Letter to Exmouth Journal
‘Chatham House Rule Explained’
14 Feb 2008, p 10
||Doc. No. 2008.004
I am writing about the item by Robin Leeburn on page 19 of the issue of 7 February 2008
headed “Rumpus over ‘no notes’ meeting”. The item says “[t]he
meeting, which decided on ASDA as a preferred bidder for development, was held under
Chatham House Rule, where no notes are taken to allow a frank discussion”. The
Chatham House Rule is very short. It simply says:-
“When a meeting, or part thereof, is held under the Chatham House Rule, participants
are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation
of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed.”
All this does is to protect the identity of participants. It does not affect normal
rules about the taking of a note of a meeting with a view to preparing minutes. Nor does
it affect the circulation of such minutes, or their availability to the public.
The Chatham House Rule requires names of participants to be deleted or blanked out when
minutes are circulated, but there is a question whether local government councillors
have any right to apply the Rule to council business. Local authorities are entirely
creatures of statute, and are bound to do what statute requires.
Francis Bennion (retired parliamentary counsel).