PL&B FOI E-news, Issue 27

1. Scottish Commissioner orders release of contract information

The Scottish Information Commissioner, Kevin Dunion, issued a decision on 21st June requiring VisitScotland to release copies of contracts it holds with eTourism Ltd (the joint venture company which operates its web portal and booking service This contractual information, which includes details about the financial and operational arrangements for the website, was requested by the Chairman of the Association of Dumfries and Galloway Accommodation Providers. The Commissioner’s decision to release contract information is in line with a similar UK case involving Derry City Airport and Ryanair.

VisitScotland had originally relied on an exemption according to which information provided to a public authority by a third party does not have to be released, if disclosure would constitute an actionable breach of confidence. Both conditions must be satisfied in order to claim this exemption. The Commissioner decided that information in the contract did not constitute information provided by a third party to VisitScotland.

Kevin Dunion, the Scottish Information Commissioner said:

“This is an important decision which has implications for authorities beyond this particular case. I have taken the view that when contracts are the outcome of negotiations between parties, it cannot normally be said that the concluded contract is information which has been obtained from another person. As a result withholding the contract under the confidentiality exemption in the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act is not justified.”

The decision is available here.

2. FOI applies to civil servants’ advice to ministers

The Information Tribunal has ruled that civil servants' advice to ministers on major planning decisions should be disclosed to anyone who asks for it once the decision is taken, reports the Guardian newspaper (11 June 2007).

The ruling obliges the Department for Communities and Local Government to release the advice officials gave John Prescott when he was considering the application for the 50-storey residential Vauxhall Tower near Vauxhall Bridge in south London.

The Tribunal’s ruling is not yet on its website.

3. Councils not obliged to release retirement details

The Information Commissioner last month upheld decisions by two local authorities to withhold personal information relating to a third party under the Freedom of Information Act.

Calderdale Council and City of York Council had both refused to release details of retirement packages of their former directors. Both councils relied on the exemption for personal data.

The ICO ruled that the disclosure of personal data relating to a third party would, in both cases, be unfair, regardless of the seniority of the individuals concerned.

The decision notices can be found  on the ICO website.

For further details on the Privacy Laws & Business UK Newsletter, please click here.

Copyright Privacy Laws & Business 2007