FOIA Section 37 Exemption

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Section 37: Communications With Her Majesty, With Other Members Of The Royal Household, And The Conferring By The Crown Of Any Honour Or Dignity

Section 37 applies to two categories of information:

  • Information relating to communications with Her Majesty, other members of the Royal Family or the Royal Household; and
  • Information relating to the conferring by the Crown of any honour or dignity.

Key points:

  • It is a fundamental constitutional principle that communications between the Queen and her Ministers are essentially confidential in nature: in most situations, the public interest in disclosure is likely only exceptionally to outweigh the public interest in maintaining this aspect of the exemption;
  • In respect of both parts of this exemption, public authorities should be alive to the need to consult relevant departments or private offices;
  • The exemption applies in relation to deceased members of the Royal Family;
  • Section 37 is subject to a public interest balance when used by a Nprthern Ireland body or in respect of a request received before 19th January 2011.

What the law says

There are essentially two versions of this exemption. The first one applies to requests made before 19th January 2011 and to later requests made to any of:

The second applies to other requests.

Northern Ireland and requests pre-dating 19th January 2011

37 Communications with Her Majesty, etc. and honours

(1) Information is exempt information if it relates to—

(a) communications with Her Majesty, with other members of the Royal Family or with the Royal Household, or
(b) the conferring by the Crown of any honour or dignity.

(2) The duty to confirm or deny does not arise in relation to information which is (or if it were held by the public authority would be) exempt information by virtue of subsection (1).

Other cases

37 Communications with Her Majesty, etc. and honours

(1) Information is exempt information if it relates to—

(a) communications with the Sovereign
(aa) communications with the heir to, or the person who is for the time being second in line of succession to, the Throne,
(ab) communications with a person who has subsequently acceded to the Throne or become heir to, or second in line to, the Throne,
(ac) communications with other members of the Royal Family (other than communications which fall within any of paragraphs (a) to (ab) because they are made or received on behalf of a person falling within any of those paragraphs), and
(ad) communications with the Royal Household (other than communications which fall within any of paragraphs (a) to (ac) because they are made or received on behalf of a person falling within any of those paragraphs), or
(b) the conferring by the Crown of any honour or dignity.

(2) The duty to confirm or deny does not arise in relation to information which is (or if it were held by the public authority would be) exempt information by virtue of subsection (1).

Time limits

Northern Ireland and requests pre-dating 19th November 2011

By virtue of section 63(1), the exemption under section 37(1)(a) expires at the end of thirty years starting at the start of the year after the record was created.

By virtue of section 63(3), the exemption under section 37(1)(b) expires at the end of sixty years beginning at the start of the next year after the record was created.

Other cases

By virtue of sections 63(2E) and 63(2F), the exemptions under sections 37(1)(a) to 37(1)(ac) expire on the later of:

  • Twenty years after the record was created, and
  • Five years after the death of the relevant member of the Royal Family.

The exemption under section 37(1)(ad) expires on the later of:

  • Twenty years after the record was created, and
  • Five years after the death of the Sovereign who was reigning when the record was created.

By virtue of section 63(3), the exemption under section 37(1)(b) expires at the end of sixty years beginning at the start of the next year after the record was created.

ICO Lines To Take

Relevant Lines to Take
  • LTT107 - No prejudice / adverse effect test for class based exemptions / exceptions - 20/06/2008


Official Guidance

DCA Guidance: http://www.dca.gov.uk/foi/guidance/exguide/sec37/index.htm

Decision Notices

Complaints upheld / partly upheld (P) Complaints not upheld
  • FS50140361 - Cabinet Office - 31/03/2010
  • FS50197502 - Cabinet Office - 16/03/2010
  • FS50197952 - Cabinet Office - 28/01/2010
  • FS50223685 - Home Office - 19/01/2010
  • FS50154684 - Department for Culture, Media and Sport - 15/12/2009
  • FS50194194(P) - House of Lords Appointments Commission - 24/11/2009
  • FS50184282(P) - Cabinet Office - 30/07/2009
  • FS50119029 - House of Lords Appointments Commission - 12/03/2008
  • FS50220275 - Cabinet Office - 29/03/2010
  • FS50208178 - Foreign and Commonwealth Office - 29/03/2010
  • FS50204654 - Foreign and Commonwealth Office - 29/03/2010
  • FS50207213 - Cabinet Office - 29/03/2010
  • FS50150313 - Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency - 11/03/2010
  • FS50139606 - Ministry of Defence - 02/03/2010
  • FS50127519 - Department for Children, Schools and Families - 02/03/2010
  • FS50150310 - Department of Health - 27/01/2010
  • FS50080236 - Department of Health - 21/12/2009
  • FS50080240 - Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs - 15/12/2009
  • FS50114757 - Cabinet Office - 15/12/2009
  • FS50080238 - Department for Children, Schools and Families - 15/12/2009
  • FS50101577 - Northern Ireland Office - 15/12/2009
  • FS50080243 - Department for Culture, Media and Sport - 15/12/2009
  • FS50080233 - Department for Business, Innovation and Skills - 15/12/2009
  • FS50115031 - Cabinet Office - 18/08/2009
  • FS50142320 - Cabinet Office - 29/01/2009
  • FS50088853 - HM Treasury - 24/04/2008

Includes DNs up to: 26 April 2010



Freedom of Information Act 2000
Exemptions
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