Transparency Board Minutes - 11th October 2011


Minutes of the meeting held on 11 October at the Cabinet Office:

Transparency Board Members

Officials (regular attendees)

Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office (Chair)

Kitty von Bertele (Cabinet Office)

Professor Nigel Shadbolt

Olivia Burman (Cabinet Office)

Tom Steinberg

Cass Chideock (Cabinet Office)

Andrew Stott 

Zoe Hoyal (Cabinet Office, secretariat)

Tim Kelsey (Cabinet Office)

Also attending

Peter Lawrence (Cabinet Office)

Ed Davey, (BIS)

Irene Loh (Cabinet Office)

Lord McNally (Minister of Justice)

Anna Reid (Cabinet Office)

Jane Sigley (Justice)


Rachel Fentem (No 10)


Dr Rufus Pollock

Sarah Barraclough (BIS)

Tim Berners-Lee

Oliver Morley (National Archives)

Rohan Silva (No 10) 

Faith Quigley (BIS)


Carol Tullo (National Archives)

Welcome and Introductions

The MCO Chair welcomed all attendees.


 Transparency Director update

Tim Kelsey, Director of Transparency, updated the Board on progress this month:

  • Datasets promised in the recent Prime Minister’s letter on Transparency are being released on schedule: by the end of October new transport data; sentencing data, and reoffending rates will be published.
  • Roundtable events have been arranged to encourage a good number of quality responses to the Open Data Consultation, which is due to close on 27 October 2011.
  • Following the Open Government Partnership in New York last month, France is keen to engage with Cabinet Office to learn more about the UK model, and to join the OGP. 
  • The Public Data Corporation Transition Board met the day before, at which Tim advised the meeting that any proposals should always maximise open data. The Board would hear from Ed Davey later during the meeting.

Growth Review

The Board received a verbal update on preparation of the open data strand of the Growth Review work.  Proposals will be considered by the Ministerial Group on Growth meeting scheduled for late October.  The key points made: 

  • Firm economic figures have been hard to predict, but ranges have been established. 
  • A couple of departments were particularly credited with good engagement. 
  • We are revisiting earlier work on data-sharing, and considering setting up a ministerial group engaging with independent experts.

 The Board made the following points:

  • Opening up data will create important data re-use benefits for government departments.  The example of Greater Manchester saving £8.5m in annual administrative costs through publishing data held by participating agencies was cited.
  • It is important to ensure there are means for the citizen to request data and to have this data corrected where there are known inaccuracies.

Transparency Delivery update

The Transparency Delivery team lead updated the Board on the delivery of data commitments.  He reported that: 

  • Some departments are finding it hard to meet the Plain English commitments made, whereas the other 2011 commitments are progressing well.
  • An account manager system is in place so officials can support the departmental Sector panels. The Sector panels themselves are being initiated.  

The Delivery lead congratulated a number of departments for their ongoing engagement and the quality of the data.  Lord McNally seconded this view, particularly praising MOJ officials leading the publication of data.  

Update from the National Archives

Oliver Morley, Chief Executive of The National Archives, and Carol Tullo, Director of Information Policy and Services presented to the Board on the UK Government Licensing Framework.

The general discussion covered the following points:

  • The relationship between the Open Government Licence (OGL) and the Non Commercial Government Licence (NCGL).  The policy was that the OGL was the default.  In addition to Central Government it is also in use in over 200 local authorities.  The NCGL was intended only for those cases where the OGL could not be used, for instance because commercial rights had already been contracted for separately.  So far it had not been used, but it was needed for certain exceptions, including legal requirements around INSPIRE datasets.   The current UK approach to commercially valuable data is to ensure it brings a return to the Exchequer.  TNA acknowledged the potential conflict with the longer term open data opportunities and economic developments.
  • The concept of personal data as exempted from use in the OGL has proved too broad with confusion arising over the acceptable re-use of anonymised data.    TNA is exploring clarification of the permitted re-use in the UK Government Licensing Framework.
  • TNA have been working collaboratively with English speaking public sector colleagues; e.g. Australia and New Zealand, to share experience in open government licensing and at a broad set of principles across jurisdictions. TNA have found that there are examples of public sector organisations which are unintentionally acting contrary to the UK licensing guidelines or the Re-use of PSI Regulations 2005.  This was due to low awareness across the public sector, and TNA regularly intervened with agencies when data users raised non-compliance.  Interventions provide proven examples of spreading good practice.  

TNA manage the business case structures for charging for information re-use where exceptions are sought to marginal cost pricing: charges for Crown Copyright material could not be introduced without their agreement and charging is regulated and monitored.  They would welcome the opportunity to work with the Board to enhance existing guidance to ensure better testing and challenge to proposals to charge.    At present decisions are made on a case by case basis based on evidence provided by the agency. The ability to get behind the figures would enable them to take a more proactive approach.

The Board commended their regulatory work and thorough administration as an example to all public sector organisations, and as a role model to any future proposed Public Data Corporation.

The Board thanked TNA for their presentation and looked forward to working more closely with TNA in reinforcing the principles of Open Data and the OGL  

Action: Transparency Team to work with National Archives to consider how the business case process for charging could be enhanced.

Due: February 

Update from BIS

Ed Davey, Minister for Employment Relations, Consumer and Postal Affairs (Business, Innovation & Skills) provided a verbal update on the Public Data Corporation to the Transparency Board. 

The Minister outlined that the recent Machinery of Government changes had enabled work to progress more quickly after the summer but the proposals to be discussed were very much initial thoughts around structure for a Public Data Corporation concept, and he was therefore keen to get early input from the Board.

The Transparency Board welcomed this first opportunity to have the discussion and explained that they were likely to be challenging in order to get a solution which achieved their aims. Clearly their main focus would be on how the proposals could best support Open Data and Transparency objectives, but they were also concerned on behalf of all users of the PDC’s data.

Transparency Board made some general observations: 

  • It was important that the Government was able to make a clearer statement soon, in particular to reassure some parts of the Open Data community that the Public Data Corporation would be a step forward for Open Data, not a step backwards.  Members considered that the consultation paper had already negatively affected the global credibility of the UK Government’s commitment to Open Data.  
  • It was essential not only that governance of the PDC had opening up data at its core but also that it was driven by the needs of all data users. 
  • The prime focus should be on supporting and maximising economic growth and value to society of the data: the value of the data was in its use, not its sale. 

 Some further points made by the Transparency Board were that:

  • Governance was a critical part of the considerations and that it needed to be given careful thought, in particular around the incentives on different parts of the system: in line with the Government’s objectives, all should have incentives to increase the amount of open data. 
  • It was important that there was tangible progress on opening up more data, both at the launch of the PDC and a clear road map for release going into the future; 
  • In the longer term it would be important to ensure that, if there was greater involvement of the private sector (in line with one of the PDC objectives), the public interest in and ownership of core reference data was safeguarded;
  • The Transparency Board offered their expertise to input into the ongoing discussions, which the Minister welcomed.

Some further points made by the Transparency Board were that:

The MCO and Board agreed to postpone the Postal Address File discussion to a later date to ensure thorough discussion with BIS representatives. 

The MCO thanked the BIS Minister for his attendance and update.

Action: BIS to forward the latest Public data Corporation proposals to the Transparency Board.   

Due: as soon as possible