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FOI reference - FOI 2015-04-23
Date - 23/04/2015

Request

I am filing a freedom of information request for the details of all businesses with automatic enrolment staging dates between 1 April 2015 and 31 December 2017. This is for companies within the WN postcode area, which is the Metropolitan Borough of Wigan.

Response

Duty to confirm or deny whether the Regulator holds the information requested

I can confirm that we hold the information you have requested. However, the information is restricted and may only be released in limited circumstances.

Information we are not able to supply

We are unable to provide you with a list of employers as per your request. This information is provided to us by HM Revenue and Customs for the specific purpose of enabling us to carry out our functions regarding automatic enrolment. A statutory bar upon disclosure of this information exists at sections 82 and 88 of the Pensions Act 2004 (as amended) and further engages an absolute exemption at section 44(1)(a) of the Freedom of Information Act (FoIA). The information requested cannot be lawfully provided.

As we have been given strong powers to demand documents and other information from trustees, employers and others, those powers are balanced by restrictions on onward disclosure of information provided to us. The information you have requested is 'restricted information' within the meaning of section 82 of the Pensions Act 2004. Restricted information is defined at section 82(4) as:

  • Information obtained by the regulator in the exercise of its functions which relates to the business or other affairs of any person.

The information held is information we would receive in the exercise of its statutory functions. Furthermore, section 82(5) of the Pensions Act 2004 provides that it is a criminal offence to disclose such information except as permitted under that Act.

Whilst the FoIA is based on the presumption of releasing information there are exemptions to disclosure that must be applied if another enactment prohibits disclosure of information. Section 44(1)(a) of the FoIA provides an absolute exemption to the requirement to disclose any information if its disclosure (otherwise than under the FoIA) is prohibited by or under any enactment. In this case, section 82 of the Pensions Act 2004 applies and we must therefore maintain this exemption

Duty to provide advice and assistance

I am mindful of the duty to provide advice and assistance to requesters, as far as it is reasonably practicable to do so.

As a public body we recognise that we need to be open and transparent within the spirit of FoIA and to ensure that there is a greater understanding of the pensions landscape in which we operate.

We welcome the involvement in automatic enrolment of intermediary bodies and financial advisers who may be able to assist employers with their duties and, should this be applicable to you, we would encourage you to obtain the information you require from other publicly available sources, such as your local business directories or local authority.

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