On December 14, 2023, Information Commissioner Gitanjali Gutierrez issued two decisions, 46/2023 and 47/2023, following independent reviews stemming from the same PATI request.
A spokesperson said, “On 14 December 2023, Information Commissioner Gitanjali Gutierrez issued Decision 46/2023 and Decision 47/2023, Cabinet Office. These Decisions are the result of two independent reviews from the Information Commissioner, stemming from the same PATI request.
“The Requester had made a request asking for records about the relationship between the Government and MM&I, which led to Decision 06/2021, Cabinet Office. In that Decision, among other things, the Information Commissioner ordered the Cabinet Office to issue a new decision to the Requester on newly identified records. The Cabinet Office issued an initial decision to both the Requester and to MM&I as a third party, stating that access to the new records was granted in part and denied in part. In response, both the Requester and MM&I requested an internal review from the Cabinet Office: The Requester challenged the Cabinet Office’s decision to withhold some records, while MM&I challenged the decision to disclose some records. As a result, the Cabinet Office issued two separate internal review decisions, one for the Requester and another for MM&I. Both the Requester and MM&I asked for an independent review by the Information Commissioner.
“In her Decisions, the Information Commissioner confirmed that the Cabinet Office was justified in denying access to certain responsive records because they were either created or obtained by the Attorney General’s Chambers during the performance of its functions, were exempt Cabinet documents or were exempt personal information. The Information Commissioner found, however, that the Cabinet Office was not justified in withholding certain records, because they did not contain information received in confidence or information related to Ministerial responsibilities, as claimed. The Information Commissioner further found that MM&I was partially justified in objecting to certain disclosures because the records contained personal information. Disclosure of some of the records could also have an adverse effect on MM&I’s commercial interests or would result in a breach of confidence.
“Additionally, the Information Commissioner found on her own accord that certain records fall outside of the scope of the PATI Act or are exempt from disclosure because they contain personal information. She also concluded that the Cabinet Office upheld MM&I’s rights as a third party with respect to the Cabinet Office’s intention to disclose certain records.
“These Decisions are the first in which the Information Commissioner considered a public authority’s compliance with the requirements to uphold third party’s rights under the PATI Act. These were also the first decisions where the Information Commissioner conducted independent reviews which were prompted by both a PATI requester and a third party. Decisions 46/2023 and 47/2023 are reminders for public authorities of the importance of upholding third party’s rights during the processing of PATI requests, as well as for third parties of their rights and the avenues they can pursue under the PATI Act.
“As a result, the Information Commissioner orders the Cabinet Office to disclose the non-exempt records by Thursday, 1 February 2024.”
The full version of Decision 46/2023 and 47/2023 follow below [PDF here]:
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