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From: TSS ()
Subject: SEAC PUBLICATION SCHEME Version 2, October 2005 1
Date: October 20, 2005 at 12:18 pm PST

Version 2, October 2005 1

SPONGIFORM ENCEPHALOPATHY

ADVISORY COMMITTEE

PUBLICATION SCHEME

PREPARED IN

ACCORDANCE WITH SECTION 19 OF THE

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 2000

Version 2, October 2005 2

CONTENTS

1. Introduction .............................................................................................2

2. SEAC’s policy of openness ...................................................................3

3. Dealing with reserved business ............................................................4

4. Unpublished data ...................................................................................5

5. Disclosure of reserved business...........................................................6

6. Annual reports ........................................................................................6

7. Freedom of Information Act 2000 .........................................................6

8. The Environmental Information Regulations 2004 ....................................7

9. The SEAC publication scheme .................................................................7

10. Information Classes used in the SEAC Publication Scheme.........7

11. How to access information on SEAC................................................8

12. SEAC Publication Scheme Accessibility ...............................................8

13. Copyright Statement...........................................................................8

14. Charges ...............................................................................................8

15. Format of Material...............................................................................9

16. Contact details ....................................................................................9

1. Introduction

The Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee (SEAC) is

appointed by Ministers and sponsored jointly by the Department for

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Department of Health and the

Food Standards Agency. Its role is to provide independent expert

scientific advice to the Government on spongiform encephalopathies

such as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, Creutzfeld-Jacob disease

and scrapie. SEAC's remit is wide-ranging, and covers public health,

food safety and animal health issues.

The committee was formed over 15 years ago and its terms of

reference are as follows:

• To advise on Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies (TSEs)

at the request of:

the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

the Department of Health

the Food Standards Agency

the Scottish Executive

the Welsh Assembly Government

the Northern Ireland Executive.

Version 2, October 2005 3

• To provide independent scientific advice on food safety, public

and animal health issues relating to TSEs taking account of the

remits of other bodies with related responsibilities.

• To provide scientifically based assessment of risk from TSEs to

public and animal health and food safety taking appropriate

account of scientific uncertainty and assumptions in formulating

advice. The committee will convey the nature and extent of such

uncertainties with the advice.

• To advise on important general principles or new scientific

discoveries in TSEs to assist in the identification of new or

emerging TSE risks for public, animal health and food.

• To advise on the scientific basis and risks associated with the

introduction of new control measures or the reduction, phasing

out or withdrawal of current control measures which are in place

to protect public health or animal health from TSEs.

• To identify where research is desirable to reduce the scientific

uncertainty and inform the assessment of public and animal

health and food safety risks relating to TSEs.

The committee usually meets between four and six times a year to

discuss TSE related issues and to provide scientific advice to Ministers.

2. SEAC’s policy of openness

SEAC has published public summaries and, more recently, full minutes

of open meetings since October 1997. These documents provide a

comprehensive public record of the committee's conclusions and

recommendations. They are available on the committee’s website

(www.seac.gov.uk).

The committee also conducts much of its business in open meetings;

this allows members of the public to observe the committee at work.

The agenda and papers for open meetings are made available on the

SEAC website one week prior to each meeting. The draft minutes of

each public meeting, together with a brief summary of the discussion,

are made available on the SEAC website as soon as practicably

possible after the meeting. A final version of the minutes is agreed at

the subsequent committee meeting.

The committee’s advice is published in writing. SEAC statements are in

layperson’s terms and include a transparent account of how the advice

was formulated, identify sources of data and assumptions underlying

Version 2, October 2005 4

the advice, and identify the nature and extent of any scientific

uncertainty. The aim is always to report a collective view, however any

important difference of views or interpretations within the committee are

also presented. Where there is a need to convey a decision urgently,

oral advice may be given but will be followed by written confirmation.

The committee is committed to making as much of its work open to

public scrutiny as possible. The majority of information discussed by

SEAC is in the public domain and the default assumption is that SEAC

will discuss requests for advice in public session. The committee is

required, in accordance with Government policy on openness, to

comply with the Codes of Practice1 including the Freedom of

Information Act 2000 (FOIA) and the Environmental Impact Regulations

2004 (EIR).

3. Dealing with reserved business

If Departments request that SEAC review confidential information as

reserved business this must be justified. This requires a need to specify

the particular harm that disclosure would cause and provide reasons

why this overrides the public interest for disclosure, particularly given

the increased transparency and confidence arising from public

discussion in public.

To ensure that the committee adopts a consistent approach the

following guidelines apply. Material can only be considered confidential

for consideration as reserved business if it is cited as exempt from

disclosure as described in the FOIA Chapter 36 Part II sections 21 to

44. Under the FOIA, except where an absolute exemption applies,

material should be disclosed unless the public interest in maintaining

the exemption in question outweighs the public interest in disclosure. If

the EIR are cited as grounds for any exemptions from open discussion,

these apply as described in the EIR Part 3 and are subject to the public

interest test.

For consideration in SEAC’s reserved business sessions material could

include:

1 Department for Constitutional Affairs - Freedom of Information Act -

Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs' Code Of Practice

http://www.dca.gov.uk/foi/codepafunc.htm

http://www.informationcommissioner.gov.uk/cms/DocumentUploads/EIR Code

of Practice.pdf

Version 2, October 2005 5

• Unpublished research results or reports, intended for publication

subsequently

• Draft guidelines

• Commercially confidential information, which cannot be disclosed

for legal reasons

• Confidential patient information or personal information about

named individuals.

If papers contain commercially sensitive information or information

about named individuals, the general principle of common law duty of

confidentiality will apply, except in cases where the information was

provided under legislation which deals specifically with disclosure and

non-disclosure.

