Jones, Baker and the DfT: Day 1 of the Operation Disclosure document search

April 8, 2013 by combehavendefenders

Document searchers quiz Tranport Minister Norman Baker about the DfT's secret recommendations about the BHLR outside the DfT

Document searchers quiz Transport Minister Norman Baker about the DfT’s secret recommendations outside the DfT

Operation Disclosure day one: dozens of attempts to enter the Department for Transport: some successful, others not. No documents found yet. One person arrested for aggravated trespass by Britain’s tallest (7ft 2in) policeman (she’s now been charged and released).

Searchers also managed to have the following, highly revealing, interchange with Undersecretary of State for Transport Norman Baker on his way into the building (“Are you for the Road yourself?” “I better go through the door …”):

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Transport Minister Norman Baker’s silence spoke volumes when he was asked whether he supported the Hastings Link Road

The Search also generated an extraordinary exchange between BBC journalist Neil Pringle and East Sussex County Council leader Peter Jones on this morning’s Sussex Breakfast Show:

NP: We suggested to [Peter Jones] that there was some hidden information that was being kept out of the public domain which said that the road wasn’t good value for money.

Queue here for the secret documents!

Queue here for the secret documents!

PJ: I don’t believe that for a moment.As we’ve found so often with these protesters, they’ll dig up some piece of material usually from the very early days of the project before it was fully developed and try and use that to undermine our case.We’ve had this experience quite a few times and I’m sure the Ministry will have that experience now.As I say, they’ll go back to some early piece of work before the scheme was fully developed and say, ah look, that doesn’t really prove that this is worthwhile.Well, you know, the answer was, we hadn’t fully developed the scheme by then at that stage but by the time we did fully develop it there were huge benefits to the scheme in terms of not just solving a traffic problem but also facilitating the creation of a lot of new homes and new jobs.

NP: But protesters tell us that they think there’s a report that was out much more recently than that, round about this time last year, which actually says that the value for money of the project was low to medium — it wouldn’t have got over the barrier of ‘yes, we’ll fund that.’

PJ:We’ve certainly not seen that and all our discussions with the
department indicated that there was a reasonable return and one of the things with the department certainly in the earlier stages is that they didn’t take into account the wider economic benefits — they looked at this purely as a traffic solution whereas we were always looking at it as being part of the overall regeneration of the eastern part of East Susssex. (emphasis added)

Document Searchers queue outside the DfT.

Document Searchers queue outside the DfT.

In other words, Peter Jones claims never to have seen the unredacted parts of the March 2012 DfT documents containing their recommendations about whether or not the Road should be funded! Which is strange given that the road is his own personal obsession and that we’ve spent more than a month publicising this information locally, including letters and media coverage in the local papers. (You can see the relevant document for yourself here).

The Searchers will be back again tomorrow (Tuesday 9 April) from 8am – 5pm.

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