Dear Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs,

The Air Quality Expert Group Report on Potential Impacts of Shale Gas Extraction in the UK was compiled in 2015 but not published until 27th July 2018. A DEFRA spokesman is reported to have explained the delay in publication by reference to ‘completion of sign-off procedures.’

Please detail such sign-off procedures and provide all written and documentary evidence of their application, including email correspondence between committee members and all and any contact with other parties that have a made a contribution, formal or informal, to the sign-off process. It is recognised that this evidence will likely include testimony from individuals whose identity will be protected by redaction but will nevertheless be expected as part of the disclosure.

This information is requested in order that I and other interested members of the public can assess the significance of the delay in publication in the context of Government policy in relation to the Shale Industry.

Yours faithfully,

Richard Bales

Helpline, Defra (MCU), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Thank you for your email. We have a target of replying to emails within 15
working days where a response is required, and 20 working days where a
case is handled under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 or the
Environmental Information Regulations 2004. If you need a reply before
then, please call the Defra Helpline on 03459 33 55 77, or visit
[1]https://www.gov.uk/government/organisati....
We often receive thousands of identical emails each month from organised
campaigns. Ministers and officials are made aware of these campaigns, but
unfortunately we cannot reply to each email when such large volumes are
received.
Best wishes,
Ministerial Contact Unit
 
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) This email and
any attachments is intended for the named recipient only. If you have
received it in error you have no authority to use, disclose, store or copy
any of its contents and you should destroy it and inform the sender.
Whilst this email and associated attachments will have been checked for
known viruses whilst within Defra systems we can accept no responsibility
once it has left our systems. Communications on Defra's computer systems
may be monitored and/or recorded to secure the effective operation of the
system and for other lawful purposes.

References

Visible links
1. https://www.gov.uk/government/organisati...

correspondence.section@defra.gsi.gov.uk on behalf of informationrequests@defra.gsi.gov.uk, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Dear Mr Bales,

Thank you for your email of 2 August, requesting information on Potential
impacts on Shale gas extraction.

We aim to answer your request no later than 4th September, which is 20
working days from the date we received it. If we are unable to meet this
deadline we will contact you to explain the reason.

If you have any queries about this letter please contact us.

Yours sincerely

Gladys McLean

Information Rights Team

[email address]

no-reply@defra.ecase.co.uk on behalf of Defra Information Rights Team, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Bales,

I am writing in response to your request for information, received 2nd
August.

Yours sincerely,
Guy Mawhinney

Dear [email address] on behalf of Defra Information Rights Team,

FAO Guy Mawhinney,

Dear Mr Mawhinney

Thankyou for your letter of September 3rd, in which you give your response to my request for information relating to Air Quality Expert Group report.

It is unfortunate that you have taken the full twenty working days to tell me that my request is unreasonable due to the length of time it will take to compile an answer and that a modified request will require a further twenty days of consideration. The three years taken for sign-off procedures to be completed is in itself a matter of significant public interest and it is not unreasonable that my request should therefore focus on that period. Without transparency of those procedures, the relevant topics of debate and the areas of contention that (presumably) led to a delay in publication, I am forced to cast a wide net. This process should not be run as a game of ‘battleships’ and I will reserve my right to revisit my original request in the event that I am eventually forced to appeal to the Information Commissioner.

However, in an attempt to mitigate any cost that might be needlessly incurred by your team, I will (at your suggestion) modify my request to focus on the matters which I believe are at the top of the public interest wish-list. Would you please provide full and proper responses to the following questions:-

1. What formal sign-off procedures were required to be completed before the AQEG report was approved for publication? Were those sign-off procedures documented before / at commencement of the AQEG’s work? If so please provide a copy.
2. Which Government Departments, Agencies and Non-Departmental Public Bodies were required to formally sign-off before publication of the report? Please confirm the dates on which each of such sign-offs were received.
3. Were any other third parties requested to approve the report before publication was authorised? If so, please identify with dates.
4. Who gave final authorisation for the report to be published and who determined the date on which it was to be made available for public access? Please confirm the dates on which such decisions were taken and communicated.
5. Please provide copies of all correspondence between the AQEG and all other parties, relating to sign-off (or comment on) the report, during the nine months leading up to it’s eventual publication on 27th July, 2018.

