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April 2009

Case Ref: FS50193945
Date: 30/04/2009
Public Authority: Cabinet Office
Summary: The complainant submitted a request to the Cabinet Office which sought details of the information provided to the UK by the Saudi Government, prior to the July 7 2005 terrorist attacks, about expected terrorist attacks in the UK. The Cabinet Office confirmed that it held information falling within the scope of the request but it considered it to be exempt from disclosure by virtue of section 23(1) of the Act. The Commissioner is satisfied that the Cabinet Office was correct to withhold this information on the basis of section 23(1). However, the Commissioner has also concluded that the Cabinet Office breached section 10(1) by failing to confirm within 20 working days that it held this information and furthermore also breached section 17(1) by failing to issue a refusal notice citing section 23 within the same time period.
Section of Act/EIR & Finding: FOI 10 - Complaint Upheld , FOI 17 - Complaint Upheld , FOI 23 - Complaint Not upheld.
View PDF of Decision Notice FS50193945

Case Ref: FS50137790

Date: 30/04/2009
Public Authority: Cabinet Office
Summary: The complainant asked the Cabinet Office for ‘Information concerning the operation which resulted in the raid of a house in Lansdown Road, Forest Gate, London, on June 2 2006’. The Cabinet Office replied that the exemptions, under sections 23(5) and 24(2) of the Act, from the duty to confirm or deny whether information was held, applied in this case, and it extended the time limit in order to consider the public interest test in respect of section 24(2). It subsequently refused to confirm nor deny that it held the requested information, referring to sections 23(5) and 24(2), but referred the complainant to five responses on its website which the Prime Minister had given to journalists in respect of the raid. It upheld its decision at internal review. During the course of the Commissioner’s investigation the Cabinet Office disclosed some information to the complainant, but stated that, under the provisions of sections 23(5) and 24(2) of the Act, it was neither confirming nor denying whether any further information was held. The Commissioner decided that, having extended the time limit to consider the public interest test, the Cabinet Office did not provide its assessment of the public interest test within a reasonable timescale, which constitutes a breach of section 17(3) of the Act. The Cabinet Office also breached section 17(3)(b), in that its refusal notice failed to state adequately the reasons for claiming that the public interest in refusing to confirm or deny under sections 23(5) and 24(2) outweighed the public interest in disclosing the requested information. The Cabinet Office was in breach of section 1(1)(b) of the Act in failing to disclose information that was not exempt until after the complainant had approached the Commissioner. In addition, since the Cabinet Office failed to provide the information within the statutory time limit, it also breached section 10(1) of the Act. In failing to confirm or deny that it held information falling within the request, the Cabinet Office also breached section 1(1)(a) of the Act, and in failing to provide that confirmation or denial within the statutory time limit it breached section 10(1). The Commissioner required the Cabinet Office to confirm or deny whether it holds further information that falls within the request and, in respect of any held information, to disclose it (in full or part) or withhold it by reference to an appropriate exemption.
Section of Act/EIR & Finding: FOI 1 - Complaint Upheld , FOI 10 - Complaint Upheld , FOI 17 - Complaint Upheld , FOI 23 - Complaint Upheld , FOI 24 - Complaint Upheld.
View PDF of Decision Notice FS50137790

Case Ref: FS50199873
Date: 30/04/2009
Public Authority: Cardiff County Council
Summary: The complainant made a request for a petition supporting a proposed footpath submitted to Cardiff County Council (‘the Council’) by a local Councillor. This was refused under section 40 of the Act on the grounds that the information requested constituted personal data of which the applicant was not the subject, and that disclosure of the information would breach one of the data protection principles. The Commissioner’s decision is that the information requested is ‘environmental information’ within the definition in Regulation 1(1) of the EIR. The Commissioner is satisfied that regulation 13 (which relates to third party personal data) is engaged in respect of the information, and that the public interest in maintaining the exception outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information. However the Commissioner further finds that the Council was in breach of regulation 14(3)(a) in that it failed to apply an exception under the EIR and regulation 11(4) in that the Council failed to provide the outcome of its internal review within 40 working days.
Section of Act/EIR & Finding: EIR 11(4) - Complaint Upheld , EIR 13(1) - Complaint Not upheld , EIR 14(3)(a) - Complaint Upheld.
View PDF of Decision Notice FS50199873

