Response sent: December 2010

Request:

Under the Freedom of Information Act, please provide me with:

1) The introductory note submission your organisation made to its lead government minister since the Coalition Government took office on 12 May.

2) The number of staff employed by your organisation on 12 May

3) The number of staff employed by your organisation on 6 October

4) Any submissions made to government departments on the effects of budget cuts on your organisation

5) Any notices given to trade union, or employee representatives, regarding staffing cuts to your organisation

6) Any notices of re-arranged pension arrangements for staff

7) Details of any subscriptions to online news outlets such as Politics Home, The Times, The Sun, News of the World etc.

8) Any submissions made by your organisation in the run up to the Comprehensive Spending Review.

9) How many times the Chief Executive of your organisation has met with a government minister since 12 May. Please tell me the nature and location for any such meetings

10) Provide me with a copy of your organisation's travel policy - in particular in respect of planes, trains and cars

11) The number of properties (a) owned, and (b) leased by your organisation

Outcome:

Partially successful

Response:

1) The introductory note submission your organisation made to its lead government minister since the Coalition Government took office on 12 May.

I can confirm that The National Archives holds the information within the scope of your request, however, this information is exempt from disclosure under Section 35(1)(b) - Ministerial communications, of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act.

This exemption is qualified and I have considered the balance of the public interest when deciding whether or not to disclose the information.  The public interest test is where The National Archives must consider whether it is in the public interest to withhold or disclose the information requested if it is covered by certain exemptions in the FOI Act.  The balance to be considered when using this exemption is the public interest in disclosure of information about the process of government policy formulation, versus the public interest in ensuring that there is a space within which ministers and officials can discuss policy options and delivery, freely and frankly.

The issues I have considered are outlined below:

Arguments in favour of disclosure

There is a general public interest in openness, including accountability, transparency and in knowing what informs decisions and that these decisions have been taken fairly.  It is arguable that disclosure of the information may lead to a greater understanding of the decision making process within Government and to how policy is created.

Arguments against disclosure

Against these arguments, this information discusses sensitive policy information and we have balanced the need to protect the space for ministers and their officials to discuss and consider process and policy issues in an open and frank way.  If ministers or officials policy discussions were to be revealed publicly, the nature of those discussions may be affected.  It might deter ministers and officials from raising radical or controversial options and having free and frank discussions about all available possibilities in relation to any given policy or approach to implementation.

Conclusion

Having considered all the relevant arguments, it is my view that the balance of the public interest favours maintaining the exemption and withholding the information under Section 35(1)(b) of the FOI Act.

Further information on this exemption can be found at the Information Commissioner's website.

2) The number of staff employed by your organisation on 12 May [2010].

615 (580.4 Full Time Equivalents).

3) The number of staff employed by your organisation on 6 October [2010].

611 (581.7 FTEs).

4) Any submissions made to government departments on the effects of budget cuts on your organisation

8) Any submissions made by your organisation in the run up to the Comprehensive Spending review.

I can confirm that The National Archives holds the information for questions 4 and 8 of your request.  However, this information is exempt from disclosure under Section 35(1)(a) - formulation of government policy, of the FOI Act. 

This exemption is qualified and again I have considered the balance of the public interest when deciding whether or not to disclose the information.  The public interest test is where The National Archives must consider whether it is in the public interest to withhold or disclose the information requested if it is covered by certain exemptions in the FOI Act.  Again, the balance to be considered when using this exemption is the public interest in disclosure of information about the process of government policy formulation, versus the public interest in ensuring that there is a space within which ministers and officials can discuss policy options and delivery, freely and frankly

Arguments in favour of disclosure

There is a general public interest in openness, including accountability, transparency and in knowing what decisions are made with regards to the current spending review and that these decisions have been taken fairly.  Disclosing this information may lead to a better insight of the decision making process within Government.

Arguments against disclosure

Disclosing this information would compromise the Comprehensive Spending Review process as not all departments have yet finalised how their Spending Review is going to be implemented and releasing information on one department or organisation's submissions would be likely to impinge on others still to be completed.

Conclusion

Having considered all the relevant arguments, it is my view that the balance of the public interest favours maintaining the exemption and withholding the information under Section 35(1)(a) of the FOI Act.

Further information on this FOI exemption can be found on the Information Commmissioner's website.

5) Any notices given to trade union, or employee representatives, regarding staffing cuts to your organisation [since 12 May 2010].

None.

6) Any notices of re-arranged pension arrangements for staff.

All Employer Pension Notices are available from the Civil Service website. Please visit: www.civilservice.gov.uk/my-civil-service/pensions/Employer/epns.aspx

7) Details of any subscriptions to online news outlets such as Politics Home, The Times, The Sun, News of the World etc.

The National Archives does not subscribe to any online news outlets.

9) How many times the Chief Executive of your organisation has met with a government minister since 12 May [2010].  Please tell me the nature and location for any such meetings.

The National Archives' Chief Executive has met with our Minister, Lord McNally, five times.  All meetings took place at the Ministry of Justice office, Petty France, London on the following dates:

  • 3 June - introductory meeting
  • 28 June - pre-briefing for meeting with The National Archives' stakeholders
  • 30 June - meeting with The National Archives' stakeholders
  • 13 September - pre-briefing for the Transparency Board
  • 5 October - meeting with the Chair of APPSI

10) Provide me with a copy of your organisation's travel policy - in particular in respect of planes, trains and cars.

Please find attached The National Archives' Travel and Subsistence Policy.

Travel and subsistence policy (PDF, 0.54Mb)

11) The number of properties (a) owned, and (b) leased by your organisation.

The National Archives does not own or lease any properties in its own right.

I can confirm that under the Public Services Transparency Framework, any impact of the spending review on the work of The National Archives or on our published business plans will be communicated to our users and published on our website.  Please visit the website: nationalarchives.gov.uk/how-we-are-run/our-plans

Finally, it is acknowledged that greater transparency makes government more accountable to the electorate and increases trust as public knowledge of the way government works increases.  Furthermore, the impact on public spending obviously increases the public interest in the decision-making process and its transparency. 

Please visit our Transparency pages at: nationalarchives.gov.uk/how-we-are-run/transparency

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