Legal restrictions

Although we aim to fully maintain the spirit of the Act, by publishing as much information as possible on our web site, we are occasionally bound by legal restrictions such as where :

  • Providing the information is prevented by law, or is otherwise protected from disclosure.

  • Information is in draft form.

  • Information is in archive storage, or is difficult to access for similar reasons.

The FOI Act includes a number of exemptions from the requirement to provide information in these situations. There are two types of exemptions - absolute and qualified. Qualified exemptions mean that we must consider whether the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosure.

If you request information which falls under an exemption, we will normally provide you with the reason which prevents us from releasing the information. This is called a refusal notice which will explain which one or more of the FOI exemptions has caused our decision.

We will also provide information on how to appeal if you disagree with our decision.

Be assured that we rarely refuse to disclose information and wherever possible we will try to find a suitable means of meeting your request

The absolute exemptions are:

  • s.21 Information reasonably accessible to the applicant by other means.

  • s.23 Information supplied by, or relating to, bodies dealing with security matters.

  • s.32 Court records.

  • s.34 Parliamentary privilege.

  • s.40 Personal information.

  • s.41 Information provided in confidence (but only if this would constitute an actionable breach of confidence).

  • s.44 Prohibitions on disclosure.

The qualified exemptions are:

  • s.22 Information intended for future publication.

  • s.24 National security.

  • s.26 Defence.

  • s.27 International relations.

  • s.28 Relations within the UK.

  • s.29 The economy.

  • s.30 Investigations and proceedings conducted by public authorities.

  • s.31 Law enforcement.

  • s.33 Audit functions.

  • s.35 Formulation of government policy, etc.

  • s.36 Prejudice to effective conduct of public affairs.

  • s.37 Communications with His Majesty etc and honours.

  • s.38 Health and safety.

  • s.39 Environmental information.

  • s.42 Legal professional privilege.

  • s.43 Commercial interests.

Further information

Can be obtained from the Information Commissioner (opens in a new window)

Last updated: Wednesday, 14 June 2023