Records management, in particularly the Wanless Whittam Reports between 1st January 2013 and 1st January 2015.

FOI request reference: F0042730
Publication date: October 2015

Outcome:

Partially successful

Requests:

  1. I would like to receive copies of any correspondence, including attachments or enclosures, between the National Archives and the Home Office regarding records management advice or assistance between 1 January 2013 and 1 January 2015. The correspondence would relate to the work on the Wanless Whittam reports. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-peter-wanless-and-richard-whittam-qc-review
    I would also like any telephone call notes that may have been taken regarding these reports such as advice and assistance on their work.

    2. I would like to have a copy of any correspondence, including telephone calls (notes of), faxes, meeting notes,  between anyone from the National Archives and the Home Office (or Peter Wanless or Richard Whittam QC) relating to the terms of reference for the Wanless report of the Home Office files. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-30002908
    I am particularly interested in the period when the Terms of Reference were being discussed.  The question I am trying to answer is whether or not the NA had an involvement in the TOR or the review and if not why not?

 

Response:

 

Dear

Freedom of Information Request: Reference F0042730

Thank you for your enquiries of 16 and 27 July 2015, which have been handled under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA). In these enquiries, you asked for copies of correspondence between The National Archives and the Home Office regarding the Wanless Whittam main and supplementary report. I can confirm that The National Archives holds information relevant to your request.

Your Requests in full:

16 July 2015
I would like to receive copies of any correspondence, including attachments or enclosures, between the National Archives and the Home Office regarding records management advice or assistance between 1 January 2013 and 1 January 2015. The correspondence would relate to the work on the Wanless Whittam reports. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-peter-wanless-and-richard-whittam-qc-review
I would also like any telephone call notes that may have been taken regarding these reports such as advice and assistance on their work.

27 July 2015
I would like to have a copy of any correspondence, including telephone calls (notes of), faxes, meeting notes,  between anyone from the National Archives and the Home Office (or Peter Wanless or Richard Whittam QC) relating to the terms of reference for the Wanless report of the Home Office files. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-30002908
I am particularly interested in the period when the Terms of Reference were being discussed.  The question I am trying to answer is whether or not the NA had an involvement in the TOR or the review and if not why not?

Information not held and the role of The National Archives

In your correspondence of 28 July you asked the following question:
The question I am trying to answer is whether or not the NA had an involvement in the TOR or the review and if not why not?


Before I explain more about the information we hold in relation to your request, I wanted to address this query and explain a little more about the role of The National Archives in the records selection and transfer process.

The National Archives had no direct involvement in either setting the Terms of Reference for the review, or in the review itself. We would be kept informed of progress with these Terms as part of normal business updates from the Home Office and there is one small reference to such an update within the information we hold, but this the extent of our connection.

Under the terms of the Public Records Act 1958 [PRA], government departments are responsible for ensuring that their public records are reviewed within the statutory timeframe. This is done under the supervision and guidance of the Keeper of the Public Records.

The National Archives is responsible for coordinating and supervising appraisal and selection of these public records. The National Archives provides advice, guidance and training to departments on how to carry out appraisal and selection. The National Archives has produced a Records Collection Policy, best practice guidance on the selection and appraisal of public records to which you may like to refer for further information.

Information held in relation to your request

I explained at the start of this letter that The National Archives holds information relating to your request. We are pleased to be able to provide some of this information to you; however, we are unable to provide you with all of the information you have requested because some of it is covered by one or more exemptions of the FOIA.

Section 36: Prejudice to Effective Conduct of Public Affairs

Section 36(2) (b) FOIA
Some of the information is also covered by the exemption at section 36(2)(b) of the FOIA, which exempts information if its release would, or 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.

Section 36(2) is a qualified exemption and we are required to conduct a public interest test when applying any qualified exemption. This means that after it has been decided that the exemption is engaged, the public interest in releasing the information must be considered. If the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in withholding it then the exemption does not apply and the information must be released. In the FOIA there is a presumption that information should be released unless there are compelling reasons to withhold it.

(2) Information to which this section applies is exempt information if, in the reasonable opinion of a qualified person , disclosure of the information under the Act
(b) would, or would be likely to, inhibit
(i) the free and frank provision of advice, or
(ii) the free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation

With the approval of the Qualified Person, in whose reasonable opinion the exemption is engaged, the public interest has now been concluded and the balance of the public interest has been found to fall in favour of withholding information covered by the section 36 exemption. Considerations in favour of the release of the information included the principle that there is a public interest in showing a true and open account of government decision-making. This makes for greater accountability, increases public confidence in and helps to encourage greater public engagement with political life. There is a general public interest in being able to evaluate government policy.

