Dear Ministry of Justice,
Can a qualified person sign off a meeting that they were personally
involved in - by citing Section 36 of the FoI Act?
Would the qualified person personally involved in the meeting, of which FoI information has been requested, have to refer the matter to a higher authority, perhaps a Minister, as a qualified person?
Since a Section 36 involves independent weighing up the of the FoI request for example the future 'chilling effects' of more such meetings, amongst other criteria?
Please provide any information under the FoI Act that addresses this issue.
Dear [title redacted] Oakley
Thank you for your email. Your query has not been dealt with under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the Act) as you are asking for clarification rather than recorded information.
The Public Authority does not choose who their qualified person is for the purposes of section 36 of the Act, and the qualified person cannot delegate the authority to someone else. The section 36 qualified person is required to give a reasonable opinion of whether disclosure of the information would, or would be likely to prejudice under section 36(2) of the Act. The qualified persons for different public authorities are listed in section 36(5) of the Act (see http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2000...). If an authority has not had a qualified person assigned, either through section 36 itself, or where not named in the legislation through an authorisation by a minister, a minister may act as the qualified person (see section 36(5)(o)). Where an authorised qualified person has not given their reasonable opinion, the exemption cannot apply (except to statistical information).
There are no limitations in the Act as to whether the qualified person can opine on information they have had some involvement in creating or working with. Their involvement may mean that they are in fact especially well placed to provide a reasonable opinion as to the sensitivity of the information, but this in no way reduces the validity of an opinion provided by someone not directly involved in the issues at stake.
It is always open to the person requesting the information to ask for an internal review of the decision where they consider the application of section 36 to have been unjustified or questionable for any reason; and, if remaining unsatisfied, to make a complaint to the Information Commissioner about the public authority's handling of the request. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at:
Alternatively, the Office can be contacted online via its website (www.ico.org.uk) or by telephone on 01625 545 745.
I hope you find this helpful
Miss J Peterson
Information Rights Policy, Ministry of Justice
Dear Information Policy Enquiries,
Thank you for your comprehensive answer.
Could you tell me when (on what date) Dame Julie Mellor became the qualified person for the PHSO?
And who signed off this designation? Which Minister - or government employee?
I would presume that you would hold this information as the ICO would have to check the veracity of qualified persons.
But, if not, perhaps you could direct me to where the information is held by the government.
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