Line to take - LTT54 - National Security

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  • FOI/EIR: FOI
  • Section/Regulation: s24
  • Issue: National Security
  • Source: Information Tribunal
  • Details: Baker / Cabinet Office (12 February 2007)
  • Related Lines to Take: LTT68
  • Related Documents: EA/2006/0045
  • Contact: EW
  • Date: 05/07/2007
  • Policy Reference: LTT54
  • © Copyright Information Commissioner's Office, re-used with permission
  • Original source linked from here: LTT


Line to take

No definition of ‘national security’ can be found in any statute or judicial decision. Reference may be made, however, to a number of observations on the issue in a House of Lords decision, which the Information Tribunal has found to be useful.

Further Information

In the case of Baker v the Information Commissioner and the Cabinet Office, which considered the application of sections 23 and 24 to information relation to phone tapping and the Wilson doctrine*, the Tribunal noted that it was unable to find an exhaustive definition of “national security” in either any statute or judicial decisions.

However, it referred to a House of Lords decision (Secretary of State for the Home Department v Rehman [2001] UKHL 47; [2003] 1 AC 153) which makes a number of observations on the issue, and which it stated that it found useful. These are as follows:

"(i) “national security” means the “security of the United Kingdom and its people” (para 50 per Lord Hoffman);
(ii) the interests of national security are not limited to action by an individual which can be said to be “targeted at” the UK, its system of government or its people (para 15 per Lord Slynn);
(iii) the protection of democracy and the legal and constitutional systems of the state is part of national security as well as military defence (para 16 per Lord Slynn);
(iv) “action against a foreign state may be capable indirectly of affecting the security of the United Kingdom” (para 16-17 Lord Slynn): and
(v) “reciprocal co-operation between the United Kingdom and other states in combating international terrorism is capable of promoting the United Kingdom’s national security” (para 17 Lord Slynn)."

(*) The Wilson Doctrine follows a statement made by Harold Wilson in the House of Commons on 17 November 1966 in which, in answer to a number of Parliamentary Questions, he said that he had given instruction that there would be no telephone tapping of MPs, and that if this policy changed he would make a statement to the House at such a moment as he deemed compatible with the security of the country.