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Select Committee on Public Administration Second Report


MEMORANDUM 8

Submitted by the Home Office

Thank you for your letter of 9 June to Sir David Omand requesting a further explanation of why we had withheld some information. Sir David has asked me to reply. I am grateful to you for extending the deadline to today.

I attach a list giving the reasons why replies to Parliamentary Questions put to the Home Office were 'blocked' by the Table Office.

If you need any further information or clarification, please do not hesitate to contact me.

7 July 2000


3.12.98Security Service
61649Policy not to confirm or deny whether the Security Service holds records on a particular person
Reason:To give a full reply would impair the operational effectiveness of the Security Service in fulfilling its statutory functions under the Security Service Acts
Exemption:Part, exemption 1 (bullet one)
  
3.12.98Personal arrangements
62119Personal security arrangements are an operational matter for Chief Officers of Police
Reason:For security reasons, it has been the practice of successive governments not to provide information, including costs, about police operations relating to protection. There was a possible risk of compromising any existing and future police operations involving protection of an individual or individuals by giving out information of this sort.
Exemption:Part II, Section 4
  
1.2.99Transfer of Officers
68052Transfer of officers between CID and uniform duties an operational matter for Chief Constable
Reason:It is considered that the question was answered as fully as possible
Exemption:N/A
  
9.2.99Costs in police operations, Reference General Pinochet
70282Costs incurred in police operations relating to General Pinochet a matter for the Commissioner of the Police of the Metropolis and the Chief Constable of Surrey: see also 10.2 (70252)
Reason:For security reasons, it has been the practice of successive governments not to provide information, including costs, about police operations relating to protection. There was a possible risk of compromising any existing and future police operations involving protection of an individual or individuals by giving out information of this sort.
Exemption:Part II, Section 4
  
22.2.99Speed Cameras
71438Enforcement of road traffic law a matter for each chief police officer; they decide what technology to emply; and see 9.3 (73661, 73660); 23.3 (77306; 77290); 20.4 (81599) road traffic and public order legislation; 30.6m(88726)
Reason:It is considered that all the available information at that time was given. Resource implications meant that collecting all the information would have required a substantial amount of work collecting and collating returns from 43 forces and it would probably have been out of date as soon as it was completed.
  
73661 and 73660 refer to Questions on cameras answered by DETR which also used the phrase "information not available centrally"
  
77306 and 77290 also asked about cameras and were answered by the HO using "information not available centrally"
  
The other PQs were of a rather different sort. 81599 was about the lorry protest which blocked roads and asked what advice we had obtained about the legality of the drivers' action. The Answer was None. It went onto explain that enforcement of the road traffic law is a matter for the police.
  
23.3.99Suspension of Officers
77266Suspension of Police Officers a matter for Chief Officer concerned; wrong for minister to comment while investigation under way
Reason:It is considered that the question was answered as fully as possible
Exemption:N/A
  
24.3.99Operational Deployment of Police
77280Operational deployment of police officers a matter for the Chief Constable
Reason:It is considered that the question was answered as fully as possible.
Exemption:N/A
  
10.2.99Allocation of Resources
70065For Chief Constable to determine the number in his force within available resources: and see 5.3 [74826]; 9.2 [69473] (maintaining reserves); 15.2 [71037]; 16.2 [71042],
Reason:This is not "blocked" answer. The answer reflected the position. The Police Act 1996 provides for the Home Secretary to allocate funding and leaves it to the Chief Constable to determine how to use the funding once the budget has been set by the police authority. Home Secretary would not therefore look at individual police forces staffing levels.
Exemption:N/A
  
11.6.99Witness Protection
86194Number of officers engaged on witness protection in Eltham withheld in order to help maintain operational effectiveness
Reason: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.
Exemption:Part II, Section 4
  
20.1.99Home Affairs Council - Terrorist threats
66143EU Terrorism Threat Assessment Document not to be released
Reason:Information whose disclosure would harm national security or defence.
Exemption:Part II, exemption 1
  
