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Decisions Round-up: 16 to 20 June 2014 

We published eight decisions this week – here are the details:

 

Key messages:


  • If you narrow your request at review, we can’t look at the wider request
    In Decision 124/2014, the requester made a wide ranging request but, when later requesting a review, narrowed it to cover two specific reports.  Because of this, we couldn’t go back and look at the way the authority had dealt with his wider request.

 

  • Financial information about live contracts is more likely to be exempt than if a contract has ended
    Decision 125/2014 involved a request for financial information about a live contract.  The fact that parts of the contract are still live – and that the range of contractors who can potentially do the work is small – mean that disclosure is more likely to cause substantial prejudice.

 

  • Transferring requests: follow the Section 60 Code!
    Decision 126/2014 considered a request which an authority transferred to another authority to deal with.  The Scottish Ministers’ Section 60 Code contains useful guidance on transferring requests: although requests can be transferred under the EIRs, they can’t be transferred under the FOI Act.  If an authority doesn’t hold information, they should issue a notice under section 17 of the Act rather than transfer the request.  The Code highlights that it is good practice to provide the requester with the contact details of the authority which does hold the information.

 

  • Consulting with relevant third parties can help you decide if information should be disclosed
    In Decision 128/2014, the Scottish Ministers consulted with third parties about whether information relating to those parties should be disclosed.  The Commissioner found these submissions very useful in coming to a decision.  The Section 60 Code (highlighted above), contains useful guidance on third party consultation.

 

Decisions issued:

  • Decision 121/2014 John WH McLean and the Scottish Parliamentary Body (SPCB)
    This decision considers the failure by the SPCB to respond to Mr McLean’s request for review.  In this case, the SPCB failed to recognise that correspondence from Mr McLean was a valid request for review.

 

  • Decision 122/2014 Lynne Bauld and East Dunbartonshire Council
    Another decision where a public authority failed to respond to a request for review.  This time, although the Council realised that Mrs Bauld had sought a review, it failed to respond within the 20 working days allowed by the FOI Act.

 

  • Decision 123/2014 Andrew Picken and the Scottish Ministers
    This involves a failure by the Ministers to respond Mr Picken’s request or subsequent request for review. 

 

  • Decision 124/2014 Iain Lawrie and Aberdeenshire Council
    At the time Mr Lawrie made his request, the Council was carrying out a restructuring review of the North East Scotland Biological Records Centre.  Mr Lawrie initially asked for a range of information, but narrowed this in his request for review to reports prepared by named members of staff.  The Council withheld the information on the basis that disclosure would inhibit substantially the free and frank provision of advice or exchange of views; and that the personal data contained in the reports was exempt from disclosure.  We agreed that most of the information was exempt, but ordered the Council to disclose the non-exempt information.  We also noted that the Council had failed to apply any exemptions to some of the information withheld from Mr Lawrie – again, we ordered the Council to disclose that information.

 

  • Decision 125/2014 Clow Group Ltd and Transport Scotland
    Clow Group asked Transport Scotland for information about payments made relating to work on the Erskine Bridge.  Transport Scotland withheld the information, arguing that disclosure would prejudice substantially its own commercial interests, as well as those of third parties.  We agreed: parts of the contract remained live and the potential pool of tenderers was limited.

 

  • Decision 126/2014 David J Ostler and Police Scotland
    Mr Ostler asked Police Scotland for information about cadet pension schemes.  The Police passed Mr Ostler’s request on to the Scottish Public Pensions Agency.  Mr Ostler asked the Police to carry out a review, but they did not respond within the timescales allowed by the FOI Act.

 

  • Decision 127/2014 Mr X and the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (PIRC)
    Mr X asked PIRC for information in one of PIRC’s files.  The PIRC disclosed Mr X’s personal data to him under the Data Protection Act 1998, but withheld the remaining information on the basis that disclosure would inhibit substantially the free and frank provision of advice.  Other information was withheld because it was third party personal data.  We were satisfied that the PIRC was entitled to refuse to disclose the remaining information.

 

  • Decision 128/2014 Protect Wild Scotland and the Scottish Ministers
    This involved a request under the EIRs for information from the Scottish Fish Farms Annual Production Survey 2012.  The Ministers applied the exception in regulation 10(5)(f) of the EIRs, arguing that the companies were under no obligation to give the information to the Ministers, and disclosure of commercially sensitive information would cause detriment to individual fish-farming companies and to Scottish aquaculture as a whole.  We agreed.

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