Internal Reviews of 40 Working Days

Mr P Swift made this Freedom of Information request to Information Commissioner's Office

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The request was refused by Information Commissioner's Office.

Dear Information Commissioner's Office,

This request results from repeated references by the ICO to a 40-day rule for an Authroity to complete an Internal Review(IR) in contradiction to the 20-day ‘reasonable’ period and seemingly the ability of a Public Authority to take 40 days without explanation. For example, as can be found here:

1. In how many has the Authority, Highways England, undertaken an IR within 20 working days or less
2. With regard to those outside 20 working days, what explanation was provided by the authority?
3. Please provide me with an (anonymised) spreadsheet of the complaints you have received about the Highways England form 01/01/2017 to the present detailing:
a. Date of original FoIA request
b. Date of Authority response
c. Date of IR request
d. Date of IR response
e. Date to the ICO
f. ICO reference
g. Date ICO responded to the complainant
h. Date ICO wrote to the Authority
i. Date ICO received a reply from the Authority
j. Present position

If there are other dates held, these would be appreciated

4. With regard to the 20 day period for an IR, I ask to be provided:
a. The ICO policy with regard to this – the monitoring, enforcement and complaints about Authorities failing to respond within 20 working days
b. The enquiries the ICO makes of an Authority when they fail to complete and IR within 20 working days

I am seeking to understand the ’20 day rule for an IR’ as it appears this is not the period to which the ICO works, an Authority has carte blanche to respond and the 20 days stipulation is misleading, unrealistic and not enforced.

Any information to the contrary would also be appreciated.

"... significant or repeated unreasonable delays in dealing with internal reviews by public authorities are monitored and where appropriate further action may be taken. "

5. What is considered ‘significant’ and what is considered ‘repeated’ (how may occasions
6. what Authorities have had action taken against them for repeated unreasonable delays
7. what action is available to the ICO
8. what action has been taken against Highways England

It appears there is no monitoring, that the 20 days is unenforced and that the reasons given are not considered by the ICO. I would welcome any information that contradicts this appearance.

Yours faithfully,

Mr P Swift

Information Access Inbox, Information Commissioner's Office

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ICO Casework, Information Commissioner's Office

1 Attachment

22 September 2020

Case Reference: IC-53464-D2X3

Dear P Swift

Please find attached our response to your information request of 24

Yours sincerely,

Frederick Aspbury
Senior Case Officer
Information Commissioner's Office

Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow,
Cheshire SK9 5AF
T. 0330 414 6397 [1] [2]
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Elizabeth Baxter, Information Commissioner's Office

2 Attachments

Dear Mr Swift


Please find attached my information review outcome response to your case
reference IC53464-D2X3.




[1]Logo Elizabeth Baxter

Information Access Service Group Manager, Risk and Governance


Corporate Strategy and Planning Service


Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane,
Wilmslow, Cheshire SK9 5AF

T. 0330 3131840  F. 01625 524510  [2] 

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[4]privacy notice

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I do not believe this is a complicated issue – I wish to understand the application of the 40-day period for an Internal Review (IR). I have cited its application to Highways England because this is an Authority to which I have submitted a number of requests in respect of which, contrary to the ICO’s advice, there appears to be no justification required or sought for an IR to be completed after the expiration of 20 working days – that 40days is granted not because an Authority seeks an extension but because the ICO claims to consider this but does not.

I cannot speak for other Authority’s, just Highways England, who the ICO appears unwilling to challenge. Why?

I refer to your response to the request I made at your invitation at

I believe I have stated the obvious contradiction associated with my request and the ICO’s response.

I believe:

1. an Authority has 20 working days in which to undertake a request or internal review. It appears this is the law.

2. An Authority may extend this period:

a. In certain circumstances and
b. They should notify me of this intention

Where I have made requests and the Authority has neither responded or advised the circumstances for non-compliance with the 20-days,

3. I have taken issue with this – brought the matter to the attention of the ICO.

4. However, I have been berated by the ICO for not allowing the Authority 40 working days

5. I am informed the ICO may grant an extension, allow a delay.

6. I have no issue with this; all I expect is to be kept advised, for there to be a reasonable explanation and to know that my request is being considered

7. The ICO is permitting these extensions and it appears they are doing so because the Authority has satisfied the ICO an exemption has been met.

