DEFRA is withholding the Lead Ammunition Group (LAG) report pending peer review, it was revealed this week, following a Freedom of Information request by Shooting Times earlier this year

Shooting Times requested a copy of John Swift’s LAG report in June under the 2000 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and DEFRA finally responded in a letter this week, revealing that the information is being withheld and explaining why.

The letter stated: “We recognise that there is a public interest in disclosing the Lead Ammunition Group’s final report on Lead Ammunition, Wildlife and Human Health. On the other hand, there is a strong public interest in withholding the information.

“The LAG was convened in 2010 to advise DEFRA and the Food Standards Agency on the key risks to wildlife and human health from lead ammunition. The LAG report has yet to be peer reviewed. When the report has completed that review and is finalised, it will be used to formulate and develop government policy.

“There is a strong public interest in withholding the report to ensure that there is a space within which ministers and officials are able to discuss all policy options freely. It would not be in the public interest to release the report as that would, or would likely, prejudice the formulation and development of government policy by prompting uninformed comment and speculation, which would likely lead to ministers and officials having to divert their attention to such comments and debates, which, in turn, would distract them from considering the policy options. Therefore we have concluded that in the circumstances of the case, the report should be withheld under section 35(1)(a) of the FOIA.”

The letter goes on to state that: “Regulation 12(4)(d) of the Environmental Information Regulations also applies to the LAG report. Releasing material which is still in the course of completion, and which is subject to change by the peer review process, could be misleading
to the public.”

Published on the LAG website

It adds that the final version of the report will be published on the LAG website once ministers have had time to consider its recommendations.

Five out of 10 members of the LAG have resigned within the past year, citing a lack of confidence in the process and a perceived anti-lead bias following the circulation of a draft version of the report by group chairman John Swift.

The Countryside Alliance, Gun Trade Association, National Game Dealers Association and CLA, in concert with BASC, have since submitted their own report on the possible risks of lead ammunition.

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