Yours sincerely,

Richard Bales

(Copy sent by direct email)

no-reply@defra.ecase.co.uk on behalf of Defra Information Rights Team, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Dear Mr Bales,

Thank you for your email of 3 September, requesting information on Air
Quality Expert Group report.

We aim to answer your request no later than 2nd October, which is 20
working days from the date we received it. If we are unable to meet this
deadline we will contact you to explain the reason.

If you have any queries about this letter please contact us.

Yours sincerely

Gladys McLean

Information Rights Team

[email address]

no-reply@defra.ecase.co.uk on behalf of Defra Information Rights Team, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Dear Mr Bales,

Thank you for your request for information of 3rd September, which we
received on 3 September, about Air Quality Expert Group report. We are
handling your request under the Environmental Information Regulations 2004
(EIRs).

We are writing to advise you that the time limit for responding to your
request for information under the EIRs needs to be extended.

The EIRs allow us 20 working days after receipt of your request to
respond. However, it is occasionally necessary to extend the
20-working-day time limit for issuing a response. The EIRs allow for an
extension of up to 20 additional working days because of the complexity of
your request and the volume of information that you have requested. In
this case, we regret that we must extend the time limit for responding by
20 working days.

We hope to let you have a response by 29 October.

We attach an annex giving contact details should you be unhappy with the
service you have received.

If you have any queries about this letter please contact me.

Yours sincerely

Guy Mawhinney

Information Rights Team

[email address]

Complaints

If you are unhappy with the service you have received in relation to your
request you may make a complaint or appeal against our decision under
section 17(7) of the FOIA or under regulation 18 of the EIRs, as
applicable, within 40 working days of the date of this letter. Please
write to Nick Teall, Head of Information Rights, Area 4A, Nobel House, 17
Smith Square, London, SW1P 3JR (email:
[email address]) and he will arrange for an internal
review of your case. Details of Defra's complaints procedure are on our
website.

If you are not content with the outcome of the internal review, section 50
of the FOIA and regulation 18 of the EIRs gives you the right to apply
directly to the Information Commissioner for a decision. Please note that
generally the Information Commissioner cannot make a decision unless you
have first exhausted Defra's own complaints procedure. The Information
Commissioner can be contacted at:

Information Commissioner's Office
Wycliffe House
Water Lane
Wilmslow
Cheshire
SK9 5AF

Dear [email address] on behalf of Defra Information Rights Team,
For the attention of Guy Mawhinney.

Dear Mr Mawhinney,

Thank-you for your reply of October 1st.

I note that you intend to take a further 20 working days to respond to my request, which will be in addition to the target 20 days plus the initial 20 days that you took to respond to my original request.

In order to speed things along, please note that my request was made more specific at your suggestion, such that there are a number of separate questions to be addressed. I am quite amenable to receiving answers to those questions as and when you have them, rather than wait until you have a full and complete response. You would then need only confirm when all your responses are complete.

I believe this would be in keeping with your wish to cooperate as much as possible, as expressed in your earlier reply.

Yours sincerely

Richard Bales

no-reply@defra.ecase.co.uk on behalf of Defra Information Rights Team, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

2 Attachments

Dear Mr Bales,

Please find attached the response to your request of 3rd September for
information on Air Quality Expert Group report.

Yours sincerely

Guy Mawhinney

Information Rights Team

[email address]

Dear Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs's handling of my FOI request 'Air Quality Expert Group Report'.

As required by the legislation, it has been confirmed that DEFRA hold an unspecified body of information that is relevant to my request but which will not be disclosed to me as it references internal DEFRA communications. You quote EIR regulation 12.4(e) and claim that “If policy officials knew or thought that once a decision was reached, their communications in arriving at that point were to be disclosed, they would be less candid in expressing their views at the time.”

