External Relations Minister's off-island meetings February to May 2022 (FOI)
External Relations Minister's off-island meetings February to May 2022 (FOI)Produced by the Freedom of Information office
Authored by Government of Jersey and published on 02 March 2023.
Prepared internally, no external costs.
Please provide detailed information about then-External Minister Ian Gorst's off-Island business he has attended in this role between 1 February 2022 and 1 May 2022. Please include any agenda items, notes, and other relevant documents.
The External Relations Minister attended three meetings in London on 9 February 2022, as attached.
Information on the purpose or what may have been discussed at the meetings the External Relations Minister has attended, other than the title, where provided, is not held. Article 3 of the Freedom of Information (Jersey) Law 2011 has been applied.
As any agendas, notes or other relevant documents are not held centrally, it has been estimated that to undertake a review to establish if any further information is held would exceed the time cost limit under the Freedom of Information (Jersey) Law 2011. Article 16 of the Freedom of Information (Jersey) Law 2011 has been applied.
Names of individuals attending the meetings is exempt under Article 25 (Personal information) of the Freedom of Information (Jersey) Law 2011.
Please see extracted information attached. Article 25 (Personal information) of the Freedom of Information (Jersey) Law 2011 has been applied where necessary.
Entries have also been excluded where a calendar entry related to meetings which are exempt under Article 41 (International relations) of the Freedom of Information (Jersey) Law 2011.
Meetings 1 Februay to 1 May 2022 off-island.xlsx
Article 3 - Meaning of “information held by a public authority”
For the purposes of this Law, information is held by a public authority if –
(a) it is held by the authority, otherwise than on behalf of another person; or
(b) it is held by another person on behalf of the authority.
Article 16 - A scheduled public authority may refuse to supply information if cost excessive
(1) A scheduled public authority that has been requested to supply information may refuse to supply the information if it estimates that the cost of doing so would exceed an amount determined in the manner prescribed by Regulations.
(2) Despite paragraph (1), a scheduled public authority may still supply the information requested on payment to it of a fee determined by the authority in the manner prescribed by Regulations for the purposes of this Article.
(3) Regulations may provide that, in such circumstances as the Regulations prescribe, if two or more requests for information are made to a scheduled public authority –
(a) by one person; or
Article 25 - Personal information
(1) Information is absolutely exempt information if it constitutes personal data of which the applicant is the data subject as defined in the Data Protection (Jersey) Law 2005.
(2) Information is absolutely exempt information if –
(a) it constitutes personal data of which the applicant is not the data subject as defined in the Data Protection (Jersey) Law 2005; and
(b) its supply to a member of the public would contravene any of the data protection principles, as defined in that Law.
3) In determining for the purposes of this Article whether the lawfulness principle in Article 8(1)(a) of the Data Protection (Jersey) Law 2018 would be contravened by the disclosure of information, paragraph 5(1) of Schedule 2 to that Law (legitimate interests) is to be read as if sub-paragraph (b) (which disapplies the provision where the controller is a public authority) were omitted.
Article 41 - International relations
(1) Information is qualified exempt information if its disclosure would, or would be likely to, prejudice relations between Jersey and –
(a) the United Kingdom;
(b) a State other than Jersey;
(c) an international organization; or
(d) an international court.
(2) Information is qualified exempt information if its disclosure would, or would be likely to, prejudice –
(a) any Jersey interests abroad; or
(b) the promotion or protection by Jersey of any such interest.
(3) Information is also qualified exempt information if it is confidential information obtained from –
(a) a State other than Jersey;
(b) an international organization; or
(c) an international court.
(4) In this Article, information obtained from a State, organization or court is confidential while –
(a) the terms on which it was obtained require it to be held in confidence; or
(b) the circumstances in which it was obtained make it reasonable for the State, organization or court to expect that it will be so held.
(5) In this Article –
“international court” means an international court that is not an international organization and that was established –
(a) by a resolution of an international organization of which the United Kingdom is a member; or
(b) by an international agreement to which the United Kingdom was a party;
“international organization” means an international organization whose members include any two or more States, or any organ of such an organization;
“State” includes the government of a State and any organ of its government, and references to a State other than Jersey include references to a territory for whose external relations the United Kingdom is formally responsible.
Public Interest Test
The public interest in respect of Article 41 is weighted in favour of maintaining the exemption unless equally strong countervailing public interest arguments favour the disclosure of the information. It is recognised that there is a public interest in providing transparency about the island's network of international agreements. However, having considered the public interest, the Scheduled Public Authority concluded that the public interest in disclosing this information at this time is outweighed by the public interest considerations in withholding the information, in support of the Island's interests and to avoid any potential prejudice to the Island's relationship with the United Kingdom and other jurisdictions.
Internal Review Request
I am requesting a review of the above FOI response.
Based on Jersey's FOI laws, the response falls short of the legally mandated transparency requirements. This response was delayed multiple times for no legitimate reason, and your office decided to instead restrict the disclosure of information to the public and the media, despite the overwhelming public interest.
There are substantial deficiencies in your response, including:
The exact dates when the meetings occurred were not disclosed.
You did not disclose and instead redacted the names of people Mr Ian Gorst met, including MPs and Lords.
Please note, in relation to the second point, this is a grave abuse of your authority as most of these meetings were politician-to-politician meetings and do not fit under the "personal information" exemption. You cannot redact MP and Lord names.
I request an urgent review of this response. Please note I am requesting an expedited review of this as you have employed unnecessary and legally-dubious delay and redaction tactics that delayed the response by many weeks.
Internal Review Response
This review has been completed by two senior staff members of the Government of Jersey, independent of the original decision-making process.
The original response has been reviewed and assessed to identify whether the application of the exemptions had been applied correctly and whether it was appropriate to withhold information.
The Panel noted that whereas the dates of meetings were not explicitly requested originally, that these could be provided and are included on the attached revised spreadsheet.
In respect of the release of MPs and Lords names, it was considered that the original response could have made clearer that these were withheld under Article 41 of the Freedom of Information (Jersey) Law 2011.
Employee names constitute their personal data. Government of Jersey employees below Tier 1 and Tier 2 are protected from identification for the purposes of Freedom of Information disclosure, and therefore, Article 25 of the Freedom of Information (Jersey) Law 2011 has been applied.
MER Meetings off-island 1 February to 1 May 2022.xlsx
With regard to the timeframe in which the response was issued, it was noted that under Article 2 of the Freedom of Information (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Jersey)Regulations 2014 it states:
For the purposes of Article 13(2)(b) of the Law the period prescribed is such period as is reasonable in all the circumstances of the case, not exceeding 65 working days following the day on which the scheduled public authority received the request.
Therefore, the reference to the delay in responding as being “legally-dubious” was not considered further.
A high level of consideration, and resulting application of redactions, must be made when releasing any personal data to ensure compliance with the Data Protection (Jersey) Law 2018 is maintained.
The Panel’s conclusion is therefore that the necessary application of exemptions has been applied and the original decision is upheld; albeit with the inclusion of the dates of meetings, which where releasable under the Freedom of Information (Jersey) Law 2011.