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This analysis paper was not sent to Ministers or their special advisers. Following a freedom of information request to the Department we became aware of this work. The document was released on two occasions following freedom of information requests.
I do not think I ever claimed that I had sight of the paper. It was quite obvious in the answers that have been given since that neither the First Minister and myself were involved in seeing the outcome. The report was compiled by the European policy and co-ordination unit. Officials prepare a range of papers on a regular basis, many of which are working papers and do not form submissions sent to Ministers. Of course, in the absence of an agreed position, the report could not have been disclosed to the Executive, the Committee for the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister or the Assembly.
The important point is that it was not something that was rigidly adhered to in the context of the last Administration, which was a five-party coalition, because in that coalition there were countless occasions when at least two out of the three parties that did not take up seats in this Executive were leaking right, left and centre. That is not the way we do business. If a report is put forward for our consideration and if we get into a scenario where we are leaking against one another because the outcome of that report advantages one particular political party, then all confidence is lost within the Administration.
This was a paper that was not even completed, for the simple reason that a number of Departments that had been requested to contribute their analysis to the paper had not actually done so. We are not talking about a completed document. We are talking about a document that was initially put forward by the head of the Civil Service. There is an awful lot of misinformation being propagated about this document.
Simply because, as I have said, the report was commissioned by the head of the Civil Service and was being compiled by the European policy and co-ordination unit, but it was never completed. Officials prepare a range of papers on a regular basis, many of which are working papers and do not form submissions sent to Ministers, and certainly never before they are completed.
I think I referred to that earlier when it was addressed by Stephen Farry. With the new Administration, that has been in place since May of this year, there is a duty and a responsibility to respond as quickly as possible. You should not read anything into the fact that the paper was produced as a result of the freedom of information request after the referendum date, because the key point is —
The key point, as the Member well knows, is this: we had a situation in the run-in to the referendum whereby the two Executive parties were on different sides of the debate. The Member can shake his head all he likes, but that is the reality. Even if the document had been completed and offered up to the First Minister and me, if there was no agreement about the publication of that document, I was not going to leak it because it was to my advantage, even though it would have been to our advantage. That is the way we work, and I understand there are other parties here that have seized on this issue, that were part of the Administration and that, when they were part of the Administration, were leaking right, left and centre.