Information Access Team
Shared Services Directorate
2 Marsham Street, London SW1P 4DF
Switchboard 020 7035 4848
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.homeoffice.gov.uk
Dear Mr Kellard Freedom of Information request (our ref. 20067): internal review
Thank you for your e-mail of 25 October 2011, in which you asked for an
internal review of our response to your Freedom of Information (FoI) request
I have now completed the review. I have examined all the relevant papers,
and have consulted the policy unit which provided the original response. I
have considered whether the correct procedures were followed and assessed
the reasons why information was withheld from you. I confirm that I was not
involved in the initial handling of your request.
My findings are set out in the attached report. My conclusion is that the
original response was correct in refusing to cite excessive cost, as at that time
UKBA was unable to obtain the requested information without running
hundreds of reports from the databases. However, I am pleased to inform
you that they have succeeded in identifying a simpler method of obtaining the
figures you requested. The information is attached at Annex C.
This completes the internal review process by UKBA. If you remain
dissatisfied with the response to your FoI request, you have the right of
complaint to the Information Commissioner at the following address:
The Information Commissioner
Cheshire SK9 5AF
Information Access Team
Internal review of response to request under the Freedom of
Information (FOI) Act 2000 by Peter Kellard (reference 20067)
Responding Unit: UK Border Agency (UKBA)
Original FoI request:
20 September 2011
22 September 2011
11 October 2011
Request for internal review:
25 October 2011
Subject of request
1. Mr Kellard has submitted a series of requests asking for information about
salaries and allowances for skilled workers sponsored to enter the UK
under Tier 2 of the Points based system. The request under consideration
in this internal review asks for :
The min, average and max declared salary and allowance amounts by
SOC (for T2 ICT used COS) by month from the introduction of the PBS in
2008 broken down by the top 25 sponsors.
Definitions: SOC = Standard Occupational Classification
T2 = Tier 2 (skilled workers with job offers)
ICT = Information and Communication technology
COS = Certificate of Sponsorship
PBS = Points based system
The full request can be found in Annex A
The response by UKBA
2. UKBA informed Mr Kellard that it was unable to provide him with the
requested information, as the amount of work required to produce it from
the raw data which were held would exceed the cost limit.
The request for an internal review
3. Mr Kellard challenged the decision to refuse the request on cost grounds,
and explained why he thought it should be possible to provide the
requested information without exceeding the cost limit.
The full text of the request for an internal review can be found in Annex B
4. UKBA received Peter Kellard‟s request via email on 20 September 2011.
On 22 September 2011 the department acknowledged receipt of the
request and advised the deadline for its response. Although this is not a
requirement of the Act, it is generally considered best practice to do so.
5. On 11 October 2011 UKBA provided Mr Kellard with a substantive
response, which represents 15 working days after the initial request.
Therefore, UKBA complied with section 10(1) by providing a response
within the statutory deadline of 20 working days.
6. The response confirmed that information was held relating to the request,
the relevant part of the Act was cited, and an explanation of why the cost
limit was exceeded was provided, as required by section 17(7)(c) of the
7. Section 16 was complied with, as UKBA offered advice and assistance on
how the request could be refined so that it could be answered within the
8. Mr Kellard was informed in writing of his right to request an independent
internal review of the handling of his request, as required by section
17(7)(a) of the Act.
9. The response also informed Mr Kellard of his right of complaint to the
Information Commissioner, as set out in section 17(7)(b) of the Act.
Consideration of the response
The use of section 12 – cost
10. UKBA applied section 12 to all of the requested information.
11. Section 12 does not oblige a public authority to comply with a request for
information if the authority estimates that the cost of complying with the
request would exceed the appropriate limit.
Section 12(2) provides that:
„Subsection (1) does not exempt a public authority from its obligation to
comply with paragraph (a) of section 1 (1) unless the estimated cost of
complying with that paragraph alone would exceed the appropriate limit.‟
Section 12(3) states that:
„In subsections (1) and (2) “the appropriate limit” means such amount as may
be prescribed and different amounts may be prescribed in relation to
12. Accordingly, section 12 provides that a public authority is not obliged to
comply with a request for information if it estimates that meeting the
request would exceed the appropriate cost limit. The appropriate limit is
currently set out in the Freedom of Information and Data Protection
(Appropriate Limit and Fees) Regulation 2004 („the Regulations‟).
13. A public authority may take into account the cost of locating, retrieving and
extracting the requested information and performing its calculation. The
cost limit for a central government department such as UKBA is currently
set at £600 and equates to 3 ½ days work at £25 per hour.
14. Section 12 makes it clear that a public authority does not have to make a
precise calculation of the costs of complying with a request. Only an
estimate is required.
15. In determining whether or not the cost limit is exceeded a public authority
should estimate the costs it reasonably expects to incur in relation to the
Determining whether it holds the information
Locating the information, or a document which may contain the
Retrieving the information, or a document which may contain the
Extracting the information from within a relevant document
16. UKBA advised that to meet the request in its entirety would exceed the
appropriate limit because it would be necessary to run hundreds of reports
in order to obtain the requested information.
