Pegasus Business Park
Mr M Jane
Sent by email only - request-706365-
18th February 2021
Dear Mr Jane,
Environmental Information Request – Internal Review
Thank you for your request, which was received on 11 January 2021, for an internal review
of the way in which Western Power Distribution ("WPD
") handled your recent information
1. Scope and purpose of this review
Your original information request and your request for an internal review were both
expressed as being made pursuant to the Freedom of Information 2000. WPD is not subject
to the Freedom of Information Act 2000. However, it is a public authority for the purposes of
the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (the "EIR
") and so this internal review has
been carried out in accordance with the EIR.
Under Regulation 11 of the EIR, if a requester believes that a public authority has not dealt
with a request for environmental information properly, the requester can complain to the
public authority and ask it to reconsider its response (in the form of an internal review).
Upon receiving a request for an internal review, the public authority must:
(re)consider the requester's representations and any supporting evidence they have
decide if it has complied with the requirements of the EIR.
The internal review set out in this letter has been conducted by a senior solicitor at WPD's
external firm of legal advisers, acting on behalf of WPD. The solicitor has significant
experience in interpreting and applying the requirements of information law, and was not
previously involved in handling your information request.
The reviewer has thoroughly examined your recent information request. In doing so, they
have taken into account the circumstances which applied at the time of your request.
Western Power Distribution (South Wales) plc, Registered in England and Wales No. 2366985
Western Power Distribution (South West) plc, Registered in England and Wales No. 2366894
Western Power Distribution (East Midlands) plc, Registered in England and Wales No. 2366923
Western Power Distribution (West Midlands) plc, Registered in England and Wales No. 3600574
Registered Office: Avonbank, Feeder Road, Bristol BS2 0TB
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2. Your original information request
On 16 November 2020, WPD received the following request from you:
"Please could you send me an up to date fleet list with the following:
Make and Model;
3. Your request for an internal review
On 11 January 2021 you requested an internal review of WPD's handling of your request
due to WPD's failure to respond.
4. Consideration of your information request under the EIR
Summary of the reviewer's decision in relation to your information request
The reviewer considers that the information you requested constitutes environmental
information for the purposes of the EIR. As WPD is a public authority under the EIR, your
request is within scope of and has been considered under the EIR.
The reviewer has determined that WPD should release the following information that you
requested: information held by WPD relating to the makes and models of vehicles in its fleet
and the total number of such vehicles in the fleet.
We have supplied this information in the table enclosed at the end of this letter, which was
current as at 4 February 2021. Please note that the size of WPD's fleet changes frequently.
The remainder of the information requested cannot be disclosed for the following reasons:
A. Information on the registration number and base (i.e. the location) of the vehicles in
WPD's fleet will not be disclosed because disclosure would adversely affect national
security and public safety. This information is therefore subject to the exception from
disclosure in Regulation 12(5)(a) of the EIR and does not have to be released.
B. Information relating to the role of the vehicles in WPD's fleet cannot be released as
WPD does not hold such information (and is not required to release information it
does not hold under regulation 12(4)(a)).
In the rest of this section, we explain the decision to withhold this information in more detail.
A. Decision to withhold registration number and base of vehicles in WPD's Fleet
Under Regulation 12(5)(a) of the EIR, a public authority can refuse to disclose information if
it 'would adversely affect international relations, defence, national security or public safety'
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The reviewer considers that the disclosure of this information would adversely affect national
security and public safety by enabling criminal and terrorist activity.
Adverse effect on national security
Disclosing the registration numbers, together with the base, that is to say the location data,
of WPD's vehicles, would place into the public domain information that can be used by
criminals or terrorists seeking to infiltrate WPD's sites and installations. The release of this
information would assist such actors by making it easier to locate specific vehicles, and
facilitate the use of registration numbers to clone WPD's vehicles. Cloned vehicles are used
to commit crimes and acts of terrorism. The registration number of a WPD vehicle together
with its location provides criminals and terrorists with material that can be used to
compromise WPD's security systems, e.g. through duplicating number plates, meaning such
actors could pass themselves off as WPD employees or contractors in order to gain access
to WPD's sites and installations. We are aware that vehicle cloning is a growing problem in
the UK and that DVLA statistics reveal that the number of cars cloned in the UK quadrupled
between 2012 to 20181.
