Publication of FOI/EIR responses on www.gov.uk; DfT

Paul Thornton made this Freedom of Information request to Department for Transport

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 Department for Transport,

I refer to a previous request for information that is on line at the following link.

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

I am writing to seek updated clarification of the extent to which you are not disseminating information that has been requested and released to individuals under the provisions of the FOIA and/or the EIRs.

The www.gov.uk website has a search facility that enables the location of documents published in response to FOI/EIR enquiries. A filter can be applied to identify those that have been published by DfT.

The search engine is at this link;
https://www.gov.uk/government/publicatio...

Applying the filter today identifies only 28 EIR/FOI responses issued by DfT throughout 2014.

I would be grateful if you would determine if the search engine is malfunctioning.

I would be grateful if you would send me your current policy determining which of your many FOI and EIR responses that you issue are, or are not, placed on line and accessible to anyone through the www.gov.uk website and it's associated search engine.

In addition, please provide me with a copy of all the FOI and EIR responses that have been issued to individuals by the Department for Transport between 1 December 2014 and 31 Dec 2014 but that have not otherwise been made publically accessible on line through the www.gov.uk website and its associated search engine.

In so doing, rather than send me a large number of files, I would be content for you to place such responses on line and to send me the links.

Yours faithfully,

Dr Paul Thornton

Department for Transport

Dear Dr Thornton,

I am writing to acknowledge receipt of your request for information which
has been allocated reference number F0012032.

A response will be issued to you in due course.

Regards,

Department for Transport
FOI Advice Team
Information & Security Division
Zone D/04
Ashdown House
Sedlescombe Road North
St Leonards on Sea
East Sussex
TN37 7GA

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FOI-ADVICE-TEAM-DFT, Department for Transport

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Thornton,

Please see attached reply in relation to your recent FOI request.

Kind regards

C Taylor

FOI Advice Team | Information & Security Division | General Counsel’s Office | Department for Transport
Zone D/04, Ashdown House, Sedlescombe Road North, Hastings, TN37 7GA

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C Taylor
FOI Advice Team
Zone D/04 Ashdown House
Sedlescombe Road North
Hastings
TN37 7GA

By email via whatdotheyknow.com

Dear C Taylor,

Your ref F001230

Thank you for your letter of the 20th February 2015 sent by email.

I am grateful for your corroboration that the search engine on the gov.uk website is working correctly such that it is true that the DfT has only published 28 FOI and EIR responses that were provided to individuals over the 12 month period of 2014. This is in the context of you confirming later in your letter that there were 42 such responses in the month of December alone.

The guidance that you have provided now does appear to be the same as that which you provided to me two years ago in respect of my previous request (to which I drew your attention).

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

It was clear at that time that the publication of FOIA and EIR responses was not concordant with the standard that the Information Commissioner understood to be fulfilled.
In his response to my appeal on that occasion, in a letter dated 4 January 2013, your colleague Mr Carty, advised that

“That guidance is being reviewed to reflect the recent move of the department’s website to the unified GOV.UK website….”

The purpose of this new enquiry was to determine the extent to which the DfT, having wholly migrated to the gov.uk website, is now fulfilling the expected standard. It is apparent that, still, only a small proportion of the responses provided to individuals are being published on the website.

Annexe A of your recent response confirms that current MoJ and DEFRA guidance is central to your policy determining which of your FOI and EIR responses that you issue are, or are not, placed on line and so accessible to anyone through the www.gov.uk website and its associated search engine. As such, that MoJ and DEFRA guidance should have been included with your response, and I would be grateful if you would provide it now. I was told two years ago that the DEFRA guidance was being updated.

The need for the further information that I have requested, and that you have withheld, is to determine why you are not fulfilling that standard and what information you are releasing to individuals but not making easily accessible to the wider public. There is a clear need to clarify the "public interest" issues that are prevailing in the department when the decision is made to conceal information that has been provided on request to individuals. The search engine on www.gov.uk provides no indication that it is an incomplete representation of your information request log.

Your attempt to, again, label my enquiries as vexatious appears to be as defensive as it did 2 years ago and is spurious, largely for the same reasons as exchanged at that time.

I am writing to appeal your decision to invoke FOI Section 14 and EIR section 12(4)(c). The suggestion that the department can avoid disseminating released information and then refuse to publish it further on request on the grounds that the requester is “without any idea of what might be revealed” is unsustainable.

Some two years have elapsed since my previous similar enquiry and, on this occasion, I have limited my request to the responses that you provided in just one month only. In the context of my enquiry, it is clear that my interest lies in the FOI/EIR responses where part or all of the requested information has been provided to the requester but not subsequently published on the gov.uk website. All of that information (42 responses) has been pre-processed under FOI or EIR as appropriate to be placed in the public domain. So, while some minor further redaction may be required from some of the responses, publication need not be disproportionately onerous.

