Digital Economy Council minutes

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Open Rights Group

Dear Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport,

Please can you send me the minutes of the meeting of the Digital Economy Council, Monday 3 July 2017 as mentioned here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/power...

Yours faithfully,

Jim Killock

FOI Mailbox, Department for Culture, Media and Sport

Thank you for your email which is now being dealt with by the Freedom of
Information Team at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. 
You will receive a response to your information request within 20 working
days of receipt.
  

no-reply@dcms.ecase.co.uk on behalf of Correspondence Team, Department for Culture, Media and Sport

Dear Mr Killlock,

Thank you for your information request dated 4th July. You asked:

Please can you send me the minutes of the meeting of the Digital Economy
Council, Monday 3 July 2017 as mentioned here:
https://www.gov.uk/government/news/power...

We have dealt with your request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000
(the Act). I can confirm that the Department holds this information.
However, we have determined that this information is exempt from
disclosure under section 35 (a) (formulation of government policy) of the
Act. Section 35 is a 'qualified exemption' and requires us to carry out a
public interest test to consider whether the balance of interest lies in
releasing or withholding the information. In considering this, we have
paid particular regard to the arguments in favour of disclosure, including
that disclosure may be of benefit because:

* greater transparency makes government more accountable to the
electorate and increases trust;
* the desirability of citizens being confident that decisions are taken
on the basis of the best available information;
* knowledge that the arguments relating to a debate will be released
will in fact improve the quality of those arguments. Far from
inhibiting the frank provision of advice, there might be circumstances
where the prospect of disclosure would enhance the quality of advice.

However, while acknowledging these benefits we consider that on this
occasion the arguments for upholding the exemption and withholding the
information outweigh those in favour of disclosure. In particular,
consideration of the following factors has led us to the conclusion that
the public interest requires the exemption in section 35 to be upheld
because:

* Ministers and their officials need space in which to develop their
thinking and explore different options in communications and
discussions. We are continuing to use the information at issue here to
inform the development of our ongoing policy;
* Ministers and their officials need to be able to think through all the
implications of different options. In particular, they need to be able
to undertake rigorous and candid assessments of the risks to
particular programmes and projects;
* good government depends on good decision making and this needs to be
based on the best advice available and a full consideration of all the
options - there may be a deterrent effect on external experts or
stakeholders who might be reluctant to provide advice because it might
be disclosed.

Yours sincerely,

Freedom of Information Team

Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport

4th floor, 100 Parliament Street

London SW1A 2BQ

www.gov.uk/dcms

Complaints and comments

As is customary in our replies, I would like to explain that if you are
dissatisfied with any aspect of our response to your request for
information and/or wish to appeal against information being withheld from
you please send full details within two calendar months of the date of
this email to: [email address]

You have the right to ask the Information Commissioner (ICO) to
investigate any aspect of your complaint. Please note that the ICO is
likely to expect internal complaints procedures to have been exhausted
before beginning an investigation.

Dear Department for Culture, Media and Sport,

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

I am writing to request an internal review of Department for Culture, Media and Sport's handling of my FOI request 'Digital Economy Council minutes'.

While I understand that some parts of minutes may sometimes subject to the policy making exemption, I believe that this would be better applied through redaction, than a blanket application of the exemption.

For instance, the topics discussed (agenda items) should not be a matter of secrecy, even if the discussions are. Indeed, knowing the topics discussed would allow others to remind ministers of things to consider, irrespective of their attendance and access to ministers. Here, public interest ought to outweigh any potential need to apply an exemption.

It will also not always be the case that material need not be published. The sensitivity of any topic ought to be applied on a case by case basis, going through the minutes in question.

Attendees and membership should also be a matter of public record.

Furthermore, it is currently the departments' practice to publish minutes from the Creative Industries Council, which is I presume an analogous body.

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

Yours faithfully,

Jim Killock
Open Rights Group

FOI Mailbox, Department for Culture, Media and Sport

Thank you for your email which is now being dealt with by the Freedom of
Information Team at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. 
You will receive a response to your information request within 20 working
days of receipt.
  

no-reply@dcms.ecase.co.uk on behalf of Correspondence Team, Department for Culture, Media and Sport

1 Attachment

  • Attachment

    IR FOI2017 01554 Digital Economy Council minutes and workplan boxed 1.pdf

    82K Download View as HTML

Internal Review of FOI2017/01554

Jim Killock

[FOI #416063 email]

Dear Mr Killlock,

Thank you for your email of 21 September in which you requested an
internal review of your information request of 4 July. Your latest request
was as follows:

I am writing to request an internal review of Department for Culture,
Media and Sport's handling of my FOI request 'Digital Economy Council
minutes'.

While I understand that some parts of minutes may sometimes subject to the
policy making exemption, I believe that this would be better applied
through redaction, than a blanket application of the exemption.

For instance, the topics discussed (agenda items) should not be a matter
of secrecy, even if the discussions are. Indeed, knowing the topics
discussed would allow others to remind ministers of things to consider,
irrespective of their attendance and access to ministers. Here, public
interest ought to outweigh any potential need to apply an exemption.

It will also not always be the case that material need not be published.
The sensitivity of any topic ought to be applied on a case by case basis,
going through the minutes in question.

Attendees and membership should also be a matter of public record.

Furthermore, it is currently the departments' practice to publish minutes
from the Creative Industries Council, which is I presume an analogous
body.

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

Your original request asked:

Please can you send me the minutes of the meeting of the Digital Economy
Council, Monday 3 July 2017 as mentioned here:
https://www.gov.uk/government/news/power...

I have dealt with your request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000
(the Act). I have re-examined the handling and scope of your original
request and I can confirm that the department does hold information in
scope of your request. I enclose a copy of the Minutes which contain a
list of attendees, agenda items and forward plan. However, we maintain
that some of this information is exempt from disclosure under section 35
(1)(a) (formulation and development of government policy) of the Act.

You are probably already aware that membership of the Digital Economy
Council, along with terms of reference, focus and ways of working can be
found here:
https://www.gov.uk/government/groups/dig....

Section 35 (1)(a) of the Freedom of Information Act allows civil servants
and Ministers private space to discuss issues and develop policy. For the
Digital Economy Council to function effectively, civil servants, Ministers
and members must be comfortable to speak openly and frankly.

Disclosure of these minutes could result in Ministers and civil servants
being less able to openly consult with stakeholders, such as the Digital
Economy Council members. Stakeholders could engage less due to concern
about the consequences of their contributions, for example being
misprepresented or seen to be causing undue influence.

There are a number of ongoing policy discussions with the tech sector and
it is in the public interest to preserve a safe space for policy making.
Disclosure could hinder the development of effective policy proposals. It
is paramount that civil servants at DCMS have space to test and develop
policy options with the tech sector effectively, engaging relevant
stakeholders where necessary, and out of the public eye before they are
publicly presented.

It is still the Department's view that, in this instance, the public
interest lies in not disclosing the information. Therefore we maintain
that, on balance, the public interest is better served by withholding this
information under Section 35 (1)(a) of the Act at this time.

Yours sincerely,

David Balloch

Freedom of Information Team Manager

Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport

4th floor, 100 Parliament Street

London SW1A 2BQ

www.gov.uk/dcms

Complaints and comments

If you are not content with the outcome of the internal review, you have
the right to apply directly to the Information Commissioner for a
decision. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at: Information
Commissioner's Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9
5AF.

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