This use of the withheld information to access WPD sites has to be seen in the context of
WPD's activities. It is the licensed electricity distribution network operator for the Midlands,
the South West and Wales. Its network delivers electricity to over 7.9 million electricity
customers over a 55,500 square kilometre service area. WPD is legally responsible for the
safety and security of its electricity distribution network and the installations and
infrastructure of which that network is comprised. The sites and the installations and
infrastructure within them are a target for terrorists and criminals and interference or
damage to them can cause significant disruption to the distribution of electricity in the UK. If
the withheld information were to be released it is clear that it would assist terrorists and
criminals seeking to target WPD's sites and would jeopardise the integrity of the UK's
electricity distribution networks.
Recent case law and decisions by the Information Commissioner support a decision to
withhold this information. In the case of Office of Communications and the Information
Commissioner and T-Mobile (UK) Limited (EA/2006/0078 4 September 2007),
Information Tribunal held that disclosing the location of telecom base stations for mobile
phones would be of use to terrorists intending to disrupt the country’s communication
system. The same risks arise from the disclosure of vehicle registration and location data
seeing as this material can be used to compromise WPD's security systems and obtain
access to WPD sites – in other words this information would afford terrorists with equivalent
opportunities to disrupt the country’s electricity distribution system as were acknowledged in
case. It is also relevant that even where there is no direct evidence that
terrorists or criminals are currently planning attacks on particular sites, the Information
Commissioner has previously found that release of fleet information such as registration
numbers and vehicle locations is sufficient to pose a threat to national security2.
Further, the Information Commissioner has acknowledged that even seemingly mundane
information about primarily civil infrastructure could also be of use to terrorists and can
therefore attract the exception from disclosure in Regulation 12(5)(a) of the EIR. In the case
of West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service3
, the Information Commissioner recognised that
terrorists can be highly motivated and well-resourced and may go to great lengths to gather
intelligence. Therefore, whilst information on the registration numbers and location of WPD's
2 https://ico.org.uk/media/action-weve-taken/decision-notices/2011/598612/fs_50308040.pdf 3 https://ico.org.uk/media/action-weve-taken/decision-notices/2011/598612/fs_50308040.pdf
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vehicle fleet might seem mundane by itself, we have taken into account the significance of
WPD's critical electricity infrastructure and the reality that the withheld information, when
combined with other information that terrorists possess or could obtain, could be used to
successfully disrupt WPD's electricity distribution network.
For these reasons the reviewer is satisfied that the release of the withheld information would
adversely affect national security within the meaning of Regulation 12(5)(a) of the EIR.
Adverse effect on public safety
A close link exists between national security and public safety. However, there are additional
adverse impacts on the safety of the general public if the withheld information were to be
As explained above, the disclosure of the registration number of a WPD vehicle together
with its location provides criminals and terrorists with material that can be used for vehicle
cloning and ultimately to compromise WPD's security systems and obtain access to its sites.
This would cause WPD's substations to become vulnerable to infiltration by criminals as well
as facilitate theft of cables and other safety critical equipment. This presents a range of
clear threats to public safety: from the very high risk of death or personal injury from
electrocution of the individuals who seek unlawful access to WPD sites in order to commit
such acts, together with members of the public and WPD employees and contractors
exposed to installations that are damaged or rendered unsafe by illegal interference. Such
theft and damage to WPD's systems could result in wide scale loss of power to homes and
businesses. Power cuts caused by such interference can have serious effects on hospitals
thereby endangering the lives of patients who rely on electronic machines for critical medical
care. Moreover, power cuts have an adverse effect on the safety of elderly and other
vulnerable electricity customers whose health may be threatened by lack of heating, failure
of medical devices or who may suffer falls as a result of lighting outages.
There are numerous examples of such criminal activity having obvious adverse effects on
public safety. For example thieves stole power cabling from three substation sites in
Nottinghamshire which police noted gave rise to a high chance of electrocution.4 Criminals
have also been known to steal earthing cable which helps to secure substation equipment
and protect substation workers from electrocution5. Cable theft therefore threatens the lives
of the criminals as well as the safety of the public and of WPD's workforce.
For these reasons the reviewer is satisfied that the release of the withheld information would
adversely affect public safety within the meaning of Regulation 12(5)(a) of the EIR.
The public interest test
In considering whether to rely on the exception from disclosure in Regulation 12(5)(a) of the
EIR, the EIR requires WPD to carry out a public interest test. This means WPD has to
balance the public interest in withholding the relevant information against the public interest
in it being disclosed.
