The Freedom of Information Act contains 23 exemptions to the right of access. The exemptions listed in part 2 of the Act set the boundaries to the rights of access: if information is exempt then individuals do not have a right of access to it under the Act.
The exemptions ensure a proper balance is achieved between the right to know, the right to personal privacy and the delivery of effective government.
This guidance summarises the government's view and will be regularly reviewed and updated to reflect legal and policy developments.
Introduction to exemptions
A general introduction to exemptions, including guidance on definitions of absolute and qualified exemptions and how they can be applied.
Public interest test
A general introduction to carrying out the public interest test when considering the application of an exemption.
Neither confirm nor deny
A general overview of when it may be appropriate to neither confirm nor deny that information is held.
Summaries of exemptions
A summary of all the exemptions, highlighting the key issues specific to each one.
Detailed exemptions guidance: These documents provide detailed advice on the interpretation and application of each of the exemptions.
- Section 21: information available by other means [PDF 0.08mb, 7 pages]
- Section 22: information intended for future publication [PDF 0.09mb, 6 pages]
- Section 23: information supplied by, or related to, bodies dealing with security matters [PDF 0.08mb, 6 pages]
- Section 24: national security [PDF 0.10mb, 11 pages]
- Section 26: defence [PDF 0.08mb, 8 pages]
- Section 27: international relations [PDF 0.10mb, 10 pages]
- Section 28: relations within the United Kingdom [PDF 0.14mb, 14 pages]
- Section 29: the economy* [PDF 0.04mb, 6 pages]
- Section 30: investigations and proceedings conducted by public authorities [PDF 0.10mb, 11 pages]
- Section 31: law enforcement* [PDF 0.17mb, 36 pages]
- Section 32: court records* [PDF 0.05mb, 9 pages]
- Section 33: Audit functions [PDF 0.08mb, 7 pages]
- Section 34: Parliamentary Privilege [PDF 0.08mb, 6 pages]
- Section 35: formulation of government policy [PDF 0.13mb, 6 pages]
- Section 36: prejudice to the effective conduct of public affairs [PDF 0.10mb, 12 pages]
- Section 37: communications with Her Majesty, with other members of the Royal Family, or with the Royal Household, and the conferring by the Crown of any dignity* [PDF 0.06mb, 11 pages]
- Section 38: health and safety [PDF 0.07mb, 4 pages]
- Section 39: environmental Information* [PDF 0.04mb, 5 pages]
- Section 40: personal information [PDF 0.11mb, 13 pages]
- Section 41: information provided in confidence [PDF 0.12mb, 16 pages]
- Section 42: legal professional privilege [PDF 0.08mb, 16 pages]
- Section 43: commercial interests [PDF 0.11mb, 13 pages]
- Section 44: prohibitions on disclosure [PDF 0.07mb, 4 pages]
*Please note that the guidance documents marked with an asterisk are currently being revised. The updated guidance will appear in due course.