In applying the public interest test, the following rationale has been used: “Disclosure of this correspondence would impact on the candour of debate the CSA engages in and would therefore impact on the CSA’s ability to fulfil their role effectively in providing trusted, frank and robust advice to ongoing and future areas of policy and evidence.”

The decision not to disclose the information in question is then based on the premise that the public interest in withholding the information outweighs the public interest in disclosure, a judgement that I now challenge.

Public officials work in full knowledge of the implications of Freedom of Information legislation and the similar provisions of the Environmental Information Regulations. This is a constant condition, which should guide their decision-making, ensuring an adherence to high professional standards and duty of care to the public. The potential for a request for disclosure by a member of the public is ever-present, such that all officials (even a Chief Scientific Advisor) may come under scrutiny at any time.

It is therefore not reasonable to suggest that an instance in which disclosure is actually requested should come as a surprise and somehow “impact on the candour of debate the CSA engages in and … therefore impact on the CSA’s ability to fulfil their role effectively in providing trusted, frank and robust advice to ongoing and future areas of policy and evidence”.

The request made relates to past events, correspondence and decisions which must be presumed to have occurred in full knowledge of FOI and EIR regulations. Future debates, decisions and actions will be subject to the same potential for disclosure as is provided in law.

In addition to (and irrespective of the above), the weight that must be attached to the public interest in the requested information is substantial. The report relates to significant matters of Public Health and identifies areas of concern that need to be fully examined in the public eye. The topic of Shale Gas has been and remains a very sensitive and controversial issue, with high profile in both social and main-stream media. The delay in publication of the report attracted a great deal of scepticism and criticism, further adding to the weight of public interest, which will now be heightened by the partial disclosure to my information request. It is difficult to imagine how public interest “in all circumstances of the case” could be judged to be anything but exceptionally high. The public have a clear interest in understanding the background discussions and considerations that resulted in the publication of the report in its final form.

The legislation states (Reg 12(2)) that “ A public authority shall apply a presumption in favour of disclosure.” The public interest test acts to prohibit frivolous or excessive requests that might place unnecessary burdens on the authority in question, but this is transparently not the case in this instance.

It is my challenge therefore that in applying the public interest test, the public interest in withholding the information has been overstated to the extent that the intention of legislation is negated, but the public interest in disclosure has been judged to be far less than is actually the case.

The presumption in favour of disclosure should stand and the information withheld must be released.

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/a...

Yours faithfully,

Richard Bales

Helpline, Defra (MCU), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Thank you for your email. We have a target of replying to emails within 15
working days where a response is required, and 20 working days where a
case is handled under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 or the
Environmental Information Regulations 2004. If you need a reply before
then, please call the Defra Helpline on 03459 33 55 77, or visit
[1]https://www.gov.uk/government/organisati....
We often receive thousands of identical emails each month from organised
campaigns. Ministers and officials are made aware of these campaigns, but
unfortunately we cannot reply to each email when such large volumes are
received.
Best wishes,
Ministerial Contact Unit
 
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) This email and
any attachments is intended for the named recipient only. If you have
received it in error you have no authority to use, disclose, store or copy
any of its contents and you should destroy it and inform the sender.
Whilst this email and associated attachments will have been checked for
known viruses whilst within Defra systems we can accept no responsibility
once it has left our systems. Communications on Defra's computer systems
may be monitored and/or recorded to secure the effective operation of the
system and for other lawful purposes.

References

Visible links
1. https://www.gov.uk/government/organisati...