If there was genuine doubt in respect of the extent of my request, the 42 responses should have been provided in the first instance. You would then have been able to seek my clarification in respect of the further FOI/EIR replies you have sent that completely withhold the information requested. For completeness, and the avoidance of doubt, I confirm that I am not requesting those replies at this juncture.

I am grateful for your acknowledgement of the obligations under Regulation 4 of the EIRs confirming that where information is released to a requester under EIR, wider publication should be made as soon as possible after the disclosure. On this ground alone, it is difficult to understand the proportionately few website publications of information released to requesters. One further suspects that the department have been applying a restrictive interpretation in respect of information that should correctly fall under the provisions of the EIRs, but has been wrongly labelled as falling under FOIA.

Against the background of the foregoing, EIR section 12(4)(c), cannot be invoked in this case. And even if it could, no public interest analysis has been provided.

I look forward to your early confirmation of the publication of the requested information on the gov.uk website.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Paul Thornton

Dear Department for Transport,

Your ref . F0012032

Unusually, I have not received an acknowledgement of my response to C Taylor dated 22 February 2015 as at

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

I would be grateful if you would confirm receipt of that further email and that it is receiving attention.

Yours faithfully,

Dr Paul Thornton

FOI-ADVICE-TEAM-DFT, Department for Transport

Dear Dr Thornton

I can confirm that the Department for Transport has received your request for an Internal Review and that an Internal Review is being carried out. We anticipate this being concluded by 20 March but, in the event of any delays beyond that time we will email you to keep you informed of progress.

Yours faithfully

FOI Advice Team
Department for Transport

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FOI-ADVICE-TEAM-DFT, Department for Transport

1 Attachment

Dear Dr Thornton

You requested an Internal Review into the Department for Transport's handling of your recent FOI request. A Review has now been carried out and I attach a letter which sets out the findings.

Further information now being disclosed to you will follow in a series of further emails.

Yours sincerely

FOI Advice Team
Department for Transport

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FOI-ADVICE-TEAM-DFT, Department for Transport

11 Attachments

Please see attached documents falling within the scope of your requests. Further emails follow.

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FOI-ADVICE-TEAM-DFT, Department for Transport

10 Attachments

Further responses attached.

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FOI-ADVICE-TEAM-DFT, Department for Transport

8 Attachments

Further responses attached.

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FOI-ADVICE-TEAM-DFT, Department for Transport

5 Attachments

Further responses attached.

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FOI-ADVICE-TEAM-DFT, Department for Transport

7 Attachments

Response sent to case F0011871 attached.

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FOI-ADVICE-TEAM-DFT, Department for Transport

13 Attachments

Further information relating to case F0011871 attached.

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FOI-ADVICE-TEAM-DFT, Department for Transport

8 Attachments

Further FOI responses attached.

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FOI-ADVICE-TEAM-DFT, Department for Transport

5 Attachments

Final set of documents relating to your request.

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19 March 2015

Dear Mr Parr,

Re: FOI Request F0012032

Thank you for your letter in respect of the above and for the provided information. I accept your apology on behalf of the department in respect of Section 14. I shall consider the remainder of your arguments further.

I have now received a total of 61 files as attachments including those within the email described as the "final set of documents". You can see exactly what I have received at the following link.

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/2...

Those 61 files however only appear to relate to 36, or possibly 37, separate information requests. The letter of the 20th February reported that there were 42 such information request responses provided in part or in full in December 2014. Have the outstanding responses been omitted in error or through technical problems?

Yours sincerely,

Paul Thornton

FOI-ADVICE-TEAM-DFT, Department for Transport

Dear Dr Thornton

Further to your email below, I am able to provide some clarification in relation to the information disclosed with my Internal Review response.

As you say, the Department's letter of 20 February reported that there were 42 responses to information requests issued during December 2014 where the requested information was released either in full or in part.

I have established that 3 of those responses were published on gov.uk. The case reference numbers are F0011853, F0011862 and F0011747. You can view them on gov.uk at the following link:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publicatio...

Since your original request was for "a copy of all the FOI and EIR responses that have been issued to individuals by the Department for Transport between 1 December 2014 and 31 Dec 2014 but that have not otherwise been made publically accessible on line through the www.gov.uk website" these three responses were considered to be outside the scope of your request.

In arriving at the total of 42 cases referred to in the letter dated 20 February, one request (case F0011871) was double-counted. I apologise for this error.

Finally, the responses to some requests sent in by the same applicant were combined into a single letter. Specifically, one letter was issued to cover the responses to requests F0011814 and F0011822. Similarly, one letter was sent to cover the responses to requests F0011832 and F0011833.

In summary, no responses within the scope of your request have been omitted from the information sent to you last Thursday.

Yours sincerely

P Parr
FOI Advice Team

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Dear Mr Parr

Thank you for confirming completion of the information provision.

Yours sincerely,

Paul Thornton