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Commercial Confidentiality

Volume 403: debated on Tuesday 8 April 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what guidance his Department issues to civil servants on how to deal with claims from organisations that the information they provide to the Department is commercially confidential. [105558]

The issue of the commercial confidentiality of information received from organisations only becomes relevant if the question arises as to whether the information should be disclosed to another party. In such cases, the Home Office will respond in line with guidance on how to deal with commercially confidential information outlined in The Code of Practice on Access to Government Information.

The Code of Practice contains a specific exemption—exemption 13—that protects commercially confidential information from being disclosed. In assessing whether information ought to be withheld under this exemption, officials must determine:

  • (1) Whether the disclosure of such in formation could harm the competitive position of a third party.
  • (2) Whether the information has been given in confidence, and publicising it would constitute a breach of such confidence.
  • (3) Whether the disclosure of the information could reasonably be expected to prejudice the Department's competitive position or negotiations, or the effective conduct of commercial or contractual activities.
  • It is ultimately up to the Department to decide on disclosure of commercially confidential information. Each case is assessed on its own merits in accordance with the guidance laid in the Code of Practice.