Case Ref: FS50198015

Date: 30/04/2009
Public Authority: Department of Health
Summary: The complainant made a request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the “Act”) to the Department of Health (“DoH”) for information concerning how the DoH reached its most recent decision to recommend that pregnant women and those trying to conceive should avoid alcohol. The DoH refused the complainant’s request as it stated that the information was exempt from disclosure by virtue of section 35(1)(a) of the Act which relates to the formulation or development of government policy. The Commissioner has reviewed the withheld information and considers that whilst section 35(1)(a) was engaged the public interest in maintaining the exemption does not outweigh the public interest in disclosure. The Commissioner also found that in failing to make available the withheld information available to the complainant the DoH breached section 1(1)(b) and section 10(1) of the Act. Information Tribunal appeal EA/2009/0042 withdrawn.
Section of Act/EIR & Finding: FOI 1 - Complaint Upheld , FOI 10 - Complaint Upheld , FOI 35 - Complaint Upheld.
View PDF of Decision Notice FS50198015

Case Ref: FS50153744

Date: 22/04/2009
Public Authority: BBC
Summary: The complainant requested information from the BBC on the amount of money it received between 1997 and 2007 from the use of premium rate phone lines. The BBC refused to provide this information on the basis that it was held for the purpose of journalism, art or literature. During the course of the investigation the BBC also sought to rely on section 12 of the Act. The Commissioner has found that the BBC were not obliged to comply with the request by virtue of section 12(2) of the Act, as to establish if the information is held would exceed the appropriate cost limit. The Commissioner has also found that the BBC breached the requirements of sections 17(5) ‘refusal of a request’, 1(1) and 10(1). The Commissioner requires the BBC to contact the complainant in order to refine his request in line with its duty under section 16 of the Act (duty to provide advice and assistance).
Section of Act/EIR & Finding: FOI 1 - Complaint Upheld , FOI 10 - Complaint Upheld , FOI 12 - Complaint Not upheld , FOI 16 - Complaint Upheld , FOI 17 - Complaint Upheld.
View PDF of Decision Notice FS50153744

Case Ref: FS50224829
Date: 22/04/2009
Public Authority: House of Commons
Summary: The complainant requested correspondence and documentation regarding the House of Commons’ Register of Members’ Interests, with specific reference to rules governing the declaration or otherwise of overseas trips organised and funded by The British Council. The House of Commons withheld the information under section 34(1) of the Act. When the complainant brought the matter to the Commissioner, the Speaker of the House of Commons issued a certificate under section 34(3) of the Act, serving as conclusive evidence that the exemption is required to avoid an infringement of the privilege of the House of Commons. The Commissioner therefore concludes that the House of Commons is exempt from section 1(1)(b) for the purpose of this request and no further action is required.
Section of Act/EIR & Finding: FOI 1 - Complaint Not upheld , FOI 34 - Complaint Not upheld.
View PDF of Decision Notice FS50224829

Case Ref: FS50170381
Date: 20/04/2009
Public Authority: Metropolitan Police Service
Summary: The complainant asked the public authority for information about various aspects of an internal investigation into a particular officer’s conduct that he believed had taken place. The public authority informed the complainant that it was not obliged to comply with section 1(1)(a) in relation to this information by virtue of the exclusion from that duty found in section 40(5)(b)(i) of the Act. The Commissioner is satisfied that the public authority applied section 40(5)(b)(i) properly and dismisses the complaint. However, the Commissioner has found a procedural breach of section 10(1) as the public authority did not issue its refusal notice within twenty working days and a breach of section 17(1)(b) because the public authority failed to cite fully the exemption that it relied upon within the statutory timescales, but requires no steps to be taken.
Section of Act/EIR & Finding: FOI 10 - Complaint Upheld , FOI 17 - Complaint Upheld , FOI 40 - Complaint Not upheld.
View PDF of Decision Notice FS50170381

