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« Mark Thompson on the GWPF | Main | Medieval Matt »

Booker on Newbery

Christopher Booker covers Tony Newbery's Information Tribunal case in his Telegraph column today.

A remarkable legal drama has been unfolding recently in London’s Camden Town, pitting a lone pensioner from Wales against all the might of the BBC, represented by an array of highly-paid lawyers. It has been a battle fought to determine the BBC’s right, under the Freedom of Information Act, to keep secret how it arrived at a major policy decision which, for six years, has allowed it to operate in breach of its legal obligations under its Charter.

Meanwhile, Anthony Watts has also covered the story, publishing excerpts from the Register story. Getting attention from both of these high readership sites is obviously important in itself. But when the commenters help out by doing research, good things can happen. Some of Anthony's commenters appear to have identified some candidates for the attendees at the mysterious CMEP seminar:

beesaman says:

A starting point might be to do a search for academics who have themselves down as climate advisors for the BBC in 2006. Academics are an egoistical bunch (I should know) and love to beef up their CVs with such stuff, it doesn’t exactly tell you who was there but it gives you a starting point. For example-

Stephen Peake (University of Cambridge) for example has himself down as ‘Academic consultant for the 2006 OU-BBC climate change season.’
Dr Matt Prescott and Prof Robert Spicer are anothers who name themselves in their online CVs as climate advisors to the BBC in 2006.

Just a thought, besides why should all of this be so secret, what have they to hide?

More on Stephen Peake here, Robert Spicer here. Matt Prescott is already known to those who have followed the CMEP story (he led the campaign to ban the incandescent lightbulb in the UK). However, I don't think we can state that they were in attendance (although I view it as highly likely that Prescott was there).

The other identification is more clear-cut:

Another Gareth says:

Another attendee is D. Steve Widdicombe of Plymouth University, see page 13 here

“Steve Widdicombe attended a “Communicating Climate Change” workshop at the BBC television centre (26 January 2006). The aim of the workshop was to provide expert opinion to the BBC on subjects relating to climate change and how the BBC could best fulfil its commitment to public communication and education.”

This is definitely the correct seminar, so we can certainly add Widdicombe to the list of attendees. He is an expert on ocean acidification.

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Reader Comments (139)

OK so I had a bash at putting bbc 2006 climate seminar into Google and came up with: in which it states..."Climate change. RDN attended a private BBC seminar on climate change and broadcasting, 26 January, 2006."

[BH adds: Yes, it was North who told us about the nature of the attendees in the first place. Read the pamphlet]

Nov 11, 2012 at 1:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterKnockJohn

"Steve Widdicombe ... an expert on ocean acidification."! Considering the oceans are NOT acidifying, but alkaline and very slightly neutralising (i.e. nowhere near acid), I think "Expert" is not the description I would use for someone who has it so blatantly wrong.

Nov 11, 2012 at 2:03 PM | Unregistered Commenterilma630

The usual excuse trotted out is that the sceptic position should not have EQUAL time given compared to the consensus IPCC position.

Fair enough!

However this has now become total censorship of the sceptic position giving NO TIME for sceptics to explain their concerns.

Nov 11, 2012 at 2:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterBryan

According to Chatham House, the Chatham House Rule is this:

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.

Tony Newbery's FOI quest should fail on that account alone. There are certain institutions that one ought not touch. No need for high-paid lawyers and unsympathetic judges to stress that point.

Having said that, I have always thought there were better ways to find the identity of participants to BBC's secret advisory climate cabal. Crowd-sourcing is always good to begin with.

Nov 11, 2012 at 2:04 PM | Unregistered CommentersHx

I wonder if anybody from the Met Office, or Hadley centre went. If not, and I do suspect not.
Then the BBC's position is indefensible.

How about an FOI to those organisations, to see if they were represented at this BBC seminar?

Nov 11, 2012 at 2:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

There is a David Reay listing "Communicating Climate Change" as a lecture given in 2006 to (for?) Nature Publishing Group.

Mike Hulme has an article on the topic on the BBC site in November 2006.

