ICO upholds four cases where legislation prohibits disclosure

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has issued rulings under the Freedom of Information Act upholding four public authorities’ decisions to withhold information. The ICO agrees that they were prohibited from revealing some of the requested information because of other legislation.

In one case a complainant wrote to the Local Government Ombudsman requesting any information it held connected with her complaint against Southend-on-Sea Borough Council. The Local Government Ombudsman released some of the information requested but declined to release notes from NHS Trust meetings which contained sensitive personal information about third parties. The Local Government Ombudsman claimed that to release such information would be in breach of the Local Government Act. In his decision, the Information Commissioner recognised that the Local Government Act prevents the local authority from releasing information obtained during an investigation.

The ICO has upheld three other cases concerning the exemption about prohibition on disclosure. The Civil Aviation Authority was unable to release an incident report as it was prevented by the Civil Aviation Act. The Financial Services Authority was unable to release details of an investigation into HSBC Plc due to the Financial Services and Markets Act. Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs was exempt from releasing correspondence with three tobacco firms due to sections of the Finance Act.

Graham Smith, Deputy Commissioner at the Information Commissioner’s Office, said: “These cases underline the principle that compliance with one Act of Parliament should not amount to a breach of another. There is no such double jeopardy under the Freedom of Information Act.”

ICO backs four organisations for withholding information (eGovMonitor, 20 September 2007)