In addition, Government rules prevent departments discussing issues

surrounding policy development in public during purdah. This is from

the date a general election is announced until the election is completed.

4. Unpublished data

There are four types of report on which advice may be sought from the

committee prior to publication, unpublished research, draft risk

assessments, draft guidelines and draft pre-publication material.

Premature disclosure of unpublished research may prejudice

publication in scientific or medical journals. There is a generic

requirement for scientific advisory committees to treat unpublished

research in confidence until it has been peer-reviewed and published in

the scientific or medical literature, unless the investigators give specific

permission for pre-publication release. Following publication, the

committee’s comments will be released into the public domain.

Similarly draft risk assessments may, in some cases, be treated as

confidential until finalised and published. There may be a delay

between SEAC’s review of a draft risk assessment and publication of

the committee’s advice to allow the appropriate Government

departments to develop risk management strategies. In these cases,

relevant papers, minutes and statements may need to be temporarily

withheld, pending publication.

SEAC may be asked to provide scientific advice early in the drafting

process when Government departments revise or produce new

guidelines. As Ministers may wish to have the opportunity to consider

Version 2, October 2005 6

new or revised guidelines before they are finalised and placed in the

public domain, the committee may be asked to provide advice on draft

guidelines in confidence.

5. Disclosure of reserved business

Much information seen by the committee is confidential for a relatively

short time (for example pre-publication research). Once the information

has been published and the sensitivity passed, the secretariat will seek

to release the minutes or statements relating to reserved business.

The published agenda for SEAC meetings will refer to both open and

reserved business. However the papers and minutes of items

considered in the reserved business meeting will not be publicly

available until the information has been placed in the public domain.

6. Annual reports

The committee publishes annual reports which are available on the

SEAC website (www.seac.gov.uk) and from the secretariat (contact

details below) upon request.

7. Freedom of Information Act 2000

The FOIA came into force on 1st January 2005. It gives a general right

of access to all types of recorded information held by public authorities,

including non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs), sets out exemptions

from that right, and places a number of obligations on public authorities.

SEAC is an NDPB therefore it is subject to the provisions of the Act.

The general right of access to the information held by a public authority

is provided for under section 1 of the Act. Any person wishing to

exercise this right needs to make a written request to the public

authority. Any person who makes such a request must be informed

whether the public authority holds that information and, subject to

exemptions, supplied with that information.

The Act provides another mechanism for gaining access to information

whereby every public authority is required to adopt and maintain a

publication scheme. A publication scheme is a guide detailing types of

information that are to be made routinely available. A publication

scheme must set out the classes of information contained within the

scheme, the manner in which the information is intended to be

published, and whether or not a charge will be made for the information.

The purpose of a scheme is to ensure a significant amount of

information is easily and routinely available. Schemes are intended to

Version 2, October 2005 7

encourage organisations to publish more information proactively and to

develop a greater culture of openness.

8. The Environmental Information Regulations 2004

The EIR came into force on 1st January 2005 and establish an access

regime which allows individuals to request environmental information

from public authorities. The EIR also apply to SEAC.

9. The SEAC publication scheme

The SEAC publication scheme is intended to be a living document,

which will be modified and developed in the light of any changes to

SEAC’s remit, public comment and feedback. Publication schemes

must be approved by the Information Commissioner and have to be

reviewed periodically. The next review of the SEAC publication scheme

is scheduled for July 20062.

This publication scheme is not retrospective and SEAC does not

undertake to publish information that was generated before February

2004, the date when this scheme came into force.

10. Information Classes used in the SEAC Publication Scheme

Class 1 – Science

SEAC Meeting Agendas

SEAC Meeting Papers

Minutes of SEAC Meetings

SEAC Meeting Summaries

SEAC Statements

SEAC Subgroups

All the above information relates from 1996 to the present.

Class 2 – About the Committee

Members

2 http://www.informationcommissioner.gov.uk/eventual.aspx?id=8283

Version 2, October 2005 8

Register of Interests

Terms of Reference

Code of Practice

Annual Reports

Press Releases

The classes of information detailed above are available on the SEAC

website (www.seac.gov.uk). The information is also available from the

SEAC secretariat (contact details below). No charge will be made for

this information.

11. How to access information on SEAC

SEAC routinely publishes information on its website (www.seac.gov.uk).

In addition, the SEAC Secretariat (contact details below) can provide

publications in hard copy.

12. SEAC Publication Scheme Accessibility

The SEAC Publication Scheme is published on the SEAC website. A

large print version is available on request. SEAC will consider

converting the publication scheme into other formats depending on

demand.

13. Copyright Statement

The material available under this Publication Scheme is copyright

SEAC, unless otherwise stated. SEAC copyright protected material

(excluding logos) may be reproduced free of charge in any format or

medium. It must be reused accurately and not in a misleading context.

The material must be acknowledged as SEAC copyright and the title of

the source document / publication acknowledged. Where third party

copyright material is identified, permission from the copyright holders

concerned will be required.

14. Charges

As far as possible, and within Government guidelines, SEAC intends to

make information within the publication scheme available free of

charge. However, there may be exceptions where a fee may be

charged to cover processing costs.

Version 2, October 2005 9

15. Format of Material

Information will be available electronically or in paper copy from either

the SEAC website or from the secretariat.

16. Contact details

For enquiries please contact the SEAC secretariat:

Area 108,

1A Page Street,

London SW1P 4PQ

Telephone: 0207 904 6933

Fax: 0207 904 6827

email: SEACsecretariat@seac.gsi.gov.uk .

http://www.seac.gov.uk/publicats/pubscheme.pdf

TSS






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