Ministerial briefings for Portfolio Question Time: FOI release

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.

FOI reference: FOI/17/01676
Date received: 17 July 2017
Date responded: 14 August 2017

Information requested

With regard to portfolio questions held on Wednesday 28 June 2017, for the Communities, Social Security and Equalities portfolio please provide the briefing material(s) provided to Ministers in advance of that question time, This should include the briefing(s) for each question and all briefing material for supplementary questions.


Due to the file size of the documents released, copies can be provided on request by emailing, quoting the FOI reference number FOI/17/01676.

You will be aware that during Portfolio Question Time on 28 June only the first 11 questions were taken by the Presiding Officer (although question 10 had not been lodged). The answers provided to those questions are available through the Parliament's official report and can be found at:

Questions 12 to 20 were not taken in chamber and, as such, were automatically answered as written answers using the answers provided to Ministers and can be found at

Reasons for not providing information

An exemption under sections 30(b)(i) of FOISA (free and frank advice) applies to some of the information requested. This exemption applies because disclosure would, or would be likely to, inhibit substantially the free and frank provision of advice to Ministers. The exemption recognises the need for Ministers to have a private space within which to obtain advice from officials before reaching the settled public position which will be given in whatever final Parliamentary Questions answers are used. Disclosing the content of free and frank briefing material on the range of issues covered by these questions will substantially inhibit such briefing in the future.

These exemptions are subject to the 'public interest test'. Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances of this case, we have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exemption. We recognise that there is a public interest in disclosing information as part of open, transparent and accountable government, and to inform public debate. However, there is a greater public interest in allowing a private space within which officials can provide free and frank advice to Ministers in briefing for Parliamentary answers. It is clearly in the public interest that Ministers can properly answer Parliamentary questions, provide sound information to Parliament (to which they are accountable), and robustly defend the Government's policies and decisions. They need full and candid advice from officials to enable them to do so. Premature disclosure of this type of information could lead to a reduction in the comprehensiveness and frankness of such advice and views in the future, which would not be in the public interest.

About FOI

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Please quote the FOI reference

Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road

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