If Neil Kinnock had become prime minister in 1992

This has to be one of the more ironic disclosures I have received in response to a Freedom of Information request.

It is a document that was never used. It was prepared by the civil service in case the 1992 general election resulted in a Labour victory and Neil Kinnock became prime minister.

This is the front page of a set of procedural guidelines that would have been distributed to his ministerial team under his name, if his government had ever been formed - it has the initials NK at the bottom.

It is one of a number of official papers prepared for the possibility of a Kinnock premiership, which I have been trying to obtain under freedom of information.

Draft document on procedures for ministers from 1992

The Cabinet Office turned down my request for them, the Information Commissioner upheld this refusal for the bulk of the material, but instructed the Cabinet Office to release this particular document.

Each incoming prime minister has issued procedural guidance to ministerial colleagues since Clement Attlee in 1945. A version was first publicly disclosed in 1996, by the man who beat Lord Kinnock, Sir John Major. It is now routinely published today as the Ministerial Code.

Pledged

But the intriguing feature of the Kinnock version is point two, where the draft says he will publish this guidance note "in accordance with our policy on freedom of information".

In 1992 Labour pledged to introduce a Freedom of Information Act, and the officials who drafted this document were clearly anticipating that policy.

Given that the Cabinet Office was preparing to release this paper in 1992 in line with a predicted Freedom of Information law, it seems puzzling and ironic that - despite a real FOI law now existing - it refused to disclose it over 20 years later until ordered to do so by the Information Commissioner.

As for the other documents prepared for Neil Kinnock in 1992, the BBC is appealing the case to the Information Rights Tribunal. The government argues that releasing them would encourage officials to write future briefings that are "excessively detailed" and "verbose".

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