Line to take - LTT136 - Nature of prejudice to international relations under s27(1) (and potentially applicable to Regulation 12(5)(a))

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  • FOI/EIR: FOI, EIR
  • Section/Regulation: s27(1), reg 12(5)(a)
  • Issue: Nature of prejudice to international relations under s27(1) (and potentially applicable to Regulation 12(5)(a))
  • Source: Information Tribunal
  • Details: CAAT/MOD (26 August 2008); Hogan/Oxford City Council (17 October 2006)
  • Related Lines to Take: n/a
  • Related Documents: EA/2006/0040 (CAAT), EA/2005/0026 and EA/2005/0030 (Hogan), AG14 ‘International Relations’
  • Contact: GF
  • Date: 10/11/2008
  • Policy Reference: LTT136
  • © Copyright Information Commissioner's Office, re-used with permission
  • Original source linked from here: LTT


Line to take

Prejudice under s27(1) can be real and of substance if it makes international relations more difficult or calls for a particular diplomatic damage limitation exercise.

S27(1) concerns the relations and interests of the UK rather than the interests of individual companies or enterprises as such.


Further Information

The recent case of Campaign Against the Arms Trade v The Information Commissioner and Ministry of Defence, where the appellant had requested certain Memoranda of Understanding between the UK Government and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), considered the nature of prejudice, notwithstanding the likelihood of it occurring, in relation to section 27.

The Tribunal explained that “Prejudice is not defined, but we accept that it imports something of detriment in the sense of impairing relations or interests or their promotion or protection and further we accept that the prejudice must be “real, actual or of substance”, as described in Hogan” (paragraph 80) and that the “prejudice can be real and of substance if it makes relations more difficult or calls for a particular damage limitation response to contain or limit damage which would not have otherwise have been necessary” (paragraph 81).

The Tribunal stated that they “do not consider that prejudice necessarily requires demonstration of actual harm to the relevant interests in terms of quantifiable loss or damage. For example, in our view there would or could be prejudice to the interests of the UK abroad or the promotion of those interests if the consequence of disclosure was to expose those interests to the risk of an adverse reaction from the KSA or to make them vulnerable to such a reaction, notwithstanding that the precise reaction of the KSA would not be predictable either as a matter of probability or certainty”.

The Tribunal also acknowledges that the nature of prejudice under s27(1) is specific to international relations; specifically, the relations and interests of the UK rather than the interests of individual companies or enterprises as such. However, the Commissioner believes that there may be cases where a large business’s interests are inextricably linked to the wider relations and interests of the UK, so it is expected that where reasonable the particular circumstances of such cases will be carefully considered.