HMT Briefing Document (and publication date) distributed to MPs prior to the Finance Bill Report Stage debate in HoC on 1st July 2020

The request was successful.

Dear Her Majesty's Treasury,

A briefing document from HMT was distributed to MPs prior to the Finance Bill Report Stage debate in the House of Commons on 1st July 2020. This summarised HMT's position in relation to the proposed amendments (tabled by MPs) which were due to be debated on this date. Please supply an exact copy of this briefing document, with all wording unchanged, and indicate the date it was published and distributed to those MPs.

Yours faithfully,

Corinne Booker

FOI Requests, Her Majesty's Treasury

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eCase@hmtreasury.gov.uk on behalf of FOI Requests, Her Majesty's Treasury

Our ref: FOI2020/27722

Dear Ms Booker,

Thank you for your request for information which we are considering under
the terms of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

This is to confirm receipt of your request and to let you know that it is
receiving attention. If you have any enquiries regarding your request do
not hesitate to contact us.

Please note: HM Treasury has a dedicated email address for the public to
make Freedom of Information requests: [email address]

Yours sincerely

Information Rights Unit | Correspondence and Information Rights | HM
Treasury, 1 Horse Guards Road, London, SW1A 2HQ [1]www.gov.uk/hm-treasury

Correspondence and Information Rights | HM Treasury, 1 Horse Guards Road,
London, SW1A 2HQ [2]www.gov.uk/hm-treasury

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2. http://www.gov.uk/hm-treasury

FOI Requests, Her Majesty's Treasury

1 Attachment

Dear Ms Booker

 

Please find attached an interim letter in response to your Freedom of
Information request.

 

Yours sincerely

 

Information Rights Unit | HM Treasury, 1 Horse Guards Road, London, SW1A
2HQ   [1]www.gov.uk/hm-treasury

 

 

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Dear Her Majesty's Treasury,

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

I am writing to request an internal review of Her Majesty's Treasury's handling of my FOI request 'HMT Briefing Document (and publication date) distributed to MPs prior to the Finance Bill Report Stage debate in HoC on 1st July 2020'.

On the last day of the legal limit for responding to FOI requests, I received an interim response from the Information Rights Unit, confirming that they have identified information which falls within the scope of my request, but believe this 'may engage the exemption provided for by section 35(1)(a) - formulation and development of Government policy'.

As a result of the above, I have also been informed that the Treasury has not yet resolved the 'different considerations' within the twenty working days which have already passed (although stating that they always aim to do so) and there is now an estimate of another four weeks required in order to undertake the aforementioned exercise.

I feel it is necessary to challenge both of these claims at this juncture - firstly, the FOI request relates to the provision of a briefing document distributed to MPs, not a policy document which may or may not be at the formulation or development stage. The legislation relating to this policy is already in place (via the Finance (No.2) Act 2017) and the briefing document referenced in the FOI request contained the Treasury's opinion and view on specific (related) amendments to the Finance Bill 2019-21, which had themselves been tabled by a large number of cross-party MPs supportive of those proposed changes.

Secondly, having already had twenty working days to consider this request, the estimate of another four weeks seems excessive and I would therefore politely request this exercise is expedited to enable a decision to be made within a more appropriate and reasonable time frame.

Thirdly, there are tens of thousands of individuals affected by this legislation, so the 'public interest' in the provision of this briefing document from the Treasury, alongside the other information requested at the same time, would certainly appear to clearly meet the required criteria on numbers alone. One might also assume that the Treasury would be confident in the accuracy and content of their briefing to MPs and therefore have no issue in demonstrating complete transparency by releasing that in to the public domain.

I await your considered response.

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

Yours faithfully,

Corinne Booker

FOI Requests, Her Majesty's Treasury

Dear Ms Booker

Thank you for your email regarding your request for an internal review.

I can confirm that your review request was received on 13 August 2020 and
is receiving attention under our reference IR2020/31017.

There is no statutory deadline for responding to internal review requests.

However, in line with the Information Commissioner’s guidelines and the
2018 FOI Code of Practice, we aim to complete internal reviews within 20
working days.