Case Ref: FS50154349
Date: 20/04/2009
Public Authority: Metropolitan Police Service
Summary: The complainant requested all Special Branch information relating to John Lennon. The public authority refused to confirm or deny whether it held information falling within the scope of this request, citing the exemptions provided by sections 23(5) (information supplied by or relating to security bodies) and 24(2) (national security) in conjunction, as well as sections 31(3) (investigations), 38(2) (health and safety) and 40(5)(b)(i) (personal information). In the absence of any explanation from the public authority, either at the refusal notice or internal review stage, or in its correspondence with the Commissioner, as to its reasoning for why these exemptions are engaged or, in relation to sections 24(2), 31(3) and 38(2), why the public interest favours the maintenance of these exemptions over compliance with the requirement of section 1(1)(a), the Commissioner concludes that these exemptions are not engaged. The Commissioner also finds that the public authority failed to comply with the procedural requirements of sections 17(1)(b), 17(1)(c) and 17(3)(b) through its inadequate handling of the request. The public authority is required, in accordance with section 1(1)(a), to provide a confirmation or denial of whether it holds information falling within the scope of the request. For any information that is held, this should either be disclosed in accordance with the requirement of section 1(1)(b), or a reason valid under the Act given for why this information will not be disclosed.
Section of Act/EIR & Finding: FOI 17 - Complaint Upheld , FOI 23 - Complaint Upheld , FOI 24 - Complaint Upheld , FOI 31 - Complaint Upheld , FOI 38 - Complaint Upheld , FOI 40 - Complaint Upheld.
View PDF of Decision Notice FS50154349

Case Ref: FS50121803

Date: 14/04/2009
Public Authority: Ministry of Justice
Summary: The complainant requested prison-related information regarding Myra Hindley, Fred West, Harold Shipman and Reggie Kray. The public authority refused to supply the information, applying section 22 of the Act (information intended for future publication). It subsequently refused to release the information through the application of section 12 of the Act (cost limit). The Commissioner decided that section 22 could not be applied to any of the requested information or section 12 to the request. However, following intervention from the Commissioner the public authority applied several other exemptions to withhold some of the requested material. Each was applied to specific categories of information contained therein: section 31 (law enforcement), section 32 (court records), section 38 (health and safety), section 40 (personal information), section 41 (information provided in confidence), section 42 (legal professional privilege). The Commissioner upholds this decision and therefore requires that in respect of the public authority’s revised position, the information not withheld under these exemptions is disclosed to the complainant. However, the Commissioner has also found there to have been several procedural breaches of the Act in the public authority’s handling of the complainant’s request, specifically section 1(1)(b) (duty to communicate information), section 10(1) (time for compliance with request), section 17(1) (refusal of request) and section 17(7) (procedure for dealing with complaints and right of appeal).
Section of Act/EIR & Finding: FOI 1 - Complaint Upheld , FOI 10 - Complaint Upheld , FOI 12 - Complaint Upheld , FOI 17 - Complaint Upheld , FOI 22 - Complaint Upheld , FOI 31 - Complaint Partly Upheld , FOI 32 - Complaint Partly Upheld , FOI 38 - Complaint Partly Upheld , FOI 40 - Complaint Partly Upheld , FOI 41 - Complaint Partly Upheld , FOI 42 - Complaint Partly Upheld.
View PDF of Decision Notice FS50121803

