Request & response
T 545: I would like a copy of the Lord Chancellor’s Instrument signed in 2019 to close documents in series T 545.
I would like to see a copy of all Lord Chancellor’s Instruments for closure of Treasury records which were agreed in 2019. You can roll my FOI request on the LCIs for T 545 into this request.
Of the five retention instruments signed in 2019, three contained entries for HM Treasury. Please use the following links to access copies of the schedules attached to retention instruments 134, 137 and 138. Retention instruments were formerly known as Lord Chancellor’s Instruments (LCIs) and are referred to as such on Discovery, The National Archives online catalogue. The justifications for T 555/199 and T 640/879 cannot be disclosed, therefore the document has been redacted with this information withheld.
We are unable to provide you with some of the information you have requested because it is covered by the exemption at sections 23 (1) and 24 (1) in the alternative. Section 23 (1) exempts information held by a public authority from disclosure if it was provided to that public authority by the bodies dealing with security matters, or if that information relates to those bodies, and section 24 (1) exempts information from disclosure if its exemption is required for the purpose of safeguarding national security.
For further information about why these exemptions have been applied, please see the explanatory Annex at the end of this letter.
Sections 23 (1) and 24 (1) in the alternative.
Sections 23 (1) and 24 (1) are being cited in the alternative as it is not appropriate, in the circumstances of the case to say which of the two exemptions is actually engaged so as not to undermine national security or reveal the extent of any involvement, or not, of the bodies dealing with security matters.
These exemptions have been applied to the retention notes associated with the entries for T 555/199 and T 640/879 on RI 138.
We have had to carry out public interest tests as section 24 (1) is a qualified exemption. Furthermore, although section 23 (1) is an absolute exemption it becomes, by virtue of section 64 (2), a qualified exemption where information falling within it is contained in a historical record in a public record office, such as The National Archives.
The information could be exempt under section 23 (1) of the FOI Act, which relates to the bodies dealing with security matters, although it is also possible that the information relates to none of the bodies dealing with security matters. To the extent that section 23 (1) might be engaged we have considered whether the balance of the public interest would favour releasing or withholding this information. We have concluded that if this exemption applied, this information would need to be protected in order to ensure we do not jeopardise any future operations of our current security bodies and therefore allow them to continue to be effective in protecting the national security of the United Kingdom. It is in the public interest that our security bodies can operate effectively in the interests of the United Kingdom, without disclosing information that may assist those determined to undermine the security of the United Kingdom and its citizens.
Any information that is not exempt from disclosure under section 23 (1) could be exempt under section 24 (1) of the FOI Act, which exempts information from disclosure if its exemption is required for the purpose of safeguarding national security. For the reasons given above, we cannot say which of the two exemptions is actually engaged but to the extent to which section 24 (1) might be engaged we have considered whether the balance of the public interest would favour releasing or withholding this information. There is a general public interest in disclosure of information and we recognise that openness in government may increase public trust in and engagement with the government. There is a public interest in members of the public being able to understand matters relating to the UK’s national security. We have weighed these public interests against a very strong public interest in safeguarding national security. It is important that this sensitive information is protected, as disclosure of information in this case, if held, would damage national security.
The judiciary differentiates between information that would benefit the public good and information that would meet public curiosity. It does not consider the latter to be a “public interest” in favour of disclosure. In this case disclosure would neither meaningfully improve transparency nor assist public debate, and disclosure would not benefit the public good. Therefore, after careful consideration, the public interest in releasing the information you have requested is outweighed by the public interest in withholding the information.