Exemption guidance for freedom of information (FOI)
This guidance summarises the government's view and will be regularly reviewed and updated to reflect legal and policy developments.
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.
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 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 0.12mb 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 0.27mb 13 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.