Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOI) - Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIR)
Exemptions & exceptions
If you are a public authority subject to FOI and EIR, there are a number of grounds to withhold information from disclosure. These are called Exemptions under FOI and Exceptions under EIR. They may apply for example, where the information may compromise security arrangements or be commercially sensitive.
There are different types of exemptions/exceptions.
Some FOI exemptions are "Absolute", others are "Qualified".
Absolute exemptions are those that apply where you do not need to consider the public interest (something in the public's benefit) when disclosing.
Qualified exemptions are where the public authority is required to consider whether the public interest is greater in withholding (not disclosing) information than in disclosing it.
Remember-All EIR exceptions are Qualified!
Both pieces of legislation also contain certain reasons for refusal of requests. These are not exemptions as such, but if certain conditions have not been met, a request need not be be proceeded with.
Freedom of information
Reasons for refusal
Section 1(1) Information not held
Section 1 (3) Clarification sought from requester
Section 8 (1) Request must contain name of requester, and address for correspondence and describe the information requested
Section 8 (2) Request for information must be legible and capable of being used for subsequent reference
Section 11 (3) Not reasonably practicable to comply with any preference expressed by the requester in making their request
Section 12 Cost of compliance
Section 13 Fees notice issued
Section 14 (1) Vexatious requests
Section 14 (2) Repeated requests
Section 21 Information Accessible by other means
Section 22 Information Intended for Future Publication
Section 23 Information supplied by the Security Services
Section 24 National Security
Section 26 Defence
Section 27 International Relations
Section 28 Relations Within the United Kingdom
Section 29 The Economy
Section 30 Investigations and Proceedings Conducted by Public Authorities
Section 31 Law Enforcement
Section 32 Court Records
Section 33 Audit Functions
Section 34 Parliamentary Privilege
Section 35 Formulation of Government Policy, etc
Section 36 Prejudice to Effective Conduct of Public Affairs
Section 37 Communications with Her Majesty, etc Honours
Section 38 Health and Safety
Section 39 Environmental Information
Section 40(1) Personal Data of the requester
Section 40 (2) Personal Data whose disclosure would breach DPA principles
Section 41 Information Provided in Confidence
Section 42 Legal Professional Privilege
Section 43 (1) Trade secrets
Section 43(2) Commercial interests
Section 44 (1) (a) Statutory prohibitions on disclosure
Section 44 (1) (b) Disclosure incompatible with any Community obligation
Section 44 (1) (c) Disclosure would constitute or be punishable as a contempt of court
Reasons for refusal
Regulation 6 (1) (a) it is reasonable to make information available in another form or format
Regulation 6 (1) (b) Information already publicly-available in another form and format
Regulation 7 (1) Extension of time
Regulation 8 Charging
Regulation 9 Advice and Assistance
Regulation 10 Transfer of request
Regulation 12 (4) (a) The information requested is not held by the Authority at time of request
Regulation 12 (4) (b) The request is manifestly unreasonable
Regulation 12 (4) (c) The request is too general;
Regulation 12 (4) (d) Request relates to unfinished documents
Regulation 12 (4) e) The request concerns internal communications;
Regulation 12 (5) Disclosure would adversely affect:
(a) International relations, public security or national defence;
(b) The course of justice, the ability of any person to receive a fair trail or the ability of the Authority to receive a fair trial;
(c) Intellectual property rights;
(d) Confidentiality of the Authority's proceedings when covered by law;
(e) Confidentiality of commercial or industrial info, when protected by law to protect legitimate economic interest
(f) The interests or protection of any person who supplied the information requested on a voluntary basis;
(g)The information relates to the protection of the environment.
Regulation 13 Personal data Note: Absolute FOI exemptions are highlighted in italics.
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