PHSO appointment of Qualified Person letters

[Name Removed] (Account suspended) made this Freedom of Information request to Cabinet Office

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

Waiting for an internal review by Cabinet Office of their handling of this request.

[Name Removed] (Account suspended)

Dear Cabinet Office,

In the suggestion of the ICO:

1. I request the emails ( or file letters ) sent to the PHSO, appointing its Ombudsmen as Qualified Persons.

2. I request any list that the Cabinet Office holds of its QP appointments.

If any part of their Request is at all unclear, please supply Section 16 and regulation 9 help and advice.

Yours faithfully,

[Name Removed]

What do section 16 and regulation 9 say?
Section 16 sets out the duty on public authorities to provide advice and assistance, as far as it is reasonable to expect the public authority to do so, to anyone who is considering, or has made, a request for information to it.

It also states that any public authority which complies with the Section 45 Code of Practice in relation to the provision of advice or assistance is considered to have carried out its duty under section 16.

Regulation 9 similarly requires a public authority to provide advice and assistance, so far as it would be reasonable to expect the authority to do so, to applicants and prospective applicants. The Regulation goes further however in that it requires that where a public authority decides that an applicant has formulated a request in too general a manner, it should ask the applicant as soon as possible and in any event no later than 20 working days after the date of receipt of the request, to provide more particulars in relation to the request; and assist the applicant in providing those particulars.

More...
https://ico.org.uk/media/for-organisatio...

FOI Team Mailbox, Cabinet Office

CABINET OFFICE REFERENCE:  FOI321265

Dear JT OAKLEY

Thank you for your request for information. Your request was received
on 19/6/2015 and is being dealt with under the terms of the Freedom of
Information Act 2000.

This email is just a short acknowledgement of your request.

If you have any queries about this email, please contact the FOI team.
Please remember to quote the reference number above in any future
communications.

Yours sincerely,

 

 

Knowledge and Information Management Unit

Cabinet Office

E: [1][Cabinet Office request email]

References

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1. mailto:[email address]

[Name Removed] (Account suspended) left an annotation ()

Out of time. Referred to the ICO.

[Name Removed] (Account suspended)

Dear FOI Team Mailbox,

No response.

Referred to ICO.

Yours sincerely,

[Name Removed]

FOI Team Mailbox, Cabinet Office

2 Attachments

Please find attached the reply to your recent FOI request

 

 

 

Regards

 

 

FOI Team

1 Horse Guards Road

London

SW1A 2HQ

 

Email – [1][Cabinet Office request email]

 

 

References

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1. mailto:[email address]

[Name Removed] (Account suspended)

Dear FOI Team Mailbox,

Thank you for confirming that the Cabinet Office did not appoint the present Ombudsman Dame Julie Mellor or the previous Ombudsman, Ann Abrahams, as a Qualified Persons by personal letter.

As my understanding from the Information Commissioner, is that an official appointment for all QP's is required from the relevant Minister.

:::

As you state, I have already read the attached appointment letter, so saw no point in wasting your time and asking about other PHSO qualified persons.

However, since you are responding to an request about the appointment of Ombudsmen as QP's, the attached response letter seems to state that Dame Julie Mellor was appointed as a QP by this April 14 letter.

Perhaps you would be good enough to clarify the position and state whether that is the case, or not.

Was the letter that you have attatched Dame Julie Mellor's appointment letter?

:::

I also take your response as confirmation that the Cabinet Office has not appointed any other PHSO employee as a QP - but Mr Steve Brown, to which the letter refers - as he was the Senior Information Risk Officer at the time of the appointment.

Could you therefore tell me whether the Cabinet Office appoints an individual as a QP ( ie Steve Brown or Dame Julie Mellor ), or the post mentioned in the letter ( Senior Information Risk Office/Ombudsman ).

Because, for example, if Mr Brown left his current PHSO appointment for another post , or his job title was changed - then presumably he would no longer be a QP.

Please could you provide any Cabinet Office guidance as to how QP's are appointed and if the person, or job title.. is the appointed QP.

Yours sincerely,

[Name Removed]

[Name Removed] (Account suspended) left an annotation ()

‘Qualified person’
The decision in section 36 on whether a disclosure would or would be likely to have the prejudicial or inhibiting effects specified can be taken only by a 'qualified person'. The qualified person cannot delegate this decision- making function to others. This is not a case where powers conferred on a minister can be exercised by officials on his behalf.

A decision to exercise the power must be submitted to ministers in the case of most government departments for their agreement.

