Three sets of PHSO committee minutes

The request was partially successful.

Dear Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman,

Committee minutes, as described by the PHSO:

http://www.ombudsman.org.uk/about-us/who...

Committees
'We have FOUR constituted committees which report to the Board. Their role is to support the Board in monitoring and scrutinising specific areas of governance, policy and performance'.

Yet the PHSO internet site lists only three committees on this informative page.

:::

Please supply the last two sets of minutes of these four ( *excluding audit) committees, or direct me to where I might read them on the PHSO website.

1. The Remuneration and Nominations Committee
(agrees pay and performance review arrangements for Executive Directors and agrees their annual individual pay awards. It meets around twice a year).

2. Quality Committee

(The Quality Committee provides critical assessment and challenge to the Executive Team on matters related to quality. It meets around four times a year.)

3. The third committee, which is not listed on this informative page.

( No information given)

4. NB * I have already requested the Audit Committee minutes.

:::

Request Title/summary within scope.

I am writing to make an open government request for all the
information to which I am entitled under the Freedom of Information
Act 2000.

Please send me recorded information, which includes information
held on computers, in emails and in printed or handwritten
documents as well as images, video and audio recordings.

If this request is too wide or unclear, and you require a
clarification, I would be grateful if you could contact me as I
understand that under the Act, you are required to advise and
assist requesters.(Section 16 / Regulation 9).

If my request is denied in whole or in part, I ask that you justify
all deletions by reference to specific exemptions of the act. I
will also expect you to release all non-exempt material. I reserve
the right to appeal your decision to withhold any information or to
charge excessive fees.

If any of this information is already in the public domain, please
can you direct me to it, with page references and URLs if
necessary.

Please confirm or deny whether the requested information is held ( section (Section 1(1)(a) and consider whether information should be provided under section 1(1)(b), or whether it is subject to an exemption in Part II of the Act.

If the release of any of this information is prohibited on the
grounds of breach of confidence, I ask that you supply me with
copies of the confidentiality agreement and remind you that
information should not be treated as confidential if such an
agreement has not been signed.

I would like the above information to be provided to me as
electronic copies, via WDTK. The information should be immediately
readable - and, as a freedom of Information request, not put in a PDF or any closed form, which some readers may not be able to access.

I understand that you are required to respond to my request within
the 20 working days after you receive this letter. I would be
grateful if you could confirm in writing that you have received
this request.

::::::::

Please consider the ICO's Decision on the provision original documents on file, rather than newly written letters of response.

https://ico.org.uk/media/action-weve-tak...

NB This request does not require a letter, drafted by the External Affairs department, or any other written input by reputational defence employees, and purporting to be the response to a FOIA request.

Yours faithfully,

Jt Oakley

informationrights@ombudsman.org.uk, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman


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InformationRights, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

30 September 2016

 

 

Dear JT Oakley

 

Your information request – FDN 268806

 

I am writing to you regarding your Freedom of Information request dated 2
September 2016 in which you asked:

 

“Please supply  the last two sets of minutes of these four  ( *excluding
audit) committees, or direct me to where I might read them on the PHSO
website.

1. The Remuneration and Nominations Committee
(agrees pay and performance review arrangements for Executive Directors
and agrees their annual individual pay awards. It meets around twice a
year).

2. Quality Committee

(The Quality Committee provides critical assessment and challenge to the
Executive Team on matters related to quality. It meets around four times a
year.)

3. The third committee,  which is not listed on this informative page.

( No information  given)

4. NB * I have already requested the Audit Committee minutes.”

 

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) obliges us to respond to
requests promptly and in any case no later than 20 working days after
receiving your request.  I can confirm we do hold the information you have
requested, however the exemption at section 36(2)(c) FOIA applies to the
information. Section 36(2)(c) FOIA is a qualified exemption and therefore
engages the public interest test.

We have not yet reached a decision on where the balance of the public
interest lies, we will therefore need some additional time to comply with
your request. We estimate that it will take an addition 20 working days to
make a decision, and we plan to let you have a substantive response by 28
October 2016. If it appears that it will take longer than this to reach a
conclusion, we will keep you informed.  However, if we are able to reach a
decision before this date, we will of course let you know.

If you have any queries about this email please do not hesitate to contact
me.  

Yours sincerely

 

 

 

Sohifa Kadir

FOI/DP Officer

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Dear InformationRights,

Please review

Yours sincerely,

Jt Oakley

Informationrights@ombudsman.org.uk, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman


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J Roberts left an annotation ()

Openness claims, transparency claims and now 'cloaked' committee minutes from the PHSO. It all gives rise to reasonable suspicion.

D. Speers left an annotation ()

'Reasonable suspicion' is spot on!

Jt Oakley left an annotation ()

A Qualified Person has to weigh up this request and pronounce whether or not the public interests outweighs PHSO secrecy.

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

The only known appointed QP's are Dame Julie Mellor and Steve Brown- if he still has the same remit.

Maybe the PHSO will appoint a new QP to sign off this request.

Jt Oakley left an annotation ()

Will I always get the information I ask for?

Not always. The Freedom of Information Act recognises that there will be valid reasons why some kinds of information may be withheld, such as if its release would prejudice national security or damage commercial interests.

For some exemptions the public authority must consider whether the public interest in withholding the information outweighs the public interest in releasing it.

If it decides that the information cannot be released - it must tell you and explain why.

ICO advice.

InformationRights, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

Dear Jt Oakley

 

Your information request – FDN 268806

 

I am writing to you regarding your Freedom of Information request dated 2
September 2016 in which you asked:

 

“Please supply  the last two sets of minutes of these four  ( *excluding
audit) committees, or direct me to where I might read them on the PHSO
website.

1. The Remuneration and Nominations Committee
(agrees pay and performance review arrangements for Executive Directors
and agrees their annual individual pay awards. It meets around twice a
year).

2. Quality Committee

(The Quality Committee provides critical assessment and challenge to the
Executive Team on matters related to quality. It meets around four times a
year.)

3. The third committee,  which is not listed on this informative page.

( No information  given)

4. NB * I have already requested the Audit Committee minutes.”

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) obliges us to respond to
requests promptly and in any case no later than 20 working days after
receiving your request.  I can confirm we do hold the information you have
requested, however, the exemption at section 36(2)(c) FOIA applies to the
information you have requested. Section 36(2)(c) FOIA is a qualified
exemption and therefore engages the public interest test.

We last wrote to advise you that we hoped to be able to provide you with a
substantive response to your request by 28 October 2016.  However,
unfortunately we have not yet reached a decision on where the balance of
the public interest lies.  We will therefore need some additional time to
comply with your request. We plan to let you have a substantive response
by 11 November 2016.  We are sorry for any inconvenience which this may
cause and will be in contact again as soon as we are able.

Yours sincerely

 

 

Sohifa Kadir

FOI/DP Officer

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Dear InformationRights,

Thank you but please explain the reasoning why this particular exemption applies to this request.

It is not enough to state that it does.

Yours sincerely,

Jt Oakley

Informationrights@ombudsman.org.uk, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman


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Dear Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman,

Please confirm and explain your reasoning, for denying this request, or I will refer to the ICO.

WDTK states out of time.

Yours faithfully,

Jt Oakley

informationrights@ombudsman.org.uk, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman


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Dear Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman,

Reminder -

We last wrote to advise you that we hoped to be able to provide you with a
substantive response to your request by 28 October 2016. However,
unfortunately we have not yet reached a decision on where the balance of
the public interest lies. We will therefore need some additional time to
comply with your request. We plan to let you have a substantive response
by 11 November 2016. We are sorry for any inconvenience which this may
cause and will be in contact again as soon as we are able.