Dear Helpline, Defra (MCU),

Re: Air Quality Expert Group Report

Further to my request for an Internal Review, I note that more than 20 days have now passed since your acknowledgement dated October 26th, which indicated a 20 day target response.
Please would you let me know the current status of your deliberations and give me an expected date of reply.
Many thanks

Yours sincerely,

Richard Bales

Helpline, Defra (MCU), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Thank you for your email. We have a target of replying to emails within 15
working days where a response is required, and 20 working days where a
case is handled under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 or the
Environmental Information Regulations 2004. If you need a reply before
then, please call the Defra Helpline on 03459 33 55 77, or visit
[1]https://www.gov.uk/government/organisati....
We often receive thousands of identical emails each month from organised
campaigns. Ministers and officials are made aware of these campaigns, but
unfortunately we cannot reply to each email when such large volumes are
received.
Best wishes,
Ministerial Contact Unit
 
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) This email and
any attachments is intended for the named recipient only. If you have
received it in error you have no authority to use, disclose, store or copy
any of its contents and you should destroy it and inform the sender.
Whilst this email and associated attachments will have been checked for
known viruses whilst within Defra systems we can accept no responsibility
once it has left our systems. Communications on Defra's computer systems
may be monitored and/or recorded to secure the effective operation of the
system and for other lawful purposes.

References

Visible links
1. https://www.gov.uk/government/organisati...

Dear Helpline, Defra (MCU),
Further to your reply dated 26th November in response to my email of the previous day. An internal review as requested should take no more than 20 days, but if more time is required I should have been notified and given good reason for the delay. Please would you give me such an update by return, rather than the 15-20 days indicated in your automated reply.

Thankyou,

Yours sincerely,

Richard Bales

Helpline, Defra (MCU), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Thank you for your email. We have a target of replying to emails within 15
working days where a response is required, and 20 working days where a
case is handled under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 or the
Environmental Information Regulations 2004. If you need a reply before
then, please call the Defra Helpline on 03459 33 55 77, or visit
[1]https://www.gov.uk/government/organisati....
We often receive thousands of identical emails each month from organised
campaigns. Ministers and officials are made aware of these campaigns, but
unfortunately we cannot reply to each email when such large volumes are
received.
Best wishes,
Ministerial Contact Unit
 
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) This email and
any attachments is intended for the named recipient only. If you have
received it in error you have no authority to use, disclose, store or copy
any of its contents and you should destroy it and inform the sender.
Whilst this email and associated attachments will have been checked for
known viruses whilst within Defra systems we can accept no responsibility
once it has left our systems. Communications on Defra's computer systems
may be monitored and/or recorded to secure the effective operation of the
system and for other lawful purposes.

References

Visible links
1. https://www.gov.uk/government/organisati...

Dear Helpline, Defra (MCU),

FOR THE ATTENTION OF Nick Teall, Head of Information Rights

COPY TO Guy Mawhinney

Dear Mr Teall,

On 26th October I emailed your organisation (via WhatDoTheyKnow.com) requesting an Internal Review of the handling of my request for information, having received an unsatisfactory reply dated 19th October (your ref FOI2018/18538). I received an automated acknowledgement of receipt.

More than 20 working days have elapsed without further communication from yourselves. I have sent two chasing emails (26th Nov and 2nd Dec), both of which have again been automatically acknowledged, but no further response has yet been received. As I noted in those emails;

“An internal review as requested should take no more than 20 days, but if more time is required I should have been notified and given good reason for the delay.”

I would be grateful for an appropriate response without further delay.

Yours sincerely,
Richard Bales

(COPY SENT BY DIRECT EMAIL)

Yours sincerely,

Richard Bales

Helpline, Defra (MCU), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Thank you for your email. We have a target of replying to emails within 15
working days where a response is required, and 20 working days where a
case is handled under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 or the
Environmental Information Regulations 2004. If you need a reply before
then, please call the Defra Helpline on 03459 33 55 77, or visit
[1]https://www.gov.uk/government/organisati....
We often receive thousands of identical emails each month from organised
campaigns. Ministers and officials are made aware of these campaigns, but
unfortunately we cannot reply to each email when such large volumes are
received.
Best wishes,
Ministerial Contact Unit
 
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) This email and
any attachments is intended for the named recipient only. If you have
received it in error you have no authority to use, disclose, store or copy
any of its contents and you should destroy it and inform the sender.
Whilst this email and associated attachments will have been checked for
known viruses whilst within Defra systems we can accept no responsibility
once it has left our systems. Communications on Defra's computer systems
may be monitored and/or recorded to secure the effective operation of the
system and for other lawful purposes.