However, release of this information would restrict the ability of The National Archives to provide advice and engage in frank and open discussions with other government departments. There is a public interest in staff in other Government departments being able to seek and give advice, and discuss issues away from external scrutiny in order to ensure correct decisions are being made with regards to the retention, destruction and correct storage of public records.  As such release of this information would be seen to prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs (section 36) by preventing the effective function of the process. This would outweigh any benefits of release.

Outcome of the public interest test

It was decided that the balance of the public interest lies in favour of withholding the material on this occasion.
Further guidance can be found at:
http://ico.org.uk/for_organisations/guidance_index/~/media/documents/library/Freedom_of_Information/Detailed_specialist_guides/section_36_prejudice_to_effective_conduct_of_public_affairs.pdf

Section 40(2) FOIA
Some of the information you have requested is exempt under section 40(2) of the FOIA. Section 40 exempts personal information about a ‘third party’ (someone other than the requester), if revealing it would breach the terms of the Data Protection Act (DPA) 1998. The DPA prevents personal information from release if it would be unfair or at odds with the reason why it was collected, or where the subject had officially served notice that releasing it would cause them damage or distress.

Section 40(2): Personal Information where the applicant is not the data subject
The DPA prevents personal information from release if it would be unfair or at odds with the reason why it was collected, or where the subject had officially served notice that releasing it would cause them damage or distress.

• Junior officials
In line with Whitehall guidance, we follow the general principle that members of staff at SCS grade are sufficiently senior for their names to already be in the public domain and are therefore not exempt from release. However, we consider that to publish the names of junior members of staff would represent an unfair use of personal data and, as such, the names of officials below this grade (‘junior’ officials) are withheld under section 40(2) of the FOIA.
Section 40 exempts personal information about a ‘third party’ (someone other than the requester), if revealing it would breach the terms of the Data Protection Act (DPA) 1998. The DPA prevents personal information from release if it would be unfair or at odds with the reason why it was collected, or where the subject had officially served notice that releasing it would cause them damage or distress. Junior members of staff would have no expectation that information about their positions would be made available in the public domain; to do so would be unfair and contravene the first data protection principle of the DPA 1998.

• Direct contact details of individuals
Similarly, we have not provided the direct contact details of any of the individuals listed because this information is also exempt under section 40(2) FOIA. As we have explained, section 40(2) by virtue of section 40(3) (a) (i) of the FOI Act states that personal information is exempt from disclosure if revealing it would break the terms of the Data Protection Act (DPA) 1998. One of the terms of the DPA states that information should not be released if it would be unfair to the person involved. FOIA is a public access regime; what that means is that any information released to a requester then becomes available to the wider public.  Equally, if an exemption applies to the requested information it will be withheld from the requester and also the wider public. To release the direct email addresses of these individuals into the public domain would be unfair in that it would have a considerable detrimental impact upon their ability to perform their duties and carry out the functions associated with those duties effectively. In addition, the fact that there exists a reasonable and reasonably accessible alternative method of contacting staff in the relevant business areas of each government department t further diminishes the argument that there would be any further value gained from the release of this additional information.

For more information about the publication of junior staff names, please see the following link:
https://ico.org.uk/media/for-organisations/documents/1187/section_40_requests_for_personal_data_about_employees.pdf
For more general information about the section 40 exemption, please see the following link:
http://ico.org.uk/for_organisations/guidance_index/~/media/documents/library/Freedom_of_Information/Detailed_specialist_guides/personal-information-section-40-and-regulation-13-foia-and-eir-guidance.pdf

If you are dissatisfied with the handling of your request or the decision which has been reached, you have the right to ask for an internal review.  Internal review requests must be submitted within two months of the date of this response and should be addressed to:
Quality Manager
Public Services Development Unit
The National Archives
Kew
Richmond
Surrey
TW9 4DU
complaints@nationalarchives.gov.uk

Please mark your complaint clearly.  You have the right to ask the Information Commissioner (ICO) to investigate any aspect of your complaint.  However, please note that the ICO is likely to expect internal complaints procedures to have been exhausted before beginning his investigation.
Yours sincerely,

Freedom of Information Request Manager
Freedom of Information Centre
Transfer and Access Department
The National Archives

If you would like to contact us again regarding
this request, please contact the helpdesk:

via e-mail: By replying to this e-mail
or (020 8876 3444)
Remember to quote your call reference number: F0042730 in any
correspondence, as this will assist us in providing you with a
quick response.

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