Subsection (5) sets out who is the qualified person in each case. Section 36(5)(o) and (6) detail who the qualified person(s) is/are for the authorities not covered under subsection (5)(a)-(n) and how they may be designated. In these cases more than one person – or even a whole class of people – may be ‘qualified’. Conditions may be imposed. Subsection (5)(o) covers a wide range of bodies, for example, all local authorities in England are covered by it.

For government departments, the qualified person is either any Minister of the Crown or, for departments which are not headed by a minister, the commissioners or other person in charge of the department. For Northern Ireland departments, the qualified person is the Northern Ireland Minister in charge of the department. For the Welsh Assembly Government, they are the Welsh Ministers or the Counsel-General.

It will typically be a minister in the department to which the request was made who acts as the qualified person. Unlike some provisions, any Minister of the Crown can exercise this function; it does not have to be a Cabinet minister. The most appropriate way of proceeding is likely to be through advice to ministers asking them to consider exempting the material, and a prepared form of words setting out the minister's opinion that exemption applies. Ministers will be asked to make a personal assessment – it is their opinion which determines the application of the exemption – and the facts must be fully laid before them and the reasons fully articulated.

D. Speers left an annotation ()

Excellent FOI Request Jt Oakley and very very enlightening! Thank you.

FOI Team Mailbox, Cabinet Office

Dear JT Oatley

Thank you for your e-mail of 28th July to the FOI Team mailbox.

Although your email was entitled ‘internal review’, you have raised a
number of specific additional questions. We thought it might be helpful to
address those directly, rather than treating this response as an Internal
Review.  

The letter of 14 April from the Minister for the Cabinet Office to the
Parliamentary and Health Service Ombdusman (PHSO) re-confirmed that Dame
Julie Mellor is the Qualified Person for the PHSO.

This letter also confirmed that in addition to the Ombudsman, the Senior
Information Risk Officer was, from that date, appointed as a Qualified
Person. No other individuals within the PHSO have Qualified Person status.

In line with the terms of the FOI Act, and associated ICO guidance, a
Qualified Person may be any officer or employee of the public authority
who is authorised for the purposes of this section by a Minister of the
Crown.

The Minister for the Cabinet Office confirmed in his letter that the
person holding the office of Senior Information Risk Officer within the
PHSO is a Qualified Person for the purposes of the Act. In this respect,
the Qualified Person status is tied to the role of SIRO, rather than a
specific individual.

There is no central Cabinet Office guidance on the appointment of
Qualified Persons but the ICO has published guidance on the operation of
Section 36 and the role of the Qualified Person. This guidance can be
found at:
[1]https://ico.org.uk/media/for-organisatio...

Regards
FOI Team
Cabinet Office

References

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1. https://ico.org.uk/media/for-organisatio...

[Name Removed] (Account suspended)

Dear FOI Team Mailbox,

Thank you - but it was after reading the ICO guidance, that I made my request asked for the initial confirmation letter in which Dame Julie Mellor was appointed- by the Minister - as a qualified person...and also that of her predecessor Ann Abrahams

Not the 're-confirmation' letter of Dame Julie Mellor's appointment - which, as you know, I already had and you have provided.

However, since it is - as you state - a 're-confirmation', then logically the original confirmation letter/s should have been provided, as they must be on file for you to state that you have provided a 're-confirmation'.

Otherwise it would be possible to construe that neither ombudsman ever received confirmation of their QP role from the Minister concerned.

Yours sincerely,

[Name Removed]

[Name Removed] (Account suspended) left an annotation ()

Your information request to the Cabinet Office
Request reference: FOI321265

Thank you for your correspondence of 21 July 2015 in which you complain about the above public authority’s failure to respond to your information request:

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/p...

However, from the link you have provided above it appears that the Cabinet Office responded to your request on 28 July 2015.

As such it is unclear whether you still wish to pursue your original complaint about the Cabinet Offices non-response to your request.

As you may be aware should you wish the Information Commissioner to issue a decision notice for your specific complaint we are able to do so. However, any decision notice at this stage will only consider the issue of the time taken for the Cabinet Office to respond to your request.

Should you be dissatisfied with the response you received, or information has been withheld, you will need to exhaust the public authority’s internal review procedure before the Information Commissioner’s Office can do anything further.

Once this is complete, please provide copies of:

Your request for a review

The outcome of the review

Your complaint will then be forwarded to an appropriate casework team. Any decision notice at this stage will be much broader in scope and incorporate all aspects of your complaint.

