9 March 2014

Proving that information does NOT exist

Sometimes you suspect or even want to prove that a government department does NOT know something.  Here's some reasons why you might want to do that:

  • The Minister is denying that a policy has adverse effects so you ask for the research they've conducted showing the lack of problems. If they have good evidence, that's fine, if not, it's embarrassing.
  • You're in dispute with the department and being sure you have all their guidance on the particular subject will help you.

I was reminded of this by a request where the member of the public got a less than precise reply. So he's asked for a Review in these terms:
You have stated that the information is already available. However, this presupposes that the information you have linked to is the *only* such information the Department holds. If so, the Department can comply with the request by confirming that this is indeed the case. The request was for all such information held, not merely an example.
There is a problem with asking for all information on a subject though. It creates a lot of work and if it would cost the department more than £600 (about 3.5 days work) then they are entitled to reject the request. The limit is lower for bodies that are not part of central government. There are ways around this and I may write them up soon.

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