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Justice and Security Act 2013

Access to information

39.Paragraph 4 contains provisions by which the ISC may obtain information from the Government and describes the circumstances in which information can be withheld from the ISC.

40.The duty to provide information requested by the ISC rests, for government departments, with the relevant Minister of the Crown (this may, but need not necessarily, be a Secretary of State) and, for the Agencies, with the Agency Heads. The memorandum of understanding, agreed between the ISC and the Prime Minister (see commentary on section 2 below), will identify the relevant Ministers of the Crown for these purposes and set out the means and manner in which information can be provided to the ISC.

41.With regard to withholding information, the ability to decide that information is to be withheld from the ISC rests solely with the Secretary of State (under the comparable provisions of the Intelligence Services Act 1994, the Director-General of the Security Service, the Chief of the Intelligence Service or the Director of the Government Communications Headquarters (as well as the Secretary of State), were able to decline to disclose information because it was sensitive information which, in their opinion, should not be made available).

42.There are two grounds on which the Secretary of State may decide that information is not to be disclosed: that the information is sensitive information (as defined in paragraph 5) which for national security reasons should not be disclosed; or the information is of such a nature that, if the Minister were requested to produce it before a Departmental Select Committee of the House of Commons, the Minister would consider (on grounds which were not limited to national security) it proper not to do so. In deciding whether it would be proper not to disclose on the basis of the second ground, the Minister must have regard to governmental guidance concerning the provision of evidence by civil servants to Select Committees. This would mean in particular that the Minister would have to have regard to the Cabinet Office Guidance, Departmental Evidence and Responses to Select Committees (, known as the Osmotherly Rules.

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