Correspondence between PASC/PACAC and UKSA/ONS

The request was refused by UK Statistics Authority.

Dear UK Statistics Authority,

Can you please publish all letters/emails sent between PASC/PACAC and UKSA/ONS since the passing of the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007.

Yours faithfully,

Simon Briscoe

system@share.ons.gov.uk,

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References

Visible links
1. mailto:[UK Statistics Authority request email]
2. https://www.ons.gov.uk/aboutus/transpare...

FOI Team, UK Statistics Authority

Our Reference: FOI/2022/3977

 

Dear Simon,

 

Thank you for your email requesting data pertaining to correspondence
between PASC/PACAC and UKSA/ONS.

 

I am writing to confirm that the Office for National Statistics has now
completed its search for the information which you requested and the
response can be found here:

You asked:

Please publish all letters/emails sent between PASC/PACAC and UKSA/ONS
since the passing of the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007.

 

We said:

​Thank you for your request.

 

The information you have requested is exempt from disclosure under Section
14(1) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA).

 

We understand that in order to fulfil our underlying commitment to
transparency and openness, we must allow for a certain level of
disruption, particularly where a request has a serious purpose and value
to the public.

 

However, we do not believe that this request has such serious purpose or
value. It is very broad and vague, covering a large amount of material.
This is reminiscent of a fishing exercise, rather than a directed,
purpose-led request for information surrounding, for example, a particular
topic.

 

It could be argued that the requested information would contain valuable
information regarding decision-making or key topics of discussion between
PASC/PACAC and the UKSA. However, if the intention of this request was to
obtain such information, we would expect the request to be more targeted
to ensure that the legitimate purpose of understanding our or PACAC's work
is fulfilled. Furthermore, there is already established transparency in
this area, as formal correspondence between the two parties is actively
published on the [1]UK Statistics Authority website and the [2]UK
Parliamentary website. Therefore, we do not believe that the potential
value of a small subset of the information counterbalances the distinct
lack of serious purpose for such a broad request.

 

Additionally, as the requested information would contain a substantial
amount of email correspondence, significant resource would need to be
dedicated to personal data redactions. Further resource would also be
required to scrutinise the requested information to see if any FOIA
exemptions need to be applied. Owing to the scale of the information
requested, undertaking this task would place a grossly oppressive burden
on our organisation.

 

On balance therefore, we do not believe the purpose of this request
justifies, or is proportionate to, the level of disruption actioning this
request would cause.

 

If you would like to request information on a particular topic of
discussion, or decision made, this should be included in any future
Freedom of Information request.

 

You have the right to have this response to your Freedom of Information
request reviewed internally by an internal review process and, if you
remain unhappy with the decision, by the Information Commissioner. If you
would like to have the decision reviewed please email the Freedom of
Information Team at ‘[UK Statistics Authority request email]’ or write to The FoI Team, Office
for National Statistics, Segensworth Road, Titchfield PO15 5RR, and mark
your correspondence "Internal Review".

If you have any queries about this email, please contact the Freedom of
Information Team ('[UK Statistics Authority request email]').

Please remember to quote the reference number above in any future
communications.

 

The Freedom of Information Team

Office for National Statistics

 

For information on Coronavirus, please visit [3]ONS.gov.uk/coronavirus

 

References

Visible links
1. https://uksa.statisticsauthority.gov.uk/...
2. https://committees.parliament.uk/committ...
3. http://ons.gov.uk/coronavirus

Dear FOI Team,

Thank you for your reply.

I note the refusal under section 14. In trying to understand your decision I have looked at https://ico.org.uk/media/action-weve-tak...

That ICO document says: "16. The Commissioner’s view is that fishing expedition requests may be vexatious, but only where the impact of them would be disproportionate or unjustified. In line with this, he has considered two main issues here; first, whether the complainant’s request can be accurately characterised as a fishing expedition, and secondly, if that is the case, whether its impact would be disproportionate or unjustified. "

On the first point, it is not a fishing exercise. I want to understand fully the relationship between the regulator and the regulated. A full sense of that relationship will not be given by the rare letters ("formal correspondence" as you say) between the heads of the two organisations. I want to see - and it's in the public interest to see - the records of contact between staff at working level. This is especially relevant now as a review of the relationship is about to start. There is no fishing here as there would be no need for a follow up request if this request was dealt with positively.

I'd also like to lift some lines from ICO guidance: “…that the starting point is that vexatiousness primarily involves making a request which has no reasonable foundation, that is, no reasonable foundation for thinking that the information sought would be of value to the requester or to the public or any section of the public. …… The decision maker should consider all the relevant circumstances in order to reach a balanced conclusion as to whether a request is vexatious”. https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/gui...

My request has a limited burden, a clear motive, and the value and serious purpose is clear. https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/gui...

Although not relevant in this case as I beleive it not to be a vexatious request, the ICO note continues: "19. The next step is to consider what the impact of the request may be. The Commissioner’s guidance gives the following examples of where a fishing expedition request may be vexatious:
- Imposes a burden by obliging the authority to sift through a substantial volume of information to isolate and extract the relevant details;
- Encompasses information which is only of limited value because of the wide scope of the request;
- Creates a burden by requiring the authority to spend a considerable amount of time considering any exemptions and redactions. "

The first of these is most unlikely to apply - there is unlikely to be a "substantial volume of information" between the office and PACAC. The second does not apply as this is not s fishing exercise and the purpose is, in any case, now clear. The third is unlikely to be an issue given the first point above.

Obviously I disagree with your comment: "On balance therefore, we do not believe the purpose of this request justifies, or is proportionate to, the level of disruption actioning this request would cause."

Please treat this in the first instance as a clarification. If you do not change your mind, please send it for internal review.

Yours sincerely,

Simon Briscoe

Dear FOI Team,

Hello. I don't seem to have received a response to my email of 14 April. Can I please have one?

Yours sincerely,

Simon Briscoe

FOI Team, UK Statistics Authority

Dear Simon,

Thank you for your email and apologies for our lack of acknowledgement.

We are investigating this as an internal review. Please be assured that we are working on this and will have a response with you as soon as we are able.

Kind regards,
Lois
 
The Freedom of Information Team | UK Statistics Authority | Awdurdod Ystadegau’r Deyrnas Unedig
@UKStatsAuth | [email address] | http://www.statisticsauthority.gov.uk

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FOI Team, UK Statistics Authority

1 Attachment

Dear Simon,

Please see attached our response to your request for internal review.

Kind regards,
Lois
 
The Freedom of Information Team | UK Statistics Authority | Awdurdod Ystadegau’r Deyrnas Unedig
@UKStatsAuth | [email address] | http://www.statisticsauthority.gov.uk

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