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Letter to Exmouth Journal

 

‘Chatham House Rule Explained’

Francis Bennion

 

Exmouth Journal,

14 Feb 2008, p 10

Doc. No. 2008.004

 

Page 10

 

Dear Editor,

 

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).