Case Ref: FS50160256

Date: 06/04/2009
Public Authority: Department for Culture, Media and Sport
Summary: The complainant asked DCMS for information about the government’s casino policy, which it subsequently clarified as being for ‘any objective external assessment that led to the adoption of first the 8-8-8 policy, and then 1-8-8 policy; and, any advice from officials to Ministers that led to these decisions being taken’. DCMS withheld the information by reference to section 35(1)(a) and (b) and section 43 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (‘the Act’); at the internal review stage it added that part of the information was exempt by virtue of section 42. The Commissioner decided that section 43(2) was not engaged; that the balance of the public interest test for section 35(1)(a) and (b) did not favour withholding the information; and that one document was exempt under section 42(1). The Commissioner decided that DCMS breached section 17(1)(b) by failing to specify within the statutory time limit which sub-section of section 43 applied; and that, in using a blanket public interest assessment for all of the claimed exemptions, it breached section 17(3)(b) by failing to assess the public interest properly for each exemption. He also decided that, in failing to confirm or deny within 20 working days whether it held the requested information, DCMS breached the requirements of section 10(1) of the Act, and also breached section 17(1) by failing to provide the details required by that section within 20 working days. Finally, it breached 10(1) in failing to disclose information which was not exempt within the statutory time limit, and section 1(1)(b) in failing to disclose it at all. The Commissioner required DCMS to disclose the majority of the withheld information. Information Tribunal appeal EA/2009/0038 part allowed.
Section of Act/EIR & Finding: FOI 1 - Complaint Upheld , FOI 10 - Complaint Upheld , FOI 17 - Complaint Upheld , FOI 35 - Complaint Upheld , FOI 42 - Complaint Partly Upheld , FOI 43 - Complaint Upheld.
View PDF of Decision Notice FS50160256

Case Ref: FS50128245
Date: 01/04/2009
Public Authority: Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform
Summary: The complainant asked DBERR for information concerning its investigation into their complaint about the activities of a named company, including the reasoning behind the Department’s decision to take no further action. DBERR neither confirmed nor denied that it held the requested information, citing the exemptions in sections 30 and 43 of the Act. The Commissioner found that the exemptions were engaged and that the public interest in maintaining the exclusion of the duty to confirm or deny outweighed the public interest in disclosing whether DBERR holds the information. The Commissioner therefore found that DBERR had acted correctly in refusing to confirm or deny whether it held the information.
Section of Act/EIR & Finding: FOI 1 - Complaint Not upheld , FOI 30 - Complaint Not upheld , FOI 43 - Complaint Not upheld.
View PDF of Decision Notice FS50128245

Case Ref: FS50148602
Date: 01/04/2009
Public Authority: Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs
Summary: The complainant requested from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) the advice upon which the Minister for Local Government, Marine and Animal Welfare had made a decision relating to a limited decommissioning scheme for fishing vessels. DEFRA refused the request citing section 35 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the 'Act'). During the course of the Commissioner’s investigation DEFRA disclosed most of the requested information but continued to withhold some information by virtue of section 35 or, to the extent that the Environmental Information Regulations (EIR) applied, the exception in regulation 12(4)(e). It later introduced the exceptions in regulations 12(5)(a) and 13. The Commissioner concluded that the withheld information constitutes environmental information and that DEFRA should therefore have dealt with the request under the EIR. In failing to address the request under the EIR regime and thereby failing to specify the relevant exceptions, DEFRA breached regulation 14(3) of the EIR. In addition, it breached regulation 7(1) in exceeding the allowable extension period of 40 working days. Finally, since the Commissioner has concluded that some of the withheld information was not exempt under regulations 12(4)(e) and 12(5)(a), DEFRA therefore breached regulation 5(1) in failing to disclose this information, and regulation 5(2) by failing to provide it within the statutory time limit. The Commissioner decided that some of the requested information was properly withheld by reference to regulation 12(4)(e). This decision notice is currently under appeal to the Information Tribunal.
Section of Act/EIR & Finding: EIR 5(1) - Complaint Upheld , EIR 5(2) - Complaint Upheld , EIR 7(1) - Complaint Upheld , EIR 12(4)(e) - Complaint Partly Upheld , EIR 12(5)(a) - Complaint Partly Upheld , EIR 14(3) - Complaint Upheld.
View PDF of Decision Notice FS50148602

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