Information Rights Unit
1 Horse Guards Road
Mr Jack Wippell
020 7270 5000
8 July 2020
Dear Mr Wippell
Freedom of Information Act 2000
Thank you for your enquiry of 15 June 2020, which we have considered under the terms of
the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the FOI Act).
You asked for the following information:
“There have been reports recently that the economic fallout from a pandemic
hitting the UK was never modelled, is this the case? If not, could we see the model
that was used?”
Following a search of our records, we can confirm that HM Treasury does hold information
within the scope of your request.
The information that we have identified engages section 35(1)(a) - development of
Government policy; and section 29(1)(a) – prejudice to the economic interests of the UK or
any part of it. These are qualified exemptions which, in this case, relate to economic
modelling specific to pandemics and we are required to balance the public interest
between disclosure and non-disclosure of the information we hold.
In considering release of this information, we recognise that there is an inherent public
interest in transparency and accountability of public authorities like HM Treasury. We also
recognise the broad public interest in furthering public understanding of the issues dealt
with by the Treasury. There is a clear public interest in the work of Government
departments being transparent and open to scrutiny to increase diligence and
understanding of the issues, such as previous thinking on the effects of a pandemic on the
In favour of non-disclosure, with regard to section 35(1)(a) and section 29(1)(a), is the
public interest in protecting the Government’s ability to candidly discuss and develop
policies which affect the UK economy in a safe space and to reach well-formed conclusions
for current and future risk-based planning.
The Information Commissioner has recognised that policy development needs some
degree of freedom to enable the process to work effectively and we consider that there is
a strong public interest in protecting this information where release would be likely to
have a detrimental impact on the ongoing development of policy. The policy process is
necessarily an iterative one and there is a strong public interest in protecting against
encroachment on the ability of ministers and/or officials to develop policy options freely
In this particular case the information was developed in a safe space with the expectation
that it would remain in a secure environment.
We consider there is a strong public interest in protecting this information as release
would be likely to have a detrimental impact on the ongoing ability of HM Treasury and
other public authorities to work together and share information, including economic
modelling, necessary to the development of policy in a free and frank manner. We also
consider that release of the information we hold would harm the free and frank exchange
of views which are essential for the purpose of providing sound economic analysis and
In addition, economic markets can be sensitive to the release of economic planning
assumptions, and we believe that the release of such modelling would be likely to
prejudice the economic interests of the UK and the financial interests of the UK
Government. This is because releasing such information could potentially lead to incorrect
and/or misleading assumptions being made about the UK economy, leading to a harmful
response from UK markets or other economic agents, that damages the UK’s interests. This
would not be in the public interest.
For the reasons set out above, we consider that the public interest balance lies in favour of
withholding this information.
If you have any queries about this letter, please contact us. Please quote the reference
number above in any future communications.
Information Rights Unit
Most documents HM Treasury supplies in response to a Freedom of Information request,
including this letter, continue to be protected by Crown copyright. This is because they will
have been produced by Government officials as part of their work. You are free to use
these documents for your information, for any non-commercial research you may be doing
and for news reporting. Any other re-use, for example commercial publication, will require
the permission of the copyright holder. Crown copyright is managed by The National
Archives and you can find details on the arrangements for re-using Crown copyright
material at: http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/information-management/re-using-public-
Your right to complain under the Freedom of Information Act 2000
If you are not happy with this reply, you can request a review by writing to HM Treasury,
Information Rights Unit, 1 Horse Guards Road, London SW1A 2HQ or by emailing us at the
address below. Any review request must be made within 40 working days of the date of
It would assist our review if you set out which aspects of the reply concern you and why
you are dissatisfied.
If you are not content with the outcome of the review, you may apply directly to the
Information Commissioner for a decision. Generally, the Commissioner will not make a
decision unless you have exhausted the complaints procedure provided by HM Treasury
which is outlined above.
The Information Commissioner can be contacted at: The Information Commissioner’s
Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire SK9 5AF (or via their website at: