3. The MOD is committed to greater openness in its work, in line with procedures set out in the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information. The Code sets a minimum standard for Government openness. All parts of the MOD must, as a matter of policy, take a positive approach to the release of information and work on the assumption that information should be made available.
4. The Code includes exemptions (see ANNEX B) which lay down when disclosure may be refused because it is not in the public interest. The exemptions should be interpreted narrowly, notbroadly. Information should not be refused because it is routinely classified within the MOD; the need for the classification should be re-examined in the light of the Department's policy on Openness and the terms of the Code.
5. The following information should be made routinely available:
Copies of documents of particular significance released to the public covering these and other areas should be sent to the Chief Librarian.
6. In addition, staff are encouraged to identify discrete blocks of records of more than ordinary interest to the public, which could be released to the Public Record Office ahead of the normal 30 year point. Details should be passed to: Central Services (Record Management)(CS(RM)1), Room D8/2, Metropole Building, Northumberland Avenue, London WC2N 5BP; tel: 0171 807 0254.
7. MOD Practice.
The MOD has a duty to respond positively to any requests for information which are not exempt under the Code (whether or not the Code has been specifically mentioned in the request). Failure to do so could result in an appeal to the Ombudsman (Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration) and ultimately to censure.
8. In general, information should be released in the most cost effective manner. Where an individual has requested information contained wholly within a specific document or report, and no information within that document or report is exempt, it may be easier to disclose the whole document or report. CS(RM) and DOMD should be advised when a whole document is released.
9. Parliamentary Questions (PQs) and Parliamentary Enquiries (PEs).
(see also the "Useful guidance and contacts" at ANNEX A). Requests for information from MPs and Peers (PQs and PEs) should also be treated in accordance with the Code and specialist guidance as necessary. Answers must always be open, honest and unambiguous. They must not deceive or mislead. Information should only be withheld where the Code would allow it and the advice to Ministers should set out the information it is not possible to publish, together with an explanation why. The answer to the PQ or PE must include a specific reference to the exemption under which the Minister has decided to withhold the information requested. It is never acceptable to say simply, as we have done hitherto, that it is not our practice to give a particular type of information.
10. Response targets.
Requests should be met within 20 working days. Simple requests should be replied to sooner. On rare occasions where the target cannot be met because requests require more extensive work, an initial holding reply must be sent within 20 working days (preferably earlier).
11. Contents of the response.
The holding reply should give an indication of the time it will take to respond fully. If charges are likely (see paragraph 12), an enquirer should be informed of their estimated size and asked if he/she wishes the enquiry to proceed (see ANNEX C). Each final reply should make reference to complaints procedures and any relevant caveats as suggested at ANNEX D. The Department's leaflet on Open Government and Complaints procedures (due to be published this year) shouldalso be included with all replies where relevant information is in the Department's possession and a request has been refused, or where a charge has been made for providing information.
Charges may be made to cover costs of identifying and releasing the information required. This will not apply to information which has traditionally been free. Further, no charge should be made for the first 4 hours spent on a request. After this time, a charge of £15.00 may be made for every extra hour (or part thereof) worked. Any cheques should be made payable to "The Accounting Officer, MOD." If dealing with a request would require an unreasonablediversion of resources, it may be refused (see exemption 9 of the Code). The same charging regime will apply even if the information is to be used by a commercial organisation.
13. Refusal of information.
The types of information which may be exempted from release when this is essential for good Government are listed at ANNEX B, although individual cases should always be judged on their merits. The emphasis must always be on allowing as much information as possible to flow freely into the public domain. In order to ensure that these obligations are taken seriously, all refusals of requests must be cleared, in writing, at one-star level. Any letter of refusal must refer to the relevant Code exemption(s). Refusals of telephone requests must, like written refusals, make clear the right of appeal. An appeal can only be made in writing.
14. All appeals will be dealt with centrally by DOMD. DOMD will require a full history of the case from the relevant branch, within 10 working days, in order to complete the appeals procedure within the Department's target (20 working days). The review will ensure that the Department's position is justified, should the case be referred to the Ombudsman at a later date.
15. Details of 1997 monitoring returns required from all divisions receiving requests from members of the public, or making documents public, will be published in a DCI in September. In the meantime, however, divisions should keep, in a readily accessible form, records of all correspondence about the release of information (including numbers of Code requests). This would allow a prompt response in the event of investigation by the Ombudsman.
OMD14, Room 617, Northumberland House, Northumberland Avenue, London WC2N 5BP; tel: 0171 218 4814; fax: 0171 218 0223.
Personnel and Logistics (Legal Services) (PL(LS)L1), Room 3/18, Metropole Building, Northumberland Avenue, London WC2N 5BP; tel: 0171 218 0885; fax: 0171 218 0844.
Central Services (Records Management) (CS(RM)1), Room D8/2, Metropole Building, Northumberland Avenue, London WC2N 5BP; tel: 0171 807 0254; fax: 0171 807 0256.
The KITE (Keep It To Essentials) booklet, "Parliamentary Business."
"Questions of Procedure for Ministers" (available to the public priced £3.00).
Guidance on drafting PQs can be found on CHOTS (under 'public/1mod/goodpracs/pq') and DAWN.
DCI GEN 9/96.
Secretary of State's Registry; tel: 0171 218 6432.
Press Office; tel: 0171 218 7294 or 0171 218 7931.
