- 18 Dec 2018
Date received: 15 November 2018
Date responded: 13 December 2018
You asked for ‘copies of all correspondence (this includes both physical and digital) to AND from the Infected Blood Inquiry since 1st January 2018 to present day’.
I enclose a copy of some of the information you requested at Annex B and also some pdfs are attached separately.
Some of the information you have requested is available online at the following weblinks:
- Correspondence between Sir Brian Langstaff and Paul Gray, Director General https://www.infectedbloodinquiry.org.uk/evidence/letter-chief-executive-nhs-scotland
- Copies of exhibits regarding records management and National Records of Scotland policies –
- latest Statements of Approach on Anonymity/Redaction, General Restriction Order and Evidence/Written Statements –
Under section 25(1) of FOISA, we do not have to give you information which is already reasonably accessible to you. If, however, you do not have internet access to obtain this information from the websites listed, then please contact me again and I will send you a paper copy.
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 37(1)(b)(i) and (ii) (for purposes of an inquiry), 30(b)(ii) (free and frank exchange of views), 36(2) (actionable breach of confidence) and 38(1)(b) (personal information) of FOISA apply to that information. The reasons why those exemptions applies are explained below.
Reasons for not providing information
An exemption applies.
Exemptions under sections 37(1)(b)(i) and (ii) of FOISA apply to some the information you have requested. The Infected Blood Inquiry is a statutory inquiry and these exemptions apply to information either produced for the Infected Blood Inquiry by the Scottish Government, such as draft statements or file lists, or to information or comments produced by the Inquiry’s staff in relation to this correspondence from the Scottish Government. While this information will largely be shared with core participants in due course and may ultimately, if determined relevant, be published by the Inquiry, it is appropriate that the Inquiry team and the Scottish Government have a private space to finalise these documents to the Inquiry’s satisfaction and for the Inquiry then to be able to consider the information fully before drawing its own conclusions.
These exemptions are 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 38(1)(b) of FOISA (personal information) applies to some of the information requested because it is personal data of a third party, in this case, firstly, names of individuals infected or affected by either HIV or hepatitis c, names and contact details of non-senior staff members and some staff in other government departments and mobile phone numbers of external stakeholders, and disclosing it would contravene the data protection principles in Article 5(1) of the General Data Protection Regulation and in section 34(1) of the Data Protection Act 2018. 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 36(2) of FOISA (actionable breach of confidence) applies to two documents because they were obtained from an IT firm via the Inquiry team and disclosure would constitute an actionable breach of confidence. This is because the information is confidential, was provided in circumstances which imposed an obligation on the Scottish Government to maintain that confidentiality (the Inquiry team was given to share the documents with the Scottish Government and certain other organisations which would need to use its services, but not more widely), and unauthorised disclosure would be to the detriment of the IT firm which provided the information. 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 30(b)(ii) of FOISA (free and frank exchange of views) applies to some of the information requested. This exemption applies because disclosure would be likely to inhibit substantially 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 discuss issues with external stakeholders before the Scottish Government finalises its approach to the Inquiry. Disclosing the content of these discussions with the UK Inquiry team on matters relating to the Scottish Government’s approach to the Inquiry will substantially inhibit such discussions in the future, because both officials and these stakeholders will be reluctant to provide their views fully and frankly if they believe that those views are likely to be made public, particularly given these discussions are still ongoing and relate to sensitive issues regarding the Inquiry.
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 officials a private space within which to communicate with appropriate external stakeholders as part of the process of exploring and refining the Government’s approach to the Inquiry, until the Government as a whole can adopt an approach that is sound. This private space is essential to enable options to be properly considered. Premature disclosure is likely to undermine the full and frank discussion of issues between the Scottish Government and the Inquiry team, which in turn will undermine the quality of the Scottish Government’s input into the Inquiry, which would not be in the public interest.
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
Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000
The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House