References

Visible links
1. https://www.gov.uk/government/organisati...

Richard Bales left an annotation ()

Reply received by Direct email on Dec 5th:-
Dear Mr Bales –

Please accept my apologies for the delay in responding to your request for an internal review. As you state we aim to complete internal reviews within 20 working days, or else notify the requestor if this is likely to be longer. I am sorry that in this case this has not been done. I have asked colleagues to look at your request and respond as soon as possible.

Regards,
Guy Mawhinney
Information Rights Team

Dear Helpline, Defra (MCU),
FAO Guy Mawhinney

Copy to Nick Teall, Head of Information Rights

Dear Mr Mawhinney,

Further to your reply of 5th December, I regret to note that a further ten working days have elapsed and I have received no subsequent correspondence from either yourself or your colleagues.

As you noted, my request for an internal review would normally have received a response within 20 working days. On Friday of this week, 40 working days will have elapsed since my request was confirmed as received, which is the maximum time expected under the legislation. That will also be the point at which 100 working days will have passed since my original information request was submitted on August 2nd.

It is ironic that the focus of my information request was to understand the reasons for an exceptional three year delay in releasing the AQEG report, only to find that your response is also being played out to its maximum possible duration.

If I fail to receive an appropriate response to my request by close of business on 21st December, I will be fully justified in passing this matter to the Information Commissioner, which I would intend to do at my earliest opportunity.

Yours sincerely,
Richard Bales

(COPY SENT BY DIRECT EMAIL)

SM - Defra - Helpline, Defra (MCU), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Thank you for your email. We have a target of replying to emails within 15
working days where a response is required, and 20 working days where a
case is handled under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 or the
Environmental Information Regulations 2004. If you need a reply before
then, please call the Defra Helpline on 03459 33 55 77, or visit
[1]https://www.gov.uk/government/organisati....
We often receive thousands of identical emails each month from organised
campaigns. Ministers and officials are made aware of these campaigns, but
unfortunately we cannot reply to each email when such large volumes are
received.
Best wishes,
Ministerial Contact Unit
 
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) This email and
any attachments is intended for the named recipient only. If you have
received it in error you have no authority to use, disclose, store or copy
any of its contents and you should destroy it and inform the sender.
Whilst this email and associated attachments will have been checked for
known viruses whilst within Defra systems we can accept no responsibility
once it has left our systems. Communications on Defra's computer systems
may be monitored and/or recorded to secure the effective operation of the
system and for other lawful purposes.

References

Visible links
1. https://www.gov.uk/government/organisati...

Dear Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs,

FAO Guy Mawhinney

Copy to Nick Teall, Head of Information Rights

Dear Mr Mawhinney.

I regret to note that (other than an automated acknowledgement) I have received no response to my email of 19th December, in which I again sought Defra’s overdue response to my request for an internal review. I indicated that in the absence of a reply I would have no option but to pass this matter to the Information Commissioner.

Recognising that the Christmas period may influence matters, I have allowed a further working week after New Year’s day in the hope that a response may be forthcoming, but clearly to no avail. I am sure that you will recognise that I have been both cooperative and patient throughout this process, but that has not been reciprocated.

My submission to the Information Commissioner is prepared and I am now signalling a final opportunity for Defra to comply with its obligations. If I do not receive an appropriate response within the next 48 hours, I will submit my complaint without further delay.

Yours faithfully,

Richard Bales

(COPY SENT BY DIRECT EMAIL)

SM - Defra - Helpline, Defra (MCU), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Thank you for your email. We have a target of replying to emails within 15
working days where a response is required, and 20 working days where a
case is handled under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 or the
Environmental Information Regulations 2004. If you need a reply before
then, please call the Defra Helpline on 03459 33 55 77, or visit
[1]https://www.gov.uk/government/organisati....
We often receive thousands of identical emails each month from organised
campaigns. Ministers and officials are made aware of these campaigns, but
unfortunately we cannot reply to each email when such large volumes are
received.
Best wishes,
Ministerial Contact Unit
 
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) This email and
any attachments is intended for the named recipient only. If you have
received it in error you have no authority to use, disclose, store or copy
any of its contents and you should destroy it and inform the sender.
Whilst this email and associated attachments will have been checked for
known viruses whilst within Defra systems we can accept no responsibility
once it has left our systems. Communications on Defra's computer systems
may be monitored and/or recorded to secure the effective operation of the
system and for other lawful purposes.

