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Internal correspondence

Request for information – FOI14508

Request

Thank you for your email of 14 November 2014, requesting the following information from Ordnance Survey in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA):

“Under Freedom of Information we ask to see any correspondence internal to OS and between OS, xxxxxx and the xxxxxx in the last 24 months which pertains to such harmonisation.”

Our response

Correspondence between xxxxxx and xxxxxx
I confirm that Ordnance Survey does not hold any correspondence between OS and the xxxxxx in the last 24 months which pertains to such harmonisation.

Correspondence internal to OS
I confirm that Ordnance Survey does hold correspondence internal to OS in the last 24 months which pertains to such harmonisation, however, we will not be releasing this information to you as we consider this information to be exempt from disclosure under section 36(2) (b) and (c) (Prejudice to the effective conduct of public affairs) and section 43(2) (commercial interests) of the FOIA. These are detailed below.

Section 43(2) of the FOIA
The Information Commissioner recognises that some public authorities are permitted to engage in commercial activities and that information held in relation to these will fall within the scope of Section 43(2).

We consider that the exemption under Section 43(2) applies because the market sector in which Ordnance Survey operates is highly competitive and the disclosure of this information undermines the organisation’s market position and would be detrimental to Ordnance Survey’s commercial interests given the competitive nature of the industry segment in which Ordnance Survey operates.

In addition, Ordnance Survey is subject to and has fully complied with its obligations as a contracting authority under the Public Contract Regulations 2006 (Regulations) in respect of the procurement process for external remote sensing services referred to in your request. We consider that the disclosure of the information requested would undermine and frustrate such procurement process.

Section 43(2) is a qualified exemption and we are required to consider the public interest. Ordnance Survey recognises the need for transparency, however, this has to be balanced against the public interest in allowing the organisation to protect its commercial information and not place itself at a disadvantage in the specialist market in which it operates.

Private sector bodies operating in the same market segment are not bound by the FOIA and are therefore not disadvantaged by the potential disclosure of similar commercial information.

Consequently, we are satisfied that there is greater public interest in withholding the information under this exemption to ensure the commercial interests of Ordnance Survey are not undermined and our government tasks can be fulfilled, therefore, we will not be releasing this information.

Sections 36(2) (b) and (c) of the FOIA
We additionally consider that the exemption under Sections 36(2) (b) and (c) apply. Despite the fact that Ordnance Survey is a non-ministerial government department, reporting to Parliament through ministers, it operates as a trading fund with delegated responsibility for financial and business planning.

This delegation includes the internal operation of our Board and related deliberations which are recorded in the information you have requested. The disclosure of such information would inhibit the future ability of individuals to express themselves openly or to explore options when providing advice or giving/exchanging views as part of the deliberation process.

The application of the exemption under Sections 36(2) (b) and (c) requires the consultation of a “qualified person”. Following consultation, it is the opinion of the qualified person that detailed public knowledge of the information requested:

Would or would be likely to, in the future, inhibit:

  • the free and frank provision of advice
  • the free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation;
  • would otherwise prejudice, or would be likely otherwise to prejudice, the effective conduct of public affairs.

As section 36(2) is a qualified exemption, we are required to consider the public interest. Potential disclosure makes it less likely that individuals will be prepared to engage freely in discussions, thus hampering the ability of the organisation to reach collegiate decisions in the public interest. Without such discussions, the ability to deliver successful business outcomes would be undermined.

We are satisfied that there is public interest in favour of withholding the information and consequently, we will not be releasing this information.

Correspondence between OS and xxxxxx
I confirm that Ordnance Survey does hold correspondence between OS and xxxxxx in the last 24 months which pertains to such harmonisation and we enclose such correspondence.

We have redacted information from the documents which is exempt from disclosure under section 40 (personal information) of the FOIA. This is because the information constitutes personal data as defined in the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) and disclosing it would breach the fair processing principle set out in the DPA.

Internal review

Your enquiry has been processed according to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) 2000. If you are unsatisfied with the response, you may request an internal review with Ordnance Survey’s FOI Internal Review Officer, by contacting them at the following address:

FOI Internal Review Officer
Customer Service Centre
Ordnance Survey
Adanac Drive
Southampton
SO16 0AS

Email: foi@os.uk

Please include the reference number above. You may request an internal review where you believe Ordnance Survey has:

  • Failed to respond to your request within the time limits (normally 20 working days)
  • Failed to tell you whether or not we hold the information
  • Failed to provide the information you have requested
  • Failed to explain the reasons for refusing a request
  • Failed to apply an exemption or exception correctly

The FOI Internal Review Officer will not have been involved in the original decision. They will conduct an independent internal review and will inform you of the outcome of the review normally within 20 working days, but exceptionally within 40 working days, in line with the Information Commissioner’s guidance.

The FOI Internal Review Officer will either: uphold the original decision, provide an additional explanation of the exemption/s applied or release further information, if it is considered appropriate to do so.

Appeal to Information Commissioner's Office (ICO)
If, following the outcome of the internal review you remain unsatisfied with our response, you may raise an appeal with the Information Commissioner’s Office at:

The Case Reception Unit
The Customer Service Team
The Information Commissioner’s Office
Wycliffe House
Water Lane
Wilmslow
Cheshire
SK9 5AF

Email: mail@ico.gsi.gov.uk

Telephone helpline: 0303 123 1113 or 01625 545745 for advice, Monday to Friday.

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