Nov 11, 2012 at 2:14 PM | Registered Commenteromnologos

sHx, does the CH rule have anything to say about using my money to pay for a secret meeting to set policy of which no minutes are taken? The CH rule may well be applied at some meetings where there may be a frank exchange of views, but they cannot be used to support a policy position. Also the FOIA takes no note of CH rules, why should it when that would be a get-out-of-jail-free card for any bunch of crooks in a public body?

Nov 11, 2012 at 2:16 PM | Unregistered Commenterrhoda

@ sHx

"When a meeting, or part thereof, is held under the Chatham House Rule....."

Who deems a meeting is held under CHR?

When is it deemed to be held under CHR - before, during, or when embarrassing questions are asked?

Where is the prior proof that that meeting was actually under the CHR?

Nov 11, 2012 at 2:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterJoe Public

Simon Retallack of the IPPR talking "CCC" in May 2006.

Nov 11, 2012 at 2:19 PM | Registered Commenteromnologos

Chatham House rules have no sanction, no standing in law, just a nicety. Foi should trump then, in all cases

Additionally, we have no evidnce that chatham house rules were at this debate, merely the BBC's assertion. As at least 2 scientists have put the meeting into events conferences attended in publications, describing it as a seminsr or a workshop. I think that the onus is on the BBC to prove their claim of Chatham House Rules.

But FOI legislation should trump a debating nicety. The law vs a debating societies convention.

I want to see the wording of any invitation to the event, as I no longer trust the BBC to be transparent

Nov 11, 2012 at 2:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

Nairobi, 2006: UN talks "CCC". Funny how topical it was, at the time.

Nov 11, 2012 at 2:26 PM | Registered Commenteromnologos

Futerra doing "CCC Masterclasses" in January 2006.

Nov 11, 2012 at 2:28 PM | Registered Commenteromnologos

The OU's Joe Smith singularly fails to mention the seminar in a sea of BBC references. Strange.

Nov 11, 2012 at 2:32 PM | Registered Commenteromnologos

Another Futerra Masterclass from 2006, this time about CCC and internal audiences....

Nov 11, 2012 at 2:45 PM | Registered Commenteromnologos

Completely O/T - According to the Sunday Telegraph Matt Ridley was a classmate of the Arcgbishop of Canterbury elect at Eton.

Nov 11, 2012 at 2:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack Thompson

Would the BBC have had any such seminar without Stern in attendance? I think not.

Nov 11, 2012 at 3:00 PM | Registered Commenteromnologos

Since the BBC have alleged that this was a meeting of Britain's "leading scientists" in theory it should at least include the majority of the top 28 scientists in this list - assuming the BBC not wholly corrupt.

Sir Paul Nurse, who discovered the genes that control cell division. The Times dubs him the UK’s “superman of science”.

Second up is Sir Mark Walport, director of the biomedical charity the Wellcome Trust, which doles out a tidy £600m a year on research. According to the paper, Walport “sports a moustache to rival the legendary handlebars” of the trust’s founder Sir Henry Wellcome.

And if you’re wondering if there are any physicists on the list, don’t worry: there are plenty. In third place is Stephen Hawking, who needs no introduction to readers, although in case you’re wondering, he’s the “cosmologist and best-selling author”.

The other physicists on the list are the president of the Royal Society Martin Rees (8th), who took part in a video interview last February, Andre Geim, who only two days ago won this year’s Nobel Prize for Physics for his discovery of graphene (9th) and Philip Campbell, editor of Nature and founding editor of Physics World magazine (13th). (Eureka! obviously went to press before Geim scooped the Nobel gong as the entry on him doesn’t mention the award. Still it shows the list can’t be totally unreliable.)

Next up, in 15th, is Jocelyn Bell Burnell, who last week completed her two-year term as the first female president of the Institute of Physics, which publishes

In 17th you’ve got Cambridge University physicist Richard Friend, the “plastic electronics pioneer” whose work on light-emitting polymers has “contributed more to our enjoyment of life than almost any living physicist”. Apparently.

Popping up in 18th is another Cambridge physicist – David Mackay, chief scientific adviser to the UK’s Department of Energy and Climate Change. In case you missed it, check out our review of Mackay’s excellent book on the energy challenge.