Yours faithfully,

Jt Oakley

informationrights@ombudsman.org.uk, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman


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Dear Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman,

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

I am writing to request an internal review of Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman's handling of my FOI request 'Three sets of PHSO committee minutEs.

Out of time.

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

Yours faithfully,

Jt Oakley

informationrights@ombudsman.org.uk, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman


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InformationRights, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

3 Attachments

Dear Jt Oakley

 

RE: Your information request FDN-268806

 

I am writing in response to your Freedom of Information request dated 2
September 2016 in which you requested the last two meeting minutes for the
PHSO’s Quality Committee, Remuneration and Nominations Committee and Joint
Convergence Committee.

 

At the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman we have four constituted
committees which report to the PHSO Board. The purpose of the committees
is to support the Board in monitoring and scrutinising areas of
governance, policy and performance. Further details can be found on our
website at:  [1]www.ombudsman.org.uk/about-us/who-we-are/the-board.

 

In line with the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) please find
enclosed redacted copies of the following minutes:

 

Annex A – PHSO Remuneration & Nominations Committee meeting dated 1 March
2016

Annex B – PHSO Quality Committee meeting dated 9 March 2016

Annex C – PHSO Quality Committee meeting dated 2 June 2016

 

From the attached information we have withheld some third party personal
data in line with section 40(2) FOIA. We have also withheld information
under section 36(2)(b)(ii) FOIA as disclosure would prejudice the free and
frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation.

 

I am not able to release the minutes for the PHSO Remuneration &
Nominations Committee meeting dated 27 May 2016 as they were not agreed
when we received you request, nor am I able to release the minutes for the
Joint Convergence Committee meetings dated 6 October 2015 and 8 March
2016. This is because the exemption at section 36(2)(b)(ii) FOIA applies
to the information.

 

Please note when we initially wrote to you we informed you that the
information was exempt under section 36(2)(c) FOIA (information whose
release would otherwise prejudice, or would be likely otherwise to
prejudice, the effective conduct of public affairs). However upon a
further review we believe the appropriate exemption for the information is
section 36(2)(b)(ii) FOIA (information whose release would, or would be
likely to, inhibit the free and frank exchange of views for the purposes
of deliberation).

 

Section 36(2)(b)(ii) FOIA is qualified exemption and requires the balance
of the public interest test.

 

When considering the arguments for disclosure of the withheld information,
we have taken into account that it is key that publically funded
organisations like the PHSO are open and transparent about their decision
making, and members of the Board and Executive Team are held accountable
for them. We have also taken into account that disclosure would provide
insight to the rigorous scrutiny, and the free and frank exchange of views
that takes place at these committee meetings.

 

However we consider that the public interest for not disclosing the
information outweighs the arguments for disclosure in relation to this
specific material, which includes the free and frank exchange of views
brought during the course of open discussion.  It is fundamental that our
committee members have a protected space where they can exchange such
views in an uninhibited manner in order to fulfil their role in monitoring
and scrutinising our governance, policy and performance. Disclosure of the
withheld information would impede discussions at future committee meetings
if committee members believed their discussions and advice would be likely
to be released into the public domain; as it would reduce the candour of
discussion, it would simultaneously diminish effectiveness of the
committee as a scrutiny mechanism. Any chilling effect on the exchange of
views would lead to the loss in quality of our decision making and
therefore the information is exempt under section 36(2)(b)(ii) FOIA.

 

I hope the information is helpful. If you are dissatisfied with the way
your Freedom of Information request was handled you can ask for an
internal review by emailing me at [2][Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman request email].
Beyond that you can complain to the Information Commissioner, her office
details can be found here: [3]https://ico.org.uk/.

 

Yours sincerely

 

Sohifa Kadir

Freedom of Information and Data Protection Officer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dear InformationRights,

Thank you - but the name and job description of the Qualified Person is missing from the response.

Please provide.

Yours sincerely,

Jt Oakley

Informationrights@ombudsman.org.uk, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman


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InformationRights, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

Dear Jt Oakley

Your information request FDN-268806

Thank you for your email dated 11 November 2016.

In line with the Freedom of Information Act 2000, I can confirm Dame Julie Mellor, the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman was the Qualified Person.

I hope the information satisfies your request.

Yours sincerely

Sohifa Kadir
FOI/DP Team

Dear Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman,

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

I am writing to request an internal review of Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman's handling of my FOI request 'Three sets of PHSO committee minutes'.

Internal review on the grounds that

1. blank pages with occasional spots have been given in response to the request.

2. The response should be redacted in a proper manner and re-examined as it's being done so that information can be evaluated as public interest in the terms implied by the PHSO's ' openness and transparency' policy, which seems to have been summarily dismissed.

3. Given the recent history of an NAO investigation, overspending and resignations of both Ombudsman and deputy, the public interest must surely be now weighed in favour of determining the SORT of ' rigorous' assessment given to PHSO workings by these committees, rather than the detail of discussion.

This is, after all, public money that the PHSO is spending on it's ' rigorous 'scrutiny', which appears to have failed the public in the past.

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

Yours faithfully,

Jt Oakley

informationrights@ombudsman.org.uk, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman


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InformationRights, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

Dear J T Oakley

 

Your internal review (FDN-268806)

 

I am writing in response to your email of 1 October 2016 and subsequent
emails in which you express dissatisfaction with PHSO’s handling of your
information request for meeting minutes.  This review will consider
whether your request was dealt with in compliance with the Freedom of
Information Act 2000 (FOIA).

 

Timeliness

 

Section 10(1) FOIA states that public authorities should comply with
requests within 20 working days.  Section 10(3) FOIA enables an authority
to extend the 20 working day limit up to a ‘reasonable’ time in any case
where it requires more time to determine whether or not the balance of the
public interest lies in maintaining an exemption, or it needs further time
to consider whether it would be in the public interest to confirm or deny
whether the information is held.  This was the case here as section 36,
the exemption for information whose disclosure could prejudice the
effective conduct of public affairs, and PHSO needed additional time to
consider where the balance of public interest lay in relation to
disclosure.

 

I have concluded that while PHSO’s issue of extensions to consider the
public interest test was lawful. This was a complex request relating to
sets of minutes which PHSO does not routinely publish.

 

Application of section 40(2) FOIA

 

I have reviewed the application of section 40(2) FOIA, the exemption for
third party personal data.  I have concluded that it was applied correctly
to the names of junior members of staff who would not have an expectation
of having their names being published in the public domain.  However, it
has become apparent that the job titles of those staff whose names were
redacted were removed in error at the same time. 

 

The notes of the 1 March 2016 Remuneration and Nominations Committee
meeting should also have included ‘Corporate Governance Manager (minutes)’
in the ‘Also attending’ section. The minutes of the 9 March 2016 PHSO
Quality Committee meeting should also have included ‘Quality Insight
Manager’ and ‘Corporate Governance Manager (minutes) under ‘In
Attendance’.  Finally, the minutes of the 2 June 2016 PHSO Quality
Committee meeting should also have included ‘Governance Risk and Assurance
Manager (minutes)’ under the ‘In Attendance’ section.

We apologise that this information was not provided to you when we
responded to your request on 11 November 2016.

 

Application of section 36(2)(b)(i) FOIA

 

I have reviewed the information which has been redacted from the minutes
of the Remuneration and Nominations Committee as well as the PHSO Quality
Committee Meeting.  I have concluded that the opinion of the qualified
person was delivered, was reasonable and that section 36(2)(b)(i) FOIA is
engaged in relation to the redacted information.

 

Issue of presentation

 

In your email of 14 November 2016, you stated that ‘blank pages with
occasional spots have been given in response to the request’. I have
reviewed the information which we provided to you and which has been
published on the Whatdotheyknow.com website and can see no issue with
their presentation. 

 

Conclusion

 

I partly uphold this complaint on the basis that the job titles of three
members of staff were redacted in error as third party personal data.