17. Mr Kellard suggested that the necessary work would be simple. Section
12 of the FOI Act states that the cost calculation relates to the amount of
work required, regardless of the grade of the staff undertaking the work.
18. As part of this internal review, UKBA explained that the task was not as
simple as Mr Kellard had suggested, because the information was held on
several separate databases, and it was therefore not possible obtain the
requested information by running a series of simple queries.
19. Section 12 (cost) was applied appropriately, and there was a detailed
explanation of why the cost limit applied. This included a description of the
work that would be necessary, but no estimate of how long this would take.
Advice and assistance
20. UKBA informed Mr Kellard that it would be possible to provide him with an
update on his previous request (FOI reference 19690).
21. Staff in the MI reporting team have worked to find an alternative method of
obtaining a comprehensive report showing the requested details. It is now
possible to provide Mr Kellard with the information. You will find this in Annex C.
22. Please note the caveat from the sponsor unit regarding the quality of the
23. When a sponsor assigns a CoS to a migrant they are required to provide
information about the migrants salary package. They must provide a salary
figure and alongside this the salary period (eg, day,week,month,year
etc) and a separate figure for allowances. We are aware that some
sponsors have input salary details inaccurately (this could be something as
simple as putting a decimal point in the wrong place or excluding a decimal
point all together) which has resulted in some salary details becoming
highly inflated in relation to the migrants actual employment. While these
inaccuracies remain live on the system, any such errors are picked up at
the migrant LTR/Visa stage of the application.
24. The response was sent within 20 working days; consequently UKBA
complied with section 10(1) of the FOI Act.
25. Section 1(1)(a) was complied with, as the response clearly stated that the
requested information was held.
26. The cost limit was applied correctly at the time of the request however, an
alternative method of obtaining the information has since been identified
and it is now possible to provide the applicant with the requested
27. The response complied with the requirements in section 17(7)(a) and
17(7)(b) as it provided details of the complaints procedure.
Information Access Team
7 December 2011
Annex A – full text of question
My request required an extension to an existing report from your MIS data as
above. Will you confirm that such a modification to this report would be
something that you and your immediate colleagues would be expected to
undertake or would this request be passed onto to an IT team who would
modify the existing report and pass the result back to you in order that your
could answer my Query? My assumption is that such expertise would be
outside of your teams remit and would require effort from the UKBA MIS
You confirm in your reply that the raw data is available, however, processing
the raw data to answer my request would involve running over 6400 reports.
Isn‟t that why we have computers and very smart IT people working in the
UKBA agency MIS function so that they can modify existing reports and
consolidate that information into one precise document? Such reporting is
common practice in private industry and my request to extend the analysis of
this raw data from the output you have already provided would be what I
would expect of a small coursework project from a computer science
In light of the difficulty you have in dealing with my original request, I will
simplify it to exclude the mode figures i.e T2 ICT used COS - min, average,
and max declared salary and allowance amounts.
I am sure Jonathan Sedgwick will also be interested in your response.
This is simple stuff, please answer the question.
Annex B – full text of request for an internal review
Thank you for your reply. I understand that you are the messenger
here and that you are replying on advice from MI colleagues.
However, this response raises questions about the capability or the
integrity of the person in the MI team who has advised you.
Certainly the person who answered FOI 17651/1341 which was an
extension to a previous report (FOI 1309 http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/section_j_information_and_commun
would have had no difficulty in extending FOI 17651/1341 to include
the extra data I have requested. The suggestion that you would have
to run a report multiple times by SOC and month rather than
extending an existing report is not credible.
The amendment to the report FOI 17651/1341 required to answer this
FOI request would require the base query/view to be extended to
include the following sql to return the extra data requested
,MIN(SALARY) AS MIN_SALARY
,AVG(SALARY) AS AVG_SALARY
,MAX(SALARY) AS MAX_SALARY
,MIN(ALLOWANCE) AS MIN_ALLOWANCE
,AVG(ALLOWANCE) AS AVG_ALLOWANCE
,MAX(ALLOWANCE) AS MAX_ALLOWANCE
and then pivot that data into the final output in the same way as
the modification made to the report under FOI 17651/1341. To make
these changes is more like 3.5 hours work not 3.5 man days.
I would like to request an internal review of the handling of this
request, your Reference 20067.
For this review to be credible it is important that those involved
do have an understanding of your MI reporting function and will
have an understanding of the complexities of producing such reports
including the sql they are based on. Any of those who worked on
reports for FOI 17156/1309, FOI 17651/1341, FOI 17437/1333 are
clearly capable or their direct reports should be considered for
this review process.
In the initial response to this request your colleague Daniela
Walker offered to provide an update to FOI 19690 for the period
from the introduction of the PBS in 2008, whilst the review is
ongoing I would appreciate a copy of that data.
A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is
available on the Internet at this address: http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/t2_ict_used_cos_min_average_mod