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« Henrik the Bright - Josh 115 | Main | Mann: emails disclosed are "boilerplate" »

UEA correspondence with Outside

UEA have released some of their correspondence with the Outside Organisation. The disclosures can be seen here.

Although there are quite a large number of documents released, it appears that this is mostly just the "boilerplate", to use Mann's expression. The university seem to be claiming exemptions under s41 breach of confidence and s43 commercial interests. Ho hum.

What has been disclosed is of minor interest - meetings with Neil Wallis to rehearse Phil Jones for his performance before the SciTech Committee, hiring a camera crew to film a clip of Edward Acton outside Portcullis House afterwards. I remember the latter from the news reports on the day. It is interesting to see that the MSM were happy to take footage from UEA. It doesn't make them look very good in my opinion.


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Reader Comments (33)

I wonder how long it took Neil Wallis to train Phil Jones to tremble like a frightened school girl for the MPs?

Aug 26, 2011 at 7:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterZT

I've just skimmed. Amusing that they're hiding behind OO's skirts to avoid disclosing contract terms and invoices:

With regard to the costs involved in this matter, we are of the opinion that both section
41(1) and section 43(2) apply. Costing information was provided to us on the basis that
it was confidential, and we have treated such information as confidential. This
information is not public. Disclosure of information relating to costs incurred by this
institution would be an actionable breach of confidence and prejudicial to the
commercial interests of the Outside Organisation. Were it to be released it would enable
competitors in the same field of work to identify the Outside Organisation’s pricing
structure and thereby gain a commercial advantage in winning future business.

I can't think of any other "business" that would say, we'd love to work for you, but please don't tell your friends what our rates are!

Aug 26, 2011 at 7:50 PM | Unregistered Commenterhro001

Re: the issue of the media taking UEA footage, this is one of journalism's dirty secrets. A 1996 Canadian book about Greenpeace may be seen here on Google Books.

Written by a journalist sympathetic to Greenpeace, Chapter 7 is titled The Quest for Coverage and contains a quote from a high-level Greenpeace person who says:

There's absolutely no money that goes into educational material within Greenpeace as an international organization. It doesn't target softer outlets for stories: it targets news outlets with hard news stories, that's it.

Says the book's author:

Not only will Greenpeace create a media event by sailing a ship out to the site of a nuclear test or a toxic waste dumping, but it will also hire the film crew to record what happens…Once the cameras are in place, the action either has to be beamed live to the networks for direct, CNN-style coverage or finely edited into clips for news reports – both of which Greenpeace [Communications] undertakes as a matter of course.

and a bit later:

In a better world – one in which rich global broadcasting outfits undertook their own investigative reporting for the benefit of their viewing audiences – it might be redundant for an advocacy group to apply its donors' contributions to the expensive business of generating raw material for the news agencies. But in the real world the only way to get the TV news people's attention is to do the legwork for them.

That book was published 15 years ago. Scary, no?

Aug 26, 2011 at 8:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterDonna Laframboise

Costing information was provided to us on the basis that it was confidential

Hmm, this sounds familiar.

From their 2009 refusal of Steve McIntyre's data request:

Regulation 12(5)(f) applies because the information requested was received by the University on terms that prevent further transmission to non-academics

I wonder if the agreement to keep the costing information confidential is confidential?

Aug 26, 2011 at 8:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterTerryS

I wonder how long it took Neil Wallis to train Phil Jones to tremble like a frightened school girl for the MPs?

There you go. That's the training, right there.

Aug 26, 2011 at 8:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterShub

BH -
The information released under your FOI request was identical to that released to Mr Walker. You had written that you thought your request was broader in scope.

I note that the release does not address the specific request for "remit/instructions given to Outside Organisation" made by Mr Walker.

Aug 26, 2011 at 9:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterHaroldW

Even more worrying than Greenpeace's manufacturing of news footage is the media's willingness to use it. I recall some years ago at a political science conference in New Zealand hearing a presentation form a TVNZ news executive who stated that the network had the (commendable) policy of never broadcasting footage they had not recorded themselves. There was one exception: Greenpeace.