 

I hope that this response is helpful.  If you remain unhappy with the way
your request was processed, it is open to you to complain to the
Information Commissioner ([1]www.ico.org.uk). 

 

Yours sincerely

 

Aimee Gasston

Freedom of Information and Data Protection Officer

Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

W: [2]www.ombudsman.org.uk

 

Please email the FOI/DP team at: [3][Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman request email]

 

 

 

From: Jt Oakley [mailto:[FOI #355855 email]]
Sent: 14 November 2016 13:04
To: InformationRights
Subject: Internal review of Freedom of Information request - Three sets of
PHSO committee minutes

 

Dear Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman,

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

I am writing to request an internal review of Parliamentary and Health
Service Ombudsman's handling of my FOI request 'Three sets of PHSO
committee minutes'.

Internal review on the grounds that

1. blank pages with occasional spots have been given in response to the
request.

2. The   response should be redacted in a proper manner and re-examined 
as it's being done so that information can be evaluated as public 
interest in the terms implied  by the PHSO's  ' openness and
transparency'   policy, which seems to have been summarily dismissed.

3. Given the recent history of an NAO investigation, overspending and
resignations of both Ombudsman and   deputy, the public interest must
surely be now weighed in favour of determining the SORT  of ' rigorous'  
assessment given to PHSO workings by these committees, rather than the
detail of discussion.

This is, after all, public money that the PHSO is spending  on  it's '
rigorous  'scrutiny', which appears to have failed the public in the past.

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

Yours faithfully,

Jt Oakley

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Dear InformationRights,

Thank you. You state:

In your email of 14 November 2016, you stated that ‘blank pages with
occasional spots have been given in response to the request’. I have
reviewed the information which we provided to you and which has been
published on the Whatdotheyknow.com website and can see no issue with
their presentation.

:::

But I'm sure that other readers can see the blank pages for themselves - Even if you are unable to see them.

Yours sincerely,

Jt Oakley

Informationrights@ombudsman.org.uk, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman


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Jt Oakley left an annotation ()

The FOIA department reviews its own response to a request again.

And yet the FOIA department has assured WDTK requesters that reviews are now completed by the legal department.

And it's not even by the head of the Foi department.

Jt Oakley left an annotation ()

Complaint to ICO:

*Please only reply by email to save postal visits and the environment.

* Please refer to my file reference when replying :

File ref: Three sets of PHSO committee minutes

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/help/unha...

1. Details of the organisation your concern is about
Organisation:     
Contact name:   Aimee Gasston  
Address:   
image1.PNG


Postcode:    
Telephone:  Call our Customer Helpline on 0345 015 4033 from 8:30am to 5:30pm,  
  
Email:  n/a
    
2. Your relationship with the organisation
     
Member of the public
3. What is your concern?
Three sets of PHSO committee minutes

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/help/unha...
I wished to know the basis on which these committees were making decisions since the PHSO has admitted to auditing failure ( overspending) to PACAC.

Section 36 - The 'safe space' needed to discuss matters should be confined to individual utterances and not overall summaries of what took place.
It is reasonable to know how these 'rigorously scrutinised' decisions are made. From the description given in the response, I do not think the balance of public interest has been properly weighed.
It is stated : ' it would simultaneously diminish effectiveness of the
committee as a scrutiny mechanism'
The 'method of scrutiny' should be available to the public.
(For all the public knows it could be tossing a coin).
::
I agree with the privacy of names, other than those of senior officers and those who would expect to be known by the public - by reference to their job descriptions.

For example- What is the public interest in keeping the name of the Governance Risk and Assurance Manager secret?
This would include that of those initially witheld, who (previously apparently did not )it was then admitted attended meetings stated below:

The notes of the 1 March 2016 Remuneration and Nominations Committee
meeting should also have included ‘Corporate Governance Manager (minutes)’
in the ‘Also attending’ section. The minutes of the 9 March 2016 PHSO
Quality Committee meeting should also have included ‘Quality Insight
Manager’ and ‘Corporate Governance Manager (minutes) under ‘In
Attendance’. Finally, the minutes of the 2 June 2016 PHSO Quality
Committee meeting should also have included ‘Governance Risk and Assurance
Manager (minutes)’ under the ‘In Attendance’ section.

We apologise that this information was not provided to you when we
responded to your request on 11 November 2016.

As stated in request for review :

2. The response should be redacted in a proper manner and re-examined as it's being done so that information can be evaluated as public interest in the terms implied by the PHSO's ' openness and
transparency' policy, which seems to have been summarily dismissed.

3. Given the recent history of an NAO investigation, overspending and
resignations of both Ombudsman and deputy, the public interest must
surely be now weighed in favour of determining the SORT of ' rigorous'
assessment given to PHSO workings by these committees, rather than the detail of discussion.

This is, after all, public money that the PHSO is spending on it's '
rigorous 'scrutiny', which appears to have failed the public in the past.

:::::

I.e. The public should be allowed to know where the PHSO went wrong in its 'rigorous scrutiny' ......what it's admitted overspending of public money so what exactly is this mysterious 'rigorous scrutiny' that allowed it to do so?

I would suggest that previous S36 cases are comparable.

https://panopticonblog.com/2014/03/31/un...

Something else. Please give details.
     
Please send us copies of relevant documents that support your concern.

Three sets of PHSO committee minutes

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/help/unha...

4. What have you done to raise your concern with the organisation?

Three sets of PHSO committee minutes

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/help/unha...
     
Please send copies of any documents you have showing how you raised your concern with the organisation.
Three sets of PHSO committee minutes

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/help/unha...

5. What did the organisation say?

Three sets of PHSO committee minutes

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/help/unha...
     
Please send copies of any documents you have showing the organisation’s response to your concern.
6. Reference number
FDN 268806

As above.

Jt Oakley left an annotation ()

The ICO is to investigate:

---

20 April 2017

Case Reference Number FS50662738

Dear Ms TO

Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA)
Your FOIA request to PHSO dated 2 September 2016 about three sets of PHSO committee minutes

Further to our letter of 27 January 2017, I write to inform you that your case has now been allocated to me to investigate. This letter will explain how I intend to do this. It will also provide you with contact details so that you can get in touch with me if you need to.

What happens now

Where possible the Information Commissioner prefers complaints to be resolved informally and we ask both parties to be open to compromise. With this in mind, I will write to the public authority and ask it to revisit your request. It may wish to reverse or amend its position. If it does, it will contact you again directly about this.

In any event, it must provide us with its full and final arguments in support of its position. Once I receive its arguments, I will consider its reply before either contacting you to discuss the matter further or preparing a decision notice. Further information is available on the Information Commissioner’s website:
https://ico.org.uk/concerns/getting/y/ot...

The request

On 2 September 2016 you requested information of the following description:

“Please supply the last two sets of minutes of these four (*excluding audit) committees, or direct me to where I might read them on the PHSO website.

The Remuneration and Nominations Committee
(agrees pay and performance review arrangements for Executive Directors and agrees their annual individual pay awards. It meets around twice a year).
Quality Committee
(The Quality Committee provides critical assessment and challenge to the Executive Team on matters related to quality. It meets around four times a year.)
The third committee, which is not listed on this informative page. (No information given)
NB * I have already requested the Audit Committee minutes.
On 30 September PHSO responded. It confirmed it held the information you requested, but that it considered it was exempt by virtue of section 36(2)(c). It further explained that it also needed to consider the public interest test and therefore required additional time to respond.

On 11 November 2016 PHSO responded. It provided some information within the scope of your request but refused to provide the remainder. It cited sections 36(2)(b)(ii) and 40(2) as its basis for doing so.

You requested an internal review on 14 November 2016. PHSO sent you the outcome of its internal review on 28 December 2016. It upheld its original position but did provide four further job titles of attendees. I also note that it referred to section 36(2)(b)(i) rather than 36(2)(b)(ii).