8. Yet, to date, I find no one example of the ICO has raised a question with an Authority, of having ascertained whether a delay/extension fits the criteria

9. When I raised this with the ICO, I was informed I could submit a FoIA request.

10. I did not do so immediately.

11. The conduct continued.

12. I, therefore, made the FOIA request (as invited)

13. Having done so the request was labelled ‘vexatious’, exempted.

I find this conduct bizarre. It appears the ICO has no explanation and that I was set up to fail. In what respect the invited request could possibly be considered vexatious, I am at a loss to understand.

Of the 16 page response today from the ICO, half of one page deals with the consideration of my detailed explanation which I repeat as a skeleton (above).

The ICO is allowing 40 working days as a matter of course and providing contradictory information about this. It does not appear any consideration is being given to the Authority’s conduct, that explanation for the failure to comply with the 20 days is being sought, that none is required. This makes a mockery of the documented procedures – the ICO is not complying with their own policy/process

It appears this aspect of the legislation is ignored by the ICO, that the ICO is a law unto themselves with no one to answer to and therefore cares less about behaviour and justification.

I wish to understand this 40-day process and its application to an Authority.

Complaint submitted online 26/10/2020

Elizabeth Baxter, Information Commissioner's Office

Mr Swift

As stated in my information review response:

"This concludes my information review and this is my full and final response. As per my colleagues earlier response, we will not be commenting any further on this matter nor responding to any correspondence of the same."

I have nothing to add and will not be responding to any further emails of the same matter.

Elizabeth Baxter
Information Access Service Group Manager, Risk and Governance Department

Corporate Strategy and Planning Service

Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire SK9 5AF
T. 0330 3131840  F. 01625 524510
For information about what we do with personal data see our privacy notice
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show quoted sections

Dear Elizabeth Baxter,

Whilst I thank you or the response within minutes of my writing, none was sought. However, your reply supports the conduct described by Ms Clements of your office - you do not read what I submit, my issues appear to be filed under 'too complicated', something for a Tribunal to be troubled with.

Had you made it to the end of the above submission you would have noted:

'Complaint submitted online 26/10/2020'. The reason being, I read what I am provided and act in accordance with the direction (you supplied) where necessary. Unfortunately, the link you referred me to has a character limit of 2000. Accordingly, I could not utilise this to convey mine of earlier in full as it is 2692 characters. The online complaint submission, therefore, the 'Complaint submitted online 26/10/2020'refers the reader to this thread and the detail.

I had not expected you to respond, for the above reason and because you had previously written 'we will not be commenting any further on this matter nor responding to any correspondence of the same'. I shall refrain from obvious facetious comments about further contradictions and comprehension but my concerns about the professionalism and competence of the ICO are fuelled.

Yours sincerely,

Mr P Swift

Ishrat Begum left an annotation ()

You pay little you get people with little.
£22,288 for a case office
£27,280 for lead case officer.
You seem to have caught them out and they are wriggling. How about giving them a way out?

Mr P Swift left an annotation ()

You cannot help those who will not help themselves. It appears the ICO is a self-serving, self-protective club that picks low hanging fruit, keeping below the radar - nothing complicated, nothing contentious, nothing to do ... except pat yourself on the back for what ... a few headlines for taking to task those who are so foolish as to be caught and therefore confess. This is the ICO's standard of proof ... none; avoid having to establish evidence to a standard by progressing confessions only.

“Any coward can fight a battle when he's sure of winning; but give me the man who has pluck to fight when he's sure of losing. That's my way, sir; and there are many victories worse than a defeat.” ― George Eliot

Mr P Swift left an annotation ()

the complaint about the ICO presented to ... the ICO!

