EU Referendum Campaigning

William Pullen 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 successful.

Dear Electoral Commission,

1. Please provide a copy of the EUR2 form and all supporting documentation submitted by Vote Leave when applying to be the official EU Referendum Out Campaign.

2. Please provide a copy of the agreement entered into after Vote Leave were awarded the position of the official EU Referendum Out Campaign.

3. Please confirm that the Electoral Commission is actively monitoring the conduct of the respective campaigns in the EU Referendum.

Yours faithfully,

William Pullen

FOI, Electoral Commission

Dear William Pullen,
 
Our Ref: FOI 40/16
 
Thank you for your request under the Freedom of Information Act dated
22^nd April 2016, received by the Commission on 25^th April 2016,
concerning:

1. Please provide a copy of the EUR2 form and all supporting documentation
submitted by Vote Leave when applying to be the  official EU Referendum
Out Campaign.
 
2. Please provide a copy of the agreement entered into after Vote Leave
were awarded the position of the official EU Referendum Out Campaign.
 
3. Please confirm that the Electoral Commission is actively monitoring the
conduct of the respective campaigns in the EU Referendum.
 
 
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 23^rd May
2016.
 
 
Yours sincerely
 
 
Paul O’Malley
Information Adviser (Records Management)
The Electoral Commission
3 Bunhill Row
London EC1Y 8YZ
Tel: 020 7271 0554
Fax: 020 7271 0665
[1]www.electoralcommission.org.uk
[2]www.aboutmyvote.co.uk
 
Putting voters first
 
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FOI, Electoral Commission

6 Attachments

Dear William Pullen,

 

Our Ref: FOI 40/16

 

Thank you for your request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOI
Act) dated 22 April 2016.

 

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:

 

1. Please provide a copy of the EUR2 form and all supporting documentation
submitted by Vote Leave when applying to be the  official EU Referendum
Out Campaign.

 

2. Please provide a copy of the agreement entered into after Vote Leave
were awarded the position of the official EU Referendum Out Campaign.

 

3. Please confirm that the Electoral Commission is actively monitoring the
conduct of the respective campaigns in the EU Referendum.

 

Our response is as follows:

 

The Electoral Commission holds information provided by Vote Leave Ltd. in
its application for designation as the lead campaigner for the ‘Leave’
outcome at the EU referendum which may contain relevant information in
relation to this request. Some of the information you have requested we
have released. The remaining information, however, is exempt and has
either been redacted or withheld (see below for our consideration of the
exemptions).

 

Under the European Union Referendum Act 2015 (the EU Referendum Act),
which applied the provisions set out in the Political Parties, Elections
and Referendums Act 2000 (PPERA), the Electoral Commission was required to
consider any applications from registered referendum campaigners to be
designated as the lead campaigner for either of the outcomes at the June
2016 EU referendum. [1]Application forms and [2]guidance were available on
the Commission’s website, and the application period ran from 4 March 2016
to 31 March 2016.

 

 

In response to the specific questions asked in your request:

 

1. All information relating to the designation of lead campaigners at the
EU referendum (including all application documents, Commission Board
decision papers and minutes of the Commission Board meeting at which the
designation decisions were made) has been published on the Commission’s
website at:
[3]http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/fi....

 

The EUR2 form submitted by Vote Leave can be downloaded from the
Commission’s website at:
[4]http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/__...

 

The applicants’ campaign strategies and all personal data have been
redacted from these papers under section 40, 43 and 36 FOI Act as outlined
below.

 

2. We have released documents that were sent by the Electoral Commission
to Vote Leave after they were designated the lead campaigner for the
‘Leave’ outcome at the Referendum. These documents include:

 

-       a copy of a letter sent by the Electoral Commission informing Vote
Leave that their application to be designated as lead campaigner for the
‘Leave’ outcome has been successful;

-       a copy of the terms and conditions of the Grant made available by
the Electoral Commission to each Designated Organisation for the
Referendum;

-       a copy of the Grant Acceptance Form that was sent to Vote Leave;

-       a copy of the template grant expenditure claim form that was sent
to Vote Leave; and

-       the template list of items purchased for more than £200 that was
sent to Vote Leave.

 

 

3. The Commission checks the information that registered campaigners
provide to us, and evaluates the risk of those we regulate to prioritise
our compliance monitoring. In the run-up to major elections and
referendums we also carry out targeted campaign monitoring to check that
people are complying with the rules on spending and donations.

 

Further information may be found in our Briefing Note which sets out our
approach to campaign monitoring in the lead up to the referendum on the
UK’s membership of the European Union and is available at:
[5]http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/__...

