspondence, in my view, shows that senior officials abuse the FOIA in order not to release information because it is undesirable to do so, undesirable in ways which are not FOIA exemptions, but for reasons of avoiding political and individual embarrassment.
    2. Officials have, in at least one case, decided they do not wish to release information about the contaminated blood scandal to me because it would be embarrassing to former ministers and so attempted to apply FOI exemptions which even they thought were not likely to be valid.
  11. If this inquiry wishes for me to provide such documentation, provide oral evidence or assist in any other way, I am happy to do so.
  12. Some months ago it was brought to my attention, and I saw documentation, which I am also now in possession of, which shows my name has been included multiple times on the clearing house “Round Robin” lists. I would like to know why and how I came to be on such lists and what effect this has had upon my FOI requests.
    1. I believe there is a complete lack of transparency around such lists. I believe they break the applicant blind ethos that underlies the FOIA.
  13. This whole area needs reform. I have spent years facing FOI brick walls and battles, all because I wanted to know how and why my Dad, and many like him, came to be infected and died from the use of infected blood products in the 70s and 80s.

 

Statement of Truth

 

I believe that the facts stated in this witness statement are true.

 

Signed: Jason Evans

 

 

 

August 2021