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Filing cabinet with papers flying outDecisions Round-up: 03 to 07 February 2014

Six decisions were published between the 3 and 7 February 2014

 

 

Key messages

 
  • The identity of a complainer is unlikely to be disclosed under FOI
    As highlighted in Decision 010/2014, although there may be good reasons why a requester would like to know who made a complaint about them, the complainant’s right to privacy will generally be upheld because of the protection given to an individual’s personal data by the Data Protection Act 1998.     

     

  • The legal advice exemption only applies to communications with solicitors
    The legal advice exemption (covered by section 36(1) of the Act) protects communications between a legal adviser and their client. For the exemption to apply: 
    • the communications must involve a professional legal adviser, such as a solicitor or advocate. This may include an in-house legal adviser,
    • the legal adviser must be acting in his/her professional capacity, and
    • the communications must occur in the context of the legal adviser’s professional relationship with his/her client.

In Decision 013/2014, we did not agree with the Ministers’ decision to withhold the information, because the information did not directly involve a legal adviser. 

  

Decisions issued:

  

  • Decision 009/2014 – Cllr David Alexander and Falkirk Council
    Cllr Alexander asked for information about changes in the Council’s decision making structures. The Council withheld some of the information on the grounds that disclosure would harm the effective conduct of public affairs (section 30 of the Act). We found that the Council had been entitled to withhold the information and that the public interest favoured non-disclosure.

  

  • Decision 010/2014 – Mr Ian M Irving and Argyle and Bute Council
    Mr Irving asked for information about the identity of a person who had made a complaint about him. Following our investigation, we agreed with the Ministers that the information was the personal data of the complainer, and disclosure would be breach the Data Protection Act 1998.  This meant that the information was exempt from disclosure under FOI.

 

  • Decision 011/2014 – Mr Matthew Clark and the Scottish Ministers
    Mr Clark asked for the data used by the Ministers to inform their paper, “The Impact of a Reduction in Corporation tax on the Scottish Economy”. The Ministers withheld the information on the basis that the data related to the formulation of government policy (section 29(1)(a) of the Act). Following our investigation, we agreed that the information had been correctly withheld by the Ministers: the public interest in allowing the Ministers to formulate policy fully, without being drawn into a public debate on matters which may never form part of a finalised policy position, outweighed the public interest in disclosing it.

 

  • Decision 012/2014 – Mr Rob Edwards and the Scottish Ministers
    Mr Edwards asked the Ministers about the location and quantities of potassium iodate tablets in Scotland.  (The tablets are used to prevent cancer in people who have been exposed to radiation.) The Ministers withheld the information on the grounds that disclosure would compromise national security and defence. Following our investigation, we found that there was an overwhelming public interest in not disclosing the information and that the Ministers had correctly withheld the information under the Act.

 

  • Decision 013/2014 – Mr Greig Lamont and the Scottish Ministers
    Mr Lamont asked the Ministers for information about a change of wording made to the Scottish Ministerial Code. The Ministers withheld some of the information under the exemption protecting legal advice privilege (section 36(1) of the Act). Following our investigation, we found that the remaining information should be disclosed.  The information did not directly involve a legal adviser, so the information was not subject to legal advice privilege as the Ministers had claimed.

 

  • Decision 014/2014 – Mr L and Stirling Council
    A technical decision, where we found that the Council failed to responded to Mr L’s request for review within the 20 working days allowed by the Act.

 

 

 

 

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