Mr P Swift left an annotation ()

11 November 2020
Your reference IC-66423-Z2L3
Dear Mr Swift
Re: Freedom of Information Act 2000
Information request to the ICO reference

I write with reference to a complaint you submitted to the Commissioner on 26
October 2020. You provided the following link:
You also confirmed that the reference is IC-53464-D2X3. But no other details
were provided.
If you follow the link above it takes you to an information page on the What Do
They Know website with regards to internal reviews. It does not direct me to the
request you made (for which you wish to submit a complaint) or the public
authority’s refusal notice and internal review.
As you know, to accept a complaint for full investigation we need a copy of the
request you made, the public authority’s refusal notice, your request for an
internal review and the public authority’s internal review response. Therefore,
please either provide these documents separately or forward the correct link to
the right request on the What Do They Know website.
As we cannot progress a complaint for you without this information, the matter is
closed for now. It will of course be reopened on receipt of the necessary
documentation discussed above or the correct link directing me to the necessary

I trust this is in order. If you have any questions or wish to discuss this matter
please do not hesitate to contact me.
Yours sincerely
Samantha Coward
Senior Case Officer
0330 414 6679
Tuesday to Friday (and every other Monday)

Mr P Swift left an annotation ()

External: This email originated outside the ICO.
Dear Ms Coward,

I wrote 26/10/2020 as attached.

1. Link

I provided a link in the attached. It is correct and pertinent. It does not take you to an information page. You can also access the topic here But I have read my email (attached) of 26/10/2020 again and the link is clearly:

please direct me to the link I am stated to have provided:

I do not recognise the link you have provided and question from where this was obtained and why it is associated with my request/complaint. please provide me with a copy of the complaint (if not the attached) in which the above link appears

My suspicion is that this obfuscation has arisen because the matter about which I am complaining is your repeated bully-like tactics when I raise the issue of an authority not responding within 40 working days and that the complaint IC-53464-D2X3 relates to the ICO.

2. IC-53464-D2X3

This reference you have cited relates to:

please note, once again, this relates to the link I provided – above i.e. there is no error on my part. Indeed, I believe a simple search of your system of WDTK (as I have bene forced to undertake to address your writing) would provide the full history and clarification.

3. IC-66423-Z2L3

I do not recognise this reference. It appears that you have created it to respond to your issues about my complaint that relates to IC-53464-D2X3

Please explain, clarify

Yours sincerely,

P. Swift

Mr P Swift left an annotation ()

From: ICO Casework <>
Sent: 16 November 2020 15:22
To: Philip Swift
Subject: Your email to the ICO - Case Reference IC-66423-Z2L3

16 November 2020

Case Reference: IC-66423-Z2L3

Dear Mr Swift

Thank you for your email of 12 November 2020.

With regards to your request to receive a copy of the complaint form you submitted (to see what link you provided) on 26 October 2020, I can confirm that this request has been sent to our Information Access Team for the appropriate action to be taken.

Thank you for providing the link to the request you now wish to refer to the Commissioner in accordance with section 50 of the FOIA. I have accessed this and noted that your complaint is eligible for full investigation. I will shortly send out the Commissioner's acceptance letters to you and the ICO and the case will then be put back into the queue awaiting allocation to a case officer. Please note that there is around 4 months wait.

Yours sincerely,

Samantha Coward
Senior Case Officer
Information Commissioner's Office

Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire SK9 5AF
T. 0330 414 6679
Please consider the environment before printing this email

From: Philip Swift
Sent: 16 November 2020 16:44
To: ICO Casework icocasework @>
Cc: Elizabeth.Denham @; GRC <[email address]>; Phso.Enquiries @
Subject: RE: Your email to the ICO - Case Reference IC-66423-Z2L3 ICO & IR's / ICO vs. Moss IC-53464-D2X3 & PHSO C-2014913

Dear Ms Coward,

I commented upon the IR at:

I also appear to have submitted a form, followed the online process, hence seeking the submission but irrespective. However, this update also appears at the above thread as does your reference.

I now have two references for what appears to be the same issue:


1. Please confirm both are the same subject

It appears IC-53464-D2X3 is the original request and IC-66423-Z2L3 the IR reference or one you created being unable to follow the link I provided 26/10/2020 at the above URL.