References

Visible links
1. https://www.gov.uk/government/organisati...

Richard Bales left an annotation ()

No reply received from Defra to my request for an Internal Review, despite waiting over 50 days and sending several reminders and a final ultimatum. My only option was to make a complaint to the Information Commissioner, which I did on 14th January.

SM-Defra-Information Requests (DEFRA), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Dear Mr Bales –

 

In response to the paragraph of the email below from the ICO highlighted
in yellow, I can confirm that Defra’s position has not changed with regard
to this request.  I apologise for the time taken in reviewing your
complaint.  We have been in consultation with policy and other
departmental colleagues and will expect to let you have a full written
internal response shortly.

 

Regards,

Guy Mawhinney

 

EIRs/FOIA Case Officer | Information Rights Team | Digital, Data and
Technology Services (DDTS) I Department for Environment, Food and Rural
Affairs

Area 1E, Nobel House, 17 Smith Square, London, SW1P 3JR

 

 

 

 

 

From: [1][email address] [[2]mailto:[email address]]
Sent: 24 April 2019 14:46
To: SM-Defra-Helpline, Defra (MCU) <[3][Defra request email]>
Subject: ICO complaint - Response required[Ref. FER0813470]

 

24 April 2019

Case Reference Number FER0813470

Dear Sir/Madam

Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIR)
Complainant: Mr Richard Bales
Your Reference: FOI2018 16937 & 18538

I am writing with regard to an information request made to Defra. I have
been asked to investigate this complaint and this letter will set out how
the investigation will proceed and the information that we need from you.

ICO’s approach

On receipt of a complaint under the FOIA or the EIR, the Information
Commissioner will give a public authority one opportunity to justify its
position to him, before issuing a decision notice. Please consider the
guide for public authorities on the Information Commissioner’s website for
more information about how we handle complaints:
[4]http://www.ico.org.uk/for_organisations/...

The request

On 2 August 2018 the complainant made a request to Defra via
WhatDoTheyKnow
([5]https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/a...)
in the following terms:

“The Air Quality Expert Group Report on Potential Impact of Shale Gas
Extraction in the UK was compiled in 2015 but not published until 27^th
July 2018. A DEFRA spokesman is reported to have explained the delay in
publication by reference to ‘completion of sign-off procedures.’

Please detail such sign-off procedures and all written and documentary
evidence of their application, including email correspondence between
committee members and any and all contact with other parties that have
made a contribution, formal or informal, to the sign-off process. It is
recognised that this evidence will likely include testimony from
individuals whose identity will be protected by redaction but will
nevertheless be expected as part of the disclosure.”

Defra responded on 3 September 2018 and refused the request as manifestly
unreasonable (regulation 12(4)(b)).

The complainant responded on the same date to make a refined request for
information in the following terms:

“1. What formal sign-off procedures were required to be completed before
the AQEG report was approved for publication? Were those sign-off
procedures documented before / at commencement of the AQEG’s work? If so
please provide a copy.

2. Which Government Departments, Agencies and Non-Departmental Public
Bodies were required to formally sign-off before publication of the
report? Please confirm the dates on which each of such sign-offs were
received.

3. Were any other third parties requested to approve the report before
publication was authorised? If so, please identify with dates.

4. Who gave final authorisation for the report to be published and who
determined the date on which it was to be made available for public
access? Please confirm the dates on which such decisions were taken and
communicated.

5. Please provide copies of all correspondence between the AQEG and all
other parties, relating to sign-off (or comment on) the report, during the
nine months leading up to it’s [sic] eventual publication on 27^th July
2018.”

