Conservative Party representations

G Webber made this Freedom of Information request to Electoral Commission

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

The request was partially successful.

Dear Electoral Commission,

Please provide an electronic copy of the representations received from the Conservative Party and referred to in section 8 of this document: http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/__...

Yours faithfully,

Gabriel

FOI, Electoral Commission

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Dear Gabriel
 
Our Ref: FOI 22/15
 
Thank you for your request under the Freedom of Information Act dated 16
March 2017 concerning:
 
Please provide an electronic copy of the representations received from the
Conservative Party and referred to in section 8 of this document:
[1]http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/__...
 
 
The Commission aims to respond to requests for information promptly and
within the statutory timeframe of twenty working days.
 
You may expect to receive a reply sent from the Commission by 13 April
2017.
 
 
Yours sincerely
 
 
Vanessa Asante
Information Officer
The Electoral Commission
3 Bunhill Row
London EC1Y 8YZ
Tel: 0333 103 1928
Advice and guidance email: [2][email address]
[3]electoralcommission.org.uk
[4]yourvotematters.co.uk
 
[5]Twitter | [6]Facebook | [7]Blog
 
[8][IMG][9][IMG]
 

show quoted sections

Ashley Lardner, Electoral Commission

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Dear Gabriel Webber,

 

Our Ref: FOI 22/17

 

Thank you for your email to the Electoral Commission dated 16 March 2017
received by the Commission on 17 March 2017.

 

The Commission aims to respond to requests for information promptly and
has done so within the statutory timeframe of twenty working days.

 

Your request is in bold below followed by our response.

 

You have requested:

 

Please provide an electronic copy of the representations received from the
Conservative Party and referred to in section 8 of this document:
[1]http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/__...

Our response is as follows:

 

The Commission does hold information in relation to your request.

 

As you know, the Commission made an announcement in relation to its
investigation on 16 March 2017, and published a detailed case summary
providing information relating to this investigation.

 

The representations made by the Party form part of the Commission’s
investigation. For the reasons set out below, the Commission considers the
representations to be exempt from disclosure under section 30 and 31of the
FOI Act, and we are withholding this information from release.

 

Section 30(1) (a) (i) and 31 (1) (g)

 

Under The Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 (PPERA),
the Commission has a statutory function to conduct investigations into
potential breaches of party and election funding rules. The information
requested is held by the Commission in relation to its investigation. The
Party had a statutory right to make representations to the Commission once
it had been notified of the Commission’s initial view as to offences and
the proposed sanctions. That right to make representations specifically
includes the right to make representations as to any finding of offence,
as well as to the proposed sanctions.

 

Section 30(1) (a) (i) provides for exemption from disclosure of
information which has been held at any time by a public authority for the
purpose of any investigation which the authority has a duty to conduct
with a view to it being ascertained whether a person should be charged
with an offence. The section 30 exemption applies to information that is
held at any time, whether or not the investigation is on-going.

 

In this case there were a number of potential criminal offences which it
was necessary to consider in order to reach a view whether a person or
persons should be charged with a criminal offence. The representations
formed a significant element of that consideration.

 

Where there is not evidence of criminal activity, or in any event, the
Commission may consider civil breaches. In so far as the investigation
related to other potential breaches of PPERA, section 31 (1) (g) exempts
from disclosure information that would or would be likely to prejudice the
exercise of the Commission’s functions under PPERA for the purposes of
ascertaining whether any person has failed to comply with the law, as
provided by s31 (2)(a) of the FOI Act. Section 31 applies only to the
extent that the information is not exempt under section 30.

 

The Commission considers that disclosure of the representations would
prejudice the exercise of the Commission’s statutory functions and its
ability to conduct investigations such as in this matter. Such disclosure
would hinder the voluntary production of information by parties when
making representations, particularly where that information might be
sensitive or relate to individuals personal circumstances. Parties would
be less likely to disclose sensitive information that might be relevant to
the Commission’s consideration if that information was to be made public.

 

This would limit the Commission’s ability to obtain all relevant
information through representations, and reach informed decisions.

