Qualified Exemptions

We use exemptions sparingly and responsibly.

Only if there is an overriding need to restrict disclosure are exemptions used and then only for the most sensitive sections. Rarely is an entire document withheld as there is almost always some public interest in disclosure. 

Qualified exemptions are where we must consider if information is in the public interest to disclose or withhold.  These are defined in the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

The categories of qualified Exemptions are:

  • S21 Already Published;
  • S22 Future publication;
  • S24 National security;
  • S25 security certificates;
  • S26 Defence or armed forces;
  • S27 International relations;
  • S28 Relations within the UK;
  • S29 The economy of the UK;
  • S30 Investigations/proceedings;
  • S31 Law enforcement;
  • S33 Audit functions;
  • S35 Government policy;
  • S36 Effective conduct of public affairs;
  • S37 Communications with Her Majesty
  • S38 Health & safety;
  • S39 Environmental information;
  • S40 Personal information, 3rd party requests;
  • S42 Legal professional privilege;
  • S43 Commercial interests;

The most commonly used exemptions are:

  • Section 21. Around a 3rd of all requests relate either in full or in part to information already published and therefore in the public domain. Although we will normally exempt such requests we will always tell the applicant where to find the information. Paper copies of public information available electronically are normally subject to a small charge (12p per A4 side).
  • Section 22.  We receive many requests for information that is due for publication in the near future. An example of this is the 'Statement of Accounts'. These are published in September after being audited and approved. Requests made before publication will be exempt and you will be advised of the anticipated publication date.

Public Interest test

This test means we have to consider whether the Public Interest for disclosure outweighs the exemption.

If the reasons are evenly balanced we will disclose the information.

If we consider the reasons for withholding all or part of the information outweigh the public interest in knowing we will apply the relevant Exemption, but normally only to the sections, paragraphs or words/numbers that require it. It is very, very rare for entire documents to be fully exempt.

In reaching a decision we will also consider if disclosure is likely to cause harm to us (or one of our partners, agents or contractors) or whether disclosure will prejudice our interests in or with any of the above.

You will be notified if one or more of the exemptions has prevented some or all of the information being released. 

If you don't agree and you believe we have used an exemption wrongly or not considered all of the factors for public disclosure you have the right to challenge the decision.