The scope of the case

The focus of my investigation will be to determine whether PHSO handled your request in accordance with the FOIA. Specifically, I will look at whether PHSO is entitled to rely on section 36(2)(b) as a basis for refusing to provide the withheld information. I will be clarifying which part of section 36(2)(b) PHSO are relying on. However, I would be grateful if you could confirm that you are content with the redactions made under section 40(2) and whether you wish the timeliness of the response to be considered.

Please contact me within the next 10 working days, that is, by 5 May 2017 if there are matters other than these that you believe should be addressed. This will help avoid any unnecessary delay in investigating your complaint. If I do not hear from you by this date, my investigation will focus only upon the matters identified above.

If you have any queries at any time you are welcome to write to me at the above address, at casework@ico.org.uk (please ensure that you quote the above case reference) or by telephoning me on x

----------------------------------------------------------------------

Thank you for your reply.

I will read through by the due date and let you know if there is anything to add.

:::

40(2)

My request was for the original minutes plus the necessary redactions -of the names of officers, who are not public facing.

Considering the recent scandal after which the PHSO's deputy had to resign on matters which included trying to appoint a friend to senior PHSO role, I would argue that it is in the public interest that any audits should be as frank and open as possible, since Sir Alex Allen's report criticised the level of 'rigorous scrutiny' apparent at the PHSO.

Points 32-36

https://www.ombudsman.org.uk/sites/defau...

The was after a National Audit investigation into Dame Julie Mellor's appointment of an ex-business partner.

Therefore it is pertinent to ask how the PHSO's supervisory committees are operating.

And I would have assumed that the PHSO would be keen to restore its former reputation by providing original paperwork with proper redactions - and not blank pages - to demonstrate its promised 'rigour'.

:::

The PHSO is also renowned for stating requesters 'ought' to be able to read responses, after they complain that they are unable to do do.
So it's difficult to determine whether the blank spotted pages in the response hold any pertinent information.

How can any requester sign off 40(2) if the given response is potentially part-missing and incomprehensible?

:::

Section 36(2)

The PHSO states:

When considering the arguments for disclosure of the withheld information, we have taken into account that it is key that publically funded organisations like the PHSO are open and transparent about their decision making, and members of the Board and Executive Team are held accountable for them. We have also taken into account that disclosure would provide insight to the rigorous scrutiny, and the free and frank exchange of views that takes place at these committee meetings.

However we consider that the public interest for not disclosing the information outweighs the arguments for disclosure in relation to this specific material, which includes the free and frank exchange of views brought during the course of open discussion. It is fundamental that our committee members have a protected space where they can exchange such views in an uninhibited manner in order to fulfil their role in monitoring and scrutinising our governance, policy and performance. Disclosure of the withheld information would impede discussions at future committee meetings if committee members believed their discussions and advice would be likely to be released into the public domain; as it would reduce the candour of discussion, it would simultaneously diminish effectiveness of the committee as a scrutiny mechanism. Any chilling effect on the exchange of views would lead to the loss in quality of our decision making and therefore the information is exempt under section 36(2)(b)(ii) FOIA.

And I also argue that the FOIA states that all responses should be readable- or explained.

Therefore, clearly I am not in a position to challenge 36(2) through lack of clear explanation as to the 'reasonableness' of the qualified response. As it appears to be a standard paragraph, rather than a close and thoughtful scrutiny of this singular request.

:::

Nb 'However, the content of the opinion or the submission made to support it will often be relevant to the ICO’s assessment of whether the opinion is reasonable'.

::::

Therefore, it is impossible to state I am happy with the redactions as many of the pages are blanked to such a degree.

Nb Blanket rulings

28. Section 36 depends crucially on the qualified person’s exercise of discretion in reaching their opinion. This means that they must consider the circumstances of the particular case before forming an opinion. We recognise that public authorities will tend to develop a general approach to, or policy on, releasing certain types of information, but this must not limit the qualified person’s discretion. An opinion formed purely on the basis of a ‘blanket ruling’ may not be reasonable if it does not take account of the circumstances at the time of the request. The qualified person should consider the facts in each case, weigh the relevant factors and ignore irrelevant factors in order to reach their opinion.

However, as Dame Julie Mellor has presumably given her qualified opinion on this request, and not just a blanket ruling, I am unable to comment on how relevant it is, as it seems to be missing, and parts of the Act have been supplied - but without her qualified argument.

A qualified opinion should not be based by merely ticking bits of the Act which might apply, without explanation.

One example:

'Ongoing issues'. ....Which might, or might not be still ongoing.

Without knowing what they are, or the logic for excluding them, or parts of the data, it is impossible to make an assessment on this particular qualification.

Presumably Dame Julie Mellor has carefully weighed this disclosure up in her *qualified opinion.
( *If, in fact, the qualified opinion exists).

:::

Nb Where the ICO is considering a complaint regarding information withheld under section 36, it will consider all relevant factors to assess whether the opinion was reasonable. These may include, but are not limited to:

 Whether the prejudice relates to the specific subsection of section 36(2) that is being claimed. If the prejudice or inhibition envisaged is not related to the specific subsection the opinion is unlikely to be reasonable.

 The nature of the information and the timing of the request, for example, whether the request concerns an important ongoing issue on which there needs to be a free and frank exchange of views or provision of advice.

 The qualified person’s knowledge of or involvement in the issue.

Collective responsibility

33. Section 36(2)(a)(i) covers information whose disclosure would or would be likely to prejudice collective responsibility:

As to the confidentiality of these particular committees, the redactions are often so severe as to make the response impenetrable.

There must, of course, be free and frank discussion, but that doesn't mean that the scope and larger detail of discussions on the spending of public money can - and should - be be redacted, simply because a discussion has taken place.

Jt Oakley left an annotation ()

No record of the qualified person's decision given in the reply.:

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

CEO Mr Newbold (Account suspended) left an annotation ()

Dear JT Oakley,

Can you inform me how did you obtain the dates of the PAHO meetings discussing your matters please? or is this a fishing trip?

Yours,

CEO Mr Newbold

Jt Oakley left an annotation ()

These meetings are to discuss how the PHSO spends its money. (£37m)

They are not about discussing complaints.

::::

If you want more information about how you're case was handled by the PHSO, write and ask for a Subject Acess Request ( not here..WDTK ) from your private address.

Here's some information on how to do so:

https://ico.org.uk/for-the-public/person...

Jt Oakley left an annotation ()

Argument to the ICO as to why the PHSO should provide these minutes.

40(2)

My request was for the original minutes plus the necessary redactions -of the names of officers, who are not public facing.

Considering the recent scandal after which the PHSO's deputy had to resign on matters which included trying to appoint a friend to senior PHSO role, I would argue that it is in the public interest that any audits should be as frank and open as possible, since Sir Alex Allen's report criticised the level of 'rigorous scrutiny' apparent at the PHSO.

Points 32-36

https://www.ombudsman.org.uk/sites/defau...

The was after a National Audit investigation into Dame Julie Mellor's appointment of an ex-business partner.

Therefore it is pertinent to ask how the PHSO's supervisory committees are operating.

And I would have assumed that the PHSO would be keen to restore its former reputation by providing original paperwork with proper redactions - and not blank pages - to demonstrate its promised 'rigour'.

:::

The PHSO is also renowned for stating requesters 'ought' to be able to read responses, after they complain that they are unable to do do.
So it's difficult to determine whether the blank spotted pages in the response hold any pertinent information.

How can any requester sign off 40(2) if the given response is potentially part-missing and incomprehensible?

