Handling freedom of information requests

How we handle requests for information and exemptions under the Freedom of Information Act.

If we hold the information

Once we receive your written request we will check that we have enough detail to identify the information.

If your request is unclear, or is likely to produce a large amount of information, we will contact you and let you know.

You may also find it useful to read our freedom of information fees policy.

If we have enough information we will then send you an acknowledgment and process your request. We will identify the relevant department or section and ask them to retrieve the information.

If we do not hold the information

If we do not have the information you ask for and we know who does, we will tell you and ask if you would like us to send the request to the other public authority on your behalf. If we do not know who has the information then we will suggest you visit your local library or search on the internet.

Will I see all the information retrieved?

We are committed to providing access to the public through the freedom of information and other access legislation mentioned on this website. However, there will be certain instances when we will not release all the information we retrieve. This will be because the information comes within an ‘exempt’ category of the Freedom of Information Act or other relevant legislation. If we remove information we will tell you why quoting the relevant exemption (for freedom of information) or giving a reason (for environmental information).

Exemptions under the Freedom of Information Act

There are 23 exempt categories of information listed in the act.

The following are ‘absolute’ exemptions:

s. 21 information which is reasonably accessible by another means
s. 23 security matters
s. 32 court records
s. 34 parliamentary privilege
s. 41 information provided in confidence
s. 44 information prohibited from disclosure by another piece of legislation

A public interest test may be applied to the other 17 categories of exempt information. It means that exempt information may be released if the public interest in disclosure outweighs the public interest in not disclosing the information.

Partial exemptions – the public interest test may be applied:

s. 36 information which would prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs
s. 40 personal information, subject to the Data Protection Act 2018

The final exemptions require us to apply the public interest test:

s. 22 information intended for future publication
s. 24 national security
s. 26 defence
s. 27 international relations
s. 28 relations within the UK
s. 29 the economy
s. 30 investigations and proceedings conducted by public authorities
s. 31 law enforcement
s. 33 audit functions
s. 35 formulation of government policy
s. 37 communications with Her Majesty
s. 38 health and safety
s. 39 environmental information
s. 42 legal professional privilege
s. 43 commercial interests

See a list of the grounds for refusing a request for environmental information.

Consultation with third parties

We will consult with third parties before releasing information and consider their views when deciding whether to release a piece of information. However the final decision to disclose information remains with us.

Complaints and appeals

If you are unhappy with the response you receive, either the information we send you or the way we handle your request you can use our complaints procedure.

Once you have exhausted our complaints system you also have a right of appeal to:

The Information Commissioner's Office
Wycliffe House
Water Lane

01625 545 700

Information Commissioner's Office website

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