Next on the list is Brian Cox – Manchester University particle physicist and TV presenter – who is in the 25th spot. Cox is so well known he

Of these, Nurse looks quite likely, as does Cox but on the majority my bet is "BBC wholly corrupt"

Nov 11, 2012 at 3:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterNeil Craig

re the Chatham House Rule again.

The UK has no Constitution. Instead, the Brits have nice and gentlemanly ways of avoiding a civil war. they are called conventions.

The Chatham House Rule, it seems to me, is a convention that may well become law by way of a judicial ruling if people keep challenging it head on in courts.

The principle is important. Whether the BBC announced the event upfront 'under the Chatham House Rule' or declared it as such after an FOI request for the identity of the participants is a separate matter.

Also, if the Chatham House Rule isn't good for developing policy, including revolutionary ideas, anonymously and inter pares, what else is it good for?

The argument in this instance ought to be whether public bodies such as the BBC should take into account frank and fearless advice offered anonymously, be it during an event organised by the BBC under the Chatham House Rule or in the comment pages of a blog.

Nov 11, 2012 at 3:12 PM | Unregistered CommentersHx

Fascinating but 2005 Joe Smith article describing how the seminars were organised for the BBC.

Nov 11, 2012 at 3:15 PM | Registered Commenteromnologos

You've got to see the stuff flying out now:

Nov 11, 2012 at 3:40 PM | Registered Commentershub

Drop the dead donkey? Patten agrees 'structural reform' necessary at the BBC - Andrew Marr show.

Nov 11, 2012 at 3:42 PM | Unregistered Commenterssat

sHx - "what else is it good for?"

Do you think the mafia meet under Chatham House Rules?

What wording do you suggest for your "Chatham House Law"?

What do you think the function of Parliament is?

Nov 11, 2012 at 4:01 PM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

Re: sHx

From wiki:

The Chatham House Rule is intended to promote public discussion of the views expressed at a meeting, but without attributing those views to any individual or organisation.

Perhaps you could point us to where the BBC has publicly disclosed all the views expressed at the meeting so that those views can be publicly discussed?

Nov 11, 2012 at 4:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterTerryS

I've read the term TwentyeightGate used.

Nov 11, 2012 at 4:14 PM | Registered Commentershub

TerryS, What the wiki entry does not say is that the individuals may not be named, just not any individual attributions.

Nov 11, 2012 at 4:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterIlma630

Rough summary of candidates noted by WUWT contributors:

Day by day -
Dr Michael Bravo
Andrew Simms
Richard Black
Dr Joe Smith
Stephen Peake (University of Cambridge)
Dr Matt Prescott
D. Steve Widdicombe of Plymouth University
Robert Andrew Spicer, Visiting Professor, State Key Laboratory, Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing…

Gail Combs-
Mike Hulme
Janet Sumner

John Holdren
John Ashton and subsequent

Last comment at time of summary is from polistra -

Nov 11, 2012 at 4:44 PM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

Nov 11, 2012 at 4:47 PM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

The Chatham House Rule "may well become law" but it isn't law, is it? So FoIA should override it. Has the BBC even offered any concrete evidence that CHR applied?

Regarding the CHR "what else is it good for" - misrepresentation, crooked deals, smearing reputations, etc? If it had the power of law it could easily be used for hiding organised child abuse, for example.

I understand that the FoI request was turned down because the BBC was regarded by the QC as a private institution.
As a public body the BBC has a responsibility to operate as transparently as possible.

I wonder if that webpage will be altered.

Shub - the stuff flying out now

Might have been more thorough to also ask if he'd even been invited - he and Helen Boaden do have links.

Nov 11, 2012 at 4:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterDerekP

sHx and others re. the Chatham House Rule and the law:

See the Information Comissioner's decision notice FS50312407. Apparently this has not been challenged and the information was released on the ICO's instructions.

I would not have spent two days at a court hearing in the South of England (and countless hours of preparation) without being fairly sure of my ground.

Nov 11, 2012 at 4:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterTonyN

The BBC is a public organisation on some occasions and a private one on others. It depends on the observers just as whether an electron is a particle or a wave depends on the observer.

Nov 11, 2012 at 5:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

sHx: "yadda yadda yadda....nor that of any other participant, may be revealed." By anybody? Or just those taking part?