:::

Section 36(2)

The PHSO states:

When considering the arguments for disclosure of the withheld information, we have taken into account that it is key that publically funded organisations like the PHSO are open and transparent about their decision making, and members of the Board and Executive Team are held accountable for them. We have also taken into account that disclosure would provide insight to the rigorous scrutiny, and the free and frank exchange of views that takes place at these committee meetings.

However we consider that the public interest for not disclosing the information outweighs the arguments for disclosure in relation to this specific material, which includes the free and frank exchange of views brought during the course of open discussion. It is fundamental that our committee members have a protected space where they can exchange such views in an uninhibited manner in order to fulfil their role in monitoring and scrutinising our governance, policy and performance. Disclosure of the withheld information would impede discussions at future committee meetings if committee members believed their discussions and advice would be likely to be released into the public domain; as it would reduce the candour of discussion, it would simultaneously diminish effectiveness of the committee as a scrutiny mechanism. Any chilling effect on the exchange of views would lead to the loss in quality of our decision making and therefore the information is exempt under section 36(2)(b)(ii) FOIA.

And I argue that the FOIA states that all responses should be readable- or explained.

Therefore, clearly I am not in a position to challenge 36(2) through lack of clear explanation as to the 'reasonableness' of the qualified response. As it appears to be a standard paragraph, rather than a close and thoughtful scrutiny of this singular request.

:::

Nb 'However, the content of the opinion or the submission made to support it will often be relevant to the ICO’s assessment of whether the opinion is reasonable'.

::::

Therefore, it is impossible to state I am happy with the redactions as many of the pages are blanked to such a degree.

Nb Blanket rulings

28. Section 36 depends crucially on the qualified person’s exercise of discretion in reaching their opinion. This means that they must consider the circumstances of the particular case before forming an opinion. We recognise that public authorities will tend to develop a general approach to, or policy on, releasing certain types of information, but this must not limit the qualified person’s discretion. An opinion formed purely on the basis of a ‘blanket ruling’ may not be reasonable if it does not take account of the circumstances at the time of the request. The qualified person should consider the facts in each case, weigh the relevant factors and ignore irrelevant factors in order to reach their opinion.

However, as Dame Julie Mellor has presumably given her qualified opinion on this request, and not just a blanket ruling, I am unable to comment on how relevant it is, as it seems to be missing, and parts of the Act have been supplied - but without her qualified argument.

A qualified opinion should not be based by merely ticking bits of the Act which might apply, without explanation.

One example:

'Ongoing issues'. ....Which might, or might not be still ongoing.

Without knowing what they are, or the logic for excluding them, or parts of the data, it is impossible to make an assessment on this particular qualification.

Presumably Dame Julie Mellor has carefully weighed this disclosure up in her *qualified opinion. ( *If, in fact, the qualified opinion exists).

:::

Nb Where the ICO is considering a complaint regarding information withheld under section 36, it will consider all relevant factors to assess whether the opinion was reasonable. These may include, but are not limited to:

 Whether the prejudice relates to the specific subsection of section 36(2) that is being claimed. If the prejudice or inhibition envisaged is not related to the specific subsection the opinion is unlikely to be reasonable.

 The nature of the information and the timing of the request, for example, whether the request concerns an important ongoing issue on which there needs to be a free and frank exchange of views or provision of advice.

 The qualified person’s knowledge of or involvement in the issue.

Collective responsibility

33. Section 36(2)(a)(i) covers information whose disclosure would or would be likely to prejudice collective responsibility:

As to the confidentiality of these particular committees, the redactions are often so severe as to make the response impenetrable.

There must, of course, be free and frank discussion, but that doesn't mean that the scope and larger detail of discussions on the spending of public money can - and should - be be redacted, simply because a discussion has taken place.

Jt Oakley left an annotation ()

Reference: FS50662738

Freedom of Information Act 2OOO (FOIA) Decision notice
11 July 2Ol7
Decision (including any steps ordered)
* 1  The complainant has requested information relating to meeting minutes. 

* 2  The Commissioner's decision is that Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman ('PHSO') has correctly applied section 36(2XbXi¡) (prejudice to effective conduct of public affairs) to part of the withheld information. 

* 3  However the Commissioner also finds that PHSO has incorrectly applied section 40(2) (personal data) to the remaining part of the withheld information. Finally, the Commissioner finds that although it has complied with section 17(1) in stating which exemption is to be relied upon, by failing to complete its public interest test considerations within a reasonable time period PHSO has breached section L7(3) of the FOIA and that PHSO has breached section 10(1) of the FOIA (time for compliance) 

* 4  The Commissioner requires the public authority to take the following steps to ensure compliance with the legislation. 

a Disclose the information withheld under section 40(2) of the FOIA.
5. The public authority must take these steps within 35 calendar days of the date of this decision notice. Failure to comply may result in the Commissioner making written certification of this fact to the High Coutt
pursuant to section 54 of the Act and may be dealt with as a contempt of court.
Request and response
6
On 2 September 2016, the complainant wrote to PHSO and requested information in the following terms:
Please supply the last two sets of minutes of these four (xexcluding audit) committees, or direct me to where I might read them on the PHSO website.
1. The Remuneration and Nominations Committee
(agrees pay and performance review arrangements for Executive Directors and agrees their annual individual pay awards. It meets around twice a year).
2. Quality Committee
(The Quality Committee provides criticalassesslnent and challenge to the Executive Team on matters related to quality. It meets around four times a year.)
3. The third committee, which is not listed on this informative page. (No information given)
4. NB x I have already requested the Audit Committee minutes.
The PHSO responded on 30 September 2016. It stated that it held the information requested but that it considered it was exempt by virtue of section 36(2Xc). It further explained that it needed additional time to consider the public interest test.
On 11 November 2016 PHSO provided its substantive response. It provided some information within the scope of the request but refused to provide the remainder. It cited sections 36(2xb)(ii) and 40(2) as its basis for doing so. It withdrew its reliance on section 36(2)(c).
Following an internal review PHSO wrote to the complainant on 28 December 20L6. It provided four further job titles of meeting attendees, but continued to withhold the remaining information maintaining its reliance on section 36(2)(b)(ii) as its basis for doing so.
7
I
9
Scope of the case
10. The complainant contacted the Commissioner on l January 20L7 to complain about the way her request for information had been handled

11. The Commissioner considers the scope of this case to be to determine if PHSO has correctly applied section 36(2Xb)(ii) and section 40(2) to the withheld information.
Reasons for decision
Section 4O(2) - Third party personal data
L2. This exemption provides that any third party personal data is exempt if its disclosure would contravene any of the Data Protection Principles set out in Schedule 1 of the Data Protection Act (DPA).
Is the withheld information personal data
13. Personal data is defined by the DPA as any information relating to a living and identifiable individual. The two main elements of personal
data are that the information must'relate'to a living person and that the person must be identifiable. Information will relate to a person if it is about them, linked to them, has some biographical significance for them, is used to inform decisions affecting them, has them as its main focus or impacts on them in any way. 

14. PHSO stated that staff members are clearly identifiable from their names and contact details and so the information requested properly
constitutes personal data. The Commissioner also considers that the information withheld under section 40(2) is information from which 
living data subjects would be identifiable and is therefore personal data. 

Would disclosure breach the Data Protection Principles?
15. The Commissioner has gone on to consider whether the disclosure of this information would be in breach of the first principle of the DPA. The first principle requires, amongst other things, that the processing of personal data is fair and lawful. The Commissioner has initially considered whether the disclosure would be fair. 