Many journalists effectively recycle press releases, but running footage is probably of a different order. There is no guarantee of time, place or distortion by editing - leaving aside the question of how the image might have been constructed for effect. We would not find this acceptable from any other privately-owned transnational corporation (to give Greenpeace its legal status) so why should we accept it of them?

Aug 26, 2011 at 10:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterAynsley Kellow

Were OO's fees part of the £70k paid to Luther Pendragon, ie they sub contracted, so that Neil Wallis's skills and contacts could be brought in?

Aug 26, 2011 at 11:35 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charley

On the first pdf. numbered 20110826114651945, what does the R.OMMEND? below the title and Richard Girling mean? Surely not asking for approval of a draft? Jones also got copied.

Aug 27, 2011 at 1:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterPharos

Pharos --
That .pdf file seems to be of the Sunday Times article here. Based on the strange mix of fonts, I think the article was scanned with an optical character recognition program, and it distorted a "recommend" link next to the article. [Not present in the archived version linked above.] Note that in the line below there is "PHOT.GRAPHS".]

Aug 27, 2011 at 5:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterHaroldW

It would not be in the public interest to damage the commercial interests of the outside Organisation and render them less competitive in their field of work, by the release of certain information. We have received their representations on this matter and have weighed them in reaching this decision.

I find this argument particularly obscure. Why would releasing correspondence make Outside Organisation appear less competitive? Would that be because their compeitiors would be exposed as being more compeitive?

If you have an open market where everybody knows the exact nature of the services you are buying and what prices you are likely to pay, is competitiveness likely to go up or down?

Aug 27, 2011 at 7:27 AM | Unregistered Commentermatthu

We have received their representations on this matter and have weighed them in reaching this decision.

Surely their representations comes under the "I would like to received copies of all correspondence and other documents UEA has received from or sent to the Outside Organisation." part of your FOI and should have been included in the response :)

Aug 27, 2011 at 8:11 AM | Unregistered CommenterTerryS

matthu - IMO this is one of the stock FOI avoidance tactics. I think it is also used to avoid embarrassment when obviously uncompetitive deals have been struck.

Aug 27, 2011 at 8:33 AM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

matthu - quick googled example:

Aug 27, 2011 at 8:40 AM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

Allowing children to study at The University of East Anglia is tantamount to institutional child abuse.

Aug 27, 2011 at 8:56 AM | Unregistered CommenterAnoneumouse

No doubt the fragrant cretins at UEA went out to competitive tender to obtain the services of Outside Organisation?
Cameron's mates with the even more fragrant Rebekah who was mates with Mr Grommit?

Aug 27, 2011 at 9:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterStacey

Anon - I don't think it is just UEA. How many organisations do you know of that will put their hand up when they are caught out? Look at the appalling practice in the UK health sector where incompetence and negligence are repeated time and again. One of the reasons FOI/accountability needs strengthening rather than weakening.

Also note Paul Dennis' comments - there are some at UEA playing it straight.

Aug 27, 2011 at 9:07 AM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

It is all so reminiscent of MP expenses. The fact was that criminal activity was going on ... but did any of the MPs actually do anything about it? No! They just "went along" with the system, because they really did believe that the system of paying for everything from duckhouse to electric toothbrushes (note personal items are not permitted) was legitimate.

And I mention electric toothbrushes because this is the only item I found on my own MP's claims that amounted to abuse ... but even she who had undoubtedly been stronger on the subject that the overwhelming majority of MPs ... was clearly abusing the system and really couldn't see what she had done wrong.

It really is the same with the UEA. They are still at the stage of "what's wrong with claiming for a duckhouse? ... all MPs do it and if it's paid out of expenses or out of MPs pay - the public will pay anyway ... and it's been investigate many times and those accusations have been consistently rejected by the MPs that have investigate .... we've been vindicated".

The real problem is that corruption like this is an iceberg. We only see a small amount and it looks pretty innocuous (and easy to dismiss as sceptics just trying to pick holes), but the fact is that for every bit of corruption we can see, there is going to be a lot lot more that we can't see and it is a lot more damaging.

It's like my MP's toothbrush ... what was the harm of one MP buying an electric toothbrush? What was wrong was that this was provably just the tip of the iceberg and until every MPs realised that even buying an electric toothbrish on public expense was beyond the pale, then there was no hope of smoking out the overtly criminal behaviour.

