September 2013

Request:

"Please supply copies of correspondence (electronic or otherwise) on the subject of the Isle of Wight Council's Record Office facilities. Please include internal TNA communications and minutes of any relevant meetings, together with correspondence with the Isle of Wight authority. This request is for items dating from 1990."

Clarification narrowed this to - "facilities" of the Isle of Wight Record's Office, from a point in history when the debate first began about the condition of the Record Office facilities".

Outcome:

Part successful

Response:

Over 90% of the information we hold that falls within the scope of this request was released.

Attached to this response is a list of all the documents released in response to this request and if redacted the associated exemption.

The small fraction of sensitive material within our records is to be withheld as it is considered exempt under several FOI exemptions:

• Section 21 - information readily accessible elsewhere
• Section 31 - law enforcement
• Section 36 - prejudice to the effective conduct of public affairs
• Section 40 (2) - personal information
• Section 41 (1) - information provided in confidence
• Section 43 (2) - commercial interests

This means that we cannot release those parts and they have either been withheld in full or, partially redacted.


Section 21

Section 21 exempts information if it is accessible to the applicant by other means. Three of the documents we hold (indicated on the attached list) have been withheld under this exemption as they are already available on the Isle of Wight Council website.

Section 31

Section 31 applies to information the release of which, would or would be likely to prejudice law-enforcement matters, including preventing or detecting crime, arresting or prosecuting offenders and the proper administration of justice.

Section 31 is a qualified exemption and as explained in our previous response we are required to conduct a public interest test when applying any qualified exemption. This means that after it has been decided that the exemption is engaged, the public interest in releasing the information must be considered. If the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in withholding it then the exemption does not apply and must be release. In the Freedom of Information Act there is a presumption that information should be released unless there are compelling reasons to withhold it.

Having considered the public interest test it has been decided that the exemption does apply and the documents containing these details will be redacted.

Outcome of the Public Interest Test:
Section 31(1) (a) is engaged when, to quote the Freedom of Information Act: 'disclosure … would, or would be likely to, prejudice the prevention or detection of crime'.

In considering the public interest in this case, as to whether the benefits of releasing this security information outweigh the risks that release poses to the security of these collections, we have concluded that the security considerations are paramount in this case.

Disclosure of this detailed information would be highly likely to undermine the measures designed to protect the archival and manuscript collections exposing them to a much greater risk of theft. To place this material in the public domain would undermine the Record Office's ability to maintain these security arrangements.

Therefore we would propose that this information (small sections assessment reports are redacted under this exemption).

Section 36
A small amount of material has also been withheld under the qualified exemption section 36 - prejudice to effective conduct of public affairs

36 (2) (b) "would or would be likely to, inhibit -

(i) The free and frank provision of advice, or
(ii) The free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation"

The balance of the public interest assesses whether the interests of the public are best served by disclosure or non disclosure of the requested information. The balance to be considered when using this exemption is the public interest in ensuring that there is a space within which officials can discuss policy options and delivery, freely and frankly. Therefore assessing whether disclosure would have an effect on the ability of officials and to discuss and debate such matters openly.

It has been determined; following the public interest test that disclosure would be prejudicial to the provision of free and frank advice and the free and frank exchange of views. The requirements of openness must be balanced against the proper and effective functioning of government. Having considered all the relevant arguments, our view is that the balance of the public interest favours maintaining the exemption and withholding the information under Section 36(2) (b) (i) and (ii) of the FOI Act at this current time

Section 40 (2)
Some of the information which you are looking for is exempt under section 40 (2) of the Act (by virtue of section 40 (3) (a) (i)). This means that we cannot release those parts and they will be redacted.

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 because some of the documents contain the names and addresses of members of the public who have written in, either to the Isle of Wight Record Office and or The National Archives. This is the personal data of these individuals, who would have the expectation that this information wouldn't be released into the public domain during their lifetimes. To release this information would be unfair and thus in breach of the terms of the first principle of the Data Protection Act, 1998 - fair and lawful release.

Section 41
This section exempts information from any other person if releasing it would mean breaking the terms of confidentiality in a way that is actionable by that or any other person.

41 (1) Information is exempt information if -
(a) it was obtained by the public authority from any other person (including another public authority), and
(b) the disclosure of the information to the public (otherwise than under this Act) by the public authority holding it would constitute a breach of confidence actionable by that or any other person.

Section 41 (1) exemption applies to information provided to The National Archives, with the expectation of confidence. This relates to three documents in total, two of which are highlighted on the attached list. The further document, relates to an update provided in 2010 by the Record Office with the proviso that the information remain confidential. We have consulted the Record Office and they have confirmed that this information remains confidential.

Section 43 (2)

Section 43(2) exempts information where disclosure would be likely to prejudice the commercial interests of any individual or organisation and protects not only the commercial interests of third parties but also the commercial interests of the public authority that holds the information.

When considering the balance of the public interest we acknowledge that there is an argument in favour of disclosure of commercial information to ensure that there is transparency in the accountability of public funds.

The Isle of Wight Record's Office is currently working the local Council and third parties to develop a new Heritage Centre, a project costing around 7 million pounds. This is still being developed and the plans, construction and third party involvement has not yet been finalised and or published. Within the records that we hold there is various material which relates to this project, including plans of the new building drawn up by a third party -commercial company.

As this is still in development, the release of specific parts of the development process would prejudice the commercial interests of a third party, by adversely affecting their position during any ongoing development negotiations for the Heritage Centre. The arguments in favour of withholding the information outweigh the arguments for disclosure at this current time. Thus the balance of the public interest test lies with maintaining the use of this exemption and non-disclosure of the commercial information.

 

Freedom of Information request F0035288: List of information released (PDF, 0.09Mb)

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