March 2014

Request:


1. Please can you let me have sight of the OPSI outcomes, when it discussed the impact of the 'Compass' case.

2. Has OPSI been consulted with regard to HMLR/Local Authority roles and functions. If so by whom and when? Any documentation surrounding such consultations would be welcome.

Outcome:


Successful - some information released

Response:


Attached is the information we hold in relation to Question 1.  We do not hold any other information which could be described as "OPSI outcomes" resulting from a discussion of the above case.

Some of the information has been redacted as it is exempt from disclosure under section 40 (2) (by virtue of section 40 (3) (a) (i)) of the FOI Act.

Section 40 exempts personal information about a 'third party' (someone other than the requester), if revealing it would breach the terms of the Data Protection Act (DPA) 1998.  The DPA prevents personal information from release if it would be unfair or at odds with the reason why it was collected, or where the subject had officially served notice that releasing it would cause them damage or distress.

In this case the exemption applies to the names and contact details of individuals in junior positions.  The release of names and contact details of junior officials who have not given express permission would be deemed to be unfair as there is no expectation that this information would be released.  Additionally, further processing to attribute names to actions would be seen to breach the first data protection principle in that it would be neither fair nor meet a Schedule 2 condition.  As such the names and contact details of junior officials are not being released.

In relation to Question 2, having considered the public interest test we have decided that the information should be withheld.

We explained that the information is exempt from disclosure by section 35 (1) (a) of the FOI Act.  Section 35 (1) (a) exempts information from disclosure if it relates to the formulation or development of government policy.

There is no requirement to demonstrate any prejudice or adverse effect when applying this exemption, nor is there a requirement to show that any harm would occur from disclosure of the information in question. 

However, such arguments are, of course, relevant when considering the public interest test.

The public interest arguments in favour of disclosure of the requested information are improved government accountability, the presumption of openness and that release may help inform public opinion and understanding of the UK government views, with regards to PSI-related matters.

The public interest arguments in favour of withholding the requested information are the potential damage that could occur to the policymaking space in the Office of Public Sector Information - in particular as this is a live policy process and has been part of recent discussions.

The documentation of such discussions is covered by the development of policy exemption and release of this would undermine the policy-making process and result in less robust or well-considered policies in relation to PSI matters.

It is our opinion that these factors outweigh the arguments for disclosure of the information in relation to Question 2.