Submitted by the Foreign & Commonwealth
Thank you for your letter of 9 June about "blocked"
parliamentary questions to Sir John Kerr.
I attach explanations for each of the parliamentary questions
answered by Ministers in the FCO. I hope this will be helpful
to the Committee.
Question 62341: 7 December 1998: col 35
Honours (Mr Peter Penfold)
The question related to possible discussions with an individual
about his inclusion in the New Year's Honours List 1998.
Under Part II paragraph 8 © of the Code of Practice, information,
opinions and assessments given in relation to recommendations
for honours are exempt from the commitments to provide information
in the Code. This particular question fall squarely under terms
of this paragraph.
Question 63819: 14 December 1998: col 403
Question 65683: 14 January 1999: col 254
Question 78033: 22 March 1999: col 63
Sale of Properties
We do not publish details of terms agreed in such transactions
when they are commercially sensitive. It would be professionally
unethical and might unreasonably disadvantage the other parties
involved, in the course of their lawful business, commercial and
financial affairs. Accordingly Part II, section 13 (third party's
commercial confidences) of the Code of Practice on Access to Government
Information applies. Part II, section 7 (a) also applies, as disclosures
of such information could undermine our reputation and future
negotiating position for similar deals elsewhere and thus limit
our ability to secure best value for money for the tax payer.
Question 68417: 1 February 1999: col 495
The information sought would have required a breach in the
long-standing convention not to announce legislative proposals
before they have appeared in the Queen's Speech, in this case
those to be delivered at the Sessions starting in 2000 and 2001.
The convention exists for a number of reasons, not least because
the legislative priorities change over time and pre-announcing
proposals could be misleading or open to misinterpretation. Exemption
10 (publication and prematurity in relation to publication) of
the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information therefore
Question 77173: 16 March 1999: col 616
Communications - Telegrams to Posts
(I) Sierra Leone
This reply was only partially blocked since some information was
given on the countries which were contacted about giving financial
support for Sierra Leone. However, the lobbying exercise with
individual countries was conducted in confidence and details of
relevant communications as advised in the cited "Restricted"
telegram remain confidential. Since the release of this telegram
would be likely to impair confidential communications between
governments and thereby cause harm to the conduct of international
relations, it is exempt from disclosure under Part II, section
1 (b) of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information.
Question 92941: 26 July 1999: col 151
(ii) Lord Levy
Telegrams from FCO posts contain Ambassadors' opinions and advice.
If Ambassadors' telegrams were made public, Ambassadors would
be prevented from frank expression of their opinion. Exemption
2 accordingly applies.
Question 78352: 24 March 1999: col 297
Governor or Ambassador (Gibraltar)
We do not reveal details of confidential exchanges between
the FCO and any Governor or Ambassador because this would harm
the conduct of international relations or affairs and the frankness
and candour of internal discussion. Nor do we give details of
the operational instructions given to the Royal Gibraltar Police
because this would harm national security and defence and could
prejudice the enforcement or proper administration of the law.
Since the harm likely to arise from disclosure outweighs the public
interest in the release of this information, it is exempt from
disclosure under Part II, sections 1 (a-b), 2 and 4 (b) of the
Code of Practice on Access to Government Information.
Question 80878: 20 April 1999: col 511
(I) Papua New Guinea
The contents of discussions between FCO officials and the Papua
New Guinea High Commissioner were not disclosed as to do so would
risk impairing openness and dialogue between our two governments.
Exemption 1 © of the Code of Practice on Access to Government
Question 83468: 10 May 1999: col 25
Question 84233: 14 May 1999: col 228
(ii) Al Shifa Plant
The PQ answers referred to section 1 © of the Code. If we
had revealed information given to us in confidence by the US government,
they and other foreign governments would not have trusted us with
further confidential information. This would have impaired our
confidential dialogue with the US and other foreign governments.
Question 86457: 15 June 1999: col 115
(iii) Senator Pinochet
We do not disclose the substance of discussions with foreign authorities
because to do so would harm the conduct of international relations,
and because the information so disclosed would have been obtained
in confidence. Part II, exemptions 1 (b) and © of the Code
therefore apply. To disclose the substance of such discussions
would be likely to impair candour between governments.