16. In deciding whether disclosure of personal data would be unfair, and thus breach the first data protection principle, the Commissioner takes into account a range of factors including: 
. The reasonable expectations of the individual in terms of what would happen to their personal data. Such expectations could be shaped by: 
o what the public authority may have told them about what would happen to their personal data; 

3
* .  their general expectations of privacy, including the effect of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR); 

* .  the nature or content of the information itself; 

* .  the circumstances in which the personal data was obtained; 

* .  any particular circumstances of the case, e.g. established custom or practice within the public authority; and 

* .  whether the individual consented to their personal data being disclosed or conversely whether they explicitly refused. 
. The consequences of disclosing the information, i.e. what damage or distress would the individual suffer if the information was disclosed? In consideration of this factor the Commissioner may take into account: 
o whether information of the nature requested is already in the public domain; if so the source of such a disclosure; 
o âr'ìd even if the information has previously been in the public domain does the passage of time mean that disclosure now could still cause damage or distress? 
17. Furthermore, notwithstanding the data subject's reasonable expectations or any damage or distress caused to them by disclosure, it may still be fair to disclose the requested information if it can be argued that there is a more compelling legitimate interest in disclosure to the public. 
18. In considering 'legitimate interests', in order to establish if there is a compelling reason for disclosure, such interests can include broad general principles of accountability and transparency for theír own sake, as well as case specific interests. In balancing these legitimate interests with the rights of the data subject, it is also important to consider a proportionate approach. 
19. The information redacted under section 40(2) of the FOIA consists of the names of three individuals. Having done a simple search on the internet all these names are publically available. Although not necessarily in a publÍc facing role it is clear that this information is in the public domain and linked to the PHSO, along with their job titles. 
20. The Commissioner therefore does not accept that those concerned would reasonably expect their names to be withheld in this case, as the 

4

information is already publically available. In addition, all three are in management roles at the PHSO. In fact, from the information provided to the Commissioner it appears that the name of the Corporate Governance Manager has already been disclosed although it is not clear if this was in error. Furthermore the name of the Quality Assurance Manager has been provided in a response to a request via the "What do they know website".
2t. As the Commissioner considers that disclosure is not unfair, she has considered whether there is a condition in Schedule 2 which would permit disclosure.
22. Condition 6(1) of Schedule 2 of the DPA states that personal data may be processed if : - 
"The processing is necessary for the purposes of legitimate interests pursued by the data controller or by the third party or parties to whom the data are disclosed, except where the processing is unwarranted in any particular case by reason of prejudice to the rights and freedoms or legitimate interests of the data subject." 

23. The Commissioner has looked at whetherthere is a legitimate interest in disclosure of the individual's name. She accepts that there is a legitimate public interest in accountability and transparency, 

24. This would not cause any prejudice to the rights, freedoms or legitimate interests of the three individuals concerned (the data subjects) as the names of two of them are already in the public domain. All three are in management roles at the PHSO and disclosure would not be likely to cause any damage or distress to those individuals. 

Section 36
25. Section 36(2)(bXii) provides that:
"Information to which this section applies is exempt information if, in the reasonable opinion of a qualified person, disclosure of the information under this Act-
(2)(b) would, or would be likely to, inhibit-
ii. the free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation,
26. PHSO has applied section 36(2)(b)(ii) to part of the withheld information. In determining whether section 36(2)(b)(ii) was correctly engaged by PHSO, the Commissioner is required to consider the qualified person's opinion as well as the reasoning which informed the
lntormatlon Commisslon€13
Otf lce
5

opinion. Therefore in order to establish that the exemption has been applied correctly the Commissioner must:
. Establish that an opinion was given;
o Ascertain who was the qualified person or persons;
o Ascertain when the opinion was given; and
. Consider whether the opinion was reasonable.
27. When considering whether the opinion is reasonable the Commissioner is not required to determine whether it is the only reasonable opinion that can be held on the subject. It is quite possible for two people to hold differing views on the same issue, both of which are reasonable. Nor is it necessary for the Commissioner to agree with the qualified person's opinion.
28.
However, in determining if the opinion is reasonable the Commissioner will consider all relevant factors when assessing whether the opinion was reasonable, including the nature of the information and the timing of the request, and whether the prejudice relates to the specific subsections of section 36(2) that are being claimed.
29. The Commissioner notes that the qualified person is Dame Julie Mellor. PHSO confirmed that Dame Julie Mellor reviewed the documentation personally and her view was confirmed by email. It explained that the qualified opinion was provided on 10 November 2016. The qualified person's opinion was that section 36(2)(b)(ii) FOIA was applicable in this case.
30.
PHSO stated that the material redacted from the Remunerations and Nominations Committee minutes is sensitive and relates to the performance of indivídual members of staff. It considered that the minutes record opinions that were delivered in a free and frank manner and that the disclosure of this information, relating to remuneration and reward, would prejudice free and open discussion in the future, and likely also impede the ability of PHSO to attract staff to its senior roles if they thought that discussion of their performance and future objectives were to be discussed in a public forum. As an organisation, PHSO needs a safe space in which to discuss the performance of its staff, no matter what their seniority.
PHSO explained that the material redacted from the two sets of Quality Committee minutes related to internal matters of quality, extending to operational planning and performance management. Comments record frank assessments of the success of ongoing initiatives and it would not
31.
6

have been appropriate to publish these at the time the request was made.
32. The Commissioner considers the opinion of the qualified person is a reasonable one.
33. As the Commissioner has decided that the exemption is engaged, she has gone on to consider whether the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in dísclosing the information. In her approach to the competing public interest arguments in this case, the Commissioner has drawn heavily upon the Information Tribunal's Decision in the case of Guardian Newspapers Limited and Heather Brooke v Information Commissioner and BBC (the Brooke case)1.
34. The Commissioner notes, and adopts in particular, the Tribunal's conclusions that, having accepted the reasonableness of the qualified person's opinion that disclosure of the information would, or would be likely to, have the stated detrimental effect, the Commissioner must give weight to that opinion as an important piece of evidence in her assessment of the balance of the public interest.
35. However, in order to form the balancing judgment required by section 2(2)(b), the Commissioner is entitled, and will need, to form his own view as to the severity of, and the extent and frequency with which, any such detrimental effect might occur. Applying this approach to the present case, the Commissioner recognises that there are public interest arguments which pull in competing directions, and she gives due weight to the qualified person's reasonable opinion that disclosure would, or would be likely to inhibit the free and frank provision of advice.
Public interest arguments in favour of disclosing the requested information
36. PHSO explained that when considering the arguments for disclosure of the information, it took into account the importance of publically funded organisations, like the PHSO, being open and transparent about their decision making, and members of the Board and Executive Team are held accountable for these decisions. It also took into account that disclosure would provide insight to the rigorous scrutiny, and the free and frank exchange of views that takes place at these committee meetings.
1 tn/zoooloo11; Et/2oo6/oor3

rco. lnlormatlon Comm¡ssiomr,s olfice
Public interest arguments in favour of maintaining the exemption
37. The PHSO has explained that it believes the following public interest arguments favour maintaining the exemption:
o It is fundamental that its committee members have a protected space where they can exchange such views on extremely sensitive matters such as pay, internal audit reports and the quality of the PHSO's decisions, in an uninhibited manner in order to fulfil their role in monitoring and scrutinising its governance, policy and performance.
. Disclosure of the withheld information would impede discussions at future committee meetings if committee members believed their discussions and advice could be disclosed into the pubfic domain; as it would reduce the candour of discussion, it would simultaneously diminish effectiveness of the committee as a scrutiny mechanism.
. Any chilling effect on the exchange of views would lead to the loss in quality of its decision making.
38. PHSO further stated that all the minutes from Board meetings (the highest decision making body at PHSO) are published frequently on its website.
Balance of the public interest arguments
39. The Commissioner considers that these areas require free and frank discussion and sharing of views between the Ombudsman and her staff. Disclosure of information which would be likely to inhibit the frankness and candour of such discussions would not be in the public interest as in turn it would be likely to have a negative impact upon the PHSO's ability to successfully monitor and scrutinise its own performance.
40. The Commissioner considers that there is a strong public interest in disclosure of informatíon relating to how public authorities reach decisions relating to senior staff pay and performance, as well as how it measures the quality of its own work.
4t. The development of quality measures is an on-going process as are discussions around senior staff performance. Therefore the Commissioner considers that there is also a strong public interest in allowing safe space for discussion and to enable views to be shared freely and frankly relating to these issues.
42. On balance the Commissioner considers that in this case, the public interest arguments in favour of disclosure are outweighed by the public interest arguments in favour of maintaining the exemption. Section 36(2Xb)(i¡) FOIA was therefore correctly applied in this case.
8
Section 10 - time for compliance

rco. lnformalion Commlssiorer's Off lce
43. The complainant also raised concerns about the time taken to respond to her request for information and request for review.
44. Under section 1(1) of the FOIA, anyone who requests information from a public authority is entitled (a) to be told whether the authority holds the requested information and (b) to have the information communicated to him or her if it is held. 