Thank you for bringing these concerns to the attention of the Information Commissioner. If you require any further assistance then please contact me on the number below.

Yours sincerely,

Case Officer
Information Commissioner’s Office

::::::

Dear ICO

The Cabinet Office re-sent me the letter, which I had already read before I made the request,

It 're-confirms' - as stated - that Dame Julie Mellor was re-appointed on this date.

However, I asked on what date she was appointed, not re-appointed.

Therefore the CO has not responded to the request and the response is disingenuous - as it has provided a response that did not fit the request.

I await the CO's response that

1. either it does not hold the appointment letter ( which must precede this date)

2. or that it does and can provide it.

Jto

[Name Removed] (Account suspended) left an annotation ()

On 21 Aug 2015, at 14:56, casework@ico.org.uk wrote:

21 August 2015

Case Reference Number FS50590251

Dear Jto

Your information request to the Cabinet Office
Request reference: FOI321265

Thank you for your correspondence of 19 August 2015 in which you complain about the above public authority’s handling of your information request:

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/p...

As previously advised should you be dissatisfied with the response you received on 28 July 2015, or information has been withheld or not included, you will need to exhaust the public authority’s internal review procedure before the Information Commissioner’s Office can do anything further.

You should therefore contact the public authority again, asking it to review its handling of your request. When doing so, it may be helpful if you give specific reasons why you are dissatisfied.

When you have exhausted the internal review procedure, please provide copies of your request for review and the outcome. Once these are received we will proceed with your complaint.

Thank you for bringing these concerns to the attention of the Information Commissioner. If you require any further assistance then please contact me on the number below.

Yours sincerely,

Case Officer
Information Commissioner’s Office

:::::

Thank you.

I have done so ....but it's always rather difficult to tell exactly at what stage the procedure is with the Cabinet Office.

Perhaps you could clear up a technical point for me.

Does a request for a review have to be labelled 'review' or can a requester point out that the request has not been answered satisfactorily - and ask for it to be done so?

As the CO doesn't seem to recognise that I have asked them to review its first response , (which was invalid on the grounds that it hasn't provided a QP appointment letter from its files, merely ..in its own phrasing ..a 're-appointment letter'- which would be the subject of a totally different request.).

NB - I had no idea that QP's had to be 'reappointed' on a regular basis, as Dame Julie Mellor has only been in office for a comparatively short space of time.

Logically one has to assume -as the Cabinet Office is stating a 're-appointment letter' , that indeed an appointment letter exists - but that it has witheld it for an unknown reason, for which my understanding is that it has to present to me under the correct FOIA Section.

So I am waiting to find out what that is - or the CO to tell me that no appointment letter exists in its files.

Otherwise I can only construe that the CO has now carte blanche to represent new government as being secretive and non-transparent when responding to FOIA requests.

Jto

D. Speers left an annotation ()

Wish the Cabinet Office would just answer the request!!

[Name Removed] (Account suspended) left an annotation ()

It seems from the above that the CO can't produce its Dame Julie Mellor appointment letter and is trying to fudge the issue by supplying a ( ahem) 'reappointment one' .

That means every QP decision that Dame Julie Mellor made would be ineligible - before the 're -appointment letter'.

Since this would be an embarrassment to the PHSO, which probably in its own arrogant way didn't apply think it needed Ministerial approval, the CO is trying to avoid answering the request.

It isn't really a big issue. All that would happen is that Dame Julie Mellor would revisit the QP decisions she made before the 'reappointment' with exactly the same outcome.

I just wish that there would be transparency and honesty in FOIA responses.

D. Speers left an annotation ()

Well said Jt!

[Name Removed] (Account suspended) left an annotation ()

Dear Jto

Your information request to the Cabinet Office
Request reference: FOI321265

Thank you for your correspondence of 20 August 2015 in relation to your complaint about the above public authority’s handling of your information request:

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/p...

From your most recent correspondence you ask about requesting an internal review and the wording used when doing this.

As you may be aware under the Freedom of Information Act (the Act), there is no obligation for an authority to provide a complaints process. However, it is good practice (under the section 45 code of practice) and most public authorities choose to do so.

There is no obligation on a requestor to use the term 'internal review' we advise that a public authority should take any expression of dissatisfaction with the outcome of their response as a request for a review.

Thank you for bringing these concerns to the attention of the Information Commissioner. If you require any further assistance then please contact me on the number below.

Yours sincerely,

Case Officer
Information Commissioner's Office

[Name Removed] (Account suspended)

Dear FOI Team Mailbox,

I found your response difficult to understand.

