Publication - FOI/EIR release

Shirley-Anne Somerville, Jeane Freeman correspondence with various UK government departments: FOI release

Published: 8 Feb 2019

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

Published:
8 Feb 2019
Shirley-Anne Somerville, Jeane Freeman correspondence with various UK government departments: FOI release
FOI reference: FOI/18/03764
Date received: 19 Dec 2018
Date responded: 31 Jan 2019
Information requested

 

1. Can you please provide me with copies of all correspondence between the Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People (Shirley-Anne Somerville) and:

 

(a) The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

(b) Special Advisers at the Department of Work and Pensions (*)

(c) The Social Security Advisory Committee and it's members

(c) Director Generals of the Department of Work and Pensions (*)

 

2. Can you please provide me with copies of all correspondence between the Minister for Social Security (Jeane Freeman) and:

 

(a) The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

(b) Special Advisers at the Department of Work and Pensions (*)

(c) The Social Security Advisory Committee and it's members (*)

(c) Director Generals of the Department of Work and Pensions (*)

 

Response

 

I have attached a copy of the letter from the Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People to the Social Security Advisory Committee dated 20th August 2018.

Some of the information you have requested is available via the following links:

https://news.gov.scot/resources/letter-from-jeane-freeman-msp-minister-for-social-security-and-cllr-kelly-parry-cosla-community-wellbeing-spokesperson-david-gauke-mp

https://news.gov.scot/news/social-security-payments-on-track-despite-uk-government-delays

 

Some information you have requested is covered in a previous FOI published online – the documents in relation to your FOI request are Annex D and Annex J:

https://www.gov.scot/publications/foi-18-02860-review/

Items marked “(*)” indicate that no such correspondence exists.

Under section 25(1) of FOISA, we do not have to give you information which is already reasonably accessible to you.  

 

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.28(1) of FOISA (relations within the UK). The reason why this exemptions applies is explained in the Annex to this letter.

 

ANNEX

REASONS FOR NOT PROVIDING INFORMATION

 

An exemption under section 28(1) of FOISA (relations within the UK) applies to some of 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 the transfer of some Social Security powers 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 transfer and delivery of the Social Security powers devolved to the Scottish Parliament.  There is no public interest in disclosing information when that will damage relationships and disrupt future communications.

 

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 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 content of these discussions with the Socttish Fiscal Commission on the sharing of DWPs information  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 position on sharing DWPs information, until the Government as a whole can adopt a decision that is sound and likely to be effective.  This private space is essential to enable all options to be properly considered, so that good decisions can be taken based on fully informed advice and evidence, such as that provided by the Scottish Fiscal Commission.  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 decision making process, which would not be in the public interest.

 

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foi-18-03764 Information requested

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Contact

Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Email: ceu@gov.scot
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
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Edinburgh
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