45. Section 10(1) says that an authority must comply with section 1(1) as soon as possible and within 20 working days. Section 17(3) states that if a public authority is relying on a qualified exemption, the time limit for compliance may be extended in order to consider the public interest in maintaining the exemption or disclosing the information. 

46. A public authority may take such time as is'reasonable in the circumstances', and must then either disclose the requested information or explain to the applicant why the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosure.
47. Although the FOIA does not define what a reasonable time is, the Commissioner considers it reasonable to extend the time to provide a full response including public interest considerations by up to a further 20 working days - which means that the total time spent dealing with the request should not exceed 40 working days. Any extension beyond 40 working days would require there to be exceptional circumstances, fully justified by the public authority.
15. The PHSO provided the following chronology:
o 2 September 20L6 - request submitted via Whatdotheyknow.com website.
. The statutory deadline for responding to the request was 30 September 2016. On 30 September 2016, PHSO issued a public interest test extension notice on that date, to advise that it needed an additional 20 working days to consider the balance of public interest in relation to section 36 FOIA and hoped to respond by 28 October 2017
. On 28 October 2016, PHSO issued a further public interest test extension for the consideration of section 36 FOIA and advised that a substantive response would be available by 11 November 20L6 at the latest. On 1 October 2016, the complainant requested an internal review.
. On 10 November 2017, the Ombudsman, Dame Julie Mellor (the qualified person), agreed the application of section 36(2Xb)(ii). A full

response was sent on 11 November 20t7. Minutes were provided with some information redacted in line with section 36(2XbXi) FOIA and staff names under section 40(2) FOIA.
. There was then some further correspondence and an internal review decision was delivered on 28 December 2016. The complaint was partly upheld on the basis that some staff job titles were removed in error as part of the third party personal data redactions.
48. PHSO referred to the Commissioner's guidance'Tíme limits for compliance'2 which states :
Section 10(3) of the FOIA enables an authority to extend the 20 working day limit up to a 'reasonable'time in any case where;
o it requires more time to determine whether or not the balance of the public interest lies in maintaining an exemption,
. or it needs further time to consider whether it would be in the public interest to confirm or deny whether the information is held.
This extension will therefore only apply to requests where the authority considers a 'qualified exemption' (an exemption that is subject to a public interest test) to be engaged.
The Act does not define what might constitute a 'reasonable'extension of time. However, our view is that an authority should normally take no more than an additional 20 working days to consider the public interest, meaning that the total time spent dealing with the request should not exceed 40 working days. An extension beyond this should be exceptional. Examples of such circumstances could include extreme
pressures placed on the public authority by a major incident or exceptional levels of complexity involving a number of external parties.
Public authorities will need to demonstrate that the length of any time extension is justified.
Any authority claiming an extension will still be obliged to issue a refusal notice explaining which exemption applies and why within 20 working days. This notice must explain that it requires more time to consider the public interest test, and provide an estimate of the date on which a final decision is likely to be made.
2 https://ico.org.uk/media/for-organisatio... guidance.pdf
lnformtion Comm¡sslonerS
O{f læ
10

49. The Commissioner notes that the qualified person's opinion was not obtained until 10 November 2016. PHSO has not provided any further information as to when the opinion was sought or where the delay occurred.

Reference: FS50662738

50.
51.
52.
53.
54.
55.
PHSO took a total of 60 days to comply with the request and considered the extensions were applied correctly (i.e. in relation to a qualified exemption which had been considered engaged from the outset). It explained that the two public interest extensions applied to the case were done so because the issue to be considered as part of the balancing exercise was unreasonable as this was a complex request relating to sets of minutes which PHSO does not routinely publish.
The Commissioner is not persuaded by PHSO's position. It is good practice to issue updates to applicants in a timely manner and 20 working days is to be considered a'long stop'. PHSO considered that section 36 was engaged at the outset and was fully aware that the public interest test would need to be carried out and the opinion of the qualified person obtained.
The Commissioner further notes that in a previous decision notice3 (FS50535588) issued in December 20t4 PHSO stated that it had recently sought certification from the Cabinet Office for an additional 'qualified person'.
It said this was so it could ensure that in the absence of the Ombudsman, decisions in respect of this exemption could still be taken without delay. The PHSO received a letter from Francis Maude MP on 14 April 2014, confirming the Ombudsman as the qualified person and also sanctíoning the person holding the office of Senior Information Risk Officer (SIRO) to act as the qualified person. It said that currently the role of SIRO is held by the PHSO's Managing Director.
It is the Commissioner's view that it is not good practice for a public authority to issue notification of extensions on the day a response is due. Furthermore, from the information provided to her it appears that the qualified person's opinion was not sought in a timely manner.
In the circumstances of this case, although PHSO has informed the complainant of the delay while the public interest is considered, the total time taken has signíficantly exceeded 40 working days. No reasons were given for the delay and the Commissioner believes thís to be
3
noti ces/20 t4 / I042882/fs_5 0 5 3 5 5BB. pdf
: u k/med ialaction-weve-ta ken/decision- https //ico,org.

lco. lnldmllôn Commlsdoæ/s OttTæ
unacceptable. As the Commissioner does not consider this to be a reasonable timescale she finds that PHSO has not complied with section 17(3).
L2

Right of appeal

lco. lnlormållon Comml$iorerb Offlce
56. Either party has the right to appeal against this decision notice to the
First-tier Tribunal (Information Rights). Information about the appeals process may be obtained from:
First-tier Tribunal (Information Rights) GRC & GRP Tribunals,
PO Box 9300,
LEICESTER,
LE1 8DJ
Tel: 0300 t234504
Fax: 0870 739 5836
Email : GRC@hmcts.gsi.gov. uk
Website : www.j u stice. gov. u k/tri bu na I s/genera I - reg u latory- chamber
57. If you wish to appeal against a decision notice, you can obtain information on how to appeal along with the relevant forms from the Information Tribunal website.
58. Any Notice of Appeal should be served on the Tribunal within 28 (calendar) days of the date on which this decision notice is sent.
Signed
Pamela Clements

Group Manager
Information Commissioner's Office Wycliffe House
Water Lane
Wilmslow
Cheshire
SK9 sAF

Fiona Watts left an annotation ()

Oh? Is "Pam" from 2012 now signing her letters as "Pamela" in 2017?

Congratulations J T Oakley; you have the health, tenaciousness and skills to challenge the Ombudsman's slippery refusal to comply with UK data laws.

Jt Oakley left an annotation ()

Thank you Fiona.

I just wish the PHSO FOIA department would stop 'gaming' requests - and putting everyone to so much work.

It's just wasting taxpayers money and time.

Even the ICO seems peeved by its gaming prevarication methods.

This PHSO department is costing the taxpayer ££££££'s to process a request and consequent ICO ££££'s ...,plus adding to the work of the ICO.

