Freedom of information request and disclosure on the BSF programme's cancellation.
- Date requested: 26 July 2010
- Publish date: 09 September 2010
- Updated: 26 April 2012
Can the Department provide information relating to the incorrect release of schools affected by cancellation of the BSF programme between 5 July and 16 July 2010?
This should include correspondence - letters and emails - between the Secretary of State for Education, his private office and Department officials.
The Department holds information within scope of the request. However, it has considered that the exemption at section 35(1)(a) of the Act which allows for the withholding of information if it relates to the formulation or development of Government policy to be engaged in this case.
Under section 35, the Department is required to balance the public interest in withholding the information against the public interest in disclosing it. Having done so, the Department has concluded that the public interest in maintaining the exemption and not disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in disclosure in this instance.
The particular factors which the Department considered when deciding where the public interest lay are set out below.
There is a general public interest in disclosure. Knowledge of the way Government works increases if the information on which decisions have been made is available.
This can lead to public contribution to the policy making process becoming more effective. There is a general public interest in being able to see if ministers are being briefed effectively on the key areas of policy the Department is taking forward.
Conversely, it is in the public interest that the formulation of Government policy and Government decision-making can proceed in the self-contained space needed to ensure that it is done well. Good government depends on good decision-making and these needs to be based on the best advice available and a full consideration of the options.
Without protecting the ability for ministers and senior officials to receive free and frank advice, there is likely to be a corrosive effect on the conduct of good government, with a risk that decision-making will become less fully-informed and will be recorded inadequately.
It is therefore the Department’s view that the public interest in non-disclosure outweighs the public interest in disclosure in this case.
However, it may be useful to read the transcripts of the select committee sessions on 28 and 30 July 2010, where Tim Byles of Partnership for Schools and the Secretary of State explain the BSF process, including the incorrect list of affected schools on 5 July.