- 28 May 2019
Date received: 25 Apr 2019
Date responded: 23 May 2019
Under FOISA please provide the Programme Director Progress Report papers submitted to the Social Security Programme Board since November 2018.
I enclose a copy of some of the information you requested.
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 30(b)(ii) of FOISA Free and frank exchange of views and section 30(c) of FOISA Otherwise prejudice effective conduct of public affairs, apply to that information. The reasons why these exemptions apply are explained in the Annex to this letter.
REASONS FOR NOT PROVIDING INFORMATION
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 and explore options before the Scottish Government reaches a settled public view. Disclosing the content of free and frank discussions at the Social Security Programme Board will substantially inhibit such discussions in the future, particularly because these discussions are still ongoing and policy is still being formulated.
A further exemption under S.30(c) of FOISA also applies to this request for information. Section 30(c) exempts information from disclosure where disclosure would, or would be likely to, cause substantial harm to the effective conduct of public affairs. The analysis of the actions to be taken in order to manage the programme contribute significantly to the effective conduct of public affairs. Disclosure would have the effect of impinging on the honest assessment of which actions should be taken and therefore the programme would not be managed as effectively as possible.
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 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 explore and refine the Government’s position on Social Security until the Government as a whole can adopt a position that is sound and likely to be effective. This private thinking space is essential to enable all options to be properly considered, so that good decisions can be taken. Premature disclosure is likely to undermine the full and frank discussion of issues between officials, which in turn will undermine the quality of the decision making process, 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 Andrews House