Defra responded on 19 October 2018. For Q1 Defra explained the AQEG has no
formal sign-off process and gave some background information on how
reports are finalised. For Q2 Defra provided information to answer the
question asked. For Q3 Defra confirmed no approval was sought from third
parties and for Q4 Defra provided dates and the names of individuals.

For Q5 Defra provided information but redacted some details on the basis
of regulation 12(3) and 13(1) as they constituted third party personal
data. Defra also withheld some information as it engaged regulation
12(4)(e) as it constituted internal communications between Defra’s Chief
Scientific Adviser and communications between Defra officials.

The complainant asked for an internal review on 26 October 2018 focused on
Defra’s reliance on regulation 12(4)(e). The complainant chased up the
internal review on 26 November 2018, 2 December and 4 December, receiving
an acknowledgement on 17 December 2018 that the 20 day deadline had not
been met. The complainant chased a response again on 19 December 2018 and
9 January 2019 with no response received to date.

As you can see from the chronology above; there have been significant
delays in the internal review and this has breached regulation 11 of the
EIR. Whilst a decision notice can be issued detailing this breach and
requiring Defra to issue an internal review response I hope that this will
not be necessary and Defra will now issue its internal review response by
no later than 9 May.

If Defra does not consider its position has changed then please confirm
this to the complainant within the same timeframe and this will be taken
as an internal review response in the circumstance of this case.

If you would like to discuss this then please do get in contact.

Yours sincerely

Jill Hulley
Senior Case Officer
Direct Dial: 0330 414 6509

Providing information to the ICO

Finally, you should be aware that the Information Commissioner often
receives requests for copies of the letters we send and receive when
dealing with casework. Not only are we obliged to deal with these in
accordance with the access provisions of the Data Protection Act 2018
(DPA) and the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA), it is in the public
interest that we are open, transparent and accountable for the work that
we do.

However, whilst we want to disclose as much information as we reasonably
can, there will be occasions where full disclosure would be wrong. It is
also important that the disclosures we make do not undermine the
confidence and trust in the Commissioner of those who correspond with her.

I would be grateful if, at the appropriate time, you would indicate
whether any of the information you provide in connection with this matter
is confidential, or for any other reason should not be disclosed to anyone
who requests it. I should make clear that simply preferring that the
information is withheld may not be enough to prevent disclosure. You
should have a good reason why this information should not be disclosed to
anyone else and explain this to us clearly and fully.

For information about what we do with personal data see our [6]Privacy
Notice

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Richard Bales left an annotation ()

ICO have taken the response from Defra to be a statement that the position has not changed, and will therefore begin the appropriate investigation into the handling of this FOI request. Confirmed to me by email on 10th May.

no-reply@defra.ecase.co.uk on behalf of informationrequests@defra.gov.uk, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Bales,

Please find attached the response to your request for an internal review
of 5th December for information on Air Quality Expert Group report.

Yours sincerely

Guy Mawhinney

Information Rights Team

[email address]

Richard Bales left an annotation ()

Following much delayed response to Internal Review request, ICO have now commenced full investigation (as at 16th May)

Mawhinney, Guy, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

2 Attachments

Dear Mr Bales –

 

In response to the ICO decision notice for case reference FER0813470,
please find attached the disclosed information as referred to in paragraph
3 of the decision notice (below):

 

The Commissioner requires the public authority to take the following steps
to ensure compliance with the legislation.

·         Disclose the withheld information, ensuring that any personal
data is redacted under the terms of the Data Protection Act 2018.

 

 

Regards,

Information Rights Team

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) This email and
any attachments is intended for the named recipient only. If you have
received it in error you have no authority to use, disclose, store or copy
any of its contents and you should destroy it and inform the sender.
Whilst this email and associated attachments will have been checked for
known viruses whilst within Defra systems we can accept no responsibility
once it has left our systems. Communications on Defra's computer systems
may be monitored and/or recorded to secure the effective operation of the
system and for other lawful purposes.