Performance and Risk 020 7035 4848
2 Marsham Street
London SW1P 4DF
14 February 2017
Dear Mr Gilmour Freedom of Information request: reference 42648
Thank you for your e-mail of 23 November 2016, in which you ask for the date, time, and
domain address of every website visited by the Home Secretary during Tuesday 22
November 2016. Your request has been handled as a request for information under the
Freedom of Information Act 2000.
I can confirm that the Home Office holds the information that you have requested.
However, after careful consideration we have decided that the information is exempt from
disclosure under section 40(2) of the Act. This provides that personal information is
exempt if disclosure would contravene any of the data protection principles. We have
obligations under the Data Protection Act and in law generally to protect this information
and the general policy of the Home Office is not to disclose, to a third party, personal
information about another person. Section 40(2) is an absolute exemption that does not
require the consideration of the public interest test.
The information requested is also exempt from disclosure under sections 35(1)(d) of the
Freedom of Information Act. This provides that information can be withheld if it relates to
the operation of any Ministerial Private Office and the balance of the public interest falls in
favour of applying the exemption.
Arguments for and against disclosure in terms of the public interest, with the reasons for
our conclusion, are set out in the attached Annex.
If you are dissatisfied with this response you may request an independent internal review
of our handling of your request by submitting a complaint within two months to the address
below, quoting reference 42648
. If you ask for an internal review, it would be helpful if you
could say why you are dissatisfied with the response.
Information Rights Team
Third Floor, Peel Building
2 Marsham Street
London SW1P 4DF
e-mail: [email address]
As part of any internal review the Department's handling of your information request will be
reassessed by staff who were not involved in providing you with this response. If you
remain dissatisfied after this internal review, you would have a right of complaint to the
Information Commissioner as established by section 50 of the Freedom of Information Act.
Information Rights Team
Switchboard 020 7035 4848
[Home Office request email]
Freedom of Information request from Chris Gilmour (reference 42648)
Under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 I hereby request the following information from
and regarding the Rt Hon Amber Rudd MP (Con), Secretary of State for the Home
Department (the "Home
1) The date, time, and domain address of every website visited by the Home Secretary
during Tuesday 22 Nov 2016.
The purpose of this request is to gain a feel for the sort of websites that the Home
Secretary visits during their day to day work. Response
The information is exempt from disclosure under sections 40(2)of the FOI Act. Section
40(2) provides that information is exempt from disclosure if it relates to personal
information. Section 40(2) is an absolute exemption that does not require the
consideration of the public interest test.
The information is also exempt from disclosure under section 35(1)(d) of the FOI Act.
Section 35(1)(d) provides that that information can be withheld if it relates to the operation
of any Ministerial Private Office and the balance of the public interest falls in favour of
applying the exemption. The public interest test argument is below.
Public interest test in relation to section 35(1)(d)
Some of the exemptions in the FOI Act, referred to as ‘qualified exemptions’, are subject to
a public interest test (PIT). This test is used to balance the public interest in disclosure
against the public interest in maintaining the exemption. We must carry out a PIT where
we are considering using any of the qualified exemptions in response to a request for
The ‘public interest’ is not the same as what interests the public. In carrying out a PIT we
consider the greater good or benefit to the community as a whole if the information is
released or not. Transparency and the ‘right to know’ must be balanced against the need
to enable effective government and to serve the best interests of the public.
The FOI Act is ‘applicant blind’. This means that we cannot, and do not, ask about the
motives of anyone who asks for information. In providing a response to one person, we are
expressing a willingness to provide the same response to anyone, including those who
might represent a threat to the UK.
Considerations in favour of disclosing the information
There is a general public interest for the Government to be open and transparent to
maintain public trust. We recognise that there is a legitimate public interest in Ministers’
activities, including the operation of ministerial offices. However, we meet that interest by
regularly publishing on the gov.uk website information about Ministers and their activities.
Considerations in favour maintaining the exemption
There is a public interest in preserving ‘thinking space’ around Ministers, including details
of the browsing history of Minister’s, which would reveal subject matter under
consideration. Unless the running of a Minister’s private office can take place in private
and away from public scrutiny, premature disclosure will remove the space which allows
Ministers to consider policy issues without inhibition.
Without the protection afforded by this safe space the policy development process would
be markedly more difficult.
We conclude that the balance of the public interest lies in maintaining the exemption and
withholding the information.