Are you carrying out a review, or not?

If you are, have you therefore concluded the review of whether you still hold the document that you have stated to hold..

Which is the QP appointment of Dame Julie Mellor, previous to the 'reappointment ' letter, which has already been provided, or should I refer the request to the ICO ?

Yours sincerely,

[Name Removed]

D. Speers left an annotation ()

1 year this June.......I wonder what the FOI record is?

[Name Removed] (Account suspended) left an annotation ()

Apparently the title of this WDTK request is totally irrelevant and immaterial to It.

Personally I thought that the second sentence in the body text defined the title, as there is only do much space on WDTK in which to put in the title.

... But it appears that I am wrong,

This is what the ICO stated....

However, the Commissioner’s view is that the title is immaterial, as this is not part of the request.

The second sentence merely states the information that the complainant would like to see included, it does not specifically state that it is the entirety of the relevant information that she wishes to obtain. Section 8(1)(c) of the Act states a request must “describe the information requested”. In this instance, the complainant asked for all communications, so the Commissioner’s decision must reflect that.

:::

My opinion is that this request ( including the title) asks specifically asks for the QP appointment letters...and only those.

Personally, I don't know why the ICO would fail to read - and apply- the title of a request to any request ...but ever since I've had to put 'title within scope' on every request to include every part ( Including the title) as previously - I had assumed it to be the defining part of the request.

I would suggest that all WDTK requesters either do this.

Or duplicate the title within the request.

[Name Removed] (Account suspended) left an annotation ()

Since Francis Maude is involved in this request, it would seem relevent to add his comments on 'openness and transparency' - since the CO was never able to provide Dame Julie Mellor's QP appointment letter.
And never admitted that one did not exist.

:::

Thank you for your letter dated 8th October 2013.

Like you, we feel that this summit marks a critical moment. The Open Government Partnership is helping to drive a transparency revolution around the world and I am enormously proud that Britain has been at the heart of it since its foundation.

Open government isn’t an optional add-on or a “nice to have”, it is absolutely fundamental to a nation’s success in the 21st century. In the global race, it is a vital part of any country’s plan for prosperity.

The Prime Minister has consistently made clear our commitment for the UK to become “the most open and transparent government in the world”. Our resolve has not weakened. Indeed, our engagement with civil society and organisations such as yours to develop and agree the stretching and ambitious commitments in our second Open Government Partnership UK National Action Plan has strengthened, not lessened our commitment to open government.

The result of this partnership is a set of commitments that take important steps towards increased openness helping to ensure that:

the public can see and understand the workings of their government through more transparency
the public can influence the workings of their government and society by participating in the policy process and in the delivery of public services
the public can hold the government to account for its policy and delivery of public services

I am delighted that today the Prime Minister will announce that the UK government will lead by example by creating a publicly accessible central registry of company beneficial ownership information, showing who ultimately owns and controls UK companies. Business is vital to economic recovery in this country, and has created 1.4 million new jobs since the last general election. We are on the side of businesses and we have cut back on burdensome bureaucracy. But some company structures can be open to misuse, helping a smaller number of individuals carry out a range of crimes from tax evasion to money laundering. We firmly believe that the scrutiny this registry will invite will support efforts to tackle the misuse of companies for tax evasion, money laundering and other crimes.

And beyond that, our National Action Plan contains a range of ambitious and significant commitments, in the areas that really matter – health, schools, policing. We note the other priorities you have outlined. We will build on the existing foundation of transparency in procurement and contracting and, in consultation with civil society organisations and other stakeholders, we will look at ways to enhance the scope, breadth and usability of published contractual data.

The Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trades Union Administration Bill will create even greater transparency in the way people and organisations interact with government and politics, to give the public more confidence in the way third parties interact with the political system. These organisations play an important role in the political process, helping to inform policy making and ensuring views are heard by those in government. This Bill will ensure that we know for whom lobbyists lobby.

We are grateful to you for providing challenge, support and scrutiny as we have developed this package of commitments. The UK’s IRM report highlighted areas where we need to improve, and we urge you to hold us to account as we deliver our next action plan. We welcome, indeed we need, your input.

Transparency is an idea whose time has come. People around the world are demanding much greater openness, democracy and accountability from their governments. Citizens are demanding that the state should be their servant, not their master, and that information that governments hold should be open for everyone to see. This summit will drive that agenda forward, and this government will lead from the front.

Yours,

Francis Maude