020 7035 4848
Governance Directorate www.gov.uk
2 Marsham Street
London SW1P 4DF
27 December 2017
Dear Mr Bimmler Freedom of Information request: reference 46032
Thank you for your e-mail of 31 October 2017, in which you ask for any records you hold
on communications with the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) regarding the Home
Office's timeliness in responding to FOI requests and Internal Review requests from 1
January 2017. Your request has been handled as a request for information under the
Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA).
I am able to disclose some of the information that you have requested, as set out in the
attached Annexes B to U.
I can also confirm that the Home Office holds additional information that you requested.
However, after careful consideration we have decided that this information is exempt from
disclosure under sections 31(1)(g) of the FOIA. Section 31(1)(g) allows for information to
be withheld if its disclosure would, or would be likely to, prejudice the exercise by any
public authority of its functions for any of the purposes specified in subsection (2).
Subsection (2)(c) refers to the purpose of of ascertaining whether circumstances which
would justify regulatory action in pursuance of any enactment exist or may arise and the
public interest falls in favour of maintaining the exemption.
Arguments for and against disclosure in terms of the public interest, with the reasons for
our conclusion, are set out in the enclosed Annex A
The Home Office has obligations under the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) and in law
generally to protect personal data. We have concluded that some of the information you
have requested is exempt from disclosure under section 40(2) of the FOIA, because of the
condition at section 40(3)(a)(i). This exempts personal data if disclosure would contravene
any of the data protection principles in Schedule 1 to the DPA.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org,
quoting reference 46032
. If you ask for an internal
review, it would be helpful if you could say why you are dissatisfied with the response.
As part of any internal review the Department's handling of your information request would
be reassessed by staff who were not involved in providing you with this response. If you
were to remain dissatisfied after an internal review, you would have a right of complaint to
the Information Commissioner as established by section 50 of the FOIA.
Information Rights Team
Switchboard 020 7035 4848
Freedom of Information request from M Bimmler (reference 46032)
Dear Home Office,
please could you provide me with any records you hold on communications with the
Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) regarding the Home Office's timeliness in
responding to FOI requests and Internal Review requests.
To be clear, I do not refer to communications on individual s50 complaints to the ICO but
to any non-case-specific communications with the ICO on this. These records would likely
be held within the Information Access Team which deals with Freedom of Information.
Please restrict your search to records from 01 January 2017 onwards. Please include
letters, emails and records of meetings / phone calls in your consideration.
Public interest test in relation to section 31(1)(g)
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 favour of withholding the information, or the considerations for
and against the requirement to say whether the information requested is held or not. We
must carry out a PIT where we are considering using any of the qualified exemptions in
response to a request for information.
The ‘public interest’ is not necessarily 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
The FOIA 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. Considerations in favour of disclosing the information
We recognise that the level of performance of the Home Office in dealing with FOI
requests, and whether the ICO sees a need to take regulatory measures, are matters of
Considerations in favour of maintaining the exemption
The level of public interest in disclosure is in our view weakened by the fact that evidence
of the level of Home Office performance and the ICO’s regulatory actions in relation to the
department is placed in the public domain by other means. These include the published
Cabinet Office statistics and all ICO information notices, decision notices and enforcement
notices which appear on the ICO’s website (with the Home Office identified where we are
the responsible department). The level of public interest in disclosure of very recent
correspondence which identifies the internal clearance procedures in the Home Office, and
the specific sources of delay, is in our view limited.
Set against that, there is a strong public interest in avoiding prejudice to the process by
which the ICO holds the Home Office (and other public authorities) to account, through
premature disclosure of information to which a degree of confidentiality should apply.
There is also a strong public interest in allowing the Home Office to maintain the levels and
processes of clearance it considers appropriate, without disclosing information about the
efficacy of those procedures. Conclusion
We conclude that the balance of the public interest lies in maintaining the section 31(1)(g),
exemption for the information specified earlier in this letter.