Publication - FOI/EIR release

Ministers and senior officials materials regarding Air Passenger Departure Tax: FOI release

Published: 15 Jan 2019

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

Published:
15 Jan 2019
Ministers and senior officials materials regarding Air Passenger Departure Tax: FOI release
FOI reference: FOI/18/03668  
Date received: 10 December 2018 
Date responded: 10 January 2019
 
Information requested
 
Question 1
Please could you supply me with all materials consumed by ministers and senior officials relating to Air Passenger Departure Tax in 2018.
 
Question 2
In particular, I am interested in correspondence, Ministerial/senior staff briefing notes, presentations or reports shared between Scottish Government officials and representatives of the following bodies relating to APD; Edinburgh Airport, IAG (International Airlines Group), Gatwick Airport, Airport Operators Group and the Scottish Passenger Agents Association.
 
Response
 

Question 1

While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance the costs of locating, retrieving and providing the information requested would exceed the upper cost limit as the scope of the request is so broad that it would cover a significant amount of information held within the Scottish Government. Under section 12 of FOISA public authorities are not required to comply with a request for information if the authority estimates that the cost of complying would exceed the upper cost limit, which is currently set at £600 by Regulations made under section 12.

You may, however, wish to consider reducing the scope of your request in order that the costs can be brought below £600. You may also find it helpful to look at the Scottish Information Commissioner’s ‘Tips for requesting information under FOI and the EIRs’ on her website at: http://www.itspublicknowledge.info/YourRights/Tipsforrequesters.aspx.

Question 2

I enclose a copy of some of the information you requested. The information being provided comprises:

  •  Letter from the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Economy and Fair Work to the Stakeholder Forum dated 1 June 2018 - redacted;
  • Correspondence with the SPAA, last item dated 23 Jan 2018 – released in full;
  • Correspondence with Edinburgh Airport – released in full
  • Correspondence with IAG - redacted.

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 section 25(1) (information is otherwise accessible), section 30(b)(ii) (free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation) and section 33(1)(b) (commercial interests) of FOISA apply to that information.  The reasons why these exemptions apply are explained below.

 

Reasons for not providing information
 

An exemption applies, subject to the public interest test.

Exemptions under section 25(1) (information is otherwise accessible), section 30(b)(ii) (free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation) and section 33(1)(b) (commercial interests) of FOISA apply to some of the information you have requested. 

An exemption under section 25(1) (information is otherwise accessible) of FOISA  applies to some of the information requested.

This exemption applies because this information is already in the public domain; it exempts information from disclosure where the requester can reasonably obtain the information without making a request for it. Detail as to how you can find this information follows:

ADT Stakeholder Forum: membership includes IAG, GIP (owners of Edinburgh and Gatwick Airports), AOA and SPAA.

Papers of the meetings are published on the SG website:

https://www.gov.scot/groups/adt-stakeholder-forum/  

ADT H&I Working Group: membership includes Edinburgh Airport; AGS by correspondence (owners of Aberdeen, Glasgow and Southampton Airports); IAG represented by Airlines UK

Papers of the meetings are published on the SG website:

https://www.gov.scot/groups/adt-highlands-and-islands-working-group/ 

This exemption is not 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, or would be likely to, inhibit substantially the free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation.  This exemption recognises the need for Ministers and officials to have a private space within which to discuss issues and options with external stakeholders before the Scottish Government reaches a settled public view. 

Disclosing the full content of the correspondence with the Stakeholder Forum on 1 June 2018 may substantially inhibit the two-way nature of such discussions in the future, if it appears likely that correspondence is likely to be made public.

Disclosing the content of the discussions with one of the organisations listed in your request on ADT will substantially inhibit such discussions in the future, because 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 while these discussions are still ongoing and decisions have not been taken.

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 and officials a private space within which to communicate with appropriate external stakeholders as part of the process of exploring and refining the Government’s policy position on ADT, until the Government as a whole can adopt a policy that is sound and likely to be effective.  This private space is essential to enable all options to be properly considered, so that good policy decisions can be taken based on fully informed advice and evidence, such as that provided by the stakeholder organisations.  Premature disclosure is likely to undermine the full and frank discussion of issues between the Scottish Government and these stakeholders, which in turn will undermine the quality of the policy making process, which would not be in the public interest.  There is also an important public interest in avoiding the loss of stakeholder confidence in cases where they thought they were providing comments in confidence, which would be inevitable if an individual’s contribution was released against their wishes.

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 stakeholder organisation that provided the information, given the sensitive information contained.  

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 engage with the Scottish Government in policy discussions, to ensure that we are always able to invite their views to inform future discussion. There is also 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 invite informed stakeholders to join them in considering all available options and to debate those rigorously, to fully understand their possible implications.  The stakeholders’ candour in doing so will be affected by their assessment of whether the discussions on the development of the policy on ADT 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.

 

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