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First-tier Tribunal to hear Cabinet Office appeal to withhold information related to Freedom of Information Clearing House

On Thursday 29th and Friday 30th April the First-tier Tribunal (General Regulatory Chamber) will hear by video link an appeal related to information requested from the Cabinet Office by Jenna Corderoy, a journalist from openDemocracy.

Posted on 28 April 2021

The information is sought by Ms Corderoy to facilitate analysis of the operation of the Cabinet Office Freedom of Information Clearing House and to inform public debate and scrutiny over its activities.
 
Ms Corderoy has submitted to the Tribunal extensive evidence, based on her own research and analysis, of why there is cause for concern over the operation of this Clearing House, for example in relation to potential breaches of the applicant blind principle related to information requests, and that centralised coordination of information requests poses a serious risk to transparency.
 
In August 2020, Jenna Corderoy requested information from the Cabinet Office under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). She sought copies of the ‘Round Robin’ lists circulated during a specific time period by the Freedom of Information Clearing House, which operates within the Cabinet Office. The Cabinet Office withheld this information from Ms Corderoy claiming an exemption to disclosure under FOIA. By way of a Decision Notice dated 13 July 2020, the Information Commissioner decided that the public interest in maintaining that exemption did not outweigh the public interest in disclosing the list, requiring the Cabinet Office to disclose to Ms Corderoy copies of the information sought.
 
The Cabinet Office appealed the Information Commissioner’s decision, but many months later, on 8 March 2021, released some of the information in question to Ms Corderoy. At the virtual hearing this week, the Tribunal will be asked to consider whether the remaining information in dispute should also be released to Ms Corderoy.
 
Jenna Corderoy of openDemocracy said:

“It is of the utmost importance that the documents I seek should be disclosed in full. We need to know in detail how the Cabinet Office – which is in charge of FOI policy yet has the worst record on FOI among central government departments – operates the Clearing House.”
 
Erin Alcock of Leigh Day said:

“Our client is seeking disclosure of information from the Cabinet Office to better understand and analyse how the Freedom of Information Clearing House is being operated by the department. Our client has serious and legitimate concerns that the operation of this Clearing House could present barriers to transparency and access to information the public should be entitled to, and may not accord with the spirit of the Freedom of Information Act.” 
 
Ms Corderoy will be represented at the hearing by Julianne Morrison of Monckton Chambers.

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