2. Is this the case? If not please explain

3. Why were you unable to locate information by use of your own reference IC-53464-D2X3

‘Coincidentally’, the matter you are struggling with is a complaint about the ICO’s conduct. For ease of reference, I also attach (below) mine of 26/10/2020 that provided both reference and link …

4. How on earth have you been unable to reconcile the issue

You complain about me writing in detail, apparently cross-referencing, you use this ‘against’ me. Kindy review your own conduct.

Yours sincerely

P. Swift

From: Philip Swift
Sent: 26 October 2020 23:39
To: ICO Casework icocasework @
Cc: GRC <[email address]>; Tom Tugendhat MP <[email address]>; [email address]
Subject: Internal Reviews of 40 Working Days IC-53464-D2X3 - evidence the ICO is ignoring aspects of the legislation and acting inappropriately

Dear Sirs,

Re: ICO Guidance not enforced and contradicted.

I would appreciate you not picking on me for highlighting your failings. I get that this is all too complicated for you, not the norm’, but I am willing to assist, hand-hold, I do not expect my hand to be bitten or to be engaged in playground antics, a ‘take my ball away’ approach.

I write with regard to your response at . I have followed your complaints process as requested.

• Please provide your reference for the complaint or confirm it will remain as is.

Unbelievably, the ICO tells me the IR period is 40 days whereas it is not; this should be ‘in a few cases’, not the norm’. This complaint arises because it appeared you have not enforced your own guidance, failed to monitor breaches and not sought to ensure said breaches brought to your attention truly arose from ‘exceptional circumstances’. It appears your intention is to avoid the issue and adopt an aggressive stance toward me rather than acknowledge failings.

The ICO has written:

the Commissioner considers that a reasonable time for completing an internal review is 20 working days from the date of the request for review. There may be a small number of cases which involve exceptional circumstances where it may be reasonable to take longer. In those circumstances, the public authority should, as a matter of good practice, notify the requester and explain why more time is needed.

It is possible that this situation arises with regard to Highways England only, that this large Authority, willing to misrepresent and permit misinformation beings provided to Third parties and Courts, which throws resources/money at issues, is simply incapable of being kept in check by the ICO or that the ICO is unwilling to lock horns with Highways England. It is simpler to attack the messenger who has the audacity to highlight straightforward obvious failings namely that the ICO: :

• fails to monitor IR completion within 20 working days
• therefore cannot state with any confidence this applies to a ‘small number of cases’ – it certainly does not where Highways England are concerned
• has no evidence of the Authority notifying requestors of the need to delay
• cannot provide Authority explanations because none have been given.

In short, I am berated by the ICO for failing to wait the 40 days whereas, this is not the process in place, not the process laid down by the ICO – I am attacked for highlighting the ICO’s failure to monitor and enforce their own guidance. I should have a response and explanation (the ‘exceptional circumstances described) at the conclusion of 20 working days yet this has never occurred.

More detail can be found at


P. Swift

Elizabeth Baxter, Information Commissioner's Office

Thank you for your interest in in the Information Commissioners Office. I
am out of the office with no access to emails until Tuesday 17 November


If you wish to submit an information request or want to exercise any of
your data protection rights, please forward your email to the Information
Access Team at [1][email address], or you can call us to
make a verbal request relating to your personal data on our Helpline 0303
123 1113.


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contact: [4][email address

If you need help with any other information governance query, contact:
[5][email address]


Kind regards



Elizabeth Baxter



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Mr P Swift left an annotation ()

16 November 2020
Our reference IC-66423-Z2L3
Dear Mr Swift
Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA)
Your information request to the Information Commissioner’s Office
dated 24 August 2020.
WDTK link:
Thank you for your correspondence of 12 November 2020 in which you made a complaint and provided supporting information about the above public authority’s handling of your request for information.
Your complaint has been accepted as eligible for further consideration and will be allocated to a case officer as soon as possible.
Generally we deal with complaints in the order we receive them, except where we have identified a complaint that can be resolved quickly or there is a compelling reason for a case to be accelerated. More complex complaints may
involve a delay whilst waiting to be allocated to a case officer. Currently the waiting time is approximately four months before being allocated to a case officer. Once your case is allocated we will contact you and the case officer will
explain how they will progress your complaint.