 

Applications of the section 30 and 31 exemption are both subject to the
public interest test. There are a number of factors that must be
considered and weighed in the balance. These factors are that:

 

The Commission has a statutory duty to monitor and take all reasonable
steps to secure compliance with the provisions of the PPERA when
conducting inquiries of this type. The public interest lies in enabling
the Commission to undertake inquiries as part of its investigation powers
so that it can make regulatory decisions based on a firm factual basis and
to gather such evidence and facts on a confidential basis. It is in the
public interest to maintain this confidentiality, as it encourages the
free and frank exchange of information from parties to the Commission
without which the Commission could not perform its statutory functions.

 

The Commission aims to be robust and fair in its regulatory decisions. We
acknowledge that there is a legitimate public interest in carrying out
investigations in an open and transparent way, and in promoting public
understanding of the decisions we make as a regulator. These are matters
we acknowledge and take into account, including when deciding whether to
disclose information, whilst ensuring proper regulation of party political
funding.

 

In order to promote transparency in our investigation procedures and
decision making the Commission published a comprehensive case summary (and
issued a press statement). This information is intended to provide the
public and those the Commission regulates with a clear understanding of
the issues considered by the Commission during the course of the
investigation, the information obtained in relation to those issues, and
the legal basis for the conclusions the Commission reached. The Commission
does not consider that releasing additional information beyond that
contained in the case summary would add to any material degree to the
public’s understanding of this case. In that respect, we note that the
published case summary included a summary of the party’s representations.

 

The release of the representations would be likely to prejudice the
exercise of the Commission’s statutory functions under PPERA and its
ability to conduct investigations such as this in the future. In carrying
out effective inquiries, and making informed and effective decisions, the
Commission depends on being able to obtain all relevant information from
parties. Additionally, the party, and others who provided information to
the investigation, including the representations made, had and continue to
have a reasonable expectation that the information provided in the course
of the investigation would not be made available to the public at large.
If information provided in the course of our investigation, including the
representations, was made public under the Act, it would make individuals
and entities reluctant to provide full disclosure in the future. This
would in turn impact on the type and quality of information provided to
the Commission during its investigation which would prejudice the
Commission’s ability to conduct its statutory functions.

 

Having carefully weighed the public interest relating to possible
disclosure of the information requested under Sections 30(1) (a) (i) and
31 (1) (g), we are satisfied that it is not appropriate at this time to
disclose the information which the Commission holds. The Commission is
satisfied that maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in
disclosure.

 

Section 40(2) and (3)(a)(i) of the FOI Act

 

Section 40(2) provides for an exemption where the information requested
constitutes personal data as defined by the Data Protection Act 1998
(DPA), and where release of the information requested would breach one of
the data protection principles.

 

Some of the information contained in the requested information falls
within the description of personal data as defined by section 1 of the DPA
because the information relates directly to an identifiable living
individual.

 

Some of the redactions we have made relate to direct contact information
of staff members and the names and contact details of junior staff
members. Other personal data has been withheld as it relates to sensitive
personal data of individuals. Disclosure of both types of personal data
would contravene the first principle of the DPA.

 

The first data protection principle states that personal data shall be
processed fairly and lawfully. The Commission considers that it would be
unfair to release the information requested as it would be reasonably
expected by those individuals

 

I trust that this information satisfies your request. The Commission
strives to be an open, transparent authority, but in some circumstances we
cannot responsibly release requested information, and we ask for your
understanding in this regard.

 

If you are not satisfied with this response, please note that the
Commission operates a review procedure, details of which can be found on
the Commission website at:
[2]http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/ab...

