Publication - FOI/EIR release

Briefings, notes or prepared documents on Heathrow expansion: FOI release

Published: 24 Oct 2018

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

Published:
24 Oct 2018
Briefings, notes or prepared documents on Heathrow expansion: FOI release
FOI reference: FOI/18/02288  
Date received: 24 August 2018  
Date responded: 5 October 2018
 
Information requested
 

Details of any civil servants’ briefings, notes or prepared documents on the topic of: Heathrow expansion.

 

Response
 

Some of the information you have requested that is held by us is enclosed. While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance we are unable to provide some of the information because exemptions under sections 28(1), 29(1)(a), 30(1)(b)(i), 30(1)(b)(ii), 33(1)(b) and 38(1)(b) of FOISA apply to some of the information. The reasons why these exemptions apply are explained below. Any information outwith the scope of your request has also been redacted.

 

Reasons for not providing information
 

An exemption applies.

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, i.e. names and contact details of individuals, and disclosing this would contravene the data protection principles on Schedule 1 of 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 applies, subject to the public interest test.

An exemption under section 28(1) of FOISA (relations within the UK) applies to some the information requested. This exemption applies because disclosure would, or would be likely to, prejudice substantially relations between the Scottish Government and the UK Government. It is essential for the effective administration of the UK as a whole that there should be regular, and often private, communications between the Scottish Government, the UK Government and the other devolved administrations. The release of these communications about Heathrow expansion will mean that the UK Government is likely to be more reluctant to share such information with the Scottish Government in future, which would reduce both the frequency and openness of communications between the Scottish Government and other UK administrations.

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 maintaining good relations between the Scottish Government and the UK Government, and in protecting the free exchange of information between the administrations to ensure that we keep each other fully and regularly informed about matters of mutual interest, such as the expansion of Heathrow Airport. There is no public interest in disclosing information when that will damage relationships and disrupt future communications. 

An exemption under section 29(1)(a) of FOISA (formulation or development of government policy) applies to some of the information requested because it relates to the development of the Scottish Government’s policy on Heathrow expansion. 

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 high quality policy and decision-making, and in the properly considered implementation and development of policies and decisions. This means that Ministers and officials need to be able to consider all available options and to debate those rigorously, to fully understand their possible implications.   Their candour in doing so will be affected by their assessment of whether the discussions on Heathrow expansion will be disclosed in the near future, when it may undermine or constrain the Government’s view on that policy while it is still under discussion and development. 

Exemptions under section 30(b)(i) (free and frank provision of advice) and 30(b)(ii) (free and frank exchange of views) apply to some of the information requested. These exemptions apply 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. These exemptions recognise the need for officials to have a private space within which to both 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 and discussions on Heathrow expansion will substantially inhibit the provision of such advice and the ability to have such discussions 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 exemptions. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exemptions. 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 and for full and frank exchanges of views between Ministers and officials to take place as part of the process of exploring and refining Government’s policy position on Heathrow expansion. 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 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 some airlines and airports. Disclosing some of the financial and commercial information about these companies would put them at a competitive disadvantage. 

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. However, there is a greater public interest in protecting the commercial interests of these companies in order to ensure the continuation of open and fair competition in the provision of air services.

 

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

foi-18/02288 Part 1

32 page PDF
1.0 MB

foi-18-02288 Part 2

38 page PDF
1.3 MB

foi-18-02288 Part 3

50 page PDF
2.1 MB

foi-18-02288 Part 4

38 page PDF
1.6 MB

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