PL&B FOI E-news, Issue 35

1. Tribunal decision supports personal data exemption

A recent decision by the Information Tribunal dismisses an appeal, lodged by Rob Evans, reporter for the Guardian, which sought access to a background note and notes of a meeting between a lobbyist (Mr Wood at Whitehall Advisers) and the Under Secretary of State for Defence and Minister for Defence Procurement. The Tribunal considered whether the background note consisted of personal information about the representative of Whitehall Advisers, whether disclosure would be unfair, or in breach of the principle of fair processing. The possibility of redaction was also considered. The Tribunal found that disclosure is not warranted given the significant prejudice the disclosure would cause to the data subject, including his business reputation. Mr Wood had stated that some of the information about him was inaccurate.

Find the decision, from 23rd June.

John Angel, Chair, Information Tribunal, will speak on “The Information Tribunal – Three years on” at PL&B’s 21st Annual International Conference, July 7-9th, at St. John’s College, Cambridge.

2. ICO orders release of information relating to Stansted airport

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has ordered the Department for Transport (DfT) to release information relating to the proposal for a second runway at Stansted Airport. The ICO says that the disclosure, under the Environmental Information Regulations, was made because there was little risk of the disclosure prejudicing the policy-making process as the Government’s policy choices had already been set out.
Also, the ICO was not satisfied that the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information.

The Department for Transport had refused to release the information on the grounds that the documents relate to the formulation of government policy which resulted in the 2003 White Paper on air transport. The ICO notes that in this case DfT’s decision to withhold the information was made nearly two years after the White Paper was published.

The ICO agreed with the Department for Transport’s decision to withhold documents that contain legal advice from a professional legal adviser, as this information is subject to legal professional privilege and that disclosure would adversely affect DfT’s ability to obtain confidential legal advice in the future.

To see the Decision notice was given on 27 May.

Graham Smith, Deputy Commissioner, will speak on “How the Freedom of Information Act supports transparency and accountability in public spending” at PL&B’s 21st Annual International Conference, July7-9th, at St. John’s College, Cambridge.

3. New guidance on FOI for public bodies

New guidance from the ICO tells public authorities how to handle requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and the Environmental Information Regulations (EIR).

The booklet, ‘Hints for Practitioners handling FOI and EIR requests’, provides FOI practitioners with advice on best practice in responding to requests for information. It will help them to deal with requests in an efficient way, and hopefully ensure that requests are handled consistently across the public sector.

The booklet, published on 14 May 2008, can be downloaded from the ICO website.

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

Copyright Privacy Laws & Business 2008