 

 

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

In the information we are releasing, we have redacted some of the
information in the documents. Section 40(2) provides for an exemption
where the information requested constitutes personal data as defined by
the Data Protection Act 2000 (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.

 

Section 43(2) of the FOI Act

 

Section 43(2) provides for exemption from disclosure information that
would or would be likely to prejudice the commercial interests of any
person. In this circumstance, the information we hold relates to the
commercial interests of a third party, Vote Leave, the lead campaigner for
the Leave outcome in the EU Referendum. The information relates to their
campaign strategy for the EU Referendum and contains relevant confidential
information. We have consulted with Vote Leave  and they have stated to
release these documents would prejudice their commercial interests as it
could have a detrimental impact on their ability to campaign.

 

Application of this exemption is also subject to the public interest test.
The Commission recognises there is a public interest in understanding how
public funds are spent in an open and accountable manner.

 

There is also a public interest in companies being able to compete fairly
within the market in which they operate and therefore not putting
companies at a commercial disadvantage. Releasing this information
relating to technical configurations would weaken their ability to
participate competitively in the market and put them at a commercial
disadvantage.

 

Having carefully weighed the public interest relating to possible
disclosure of the information requested under section 43(2), 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 41 of the FOI Act

 

Section 41(1) states that information is exempt from disclosure if it was
obtained by the public authority from any other person and the disclosure
would constitute an actionable breach of confidence. To constitute an
actionable breach of confidence, the following criteria applies: the
information must not be publicly available elsewhere, an understanding of
confidentiality must have been made and there must a detriment to the
confider if the information is released.

 

The ‘Campaign Capacity’ section of the designation application was
provided to the Commission by a third party, Vote Leave. The information
contained in that section is not publicly available. The Commission made
an explicit statement, during the designation application process, that
this information would be kept confidential. We have been in contact with
Vote Leave and they have stated the release of this information would have
a detrimental effect to their campaign.

 

Application of this exemption is also subject to the public interest test.
The Commission recognises there is a public interest in transparency and
accountability of public decision making. In efforts to promote public
understanding of our designation decision making, we have published
numerous documents from the application process and documents setting out
the Commission’s decision. There is also a public interest in maintaining
confidentiality as releasing information would discourage individuals and
organisations from confiding in the Commission or providing us with
confidential information necessary to the conduct of our statutory
functions.

 

Having carefully weighed the public interest relating to possible
disclosure of the information requested under section 41(1), we are
satisfied that it is not appropriate at this time to disclose the
information which the Commission holds. The Commission considers this
information exempt under section 41(1) as it would not be lawful to
provide you with the information requested as it would lead to an
actionable breach of confidence. We do not consider that there are
overriding matters of public interest here which would justify breaching
confidentiality.

The Commission is satisfied that maintaining the exemption outweighs the
public interest in disclosure.

 

Section 36 of the FOI Act

 

In addition to section 41 and 43, we consider section 36(2)(c) of FOIA is
engaged in relation to the requested information. Section 36(2)(c)
provides that information is exempt if in the reasonable opinion of the
qualified person, disclosure of the information would, or would be likely
to, prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs.

 

The documents you requested contain confidential financial and campaign
information which was provided to the Commission by Vote Leave as part of
their application for designation. Section 36 applies where in the
reasonable opinion of a qualified person, disclosure of the information
would, or would be likely to, inhibit the free and frank exchange of views
for the purposes of deliberation.

The Commission’s qualified person for the purpose of this request is our
Deputy Chief Executive, Carolyn Hughes, and she has decided that the
exemption applies in this case. This is because the records to information
provided to the Commission in confidence as part of our statutory
functions.

We have discussed this matter with Vote Leave and they agreed that there
would be prejudice to future exchanges if this information is released.
There is strong public interest in the Commission and organisations we
regulate being able to discuss matters and a release of this information
would have a detrimental effect on any such communication. Furthermore,
release of this information would be likely to prejudice any future
designation applications as the organisations would be less likely to
provide us with information needed to assess their applications.

 

Exemptions under s.36 of FOIA are subject to the public interest test,
where information must be disclosed if the public interest in disclosure
outweighs the public interest in maintaining the exemption. On balance,
the qualified person has confirmed that the public interest falls in
favour of not releasing this information.

 

 

 

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:
[6]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: [7]http://www.ico.gov.uk

 

Yours sincerely

 

 

Paul O’Malley

Information Adviser (Records Management)

The Electoral Commission

3 Bunhill Row

London EC1Y 8YZ

Tel: 020 7271 0554

Fax: 020 7271 0665

[8]www.electoralcommission.org.uk

[9]www.aboutmyvote.co.uk

 

Putting voters first

 

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References

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