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Decision Summary

  • Case Ref: FS50147950
  • Date: 2 July 2007
  • Public Authority: Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman
  • Summary: The complainant requested information relating to the dates of communications between a specific officer of the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (the “PHSO”) and the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. The PHSO refused the request on the grounds that it was vexatious. The PHSO stated that the request served no purpose or value and that the cost and time they would be required to spend in order to comply with the request would impose a significant burden. The Commissioner finds that the request was incorrectly refused as vexatious under section 14(1) of the Act and that the PHSO failed to comply with section 1(1) of the Act. The Commissioner finds that, in their handling of the request, the PHSO did not breach section 16 of the Act as the duty to advise and assist does not apply where section 14 has been applied. In failing to issue a Refusal Notice within the statutory time limit of twenty working days, the PHSO breached section 17(5). In referring the complainant directly to the Commissioner, the PHSO effectively advised him that no internal review process was available for complaints about the handling of requests for information and in doing so complied with section 17(7) of the Act. During the course of his investigation the Commissioner established that, given the scope of the request, it was likely that the cost of compliance would exceed the appropriate limit set out in the Freedom of Information and Data Protection (Appropriate Limit and Fees) Regulations 2004 (the “Fees Regulations”). In an attempt to resolve matters informally the Commissioner asked the PHSO to respond to a refined version of the request which had been submitted to the Commissioner by the complainant. The PHSO agreed to undertake this and, in responding to the complainant’s refined request the Commissioner is satisfied that they have complied with their duties under part I of the Act. Therefore, he has not ordered the PHSO to take any steps. An appeal was made to the Information Tribunal, but the appeal was dismissed.
  • View PDF of Decision Notice: [1]