FOI14608 – Request for information
Thank you for your email of 17 November 2015, requesting the following information in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA):
From the 1 September 2015 until today’s date, please can you detail all 3rd party/external discussions and/or any correspondence you have had concerning 77m Limited? This should include the Shareholders Executive and any other government department or agency.
This information is to include all emails, telephone calls, and any other form of correspondence.
The specific information to be provided should include:
- The OS personnel involved.
- The names or names of the 3rd parties including the external organisation represented.
- What was discussed by both parties.
We can confirm that we hold some of this information. Whilst we are able to release the information described below (which is available on request), note that some of the information has been redacted as it falls under a number of exemptions within the FOIA; the relevant sections and reasons are detailed below. Further, some of the information requested is not being released at all, as again, it is exempted by the FOIA; this is also detailed below.
- Email chain ending with email from OS to Land Registry of 30.9.15 at 12.44.
- Email chain ending with email from OS to Land Registry of 6.10.15 at 11.40.
- Email chain ending with email from OS to Land Registry of 6.10.15 at 09.38.
- Email chain between OS and one of our licensed partners, ending on 14 October 2015 at 15.57 – note that some of the information has been redacted on the basis of section 43(2), as its disclosure would be likely to prejudice the commercial interests of the licensed partner. In addition, the information is exempt from disclosure under section 41(1) (as disclosure would constitute an actionable breach of confidence by the licensed partner).
- Email chain between OS and one of our licensed partners, ending on 6.10.15 at 09.56 – note that some information has been redacted on the basis of sections 43(2) and 41(1), for the same reasons as set out above.
- Email chain between OS and Digimap (Jersey) Ltd, ending on 19.10.15 at 09.50 – note that we have only included information relevant to 77M.
Note that in all of the emails released pursuant to this FOI, we have redacted the names of specific individuals and their email addresses, where we consider this information to be exempt under section 40(2) ‘Personal Information’. This includes some third party personal information.
Section 40(2)(a) and (b), together with the condition under section 40(3)(a)(i) of the FOIA, provides an absolute exemption, where the disclosure of information would contravene any of the data protection principles under the Data Protection Act (DPA) 1998. In this case, we have exempted information constituting the personal data of living individuals, the release of which would be in breach of the Data Protection Principles.
In applying this exemption, we have considered whether disclosure of the personal data in question would be 'fair' (as described in Schedule 1 of the Data Protection Act). We have given particular consideration to the likely expectations of the data subjects regarding the disclosure of their personal information, whether they are already publicly referenced through their position and if they would expect to be publicly referenced in this manner, in reaching our decision to withhold this information.
Information not released
- Two email chains between OS and Land Registry – both of these email chains are exempt from disclosure under section 31(1)(g) (see below for further details as to this exemption). In addition, one of the email chains is exempt under section 36(2)(b) and (c). Both email chains are also potentially exempt under section 43(2).
- Three email chains between OS and The National Archives, and a record of a discussion between the same parties – this information is exempt from disclosure under section 36(2)(b) and (c) of the FOIA, i.e. that disclosure of the information would be likely to inhibit the free and frank provision of advice, or the free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation, or would be likely to prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs.
- Email chain between OS and the Shareholder Executive – this information is exempt from disclosure under section 36(2)(b) and (c) of the FOIA, for the same reasons as set out above.
- Two emails recording discussions with external lawyers – this information is exempt from disclosure under section 42 of the FOIA (and also section 31(1)(g)), as we consider that such information would attract legal professional privilege in any legal proceedings.
- An email chain with a licensed partner – this information is exempt from disclosure under section 43(2), as its disclosure would be likely to prejudice the commercial interests of the licensed partner. In addition, the information is exempt from disclosure under section 41(1) (as disclosure would constitute an actionable breach of confidence by the licensed partner).
Section 31(1)(g) – where we have exempted information exempt from disclosure under section 31(1), this is because disclosure of the information would, or would be likely to, prejudice the exercise by OS of our functions for the purpose of ascertaining whether any person has failed to comply with the law or is responsible for any conduct which is improper. In investigating such matters, there is a reasonable expectation that communications will be conducted on a confidential basis; if it were found that such communications were subject to disclosure under the FOIA, it is likely that third party organisations would be less willing to assist OS in such investigations, or to be less cooperative.
Public interest test
Sections 31(1), 36(2), 41(1) and 43(2) are qualified exemptions and we are required to consider the public interest.
Ordnance Survey is a wholly owned Government company; like other companies, it is required to generate revenue from its commercial activities in order to fund its operations (including, in OS’s case, its public task).
We do recognise the requirement for transparency, but this has to be balanced against the public interest in allowing OS to be able to (i) protect Crown and OS copyright and database rights in accordance with its obligations to the Controller of Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, and (ii) protect its commercial interests (so that it is not disadvantaged in comparison to organisations which are not subject to the FOIA) such that it can continue to fulfil its public task and deliver its obligation to HM Government to operate on a commercial, self-financing basis.
In relation to section 41(1), the public interest in transparency has to be balanced against the principle behind legal profession privilege which is to safeguard communications between client and lawyer to ensure access to full and frank legal advice, which is fundamental to the administration of justice. Lastly, in relation to section 36, the public interest in transparency needs to be balanced against the public interest in the effective conduct of public affairs.
Having considered the above, we are satisfied that the public interest is best served by withholding the information under these exemptions.
Your enquiry has been processed according to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) 2000. If you are unhappy with our response, you may request an internal review with our FOI Internal Review Officer, by contacting them as follows:
FOI Internal Review Officer
Customer Service Centre
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 correctly apply an exemption or exception
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 unhappy with our response, you may raise an appeal with the Information Commissioner’s Office at:
The Case Reception Unit
Customer Service Team
The Information Commissioner’s Office
Telephone helpline: 0303 123 1113 or 01625 545745 for advice, Monday to Friday.
Thank you for your enquiry.