Line to take - LTT148 - Public interest arguments presented in favour of maintaining a relevant exemption for withholding information on lobbyists

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  • Section/Regulation: s35, s36, reg 12(4)(e), reg 12(5)(f)
  • Issue: Public interest arguments presented in favour of maintaining a relevant exemption for withholding information on lobbyists]
  • Source: Information Tribunal
  • Details: DBERR v ICO & FoE (29/04/2008); Evans v ICO & MoD (26/10/2009)
  • Related Lines to Take: LTT149
  • Related Documents: DBERR EA/2007/0072, Evans EA/2006/0064
  • Contact: RM
  • Date: 24/03/2009
  • Policy Reference: LTT148
  • © Copyright Information Commissioner's Office, re-used with permission
  • Original source linked from here: LTT

Line to take

1) The value of lobbyists’ input

  • It is accepted that there is public interest in policy making being informed by stakeholders

2) Safe Space

  • Dialogue with lobbyists does not warrant the same safe space as purely internal policy thinking and there is a public interest in making the contribution of lobbyists public at the time when the policy debate is still ongoing, i.e. before policy decisions have been finalised, to allow counterbalancing views to be presented. However this is the very time at which the public interest in preserving the safe space for policy making is at its highest. Therefore the public interest test will be very finely balanced for requests that relate to ongoing policy making.
  • Information which reveals the government’s internal thinking it may still warrants ‘safe space' protection, but where the information reveals the influence of lobbyists or the nature of government’s relationship with lobbyists this will increase the public interest in favour disclosure.

3) Chilling Effects

  • The overriding aim of lobbyists is to exert influence and so they will not easily be deterred from offering free and frank views in pursuit of this aim.
  • There is no evidence that lobbyists have altered their behaviour with the implementation of FOI.

4) Record Keeping

  • We should be sceptical of arguments the risk of disclosing information will lead to poorer record keeping.

5) Effect of the Media

  • The fear of how the media may respond to the information should not damage relations with lobbyists or discourage lobbyists engaging with Governmentt.

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