AG: Internal Review Decision

Ms Heather Brooke

1 March 2005

Dear Ms Brooke,

REVIEW OF REQUEST UNDER THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 2000

I refer to your e-mail of 16 February of 2005 to Christopher Simson, asking for a review of the decisions to refuse your requests for information relating to (a) advice by the Attorney General on ID cards; (b) advice by the Attorney General on the legality of invading Iraq; and (c) a listing of topics on which the Attorney General has advised in the past 12 months.

I have carefully reviewed the handling of these requests. As to (a) and (b), the decisions not to disclose the information were made after very detailed consideration. This included consideration of the public interest arguments in favour of disclosure. As to (b), as explained in Christopher Simson’s response of 25 January, the Government has already publicly set out the legal basis for the use of force in Iraq.

I have therefore concluded that these requests were properly dealt with and that there are no grounds for altering the decisions taken in these cases.

As to (c), you have queried the contention that providing a list of all the Attorney General’s advice in the past 12 months would exceed the £600 cost limit. As you would expect, files are kept in the Secretariat on the work of the Law Officers and of the Secretariat. The giving of legal advice is only one part of the Law Officers’ role, and the filing system therefore spans a wide range of other activities including (for example) the superintendence of the prosecuting authorities and the Law Officers’ other public interest functions. The system is not maintained in a way which would enable us to identify, separately, the matters on which they have given legal advice. So it would I think be possible for us to produce only a partial list of such topics without exceeding the cost limit.

In any event, however, as explained in Mr Simson’s letter of 1 February 2005 in response to your request concerning ID cards, section 35(1)(c) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 exempts information which relates to the provision of advice by the Law Officers or any request for the provision of such advice. For reasons set out in that letter, there is a strong public interest in not disclosing those matters on which the Law Officers have advised. I therefore conclude that, even if a list of such topics (whether partial or complete) could be produced, its disclosure would be exempt under the 2000 Act.

If you wish to pursue any of your requests, you may make an application to the Information Commissioner for a decision under section 50 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at:

Information Commissioner’s Office
Wycliffe House
Water Lane
Wilmslow
Cheshire, SK9 5AF

Yours sincerely,
Jonathan Jones

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