Yours sincerely

Information Rights Unit | Correspondence and Information Rights | HM
Treasury, 1 Horse Guards Road, London, SW1A 2HQ [1]www.gov.uk/hm-treasury

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Dear FOI Requests,

Thank you for confirming you will now initiate an internal review following my previous response.

You reference the Information Commissioner's guidelines in relation to the estimated timeline for this review - may I also request that attention is paid to the good practice outlined for this process on ico.org.uk (under the section 45 code of practice), which clearly states that you should:

* make sure it is a straightforward, single-stage process;
* make a fresh decision based on all the available evidence that is relevant to the date of the request, not
just a review of the first decision;
* ensure the review is done by someone who did not deal with the request, where possible, and preferably
by a more senior member of staff; and
* ensure the review takes no longer than 20 working days in most cases, or 40 in exceptional circumstances (which must be accordingly justified and communicated).

Yours sincerely,

Corinne Booker

FOI Requests, Her Majesty's Treasury

1 Attachment

Dear Ms Booker

Please find attached a letter in response to your Internal Review request.

Yours sincerely

Information Rights Unit | HM Treasury, 1 Horse Guards Road, London, SW1A
2HQ   [1]www.gov.uk/hm-treasury

This email and any files transmitted with it are intended solely for the
use of the individual(s) to whom they are addressed. If you are not the
intended recipient and have received this email in error, please notify
the sender and delete the email. This footnote also confirms that our
email communications may be monitored to ensure the secure and effective
operation of our systems and for other lawful purposes, and that this
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Dear HMT (Information Rights Unit),

I acknowledge receipt of your confirmation that, following this internal review, another Treasury colleague conveniently believes your original decision to delay provision of this document was correct.

You comment that the three separate points made in my request for an internal review have been acknowledged, but conspicuously fail to respond directly to any of those points in this reply, merely stating (and repeating) exactly the same justification outlined in your original interim response dated 11 August.

Given your reference to an 'exemption provided for by section 35(1)(a) - formulation and development of Government policy', please could you explain what specific criteria is used in relation to a briefing document (and NOT a policy document) which has been issued to MPs, and how any retrospective categorisation of that document could possibly be considered as 'formulating' or 'developing' Government policy, when that policy is already incorporated within EXISTING legislation?

It seems reasonable (and entirely objective) to conclude that, on the basis of this particular request and how it is being managed internally, there is a concern within the Treasury that the release of this information to the public domain would appear to be against the interests of the Treasury themselves, rather than against the interests of those constituent members of the public represented by the MPs to whom this was sent. I trust that, should this request be delayed any further, the Information Commissioner would duly concur with this evaluation.

In closing, please can you kindly confirm that the time frame referenced in that interim response will therefore still apply - i.e. approximately four weeks from 11 August 2020, with a reply being made sooner if possible as per your publicly stated Treasury commitment to FOI requesters.

Yours sincerely,

Corinne Booker

FOI Requests, Her Majesty's Treasury

3 Attachments

Dear Ms Booker

 

Further to our interim letter of 11 August 2020, please find attached a
letter in response to your Freedom of Information request.

 

Yours sincerely

 

Information Rights Unit | HM Treasury, 1 Horse Guards Road, London, SW1A
2HQ   [1]www.gov.uk/hm-treasury

This email and any files transmitted with it are intended solely for the
use of the individual(s) to whom they are addressed. If you are not the
intended recipient and have received this email in error, please notify
the sender and delete the email. This footnote also confirms that our
email communications may be monitored to ensure the secure and effective
operation of our systems and for other lawful purposes, and that this
email has been swept for malware and viruses.

References

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1. http://www.gov.uk/hm-treasury

FOI Requests, Her Majesty's Treasury

Dear Ms Booker

Thank you for your email of 28 August 2020. Apologies for the delay in
replying to this email.

Our letter dated 9 September 2020 provided our response to your FOI
request in full (under our reference FOI2020/27722), including a release
of information.

Yours sincerely

Information Rights Unit | HM Treasury, 1 Horse Guards Road, London, SW1A
2HQ [1]www.gov.uk/hm-treasury

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