Hazelwood v ICO & Cabinet Office (EA/2016/0204)

Following a hearing in January 2017, the First Tier Tribunal (General Regulatory Chamber) has ruled that the Cabinet Office was entitled to rely on the exemption in s.37 of the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) when it refused to confirm or deny whether it held information concerning whether a company had applied for permission to use the word ‘Royal’ in its name.

S.37(1)(b) FOIA provides a qualified exemption for information if it relates to ‘the conferring by the Crown of any honour or dignity’. The FTT found that FOIA should be interpreted purposively, and that s.37(1)(b) FOIA could be understood “to relate to the honours system in its widest sense, including the system for giving permission to companies to use the term ‘Royal’.” [27] The FTT ruled that the public interest in this case favoured maintaining the confidentiality of the honours system, free from outside interference, and acknowledged the expectation of privacy of applicants [30].

Jonathan Scherbel-Ball, instructed by the Government Legal Department, appeared for the Cabinet Office.