21.1.99Common Market Referendum - Release of Security Service Files
66396For Director-General of Security Service to decide when to release files, following Public Records Acts 1958 and 1967.
Reason:This is not a blocked question as it explains the mechanism whereby the information sought could eventually be made available to the House (and the public).
Exemption:N/A
  
4.2.99Special Advisers
69337Information on salaries and pay-bill costs of Special Advisers not provided in order to protect the privacy of the people concerned.
Reason:Information on pay bill costs for individual Special Advisers is not provided in order to protect the privacy of the individuals concerned.
Exemption:Part II, paragraph 12
  
4.2.99Departmental Legislation
68420Convention that legislative proposals for each year are not announced before the Queen's Speech at the start of the relevant Session
Reason:To comply with well established Parliamentary Convention.
Exemption:Section 15 (b) of the Code of Practice - Statutory or other restrictions - Parliamentary Privilege
  
11.2.99Police Authority - Members
70052Not practice to publish the names of those put forward for independent membership of police authorities.
Reason:Applications are made in confidence. Invasion of privacy to publish names of candidates who are or might be unsuccessful. Police authorities have statutory duty to publish names of those appointed.
Exemption:Part II paragraphs 12 and 14
  
15.2.99Legal Costs
71427Funding of legal costs of police officers entirely a matter for police authorities.
Reason:Information requested was not collected centrally. A matter for police authorities, which are independent corporate bodies.
Exemption:Part I, paragraph 4.
  
15.2.99Requests from other Governments - Louise Woodward
70572Policy not to comment on fact or substance of requests from other Governments for mutual legal assistance in criminal matters.
Reason:Reply based on a general refusal to answer questions concerning request for mutual assistance.
Exemption:Section 4, categories a, b, and c of the Code and in some cases f. 4.1 may also apply.
  
1.3.99Security Service
73407Policy not to disclose information about Security Service operations
Reason:To give a full reply would impair the Operational effectiveness of the Security Service in fulfilling its statutory functions Under the Security Service Acts.
Exemption:Part, exemption 1 (bullet one).
  
3.3.99Official Advice - Ref Stephen Lawrence
74483Not practice to discuss advice to ministers from officials; and see 19.3 [76973]; 4.3 [73625].
Reason:It is not the practise to discuss the advance given to ministers by officials.
Exemption:Part II, Paragraph 2 of the Code of Practice.
  
4.3.99Firearms Act 1968
74251Records of companies and individuals authorised to purchase and prohibited weapons not available for reasons of security and commercial confidentiality.
Reason:The reasons why records of companies and individuals authorised to possess etc prohibited weapons are withheld are twofold:
  
Section 4e of the Code of Practice exempts information whose disclosure would harm public safety…or would prejudice the security of any building. Clearly, to publish addresses where sometimes large numbers of prohibited weapons are kept would pose a significant danger to the public safety in that criminals and terrorist organisations would become aware of the precise location of the very weapons they are most likely to want to get their hands on. Moreover, for armouries in smaller businesses which sometimes double as private homes, their very anonymity provides extra security.
  
Section 13 of the Code exempts commercial confidences. In making decisions on applications for the Secretary of State's authority, we require evidence of trade including volume of trade, weapon types, tenders and contracts. Clearly it would be inappropriate to make information of this sort available to competitors. Moreover, some authority holders are engaged in research and development of new weapon systems and types, information on which is supplied to us in the strictest confidence.
  
