The below has been received from the Ministry of Justice. It is a refusal to disclose anything to do with the MoJ’s proposal to provide services on a commercial basis to the Saudi state.
Freedom of Information Request
Dear Mr Green,
Thank you for your email of 16 January in which you requested the following information from the Ministry of Justice:
Can I please have all documents relating to the proposal of NOMS to the Saudi Arabian government referred to at page 6 of https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/391930/ministry-of-justice-mid-year-report-to-parliament-2014-15.pdf
Please can I have all documents provided to and from a Minister in respect of the above proposal.
Your request has been handled under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.
I can confirm that the Ministry of Justice holds information that you have requested, but in this case we will not be providing it to you as it is exempt from disclosure under section 41(1) and section 43(2) of the Act.
The information held by the Ministry of Justice includes documents supplied in confidence by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) in relation to the proposal, and we believe that their disclosure would create an actionable breach of confidence. We are not obliged to provide information that has been provided in confidence to the department (section 41(1) of the Act). The terms of this exemption in the Act mean that we do not have to consider whether or not it would be in the public interest for you to have the information.
The Ministry of Justice is not obliged to provide information where we believe that disclosing the information would be likely to prejudice the commercial interests of any person including the department which holds it (section 43(2) of the Act).
In particular, the Ministry of Justice is in an ongoing competitive process with its proposal to the KSA, and the bid and related documents contain commercially confidential information. Disclosure of the information would be likely to disrupt the negotiation process and have an adverse impact on the bid.
In line with the terms of this exemption in the Freedom of Information Act, we have also considered whether it would be in the public interest for us to provide you with the information, despite the exemption being applicable. When assessing whether or not it was in the public interest to disclose the information to you, we took into account the following factors:
Public interest considerations favouring disclosure
There is a public interest in knowing how and why the Ministry of Justice enters into commercial relations with overseas countries and which countries these are.
Public interest considerations favouring withholding the information
Disclosure would be likely to prejudice the commercial interests of the Ministry of Justice by affecting adversely:
– its negotiating position in the ongoing Just Solutions International (JSi) bid process with KSA;
– the prospects of a successful outcome for the JSi bid with KSA due to the likely negative impact that would result from disclosure on the evaluation of the bid by the Saudi Arabian authorities; and
– future commercial (JSi) bids with other overseas governments and agencies seeking justice assistance from JSi if details of the Saudi Arabian bid were disclosed which, in turn, is likely to have a detrimental effect on the future commercial prospects for JSi.
We have concluded that, on balance, the public interest is better served by withholding this information under section 43(2).
You can find out more about sections 41 and 43 by reading the extracts from the Act, and some guidance points we consider when applying these exemptions, at the end of this letter.
You can also find more information by reading the full text of the Act, available at http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2000/36/contents.
You have the right to appeal our decision if you think it is incorrect. Details can be found in the How to Appeal section at the end of this letter.
You can also view information that the Ministry of Justice has disclosed in response to previous Freedom of Information requests. Responses are anonymised and published on our online disclosure log which can be found on the MoJ website: https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/ministry-of-justice/series/freedom-of-information-disclosure-log.