§ Rob Marris
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence 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. 735W
§ Dr. Moonie
When information is marked as commercially sensitive it is treated as such and protected and managed in accordance with the relevant security guidelines, any contract conditions and other departmental processes. The need to verify any claim of commercial confidentiality will generally arise only when considering whether the information should be disclosed to a third party. Ministry of Defence guidance requires officials to comply with the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information in deciding whether to disclose information. Exemption 13 of the Code of Practice relates to a third party's commercial confidences. In deciding whether or not to withhold information, officials must consider whether "unwarranted disclosure would harm the competitive position of a third party". While the decision ultimately rests with MOD, the third party whose interests may be adversely affected will normally be consulted. Even where, prima facie, the Exemption applies, the Code of Practice says that information should be disclosed if there is an overriding public interest in doing so and no statutory restriction or legal obligation to prevent this.