FOI requests to HMRC which have been referred to the Cabinet Office 'clearing house'

HM Revenue and Customs did not have the information requested.

Dear HM Revenue and Customs,

Please supply a list of all FOI requests which have been submitted to HMRC on the subject of, or containing a reference to, any of the specified subjects below, and which have been subsequently referred to the Cabinet Office 'clearing house'.

1. Loan Charge
2. Disguised remuneration (DR)
3. HMRC and/or RCDTS contractors
4. Emails to/from any of the following: Jim Harra, Mary Aiston, Amyas Morse, Tom Scholar, Ruth Stanier, Justin Holliday
5. Counter Avoidance

Yours faithfully,

Adam Bridgen

FOI Team, HM Revenue and Customs

Our ref: FOI2021/10472

Dear Mr Bridgen,

Freedom of Information Act 2000 Acknowledgement

Thank you for your communication of 14th May which has been passed to
HMRC's Freedom of Information Team.

We have allocated the above reference which you should quote if you need
to contact us.

The Team will arrange for a reply to be sent to you which will either
comply with HMRC's obligations under Freedom of Information Act or, if we
think it's an enquiry that we don't need to address under the terms of the
Act, let you know why. If it is the latter we will, if possible, pass it
on to a more appropriate part of the Department for answer.

As you will appreciate, the coronavirus pandemic has provided
unprecedented challenges for Government Departments including HMRC. Over
the coming weeks our priorities are to provide critical existing and new
Public Services for Government to support customers during this difficult
time. As a result, resources may be diverted away from usual compliance or
information rights work. HMRC aims to respond to all FOIA Requests within
20 working days. If for whatever reason this timescale cannot be complied
with HMRC will, where possible, write to you explaining the reason for the
delay and providing an estimated time for response.

Yours sincerely

HMRC Freedom of Information Act Team

FOI Team, HM Revenue and Customs

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Bridgen,

We are writing in response to your request for information, received 14
May.

Yours sincerely,

HMRC Freedom of Information Team

Dear HM Revenue and Customs,

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

I am writing to request an internal review of HM Revenue and Customs's handling of my FOI request 'FOI requests to HMRC which have been referred to the Cabinet Office 'clearing house''.

Thank you for your response of 17 May, confirming that no (i.e. zero) FOI requests, maintained within the database of information you hold from 2016 to date and which relate to the subjects identified in points 1-5 in my own submission, have been referred to the Cabinet Office 'clearing house'.

However, based on the Cabinet Office and Freedom of Information guidance published on gov.uk, which insists that 'the Cabinet Office plays a vital role in ensuring compliance with the Freedom of Information Act across Government, providing assistance on complex FOI requests while also making sure sensitive information is handled appropriately', the following facts are established -

1. HM Revenue and Customs, as a non-ministerial department of Government, is officially within the 'Clearing House Remit', as published on gov.uk.

2. An additional document -'Cabinet Office Referral Criteria'- indicates that departments may refer complex or round robin FOI requests to the Cabinet Office for advice and guidance and PARTICULARLY where requests relate to matters (amongst others) listed below:

● Significant policy development cases engaging both section 35/36 especially where there is a cross cutting interest
● Implementation of significant or high profile policy initiatives
● Cases involving high political sensitivity including confidence and supply agreement, passage of legislation, high profile policy issues, unauthorised disclosures of information
● Cabinet and Cabinet Committee documents (including correspondence)
● Ministers/very senior officials (past and present) including collective responsibility, conduct, diaries and personal information, cross-cutting scope
● Sensitive information relating to major government projects and any reports of such projects (Project Assurance Reports / Gateway reviews)
● Honours and significant public appointments
● Expectation there will be significant wider interest in the topic of the request at the time
● Internal Reviews/ICO cases where the original case was referred
● ICO Decision Notices from cases not previously referred where Ministers decide to appeal or where the ICO order disclosure of sensitive information
● Round Robins and suspected Round Robins

It is abundantly clear from the above list that a significant number of prior requests submitted to HMRC (on the subjects referenced in my own request) would unquestionably meet the stated criteria and that the Cabinet Office would therefore expect these to be referred, stating as they do - 'it is especially important for complex FOI requests where we are obliged to balance the need to make information available with our legal duties under the FOI Act to protect sensitive information' and 'a coordination function ensures there is a consistent approach so all those submitting FOIs are treated in a similar and fair manner by departments'.

A cursory glance at prior requests to HMRC reveals (for example) FOI2018/01856, which was refused under section 35 of the FOIA because 'the information relates to the formulation of government policy' - the very FIRST entry on the Cabinet Office Referral Criteria list published by government. It would be reasonable to assume there have been many others refused using exactly the same exemption and many others which directly relate to the other 'matters' detailed above.

Yet, you are publicly denying that even a single FOI request to HMRC which relates to the Loan Charge, Disguised remuneration (DR) or any other request for information relating to those subjects in my points 3-5 have ever been referred to the Cabinet Office?

Given the close scrutiny being applied to the subject of Freedom of Information legislation and the associated requests to government by numerous bodies (such as the Guardian News & Media Group, the Society of Editors, openDemocracy etc.), I would now like you to review your original response and perhaps reconsider the information you have provided, which stretches credulity to its very limits and offers no tangible evidence to substantiate your 'claim'. If this is supposedly true, then to whom and where HAVE those FOI requests on the subjects listed been referred - which department within HMRC, which senior civil servant, which director (or deputy director), which executive officer?

Should you persist with the stance that none are 'held' as none are 'in scope', then I will escalate accordingly and share that information as I consider appropriate.

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

Yours faithfully,

Adam Bridgen

FOI Team, HM Revenue and Customs

Our ref: IR2021/11265

Dear Mr Bridgen,

Freedom of Information Act 2000 Acknowledgement

Thank you for your communication of 20th May which has been passed to
HMRC's Freedom of Information Team.

We have allocated the above reference which you should quote if you need
to contact us.

The Team will arrange for a reply to be sent to you which will either
comply with HMRC's obligations under Freedom of Information Act or, if we
think it's an enquiry that we don't need to address under the terms of the
Act, let you know why. If it is the latter we will, if possible, pass it
on to a more appropriate part of the Departmen t for answer.

As you will appreciate, the coronavirus pandemic has provided
unprecedented challenges for Government Departments including HMRC. Over
the coming weeks our priorities are to provide critical existing and new
Public Services for Government to support customers during this difficult
time. As a result, resources may be diverted away from usual compliance or
information rights work. HMRC aims to respond to all FOIA Requests within
20 working days. If for whatever reason this timescale cannot be complied
with HMRC will, where possible, write to you explaining the reason for the
delay and providing an estimated time for response.

Yours sincerely

HMRC Freedom of Information Act Team

FOI Team, HM Revenue and Customs

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Bridgen,

We are writing in response to your request for information, received 20
May.

Yours sincerely,

HMRC Freedom of Information Team