Freedom of Information Act

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The Publication Scheme - exemptions

13. List of possible exemptions

A series of 23 exemptions are set out in the Act that allows the council to withhold certain types of information in relation to a request if the information is not in the public interest, is confidential or commercial information, is personal or environmental information or disclosure is otherwise prohibited by another enactment; however, only 15 apply to the information held by the council.

Some exemptions are very specialised in their application, such as national security, and would not usually be relevant to the council. Others such as personal or confidential information are relevant, and will be used sparingly to ensure that the council or individuals interests are protected. Exemptions not applicable to the council are shade grey.

There are two general categories of exemptions:

  • Absolute: where there is no requirement to confirm or deny that the information is held, disclose the information or consider the public interest; and
  • Qualified: where, even if an exemption applies, there is a duty to consider the public interest before disclosing the information. In such cases, exemptions are considered on an individual basis.

When considering the public interest test for qualified exemptions, the council will balance the public interest arguments favouring disclosure against factors favouring the withholding of the information. In some cases all of the information may be withheld, in other cases sections, paragraphs or sentences may be extracted. You have the right to challenge the withholding of any information under the Information Access Challenges Procedure.

Some exemptions also require the council to consider:

  • The harm disclosure (or non disclosure) could do
  • The prejudicial interests of all parties
  • The commercial interests of all parties
FOI exemptions
Type of information Absolute (a) or qualified (q)
Information accessible to applicant by other means (s21)  A
Information intended for future publication (s22)  Q
Information from bodies relating to security matters (s23)  A
Information required to safeguard national security (s24)  Q
National Security Certificates (s25)  A
Information likely to prejudice defence (s26)  Q
Information likely to prejudice international relations (s27)  Q
Information likely to prejudice relations between UK administrations (s28)  Q
Information likely to prejudice economic interests (s29)  Q
Information obtained for the purpose of investigations and proceedings conducted by public authorities (s30)  Q
Information likely to prejudice law enforcement (s31)  Q
Court orders (etc.) (s32)  A
Information related to public sector audit functions (s33  Q
Information subject to parliamentary privilege (s34)  A
Information relating to the formulation of government policy (s35)  Q
Information likely to prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs (s36)  A (in part)
Communications with the royal family (etc.) (s37)  Q
Information likely to endanger the health or safety of an individual (s38)  Q
Information covered by regulations made under s74 (implementing the Aarhas convention relating to environmental information) (s39)  Q
Certain personal data of which the applicant is the data subject (s40)  A (in part)
Information the disclosure of which would be an actionable breach of confidence (s41)  A
Information subject to legal professional privilege (s42)  Q
Information that constitutes a trade secret (s43)  Q
Information the disclosure of which is prohibited (otherwise than FOIA 2000) (s44)  A

The 's' number in brackets denotes the section of the FOI Act the exemption refers to.