FOI Requests

Cabinet Office – in the House of Commons on 27th October 2022.

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Photo of Tommy Sheppard Tommy Sheppard Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Constitutional Affairs)

How many requests under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 have been denied by his Department citing an exemption under section 35(1)(a) of that Act in each of the last five years.

Photo of Brendan Clarke-Smith Brendan Clarke-Smith The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office

Statistics for the requests made under each subsection of section 35 are not held by the Cabinet Office. However, to assist the House, I will share the number of FOI requests refused under the entirety of section 35 in each of the last five years. In 2021, 150 FOI requests were refused. In 2020, there were 142; in 2019, 67; in 2018, 81; and in 2017, 63. Each of those figures represents between just 4% and 6% of total FOI requests made in that year. FOI requests are considered on a case-by-case basis, with information released where it is not exempt.

Photo of Tommy Sheppard Tommy Sheppard Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Constitutional Affairs)

It is obviously disappointing that the Department does not collect those statistics given that the paragraph in question specifically relates to Government policy. I do not expect an answer today, but perhaps the Minister can write to me on the number of instances when decisions were subject to challenge at either the first-tier tribunal or upper tribunal and how much the Department spent in legal costs defending each challenge.

Photo of Brendan Clarke-Smith Brendan Clarke-Smith The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office

I thank the hon. Member for his question. I remind him that responses are handled in line with the legislation, which includes applying the relevant exemptions where applicable. Parliament has agreed that certain sensitive information should be protected from disclosure, including information relating to the formulation and development of Government policy. I am however happy to write to him and will try to provide him with as much information as possible.