Aug 27, 2011 at 11:41 AM | Unregistered CommenterMike Haseler

And ... I've just realised that whereas we almost expect politicians to lie ... at least to argue "on the balance of evidence", the standard for science is a lot higher. Scientists cannot be partial in their views, they cannot argue "on the balance of evidence" the standard for science is a lot higher: "beyond all reasonable doubt"

... so why is it that I now think MPs are more honest than the UEA?

Aug 27, 2011 at 11:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterMike Haseler

The MSM has always been ready to take news handouts. It saves them time and money. It is even more likely these days given the cost pressures that apply to both print and broadcast media. Nowadays a few journalists are even accused of plagiarising blogs! It is easy to see why the UEA turned to someone who knew Fleet Street inside out.

Quite why they decided on the OO is unclear, though I do recall reading somewhere that earlier OO had been involved in publicising a pop concert at the UEA, or promoting artists who appeared there. Finding themselves in an almighty mess perhaps the UEA turned to the first publicity outfit they could think of.

Aug 27, 2011 at 12:43 PM | Unregistered Commenteroldtimer

It would not be in the public interest to damage the commercial interests of the Outside Organisation and render them less competitive in their field of work, by the release of certain information.

I think the release of certain information regarding the activities of Neil Wallis may have done far more harm to the commercial interests of OO, but it's nice to see the UEA protecting them. In the "public interest", of course.

Aug 27, 2011 at 1:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterAtomic Hairdryer

Artifice, nature,
Is the trembling training?
Yes, very ancient.

Aug 27, 2011 at 4:55 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim

What's missing from the documents is any discussions of strategies and plans. This would be the first thing that a new PR client would discuss with the PR firm - what is it that they want to accomplish and how would the PR firm go about accomplishing that goal.

It would not be in the public interest to damage the commercial interests of the Outside Organisation and render them less competitive in their field of work, by the release of certain information.

I suspect that what they are arguing here is that OOs strategy is proprietary and that preserving OO "intellectual property" is more important than satisfying the public's interest in how its money is being spent. Once again, UEA has come up with a cleaver reason to not comply with the Act. Bish, I strongly encourage you to appeal this decision to the ICO. Jonathan Jones demonstrated that the ICO takes the appeal process very seriously.

Aug 27, 2011 at 6:41 PM | Unregistered Commentermpaul

Blair-Campbell, Brown-Mandy, Cameron-Coulsdon, Acton-Wallace, Royal Society-BBC. Politics and AGW rely on managed news and spin, not science.

Light relief

Aug 27, 2011 at 8:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterPharos

@mpaul Aug 27, 2011 at 6:41 PM

I suspect that what they are arguing here is that OOs strategy is proprietary and that preserving OO "intellectual property" is more important than satisfying the public's interest in how its money is being spent.

Oh, but they've been quite open about at least one of their "strategies": They "leak out rumours to the press" ;-)

Strategies aside, though, what is conspicuously absent from the rather meagre documentation disclosed is any indication of the remit to OO, or the terms of the contract. What could be so counter to the university's noble principles as letting the public know when they got around to exercising their "duty of care" to poor Phil (and his colleagues) by engaging the expertise and services of OO - and providing a public record of the results (i.e. press articles, submissions to inquiries, etc.) of all the activities to which OO lent their expertise during the course of the contract?

Also, I would have thought that - given the highly sensitive nature of matters at the time - Acton (or someone at UEA) would have taken steps to ensure that OO would not disclose its involvement without the express permission of UEA.

Then again, perhaps there was such a confidentiality agreement - and when the Music World piece surfaced it became prima facie evidence of an "actionable breach of confidence". So maybe they made a deal, and Wallis came back to give them a "freebie" in handling this particular round of FOI requests. He's good at that sort of thing, isn't he?!!

Oh, well ... for those who are interested, the view from here on this latest chicanery from UEA can be found at Of Climategate, constabularies and Copenhagen: an “elusive line in the sand”

Aug 27, 2011 at 10:30 PM | Unregistered Commenterhro001

HaroldW Aug 27, 2011 at 5:39 AM

Thanks. Of course. I suppose the scanning was necessary for the FOI release from paper copies- to allow felt tip redaction, as on most of them.