I mean, if the Most Rev could come up with an update-able list - in a side post maybe - of those thought to be present, would that break the rules? And with what sanction?

Nov 11, 2012 at 5:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterSnotrocket

Bish why dont you ask Richard D North if he has anything relating to the meeting - invitation, agenda, recollection of who was there

Nov 11, 2012 at 6:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterDolphinhead

The point of the CHR is that you have to judge what's been said on what was said, not who said it. It removes expert opinion and leaves room only for factual or logical discussion.

The BBC meeting/conference clearly wasn't held under the CHR since there was no release of the full (anonymised) transcript.

Nov 11, 2012 at 6:39 PM | Unregistered Commenterdave


people like bitbucket and BBD would not like that...they cling so earnestly to the "expertise" of climate scientists, whilst telling us that they are sceptical...of anyone who is not a climate scientist.

Nov 11, 2012 at 6:50 PM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

"When will I die?" - a child's question after a climate talk by David Reay, a frequent talker in schools in would seem []. He used that as inspiration to write a book about climate for children. Let us hope he took pains to tell them that the evidence of any dramatic effect of humans is so thin that it is not worth their while worrying about, that the more developed countries are well able to take care of themselves across a wide range of climate conditions, and finally that coal, oil, and gas are helping bring such robustness to the economies of the developing world. Good news all round. Wait a minute. Good news? Isn't that bad for funding?

Nov 11, 2012 at 7:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Shade

I've created a table of likely participants

- 17 so far - so... well past halfway - for my own reference more than anything - but I'm happy to add links and add/remove folk ....

Nov 11, 2012 at 7:12 PM | Registered Commentertomo

Too many scientists, ngo's on the ground activists were there aswell.
Why on earth would Brian cox be there he has little to do with climate and it was over 6 yrs ago

Speculation is pointless. Let's crowd search Google for evidence.

Nov 11, 2012 at 7:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

Dave, thanks for the link to the source of the rule. According to the page, the rule 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.

So where does this come from?

dave: "The BBC meeting/conference clearly wasn't held under the CHR since there was no release of the full (anonymised) transcript."

Strange concoction.

The purpose of the rule seems to be to allow people to speak without danger of either being quoted or misquoted. For exactly this reason, what occurred in the meeting is of no use to anyone outside the meeting, because they don't know who said what.

Nov 11, 2012 at 8:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterBitBucket


As I understand it, the Chatham House rules allow you to disclose (in general terms) what was discussed in the meeting, and it allows you to disclose who was at the meeting. What is forbidden, is identifying who said what at the meeting.

Nov 11, 2012 at 8:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Ashton

Barry Woods@7:30

Entirely - It's only a starter... mostly for my own convenience - but I'm entirely happy to redact and amend as time allows...

Prof Cox seems eager to please the BBC and his utterances on global warming that I've seen / heard place him squarely in the BBC's eco-vanguard choir. Although he has sneaked in a bit of stuff about the sun affecting climate into his output - hedging his bets?

I was getting dizzy with the information littered around the place and needed to collate all the names....

Thinking about it - I may well split it into two tables "confirmed" and "possibles" - asking the assorted likely ones by email.... and of course publishing the responses.

I think it would also be illuminating to know the positions of the "senior BBC" attendees too.

Nov 11, 2012 at 8:33 PM | Registered Commentertomo

BB - "The purpose of the rule seems to be to allow people to speak without danger of either being quoted or misquoted. For exactly this reason, what occurred in the meeting is of no use to anyone outside the meeting, because they don't know who said what."

Wrong: What occurred in the meeting would be of use to the many folk who take an interest in the substance of the evidence and opinion that formed the basis of the national public broadcaster's policy.

Nov 11, 2012 at 8:37 PM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet


As I said, the purpose is to evaluate arguments on their own merits rather than relying on the credibility of the person who made them.

"what occurred in the meeting is of no use to anyone outside the meeting, because they don't know who said what."

Are you a spoof character on here? I haven't followed the comments closely for a while. In case you're not, I'll point out the obvious: only opinions require knowledge of the author to be credible; facts and logic stand on their own merits whoever utters them.

To be quite clear, the purpose of a CHR meeting is to disseminate information publicly in order to inform debate. That's so fundamental to the purpose of Chatham House that they don't even feel the need to mention it when talking about the CHR.

