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Decision Summary

  • Case Ref: FS50158274
  • Date: 2 March 2009
  • Public Authority: Cabinet Office
  • Summary: The complainant requested the complete contents of a file entitled ‘Allegations against Mark Thatcher’, together with a schedule of any documents in the file which the public authority declined to disclose. The public authority claimed some of the requested information was exempt under section 27 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (‘the Act’) and extended the time limit in order to assess the public interest test. It subsequently identified some of the information as being exempt under sections 40(2) and 41(1). The Commissioner decided that, in extending the public interest time limit, the public authority failed to update its estimates of the extra time it required, in breach of section 17(2); that it failed to issue a refusal notice within 20 working days stating all of the exemptions on which it subsequently relied, in breach of section 10(1); and that it failed to provide its assessment of the public interest test within a reasonable timescale, in breach of section 17(3). He also decided that, in relation to section 27, it failed to provide an adequate assessment of the public interest test, in breach of section 17(3)(b); and that in failing to address the complainant’s request for a schedule of withheld documents and therefore informing him whether it held the information it breached section 1(1)(a) and (b). The Commissioner decided that the information was in fact properly withheld by virtue of section 40(2), since it was largely sensitive personal data. However, in light of the fact that much of the information was already in the public domain, the Commissioner considered that its exemption from disclosure under freedom of information legislation was an anomaly and has recorded that he is inviting the Ministry of Justice to address the problem, including the possibility of remedial legislation. Information Tribunal appeal EA/2009/0024 has been withdrawn.
  • View PDF of Decision Notice: [1]