Information relating to Home Office landing cards

FOI request reference: F0052535
Publication date: June 2018

Request

Can you provide me with any records you hold (e.g. Correspondence, minutes, reports) that relate to the Home Office landing cards formerly held in the Home Office Croydon office. Especially anything relating their historical significance and decisions on whether TNA should take them.

Outcome

Not successful

Initial response (May 2018)

Following our update letter to you on 18 May 2018, we are writing to confirm that your request for any records that relate to Home Office landing cards held in the Home Office Croydon office has been refused under section 12 – cost limits. We should have provided this update to you within the 20-day period required by the Act, and The National Archives apologises for this.

To clarify our position and the reason for extending your request for a public interest test, what we have been able to do within the cost limit is to complete an initial search for information relating to your request. Further to this, as we have had a number of requests on this subject some information that has been gathered for other requests has fallen within scope of this request. It is to this information found that the exemptions at section 36 and 40 of FOIA have been engaged. However, we should have provided you with the details below to explain that we will not be able to answer your request in full as to do so would exceed the cost limit provision under section 12 of the Act.

Section 12 – Cost Limits
Your request has been handled under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act 2000.

The FOI Act gives you two rights of access when you write to us asking for information. You have the right to know whether we hold the information that you are looking for, and you have the right to have the information given to you. These rights may only be overridden if the information you are looking for is covered by an exemption in the Act.

We have determined that we will not be able to answer your request because to do so would exceed the cost limit provision under section 12 of the Act. Section 12 (1) of the Act, makes provision for public authorities to refuse requests for information where the cost of dealing with them would exceed the appropriate limit, which for The National Archives (as a central government department) is set at £600. This equates to 25 hours staff time (or one person spending 3 and a bit working days) purely on determining whether the department holds the information, as well as locating, retrieving and extracting the information.

We estimate that it will take us in excess of this to identify the appropriate information, and locate, retrieve and extract it in response to your request. This is because, in the normal course of business The National Archives corresponds regularly with, and holds records on, other government departments including the Home Office, and to retrieve the information in the format and structure you have asked for would require searching through thousands of records to identify and determine information relevant to the scope of your request. Therefore we will not be processing your request any further.

Advice and assistance in relation to this request
When your request was first received, we completed the following initial searches that fell within the cost limit:
• Correspondence between The National Archives and Home Office using the additional search term “landing cards”
• Records relating to Home Office Landing Cards held by our Information Management Department, as this team works closely with government departments

Some information was found from these searches that relate to your request. As confirmed in our previous correspondence, section 36 is engaged to this information as well as the exemption at section 40.

If you would like us to continue with this narrowed scope, please let us know and we will continue to consult with the Home Office over the public interest test.

Advice and assistance in relation to landing cards
You may be interested to know that that we do hold the following information within open records at The National Archives:

• In our BT 26 series, we hold inward passenger lists for the HMT Empire Windrush covering the period 1947 to 1953. These are listed here on our catalogue Discovery.

• All of these passenger lists are open and available to search and download from Ancestry.co.uk. at this link.

• The relevant passenger list for the famous journey in June 1948, from Jamaica to London, carrying West Indian immigrants is BT 26/1237/91.

• If you would like to pursue research in records held by the National Archives, you, or someone acting on your behalf who perhaps lives closer, are welcome to visit us at our building in Kew, in southwest London, where you can do the research in person and view our documents free of charge. Please check our website for opening times and advice on researching here. I’m afraid the limitations on our resources mean we cannot offer free research but I hope the above advice allows you to carry out this research yourself.

We have provided below some information on the Public Records Act, and government departments’ responsibilities under this:

Under Section 3 of the Public Records Act 1958 it is the responsibility of government departments to appraise their records and select those worthy of permanent preservation to be transferred to The National Archives or an approved place of deposit. Records are destroyed by departments in line with the business retention and disposal policies set for the wider records collections in which they were located.

One again, The National Archives apologises for not providing this refusal notice under section 12 within the 20-day time frame. We hope that the information provided in advice and assistance is helpful, and please let us know if you would like us to continue processing the narrowed scope of your request.

Further guidance on section 12 can be found on the ICO website: https://ico.org.uk/media/for-organisations/documents/1199/costs_of_compliance_exceeds_appropriate_limit.pdf

You may find the ICO guidance on making an FOI request helpful in refining or redirecting your request: https://ico.org.uk/for-the-public/official-information/

 

Further response (June 2018)

Thank you for confirming that you would like us to continue with the narrowed scope of your request for any records we hold that relate to the Home Office landing cards formally held in the Home Office Croydon office.

In consultation with the Home Office, the public interest test has been concluded and the balance of the public interest has been found to fall in favour of withholding information covered by the section 36 exemption.

We are therefore unable to provide you with the information you have requested because it is covered by the exemption at section 36(2)(b) and (c) of the FOI Act. This exempts information if it would be likely to inhibit the free and frank provision of advice, or the free and frank exchange of views for the purpose of deliberation, or would be likely to otherwise prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs. For further information about why this exemption has been applied, please see the Explanatory annex at the end of this letter.

Some of the information is also covered by the exemption at section 40 of the Act. This exempts personal information about a ‘third party’ (someone other than the requester), if revealing it would breach the terms of Data Protection Legislation. Data Protection Legislation prevents personal information from release if it would be unfair or at odds with the reason why it was collected, or where the subject had officially served notice that releasing it would cause them damage or distress. Personal information must be processed lawfully, fairly and in a transparent manner as set out by Art. 5 of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Advice and assistance

We do hold the following information within open records at The National Archives:

• In our BT 26 series, we hold inward passenger lists for the HMT Empire Windrush covering the period 1947 to 1953. These are listed here on our catalogue Discovery.