The disclosure of the registration number and location information of the vehicles in WPD's
fleet could aid the public's understanding of how WPD uses its vehicles, or allocates its
resources, and may contribute to the public's understanding of the emissions impact these
4 https://www.nottinghampost.com/news/local-news/thefts-cable-electricity-substations-prompt-3028016 5 https://www.stamfordmercury.co.uk/news/electrical-wire-thieves-are-lucky-to-be-alive-9083164/
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vehicles have in particular locations. However, the reviewer considers that any public
interest in these areas is in part fulfilled by the release of the make and model information
included in this letter. This information can be used, for example, to understand the
emissions impact of the fleet at large. The withheld information on registration numbers and
location data also adds very little to the public's understanding or awareness of these issues
or of WPD's decision-making in relation to environmental or other matters.
On the other hand, the disclosure of the withheld information would seriously undermine the
security and safety of WPD's sites and installations for the reasons explained above and
would severely undermine its ability to operate and maintain a safe and effective electricity
distribution system. The public interest in maintaining the safety and security of the
electricity distribution network clearly outweighs any marginal benefits from disclosure of the
The Information Commissioner reinforces this conclusion, recognising explicitly in the West
Yorkshire Fire Brigade case we have cited above that, "the public interest in safeguarding
national security is very great indeed
"6. In that case, in which the Information Commissioner
agreed that vehicle registration and location information could be withheld, the Information
Commissioner found that the public interest could "only be balanced by the presence of equally strong public interest factors in favour of disclosure
". As in that case, it is obvious
that there are no equally strong factors in favour of disclosure here.
Therefore, the reviewer has concluded that the balance of the public interest weighs heavily
in favour of withholding the registration number and location information of WPD's vehicles.
B. Decision not to disclose the role of the vehicles in WPD's Fleet
As already mentioned, WPD does not hold or compile information relating to the role of the
vehicles in its fleet. The reviewer is satisfied with WPD's explanation in respect of this
element of the information request.
Under regulation 12(4)(a) of the EIR a public authority is not required to release information
that it does not hold. This exception from disclosure is an absolute exception which means
that WPD is not required to carry out a public interest test before deciding whether it can
rely on it.
For these reasons the reviewer is satisfied that, pursuant to Regulation 12(5)(a) of the EIR,
WPD is not required to release information relating to the role of its vehicles.
5. Compliance with the requirements of the EIR
WPD failed to respond to your environmental information request within 20 working days
from receipt of the request, that deadline ending on 14 December 2020. This is a
requirement under the EIR. WPD therefore failed to comply with its duty under the EIR and
apologises for this oversight and for any inconvenience this might have caused.
WPD investigated why this failure occurred. The reviewer understands that the failure to
respond to your request resulted from:
The failure of staff members to adequately recognise an information request within
scope of the EIR; and
6 see paragraphs 24 and 25: https://ico.org.uk/media/action-weve-taken/decision-notices/2011/598612/fs_50308040.pdf
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An oversight in ensuring the request was passed to the team responsible for handling
information requests in order for it to assist in preparing a response.
WPD takes its duty under the EIR very seriously and is committed to implementing
appropriate measures to prevent the problem recurring in the future.
WPD will ensure that within two months of this letter all relevant personnel in the team that
received the initial information request attend a training session that will cover the handling
of information requests including under the EIR. This will help to ensure that future requests
for information are promptly recognised and passed onto the team responsible for handling
information requests which has specific experience in the EIR.
6. Further Information
We trust that this letter clearly sets out WPD's position. Please do not hesitate to contact
me if you have any questions on the outcome of the internal review or on any other matters
discussed in this letter.
If you are not content with the outcome of the internal review, you have the right to apply
directly to the Information Commissioner for a decision on whether your requests for
information have been dealt with in accordance with the requirements of the EIR. Full
details of how to make a complaint to the Information Commissioner are set out on its
; alternatively, you can phone the Information
Commissioner's Office on 0303 123 1113 or write to it at Office of the Information
Commissioner, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wimslow, SK9 5AF.
Mrs T Brewin
Information Disclosed – Make, Model and count of WPD's fleet as at 4 February 2021
Total Count on Fleet
EURO CARGO GENERATOR
FORD FIESTA VAN
ISUZU D MAX
ISUZU DMAX MEWP
NISSAN LEAF EV
TOYOTA HI LUX 4X4
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VAUXHALL ASTRA VAN
VAUXHALL CORSA VAN
CITROEN BERLINGO HIRE VEHICLE
FORD TRANSIT HIRE VEHICLE
PEUGEOT BOXER HIRE VEHICLE
RENAULT TRAFIC HIRE VEHICLE
VAUXHALL COMBO HIRE VEHICLE
VOLKSWAGEN TRANSPORTER HIRE VEHICLE