And if anyone wants to know how the PHSO operates - by seemingly hoping the public will just get tired of its lack of sensible response ( if any) and go away, here's yet another example.

Brenda Prentice left an annotation ()

JT, I admire your ability to 'take them on' they have warn me out...I keep trying but wish I had your stamina....(and ability)

Thank goodness for you....

Jt Oakley left an annotation ()

Thank you Brenda.

But how I wish to end any correspondence with this arrogant and failing organisation, prepared to game even the simplest of requests.

::::

The FOIA department's agenda seems to have been 'The Dame Julie Mellor Protection Society' rather than complying with the law.

Logically the outstanding requests should have been answered by the PHSO well before at the time that Dame Julie Mellor resigned from the PHSO, rather than dragging them out.... simply to accommodate her leaving date.

As the ICO pointed out: Why wasn't the matter dealt with by the other PHSO Qualified Person, which the PHSO had taken so much trouble to put in place?

In this request, it can be seen how the PHSO operates.

And that's what I mean by the PHSO's consistent gaming of requests.

But at least -a breakthrough- the ICO picked it up THIS time.

::

Blank pages

I've still got no answer to the blank pages provided.

There seemed to be no redactions marked, so I can only presume that the PHSO included them for fun, or to add to the confusion.

Or maybe they mentioned Dame Julie Mellor in some minimal or fleeting way?

:::

'The public authority must take these steps within 35 calendar days of the date of this decision notice'.

The ICO Decision date was July 11.

Due date August 15.

Brenda Prentice left an annotation ()

If only PHSO could learn from it own advice to authorise....but it seems impossible. It is there for it's own perpetuation and good, no one else's, and we pay the bill.

I'll look out for August 15th!

Jt Oakley left an annotation ()

Bated breath Brenda.

InformationRights, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

1 Attachment

  • Attachment

    Email IR 171006 144934.switch

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Dear InformationRights,

Sorry - I cannot read this .

Please send in a readable form, as it’s supposedly a publically accessible .

You will be able to check that it is accessible by reading the site.

Yours sincerely,

Jt Oakley

Informationrights@ombudsman.org.uk, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman


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J Roberts left an annotation ()

It would appear an error has been made, or else there has been a change in policy to restrict public access to this response:

"1. Please provide the names of all methods you have previously used to respond to information requests made through Whatdotheyknow."

"Our standard practice is to use Microsoft Outlook to email responses to information requests made through WhatdotheyKnow. However, on occasion responses to non-sensitive information requests have accidentally been marked as sensitive before sending these, which results in the information being delivered via Egress. However, this is only done in error and it is not our usual practice to send out responses to information requests made through Whatdotheyknow via Egress."

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

Jt Oakley left an annotation ()

PHSO speciality,

It’s another way of shutting requesters down. Sending it in a form that can’t be read in WDTK.

And uts why I now put this on every request:

Relevant paragraph*****
The information should be immediately readable - and, as a freedom of Information request,  not put in a PDF or any closed form, which some readers may not be able to access.

Nb last paragraph below ****And a special reminder of the legal position to PHSO employees, as the responses were so poor.

Anyone who wants to copy it,...feel free.

=========



Request Title/summary within scope.



I am writing to make an open government request for all the 
information to which I am entitled under the Freedom of Information 
Act 2000.

Please send me original recorded information, which includes information held on computers, in emails and in printed or handwritten documents as well as images, video and audio recordings.

If this request is too wide or unclear, and you require a 
clarification, I would be grateful if you could contact me as I 
understand that under the Act, you are required, as a duty,  to advise and assist requesters.(Section 16 / Regulation 9).

ICO guidance: 

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


If my request is denied in whole or in part, I ask that you justify 
all deletions by reference to specific exemptions of the act. 

I will also expect you to release all non-exempt material. I reserve 
the right to appeal your decision to withhold any information or to 
charge excessive fees.

If any of this information is already in the public domain, please 
can you direct me to it, with page references and URLs if 
necessary.

Please confirm or deny whether the requested information is held ( section (Section 1(1)(a) and consider whether information should be provided under section 1(1)(b), or whether it is subject to an exemption in Part II of the Act. 

If the release of any of this information is prohibited on the 
grounds of breach of confidence, I ask that you supply me with 
copies of the confidentiality agreement and remind you that 
information should not be treated as confidential if such an 
agreement has not been signed.

I request that the response  be provided to me as electronic copies, via WDTK. 

The information should be immediately readable - and, as a freedom of Information request,  not put in a PDF or any closed form, which some readers may not be able to access.



I understand that you are required to respond to my request within 
the 20 working days after you receive this letter. I would be 
grateful if you could confirm in writing that you have received 
this request.

::::::::

Please consider  the ICO's Decision on the provision original documents on file, rather than newly written letters of response.
https://ico.org.uk/media/action-weve-tak...

50. However, if the requester expresses a preference to inspect the original documents (or copies of those documents) then we would expect the authority to provide them with a reasonable opportunity to view the originals (or copies), where practicable. 

https://ico.org.uk/media/for-organisatio...
Nb This request does not require a letter, drafted by the External Affairs department, or any other written input by reputational defence employees - and purporting to be the response to a FOIA request.

::


Please note: 
Section 77 FOIA 


77.—(1) Where—
(a) a request for information has been made to a public
authority, and
(b) under section 1 of this Act or section 7 of the Data Protection Act 1998, the applicant would have been entitled (subject to payment of any fee) to communication of any information in accordance with that section,
any person to whom this subsection applies is guilty of an offence if he alters, defaces, blocks, erases, destroys or conceals any record held by the public authority, with the intention of preventing the disclosure by that authority of all, or any part, of the information to the communication of which the applicant would have been entitled.
(2) Subsection (1) applies to the public authority and to any person who is employed by, is an officer of, or is subject to the direction of, the public authority. 

::::

PHSO

Please note: 

 
4. Staff responsibilities 
4.1 PHSO has a corporate responsibility to identify and respond to requests for information as efficiently as possible, and within the statutory deadlines. It is the responsibility of all PHSO staff to identify and take appropriate action on information requests as soon as they are received. PHSO staff may also be required to assist the FOI/DP Team in locating information and ensuring the accuracy of the final response. 

Page 4 of 8
Policy – PHSO Access to Information Policy v1.0

InformationRights, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

1 Attachment

resending

 

From: InformationRights
Sent: 06 October 2017 15:49
To: '[FOI #355855 email]'
Subject: FW: Your information request FDN-268806-Three sets of PHSO
committee minutes

 

 

 

Dear JT Oakley,

 

Please find below our email disclosing further information as mandated by
the  ICO. 

 

The email below was not delivered because the request is old and had been
marked to no longer receive responses.  We therefore had to ask
Whatdotheyknow to re-open it.

 

Sincerely,

 

Freedom of Information / Data Protection Team

Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

W: [1]www.ombudsman.org.uk

 

 

 

From: InformationRights
Sent: 05 October 2017 11:33
To: '[FOI #355855 email]'
Subject: RE: Your information request FDN-268806-Three sets of PHSO
committee minutes

 

Dear JT Oakley,

 

RE: Your information request FDN-268806-Three sets of PHSO committee
minutes

Disclosure of information further to ICO Decision Notice

 

Following the ICO decision notice, please find attached the information
that we withheld under section 40(2) of the Freedom of Information Act
2000.  Please accept our apologies for the delay in providing this
information; this was due to an oversight on our part.

 

Sincerely,

 

Freedom of Information / Data Protection Team

Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

W: [2]www.ombudsman.org.uk

 

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Jt Oakley left an annotation ()

Good heavens.

What a lot of fuss about nothing.. if that was the only information redacted.

PHSO is bizarre in the way it redacts, unless there was a special reason for withholding this information.

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