Publication - FOI/EIR release

Visit of Malawian President Peter Mutharika to Scotland: FOI release

Published: 1 Jun 2018

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

Published:
1 Jun 2018
Visit of Malawian President Peter Mutharika to Scotland: FOI release

FOI reference: FOI/18/01248
Date received: 28 April 2018
Date responded: 29 May 2018

Information requested

The content of all documents associated with the recent visit of Malawian premier Peter Mutharika to Scotland, including schedules of all meetings, minutes from those meetings, and background briefings prepared before them. Also a breakdown of expenses associated with the trip including flights, hotels, restaurants and other purchases.

Response

I enclose a copy of most of the information you requested.

While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance we are unable to provide some of the information you have requested because exemptions under sections s.29(1)(b) (Ministerial communications), s.30(b)(i) (free and frank provision of advice), s.30(b)(ii) (free and frank exchange of views), s.32(1)(a)(i) (international relations), s.33(1)(b) (commercial interests), s.38(1)(b) (personal information) and s.39(1) (health and safety) of FOISA applies to that information. The reasons why those exemptions apply are explained below.

Reasons for not providing information

An exemption applies under s.38(1)(b).

An exemption under section 38(1)(b) of FOISA (personal information) applies to a small amount of the information requested because it is personal data of a third party, i.e. names/contact details of individuals, and disclosing it would contravene the data protection principles in Schedule 1 to the Data Protection Act 1998. This exemption is not subject to the 'public interest test', so we are not required to consider if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption.

An exemption under s29(1)(b) applies, subject to the public interest test.

An exemption under section 29(1)(b) of FOISA (Ministerial communications) applies to some of the information requested because it relates to communications between Scottish Ministers.

This exemption is 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 Ministers a private space within which issues can be explored and refined, until the Government as a whole can reach a decision that is sound and likely to be effective. This private thinking space also allows for all options to be properly considered, so that good decisions can be taken. Premature disclosure is likely to undermine the full and frank discussion of issues between Ministers, which in turn will undermine the quality of the decision making process.

An exemption under s.30(b)(i) and s.30(b)(ii) applies, subject to the public interest test.

An exemption under section 30(b)(i) of FOISA (free and frank provision of advice) and section 30(b)(ii) of FOISA (free and frank exchange of views) 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 and the free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation. This exemption recognises the need for officials to have a private space within which to provide free and frank advice to Ministers and the need for Ministers and officials to have a private space within which to discuss and explore options before the Scottish Government reaches a settled public view. Disclosing the content of free and frank advice on the visit of the President of Malawi will substantially inhibit the provision of such advice in the future.

This exemption is 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 full and frank advice to Ministers, as part of the process of exploring and refining the Government's position on Malawi. This private thinking space is essential to enable all options to be properly considered, based on the best available advice, so that good decisions can be taken. Premature disclosure is likely to undermine the full and frank discussion of issues betweenMinisters and officials, which in turn will undermine the quality of the decision making process, which would not be in the public interest.

An exemption applies under s.32(a)(i) applies, subject to the public interest test.

An exemption under section 32(1)(a)(i) of FOISA (international relations) applies to some of the information requested. This exemption applies because disclosure would, or would be likely to, prejudice substantially relations between the United Kingdom and Malawi. The effective conduct of international relations depends upon maintaining trust and confidence between the UK Government and other States. In this case, the information about Malawi was given to the Scottish Government on the understanding that it would be treated as being in confidence. If the Scottish Government does not respect this confidence, the UK Government's relations with other States and its ability to protect and promote UK interests will be substantially prejudiced. States such as Malawi, are likely to be more reluctant to share sensitive information with Scotland or other parts of the United Kingdom in future, which would reduce both the frequency and openness of communications with the UK.

This exemption is 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 ensuring that the UK Government is able to maintain good relations with other States, in order to protect and promote UK interests abroad. There can be no public interest in jeopardising those relations by the Scottish Government disclosing confidential information or information which another State has specifically asked us to withhold.

An exemption applies under s.33(1)(b) applies, subject to the public interest test.

An exemption under section 33(1)(b) of FOISA (commercial interests) applies to some of the information requested. This exemption applies because disclosure of this particular information would, or would be likely to, prejudice substantially the commercial interests of the African Lakes Company Limited (ALC). Disclosing this information would be likely to give ALC's competitors an advantage, which would substantially prejudice ALC's ability to make investments and so could significantly harm their commercial business, which aims to show how responsible investment in Malawi can make a fair profit, create jobs, grow the economy and reduce aid dependence.

This exemption is 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 and transparent government, and to help account for the expenditure of public money. However, there is a greater public interest in protecting the commercial interests of companies which are part-funded by the Scottish Government.

An exemption applies under s.39(1) applies, subject to the public interest test.

An exemption under section 39(1) of FOISA (health and safety) applies to some of the information requested. This exemption applies because disclosure of this particular information would, or would be likely to, endanger the physical or mental health or safety of an individual. Disclosing the name of the hotel and the private car hire company information would be likely to endanger individuals for future visits if the location of where they were staying and the car hire company they were using was known.

This exemption is 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 and transparent government, and to help account for the expenditure of public money. However, there is a greater public interest in protecting individuals' health or safety.

About FOI

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Contact

Please quote the FOI reference

Central Enquiry Unit
Email: ceu@gov.scot
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road
Edinburgh
EH1 3DG