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ICO statement: Department for Education decision notice

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Statement: 2 March 2012

An ICO spokesperson said:

“The Information Commissioner has issued his decision in the case involving a request for information in an email sent by the Secretary of State for Education on a private email account. The Commissioner’s decision is that the information amounted to departmental business and so was subject to freedom of information laws, being held on behalf of the Department for Education. The Department is now required either to disclose the requested information (the subject line of the email and the date and time it was sent) or issue a refusal notice in accordance with the FOI Act giving reasons for withholding it.”


The decision: Despite the fact the information was held on a private email account, not a departmental email account, the information requested was held on behalf of the DfE and therefore is covered by the FOI Act.

The DfE have to either disclose the information or issue a valid refusal notice justifying non-disclosure in accordance with the FOI Act.

View the decision notice relating to this case:


  1. The ICO has not ordered the disclosure of any information. The DfE said it wasn’t caught by FOI. We have said it is.
  2. Our decision may be appealed by the DfE to the First-tier Tribunal (Information Rights). They have 28 days from receipt of the DN in which to appeal.
  3. ICO guidance on how FOI may apply to official information held in private email accounts was issued by the ICO on 15 December 2011, after this complaint was received. The decision is consistent with, and refers to, that guidance. However, we acknowledge in the decision notice that the guidance was not available at the time the request was dealt with by the DfE.
  4. The ICO issued on the same date an executive summary of the outcome of its good practice visit to the DfE on 25 October 2012. We are not disclosing the detailed findings and recommendations on the grounds that this would undermine the effectiveness of the ICO’s open and honest engagement with the DfE and other public authorities.
  5. This decision does not address the allegation under section 77 of the Act, that information was deliberately concealed in order to avoid disclosure in response to an FOI request. The Commissioner has made no finding on that issue as yet. His investigation is continuing.