• All of these passenger lists are open and available to search and download from Ancestry.co.uk. at this link.

• The relevant passenger list for the famous journey in June 1948, from Jamaica to London, carrying West Indian immigrants is BT 26/1237/91.

If you would like to pursue research in records held by The National Archives, you, or someone acting on your behalf who perhaps lives closer, are welcome to visit us at our building in Kew, in southwest London, where you can do the research in person and view our documents free of charge. Please check our website for opening times and advice on researching here. I’m afraid the limitations on our resources mean we cannot offer free research but I hope the above advice allows you to carry out this research yourself.

We have provided below some information on the Public Records Act, and government departments’ responsibilities under this:

Under Section 3 of the Public Records Act 1958 it is the responsibility of government departments to appraise their records and select those worthy of permanent preservation to be transferred to The National Archives or an approved place of deposit. Records are destroyed by departments in line with the business retention and disposal policies set for the wider records collections in which they were located.

Explanatory annex

Section 36: Prejudice To Effective Conduct Of Public Affairs
Section 36 is a qualified exemption and we are required to conduct a public interest test when applying any qualified exemption. This means that after it has been decided that the exemption is engaged, the public interest in releasing the information must be considered. If the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in withholding it then the exemption does not apply and must be release. In the FOIA there is a presumption that information should be released unless there are compelling reasons to withhold it.

Section 36 (2)
Information to which this section applies is exempt information if, in the reasonable opinion of a qualified person, disclosure of the information under the Act
(b) would, or would be likely to, inhibit
(i) the free and frank provision of advice, or
(ii) the free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation, or
(c) would otherwise prejudice, or would be likely otherwise to prejudice, the effective conduct of public affairs.

Consideration of Section 36 Exemption

Following the required consultation with our qualified person, about which we explain below, we have concluded that the section 36 (2)(c) exemption is engaged. In our considered opinion the release of the requested information would prejudice:
• Our ability to effectively engage and conduct free and frank discussions in regards to all aspects of records and information management
• The free and frank provision of advice from government departments to The National Archives in relation to our duties under section 3 of The Public Records Act and the appraisal selection of public records.

Within the Information Commissioner’s Office guidance on the public interest test, which all qualified exemptions such as this are subject to, it states that to apply these exemptions you must first prove that the exemption is engaged. For those exemptions which are prejudice based (i.e. section 36) you must carry out a prejudice test. The prejudice test is to determine if the prejudice exists in relation to exemption engaged and assesses the likelihood that harm will occur on release of the material requested. Through conducting this test an authority should be able to indicate whether it is the lower threshold of ‘would be likely to cause prejudice’ or higher threshold of ‘would cause prejudice’.

The test is outlined in detail by the Information Commissioner’s Office within their prejudice test guidance. For section 36 (2)(c) this includes consideration of the likelihood of harm to an authority’s ability to offer an effective public service or to meet its wider objectives, through its working practices, processes and also relationships with stakeholders (other bodies). In this instance we are referring to our ability as an organisation to effectively discuss with and receive advice from transferring departments in regards to their records, information management and the appraisal selection of public records.

In this instance we have determined that the prejudice does exist; there is a causal link between the release of the requested information and the outlined practices and processes that would be prejudiced above. Following the prejudice test we have to go on to consider where the balance of the public interest lies in terms of disclosure and thus our reasoning for withholding this information is explained below.

Applying the Section 36 Exemption

Under the terms of the FOIA, the section 36 exemption can only be considered if, in the reasonable opinion of the public authority’s qualified person – in this instance The National Archives’ Chief Executive and Keeper of Public Records – agrees that the exemption is engaged. I can confirm that the qualified person’s reasonable opinion was sought and he agreed that the exemption can and should be considered.

Our next procedural step was to consider the public interest in the release of this information. As this is a request to obtain corporate information held by The National Archives we have followed a slightly different process which can be found on following link: Corporate information. As some of the information in scope of this request includes correspondence with Home Office, the public interest process has been completed in consultation with Home Office. I shall set out the arguments we considered for and against disclosure of this information:

Factors in favour of disclosure
Considerations in favour of the release of the information included the principle that there is a public interest in showing a true and open account of government decision-making in relation to record selection and preservation. This makes for greater accountability, increases public confidence in and helps to encourage greater public engagement with political life. There is a general public interest in being able to evaluate government policy, and the disclosure of this information would improve public confidence in the integrity of the record selection and preservation process.

Factors in favour of non-disclosure
Release of this information would be likely to cause prejudice to our effective ability to engage and conduct free and frank discussions in regards to all aspects of records and information management, both internally and externally with transferring government departments. Furthermore, the release of this information would be likely to prejudice the free and frank provision of advice from government departments to The National Archives in relation to their duties under section 3 of The Public Records Act and the appraisal selection of public records. Departments work openly with The National Archives to consult on the status of their records, providing advice and updates on their internal processes. Departments would have no expectation that these updates and communications would be released, and if disclosed would be likely to be less open and frank in their provision of advice and communication with The National Archives on these issues.

Government departments, including The National Archives, operate as openly and transparently as possible – departments follow the Code of Practice on the management of records, which provides guidance to all relevant authorities on the keeping, management and destruction of records. This is published and available to view at the following link.

Therefore, after applying the public interest test and considering all arguments for and against, it has been concluded that the balance of public interest lies with applying the section 36 (2)(b) and (c) exemption.

Further guidance can be found here.