Nov 11, 2012 at 8:37 PM | Unregistered Commenterdave

Can someone not just look at the visitors book for the day in question?

Nov 11, 2012 at 9:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterDave_G

It is odd, isn't it, that the heroic saving of planet earth from mankind's follies doesn't come with full and frank sharing of who our saviours are? Instead it is as if they were a grubby, subversive lot, unsure of their case, wary of blame in case their self-serving absurdity is revealed, and not wanting to be seen as manipulating the airwaves. Pretty rum lot at the BBC if you ask me! And that's struggling to be polite in the face of this gross corruption of all that might have been with the BBC.

Nov 11, 2012 at 9:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Shade

There is a lot of debate here about the purpose and enforcement of Chatham House rules, but isn't this moot? Surely a meeting to set policy for a publicly-funded broadcaster on a topic of global concern should never have been held under these rules, if indeed it was. Given the well-documented campaigns to silence dissent, the only people who would need to be protected by CH rules would have been those from the sceptic side of the argument, and it doesn't seem that they were represented at all.

Nov 11, 2012 at 9:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid S

Cannot a list of possible attendees be drawn up & then wait for them to deny that they were there, Could be entertaining.

Nov 11, 2012 at 9:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterTom Mills

Maybe someone could phone into Chris Evans on Radio 2 this Friday and pledge a large sum of money to Children In Need if the BBC reveals the names of the secret 28 by the end of the day.

The embarrassment of having to turn down a large donation to their own charity simply to keep the names a secret might just get some msm attention. It would show where the beebs priorities are.

It's probably quite a safe bet, they could hardly reveal the names in return for say £100k having spent so much in legal costs to keep them secret, but it might be a stronger moral position to say that the money will go to a different charity if the Beeb don't comply (is GWPF a registered charity ? That would really wind them up !!!)

Nov 11, 2012 at 10:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterHyperthermania

A list of some of the scientists and activists involved with the BBC beginning of 2006

Professor Myles R. Allen is head of the Climate Dynamics group at the University of Oxford's Atmospheric, Oceanic and Planetary Physics Department
Sir David King
Chris Rapley British Antarctic Survey
Carol Turley Plymouth Marine Laboratory
Glenn Morris is a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society
Professor Nick Pidgeon, director of the Centre for Environmental Risk, University of East Anglia
Dr Kevin Anderson, from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of Manchester
Mike Hulme Professor of Climate Change in the School of Environmental Sciences at the University of East Anglia (UEA)
Dr Stephen Peake (The Open University)
Professor Iain Stewart. Job title: Professor of Geosciences Communication, School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Alice Bows Tyndall Centre
Rachel Skerry Friends of the Earth
Gordon James, spokesman for Friends of the Earth

Nick Faull, one of the Oxford University people – involved in the BBC climate model project.
Professor Tom Coulthard of the Department of Geography at the University of Hull
John Lanchbery from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds
Martin Parry, Yuri Izrael from the Institute of Global Climate and Ecology,
Dr. h.c. Bill Hare is a Physicist and Environmental Scientist + Green Peace
Paul Rose Vice President of the RGS and Chair of the Expeditions and Fieldwork Division.
Dr Dave Frame ECI
Dr Stephan Harrison Associate Professor of Quaternary Science Exeter
Dr Trent Garner, a research fellow at the Institute of Zoology

Nov 11, 2012 at 10:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

Some of them may just be the people they called for a quote.

Nov 11, 2012 at 10:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

Re Futerra participation, as mentioned in lists by tomo and not banned yet, and referenced by omnologos (see link above), it's apparent that the Futerra people were running a class on the very same day that the BBC had their workshop, which I think would probably rule them out.

TonyN was told by the BBC that the seminar "Climate Change - the Challenge to Broadcasting" was held at the BBC’s Television Centre in White City, London W12 on 26 January 2006, and ran from 9.30am to 5.30pm.

Meanwhile, Futerra's event "Communicating Climate Change on a Local and Regional Level" was held at 84 Long Lane, London SE1 on 26 January 2006, and ran from 12.30 to 5.30pm.

Nov 11, 2012 at 10:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlex Cull

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