Question 88331: 29 June 1999: col 114
As the original reply explained, these communications from the
Russian Government were sent and received in confidence. They
were not released because disclosure would be likely to impede
negotiations and impair candour between Governments, and could
prejudice the future supply of such information, therefore causing
harm to the conduct of international relations or affairs. Since
the harm so caused outweighs the public interest in its release,
exemption 1 (b and c) of the Code of Practice on Access to Government
Question 73253: 26 February: col 491
87601: 22 June: col 360
81942: 26 April: col 34
89609: 15 July: col 287
88637: 30 June: col 168
95569: 26 October: col 803
96547: 1 November: col 31
96548: 1 November: col 31
The Security and Intelligence Services are not within the scope
of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information, nor
is information obtained from or relating to them. It remains the
long standing practice of successive governments not to provide
information on the activities of, or speculation about, the intelligence
and security services which could have a bearing on the operational
effectiveness of the agencies, or the safety of their staff and
those who operate with them. The reasons were set out by the then
Prime Minister in his Written Answer of 14 July 1994 (Hansard
Question 75081: 9 March 1999: col 179
Common Foreign and Security Policy
Discussions in Common Foreign and Security Policy working
groups are an opportunity for EU member states to exchange views
and develop a common approach on specific foreign policy areas
in complete confidence that their negotiating position will not
be made public. This is reflected in the Rules of Procedure of
the Council that state that its deliberations are confidential.
The Government is therefore not at liberty unilaterally to release
reports of the Common Foreign and Security Policy Working Groups
and so cannot place copies of them in the Library of the House.
Question 78397: 24 March 1999: Col 300
Party Discussions (Pauline Green)
The Head of the European Socialist Party referred to in the
question was Pauline Green MEP, the then leader of the European
Parliamentary Labour Party, and a party colleague of the Minister.
Ministers are responsible to Parliament only for their actions
as Ministers. They are not accountable for their party political
Question 82249 and 82250: 29 April 1999: col 262 and 263
US-British-Russian Trilateral Agreement
The information requested was of a commercially sensitive
nature the disclosure of which would have unreasonably disadvantaged
the third parties to which it related in the conduct of their
lawful business, commercial, financial or professional affairs.
It would also have caused serious harm to the conduct of international
relations. Since the harm so caused would outweigh the public
interest in the release of this information, it is exempt from
disclosure under Part II, sections 1 (b) and 13 of the Code of
Practice on Access to Government Information. It was therefore
not possible to list the facilities of locations at which visits
had taken place.
Question 82250: 26 July 1999: col 36
Job applications (Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police).
Question answered by DfID (Mr Foulkes) not FCO.
Question 89028: 2 July 1999: col 315
It is neither our policy nor practice, for security reasons,
to give details of routes taken by Ministers. This information
is exempt from disclosure under Part II, section 1 (a) of the
Code of Practice on Access to Government Information in that it
could cause harm to national security by giving possible assistance
to those engaged in espionage, sabotage, subversion or terrorism.
Since such disclosure might endanger the life or physical safety
of individuals, exemption 4 (f) also applies.
Question 91247: 15 July 1999: col 290
As the FCO Department concerned does not produce any output
for public consumption that it would class as an assessment, it
interpreted this question as a request for all internal deliberations
upon which non-proliferation policy decisions are based. To release
such information would harm the frankness and candour of internal
discussion and this outweighs the public interest in its disclosure.
It is therefore covered by Exemption 2 of the Code of Practice
on Access to Government Information.
Question 92301: 23 July 1999: col 727
It has been the policy of successive governments not to comment
on operational aspects of kidnap cases. This information could
be of assistance to future terrorists and would prejudice the
operational effectiveness of the armed forces and the security
and intelligence services in their efforts to resolve future kidnaps.
Part 2, exemptions 1 (a) and 4 (b) of the Code of Practice on
Access to Government Information apply.
Question 92033: 27 July 1999: col 373
European Commission Staff
The information sought was not held by the FCO, and accordingly
Part I, para 4 of the Code of Practice on Access to Government
Information applies ("the Code does not require departments
to acquire information they do not possess"). The information
could have been sought from the Commission. But as the answer
makes clear, for reasons of personal confidentiality, the Commission
does not publish details of secondary employment of staff below
the level of Commissioner.
Question 93056: 27 July 1999: col 375
Security clearance of individuals is often based on personal
information which should properly remain private. To publicise
the level of security clearance of individuals would lead to speculation
as to why some individuals were not cleared to a higher level,
and to unduly intrusive questioning into their private lives.
Such disclosure to third parties would be an unwarranted invasion
of privacy and exemption 12 therefore applies.
Question 3740: 1 November 1999: col 32
The discussion of contingency planning could be exploited
by hostile forces, potentially jeopardising the operations of
British forces and those of our allies. It is therefore covered
by exemption 1 (a) of the Code of Practice on Access to Government
4 July 2000