The following categories of information are exempt from the commitments to provide information in this Code. In those categories which refer to harm or prejudice, the presumption remains that information should be disclosed unless the harm likely to arise from disclosure would outweigh the public interest in making the information available.
References to harm or prejudice include both actual harm or prejudice and risk or reasonable expectation of harm or prejudice. In such cases it should be considered whether any harm or prejudice arising from disclosure is outweighed by the public interest in making information available.The exemptions will not be interpreted in a way which causes injustice to individuals.More detailed guidance on exemptions can be obtained from OMD14, who will consult PL(LS)Legal as appropriate.
a. Information whose disclosure would harm national security or defence.
b. Information whose disclosure would harm the conduct of international relations or affairs.
c. Information received in confidence from foreign governments, foreign courts or international organizations.
Information whose disclosure would harm the frankness and candour of internal discussion, including:
Information relating to confidential communications between Ministers and Her Majesty the Queen or other Members of the Royal Household, or relating to confidential proceedings of the Privy Council.
a. Information whose disclosure could prejudice the administration of justice (including fair trial), legal proceedings or the proceedings of any tribunal, public inquiry or formal investigations (whether actual or likely) or whose disclosure is, has been, or is likely to be addressed in the context of such proceedings.
b. Information whose disclosure could prejudice the enforcement or proper administration of the law, including the prevention, investigation or detection of crime, or the apprehension or prosecution of offenders.
c. Information relating to legal proceedings or the proceedings of any tribunal, public inquiry or other formal investigation which have been completed or terminated, or relating to investigations which have or might have resulted in proceedings.
d. Information covered by legal professional privilege.
e. Information whose disclosure would harm public safety or public order, or would prejudice the security of any building or penal institution.
f. Information whose disclosure could endanger the life or physical safety of any person, or identify the source of information or assistance given in confidence for law enforcement or security purposes.
g. Information whose disclosure would increase the likelihood of damage to the environment, or rare or endangered species and their habitats.
Information relating to immigration, nationality, consular and entry clearance cases. However, information will be provided, though not through access to personal records, where there is no risk that disclosure would prejudice the effective administration of immigration controls or other statutory provisions.
a. Information whose disclosure would harm the ability of the Government to manage the economy, prejudice the conduct of official market operations, or could lead to improper gain or advantage.
b. Information whose disclosure would prejudice the assessment or collection of tax, duties or National Insurance contributions, or assist tax avoidance or evasion.
a. Information whose disclosure could lead to improper gain or advantage or would prejudice:
b. Information whose disclosure would harm the proper and efficient conduct of the operations of a department or other public body or authority, including NHS organizations, or of any regulatory body.
a. Personnel records (relating to public appointments as well as employees of public authorities) including those relating to recruitment, promotion and security vetting.
b. Information, opinions and assessments given in confidence in relation to public employment and public appointments made by Ministers of the Crown, by the Crown on the advice of Ministers or by statutory office holders.
c. Information, opinions and assessments given in relation to recommendations for honours.
Requests for information which are vexatious or manifestly unreasonable or are formulated in too general a manner, or which (because of the amount of information to be processed or the need to retrieve information from files not in current use) would require unreasonable diversion of resources.
Information which is or will soon be published, or whose disclosure, where the material relates to a planned or potential announcement or publication, could cause harm (for example, of aphysical or financial nature).
a. Information relating to incomplete analysis, research or statistics where disclosure could be misleading or deprive the holder of priority of publication or commercial value.
b. Information held only for preparing statistics or carrying out research, or for surveillance for health and safety purposes (including food safety), and which relates to individuals, companies or products which will not be identified in reports of that research or surveillance, or in published statistics.
Unwarranted disclosure to a third party of personal information about any person (including a deceased person) or any other disclosure which would constitute or could facilitate an unwarranted invasion of privacy.
Information including commercial confidences, trade secrets or intellectual property whose unwarranted disclosure would harm the competitive position of a third party.
a. Information held in consequence of having been supplied in confidence by a person who:
b. Information whose disclosure without consent of the supplier would prejudice the future supply of such information.
c. Medical information provided in confidence if disclosure to the subject would harm their physical or mental health, or should only be made by a medical practitioner.
a. Information whose disclosure is prohibited by or under any enactment, regulation, European Community law or international agreement.
b. Information whose release would constitute a breach of Parliamentary Privilege.
SUGGESTED CAVEATS FOR USE WHEN RELEASING INFORMATION, AND DETAILS OF THE PROCEDURE FOR REGISTERING A COMPLAINT
a. This information is supplied by the MOD under the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information.
b. The information released to you was originally produced and retained solely for MOD purposes and, while every effort has been made to ensure its accuracy and completeness, no warranty can be given as to its accuracy or to its suitability for any other purpose.
c. The MOD accepts no liability for loss or damage resulting from the use of this information.
d. This information may be freely reproduced, without seekingformal permission.(1)
Complaints - If you should wish to make a complaint that your request for information has not been properly dealt with, you should appeal to: MOD, OMD14, Room 617, Northumberland House, Northumberland Avenue, London WC2N 5BP. You may at any time register a complaint with the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration (the Ombudsman) through your Member of Parliament, but the Ombudsman will expect you to have exhausted the internal MOD complaints procedure first.
(1) Given the spirit of the Code, further copying and use of material should not normally be limited. If, however, in a particular case, you wish to limit reproduction, the following wording should be used:
"(C) Crown copyright reserved. For permission to reproduce, please apply to the Controller of HMSO."