Freedom of Information Exemptions

The Freedom of Information Act allows us to refuse to give you information where it must not or should not me made public.

For example, we may be prevented by other legal provisions from providing it or it may include personal information that should be kept private.

The Act also allows us to refuse information where the cost of supplying it is excessive.

Where we are unable to supply information to you we will always give you a full explanation of the reasons.

Exemptions Where the Public Interest Test applies (Qualified Exemptions) 

Section 22 Information intended for future publication

Section 24 National security (other than information supplied by or relating to named security organisations, where the duty to consider disclosure in the public interest does not arise.)

Section 26 Defence

Section 27 International relations

Section 28 Relations within the United Kingdom

Section 29 The economy

Section 30 Investigations and proceedings conducted by public authorities

Section 31 Law enforcement

Section 33 Audit Functions

Section 35 Formulation of government policy, etc

Section 36 Prejudice to effective conduct of public affairs (except information held by the House of Commons or the House of Lords)

Section 37 Communications with Her Majesty, etc and honours

Section 38 Health and safety

Section 39 Environmental information as this can be accessed through the Environmental Information Regulations

Section 40 Personal information People cannot access personal data about themselves under the Freedom of Information Act as there is already access to such information under the Data Protection Act 1998. Personal data about other people cannot be released if to do so would breach the Data Protection Act.

Section 42 Legal professional privilege

Section 43 Commercial interests

Where a public authority considers that the public interest in withholding the information requested outweighs the public interest in releasing it, the authority must inform the applicant of its reasons, unless to do so would mean releasing the exempt information.

Exemptions where the Public Interest Test does not apply (Absolute Exemptions)

Section 21 Information accessible to applicant by other means

Section 23 Information supplied by, or relating to, bodies dealing with security matters (a certificate signed by a Minister of the Crown is conclusive proof that the exemption is justified. There is a separate appeals mechanism against such certificates)

Section 32 Court records, etc

Section 34 Parliamentary privilege (a certificate signed by the Speaker of the House, in respect of the House of Commons, or by the Clerk of the Parliaments, in respect of the House of Lords is conclusive proof that the exemption is justified.)

Section 36 Prejudice to effective conduct of public affairs (only applies to information held by House of Commons or House of Lords)

Section 40 Personal information (where the applicant is the subject of the information. The applicant already has the right of ‘subject access’ under the Data Protection Act 1998; where the information concerns a third party and disclosure would breach one of the Data Protection Principles )

Section 41 Information provided in confidence.

Section 44 Prohibitions on disclosure where a disclosure is prohibited by an enactment or would constitute contempt of court.

The exemptions have been the subject of considerable debate throughout the parliamentary progress of the Act. This introduction does not attempt to provide an analysis of each exemption, or provide advice as to how exemptions might apply in particular circumstances. Such guidance will be developed by The Department for Constitutional Affairs Office over time and in the light of case by case experience.