Aug 27, 2011 at 10:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterPharos
2. When entering into contracts with non-public authority contractors, UEA will discourage, wherever possible, the inclusion in any contract confidentiality clauses exempting information relating to the terms of the contract, its value and performance from disclosure. Where, exceptionally, it is necessary to include nondisclosure provisions in a contract, UEA will explore the option of agreeing with the contractor a schedule of the contract that clearly identifies information which should not be disclosed. UEA recognises that, when drawing up any such schedule, any restrictions on disclosure provided for could potentially be overridden by its obligations under the Act.

Aug 28, 2011 at 3:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterSteve McIntyre

1. When entering into contracts UEA should refuse to include contractual terms
which purport to restrict the disclosure of information held by UEA and relating to
the contract beyond the restrictions permitted by the Act. UEA cannot "contract
out" its obligations under the Act. Unless an exemption provided for under the Act
is applicable in relation to any particular information, UEA will be obliged to
disclose that information in response to a request, regardless of the terms of any

Aug 28, 2011 at 3:43 AM | Unregistered CommenterSteve McIntyre

I wonder if the contract contains confidentiality clauses and what the clauses say. The confidentiality clauses would not themselves be confidential. Seems to me that we've been down this road before. :)

Aug 28, 2011 at 3:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterSteve McIntyre

From the Ecclesiastical Uncle, an old retired bureaucrat in a field only remotely related to climate, with minimal qualifications and only half a mind.

Mr McIntyre, Sir:


Your two extracts contain the words ‘discourage, where possible’ and ‘should prevent’ instead of ‘not allow’ and ‘will (or shall) refuse’. The UEA therefore has two lines of defense: (1) “Neither proved possible this time,” and/or (2) “We were vaguely aware that there were clauses we thought were not mandatory (and Thank the Lord we were right) in our rules and regs but in the rush we never looked. We would like to convince you that we will try and do better in the future.”

I think either/both will suffice bureaucratically and legally.

“What the rest of the world thinks about it all, is, of course, beyond control. But, in comparison to the rest of the mess we find ourselves in, perhaps not too much harm was done.”

“But can we do nothing right? Of course not, we’re specialist climate scientists totally out of our depth in these troubled waters”

Aug 28, 2011 at 8:40 AM | Unregistered CommenterEcclesiastical Uncle

Interesting BBC piece about using the Audit Commission Act instead of FOI in certain situations

Aug 28, 2011 at 12:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterPharos

From Pharos' citation, Wallis' consultation fee for the Met was £2000 per month.

It is a shame that Chamy Media are now at a commerical disadvantage, if Mr Scott's protestations are to be believed.

Aug 28, 2011 at 3:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterHaroldW


Chamy Media doesn't seem to have had much of profile in the virtual world during the course of its short-lived life. In addition,

The Standard has learned that Mr Wallis's company, Chamy Media, was struck off the companies register two months ago for failing to file any documents since it was set up in 2009.
Mr Wallis, nicknamed the Wolfman in Fleet Street, registered Chamy Media in September 2009 and ran the business from his £850,000 house with his wife Gaye, 56, as co-director.


Not that this has anything to do with the price of tea in China, but, for the record, it appears that Wallis also established "Neil Wallis Media Limited" - which appears in his .sig on the emails that UEA has released - on Sept. 10/2009. Not unlike Chamy Media, Neil Wallis Media Limited" doesn't seem to have had much of a profile in the virtual world, either. Kinda strange for a "company" that is in the PR business in this day and age, don't you think? Oh, well, maybe he was hiding his light under OO's bushel (well at least until they "disappeared" him from their stellar stable!)

Alas, it would seem that according to "Final Gazette Notice"

NEIL WALLIS MEDIA LTD 07014616 03/05/2011

Neil Wallis Media Limited appears to have been


at WALLIS MEDIA LTD&code=07014616&country=GB&product=GB_VIES_VAT

I wonder what he's calling himself, now?!

Aug 29, 2011 at 3:34 AM | Unregistered Commenterhro001

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