Exemption:Section 4e and 13 apply
  
11.3.99Immigration Records - Ref Pascal Lissouba
76140Not practice to disclose details of individuals' immigration records.
Reason:Unwarranted disclosure of personal information would have constituted an unwarranted invasion of privacy.
Exemption:Part II, exemption 12
  
19.3.99Prison Visitors
76417Names of members of Boards of Visitors of Prisons not published for reasons of personal security.
Reason:Unwarranted disclosure of personal information would have constituted an unwarranted invasion of privacy.
Exemption:Part II, exemption 12
  
25.3.99Interception of Communications
78524Not policy and inconsistent with Interception of Communications Act 1985 to confirm or deny that warrant for or interception of communications has taken place; this includes revealing figures for interceptions in particular parts of the country.
Reason:To give a full reply would impair the operational effectiveness of the Security Service in fulfilling its statutory functions under the Security Service Acts, or
  
To give a full reply would impair the operational effectiveness of the law enforcement agencies in the prevention and detection of serious crime
  
In both cases, a full reply would be inconsistent with the Interception of Communications Act 1985
Exemption:Part II, exemption one (bullet one) or Part II, exemption 4
  
29.6.99Interception of Communications
88718/88721No details of reason for issuing interception warrants given further than published in the Annual Report of the Commissioner appointed under the Interception of Communications Act 1985
Reason:To give full reply would impair the operational effectiveness of the Security Service in fulfilling its statutory functions under the Security Service Acts or
  
To give a full reply would impair the operational effectiveness of the law enforcement agencies in the prevention and defection of serious crime
  
A full reply would be inconsistent with the Interception of Communications Act 1985.
  
Exemption:Part II, exemption one (bullet one) or
Part II, exemption 4
  
30.3.99Lancet Inquiry
79094;79098;79212Operation Lancet Inquiry supervised by the Police Complaints Authority - for them to monitor progress; length of the investigation for them and the investigating officer, no comment on criminal or disciplinary investigations, esp. because Home Secretary is appellate authority.
Reason:It is considered that no information was withheld in the answer. However, it was appropriate to comment on matters which may have been subject of criminal proceedings which may have prejudiced those proceedings.
Exemption:N/A
  
13.4.99Redwood Inquiry
79590No comment while inquiry continues; and see 20.4 [81165], 4.5 [82537]
Reason:Information whose disclosure could prejudice investigation/detection of crime and apprehension/prosecution of offenders.
Exemption:Section 4. Law Enforcement and legal proceedings
  
20.4.99Sergeant Virdi
80631No comment while inquiry continues
Reason:The question was partly answered, however main body of questions were not answered. This was due to the fact that the Commissioner was at that time still considering charging Sgt Virdi with disciplinary offences and it was therefore inappropriate to comment.
Exemption:N/A
  
18.5.99Cleveland Police
84259Details of confidential matter discussed under s. 100 of the Local Government Act not disclosed
Reason:It is considered inappropriate to comment on matters which may have been subject of criminal proceedings which may have prejudiced those proceedings
Exemption:N/A
  
30.6.99Subversion
88224Not in public interest to add to information published in the 1998 booklet "M15 The Security Service".
Reason:To give full reply would impair the operational effectiveness of the Security Service in fulfilling its statutory functions under the Security Service Acts.
Exemption:Part II, exemption one (bullet one)
  
22.7.99S. 133 of Criminal Justice Act 1988
91828Review of operation of the section internal and details withheld under exemption in Code of Practice on Government Information and Advice relating to internal discussion and advice.
Reason:Information where disclosure would harm the frankness and candour of internal discussion
Exemption:Part II, exemption 2
  
11.11.99Commission for Racial Equality
98369Details of individual settlements relating to claims of racial discrimination by employees of the CRE confidential between the parties
Reason:The question was answered in full. No information requested in the Question was withheld. But a statement was made that details of the settlement package are commercially confidential
Exemption:Section 7 - Effective management and operations of the public service information whose disclosure would prejudice commercial or contractual activities. It is likely that the deal could not have been negotiated without a confidentiality agreement.
  
11.11.99Siemens contract
98242Details of package of changes to a contract commercially confidential
Reason:The question was answered in full. No information requested in the PQ was withheld. But a statement was made that details of the settlement package were commercially confidential.
Exemption:Section 7 - Effective management and operations of the public service information whose disclosure would prejudice commercial or contractual activities. It is likely that the deal could not have been negotiated without a confidentiality agreement.


 
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