Publication - FOI/EIR release

Ministerial diary, James Wolffe's Belgium visit January 2018: FOI release

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

Published:
17 Jul 2018
Ministerial diary, James Wolffe's Belgium visit January 2018: FOI release

FOI reference: FOI/18/01722
Date received: 21 June 2018
Date responded: 17 July 2018

Information requested

The ministerial diary for James Wolffe for when he was in Belgium from 28 to 29 January including engagements and who he met with; I would also like to ask for his personal costs associated with the visit and for any staff who accompanied him; for correspondence on the trip and for the job titles of the staff that accompanied him.

Response

Information about Ministerial engagements (including overseas engagements) are published on the Scottish Government website. They can be found in first tab of each monthly spread sheet:

https://beta.gov.scot/publications/ministerial-engagements-travel-and-gifts-march-2018/

Ministerial overseas visits are also published on the Scottish Government website. Details include all Ministerial costs associated with the visit. They can be found in the second tab of each monthly spread sheet:

https://beta.gov.scot/publications/ministerial-engagements-travel-and-gifts-march-2018/

Job Title Total Cost for Accompanying Officials
Private Secretary £563

Please find correspondence relating to the Lord Advocate's visit to Brussels attached to this email.

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.38(1)(b) (personal information), 39(1) (health and safety), 29(1)(d) (operation of any Ministerial Private Office), and 30b(i) (free and frank provision of advice) of FOISA applies to that information. The reasons why those exemptions apply are explained below.

Reasons for not providing information

An exemption under section 39(1) of FOISA (Health & Safety) applies to some the information you have requested in relation to Ministerial accommodation in Brussels. This exemption applies because we consider that release would be likely to endanger the safety of Ministers in these frequently visited destinations because the same hotels are usually used in these locations. Release of this information would therefore be likely to reveal which hotels Ministers will use in future and enable people to work out the future dates on which they would be expected to stay in those hotels based on their previous patterns of attendance at particular meetings or events in either of those three cities.

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. While we recognise that there is some public interest in release of this information in order to promote openness, there is a much greater public interest in avoiding significant risks to the safety of Ministers.

An exemption under section 30(b)(i) of FOISA (free and frank provision of 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. This exemption recognises the need for officials to have a private space within which to provide free and frank advice to Ministers before the Scottish Government reaches a settled public view. Disclosing the content of free and frank advice 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. 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 between Ministers and officials, which in turn will undermine the quality of the decision making process, which would not be in the public interest.

An exemption under section 38(1)(b) of FOISA (personal information) applies to some of the information requested because it is personal data of a third party, ie 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 section 29(1)(d) of FOISA (operation of any Ministerial Private Office) applies to some of the information requested. This exemption applies because some of the information requested relates to the operation of Ministerial Private Office.

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. However, there is a greater public interest in preserving the efficient and effective operation of the private office.

About FOI

The Scottish Government is committed to publishing all information released in response to Freedom of Information requests. View all FOI responses at http://www.gov.scot/foi-responses

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