 

Please also note that if you have exhausted all internal Commission review
procedures and you are still not satisfied you have the right to appeal to
the Information Commissioner. Details of this procedure can be found on
the ICO website: [3]http://www.ico.gov.uk

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Ashley

 

Ashley Lardner

Senior Information and Knowledge Adviser

The Electoral Commission

3 Bunhill Row
London EC1Y 8YZ

[4][email address]

[5]electoralcommission.org.uk

[6]yourvotematters.co.uk

 

[7]Twitter | [8]Facebook | [9]Blog

 

[10]cid:image001.jpg@01D29672.633D0FF0

 

 

References

Visible links
1. http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/__...
2. http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/ab...
3. http://www.ico.gov.uk/
4. mailto:[email address]
5. https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/
6. https://www.yourvotematters.co.uk/
7. https://twitter.com/ElectoralCommUK
8. https://www.facebook.com/electoralcommis...
9. http://ukelectoralcommission.wordpress.c...
10. https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote

Dear Ashley,

Thank you for your response. I would like you to conduct an internal review, please, on the following grounds:
1. Misconstrual of the public interest. Your response does not seem to have considered factors in favour of disclosure, including (a) the health of our democracy, (b) the ability to see how the Electoral Commission handles an investigation, (c) the ability to see how accurately the Electoral Commission summarised the representations in its case summary.
2. You said: "The Commission does not consider that releasing additional information beyond that contained in the case summary would add to any material degree to the public’s understanding of this case. In that respect, we note that the published case summary included a summary of the party’s representations." But that is an argument in favour of disclosure: if the information I requested does not disclose anything substantially different to or beyond that which is already in the public domain, it logically follows that disclosure will not harm the Commission's interests.
3. You said: "The Commission depends on being able to obtain all relevant information from parties." I don't see how disclosure would affect this. The Commission has statutory powers to demand information from political parties whether they are willing to reveal it or not. In any event, the provision of PPERA requiring the Commission to seek representations from a party under investigation is there for the party's benefit, to ensure natural justice and to give them an opportunity to comment. It is in the party's interest to comment at this stage, and they will clearly not be deterred from doing so.
4. You said: "The party, and others who provided information to the investigation, including the representations made, had and continue to have a reasonable expectation that the information provided in the course of the investigation would not be made available to the public at large." This cannot be the case if you were possibly contemplating criminal proceedings.

Yours sincerely,
G Webber

FOI, Electoral Commission

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Dear G Webber,

 

Our Ref: FOI  22/17

 

Thank you for your email dated 11 April 2017 requesting an internal review
of the Freedom of Information request referenced above. The Commission
aims to respond to requests for internal review promptly and within a
recommended time frame of twenty working days.

 

You may expect to receive a reply from the Commission by Friday 12 May
2017.

 

Kind regards,

 

Ashley

 

Ashley Lardner

Senior Information and Knowledge Adviser

The Electoral Commission

3 Bunhill Row
London EC1Y 8YZ
[1][email address]

[2]electoralcommission.org.uk

[3]yourvotematters.co.uk

 

[4]Twitter | [5]Facebook | [6]Blog

 

[7]cid:image001.jpg@01D29672.633D0FF0

 

References

Visible links
1. mailto:[email address]
2. https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/
3. https://www.yourvotematters.co.uk/
4. https://twitter.com/ElectoralCommUK
5. https://www.facebook.com/electoralcommis...
6. http://ukelectoralcommission.wordpress.c...
7. https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote

FOI, Electoral Commission

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    FOI 22 17 Representations made by Conservative Party Internal Review Response.pdf

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Dear Gabriel Webber,

Our Ref: FOI 22/17 – Internal Review

Thank you for your request for an internal review in regards to our
response of FOI 22/17, which relates to Conservative Party
Representations.

Please find attached the Commission’s response.

If you are not satisfied by the conducted review you have the right to
appeal to the Information Commissioner. Details of this procedure can be
found on the ICO website: [1]http://www.ico.gov.uk

Your sincerely,

 

Ashley

 

Ashley Lardner

Senior Information and Knowledge Adviser

The Electoral Commission

3 Bunhill Row
London EC1Y 8YZ
[2][Electoral Commission request email]

[3]electoralcommission.org.uk

[4]yourvotematters.co.uk

 

[5]Twitter | [6]Facebook | [7]Blog

 

References

Visible links
1. http://www.ico.gov.uk/
2. mailto:[Electoral Commission request email]
3. https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/
4. https://www.yourvotematters.co.uk/
5. https://twitter.com/ElectoralCommUK
6. https://www.facebook.com/electoralcommis...
7. http://ukelectoralcommission.wordpress.c...