Freedom of Information Team
9 Downing Street
DExEU ref: DEX000099
Internal Review ref: DEX000099IR
19 January 2017
INTERNAL REVIEW UNDER THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 2000
Dear Mr Overton,
Thank you for your email of 22 November 2016 requesting an internal review of our handling
of your request for information, made under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (‘the Act’)
on 04 November 2016. I apologise for the delay in my response.
In your initial request for information, you asked to be provided with “any briefing papers to
Mr Davis MP regarding the benefits and the pitfal s of leaving the single market.”
I have considered the points you make about the use of Section 12 of the Act on time limits
and have carefully reviewed the handling of your request.
Although I appreciate the points you raise in your request for an internal review, Section 12
allows that the time included in the £600 limit should include:
“determining whether the information is held;
locating the information, or a document containing it;
retrieving the information, or a document containing it; and
extracting the information from a document containing it.”
I believe that the time necessary to locate, retrieve and extract information likely to be
relevant to your request would be likely to exceed the limit. I have outlined this reasoning
Relevant information covered by your request is likely to be held in several different email
accounts, each of which would need to be searched. Relevant information covered by your
request is also likely to be held outwith the email system, so further searches would have to
be made of document storage of a large number of officials.
It is likely that information could conceivably not include any specific reference to the term
“single market” while still being related to your request - for example where it referred to
specific or potential tariffs, so further searches for related terms would have to be made.
Finding if this information exists and then retrieving and extracting it from al of these
locations, and compiling the information which is relevant to your request is likely to exceed
the appropriate limit laid down in the regulations.
In your request for an internal review, you ask that we carry out this search up to the limit
imposed by Section 12. The ICO guidance (I attach a link hereto) states that (Point 30) a
public authority can stop searching as soon as it realises that it would exceed the
appropriate limit to fully comply with the request – indeed the guidance recommends that the
authority should do so. They are also, under the guidance, not obliged to search up to the
I have therefore concluded that in the circumstances, it was reasonable to apply Section 12
of the Act to your initial request, and uphold the decision given in our previous letter.
However, I also wish to provide you further assistance as to how you might frame a similar
request that will fall within the limitations of Section 12. This might be through giving a short
and specific timescale, reducing the number of people and/or types of information about
which you wish to enquire, and/or relating the request to more specific topics.
So for example a request likely to fal within the time limits might relate to records of “key
briefing submissions made to the Secretary of State regarding [specific topic X] between
[dates Y and Z].” The more specific the topic (particularly) the more likely the search can be
confined to a manageable number of documents, therefore avoiding the limit imposed by
I should, however, make clear that if DExEU does hold any information relevant to such a
request, it may still be subject to one or more of the exemptions contained in the Act.
I appreciate that receiving a refusal under the Act can be frustrating, and I hope that my
response goes some way to assisting you. We would be pleased to offer further advice in
framing future requests if you so wish (within reason of course).
This response concludes the appeals process available from the Department for Exiting the
European Union. If you are stil unhappy with the handling of your request for information,
you have the right to apply directly to the Information Commissioner for a decision. The
Information Commissioner can be contacted at:
Information Commissioner’s Office
Head of Freedom of Information, DExEU