Almost one in five recent freedom of information requests have been denied, according to official figures published today.

A total of 1,576 out of the 7,580 requests made to government departments and other public bodies between July and the end of September were blocked.

The most common reason for refusing requests was that the answer contained personal information, the Ministry of Justice said.

Some 572 requests were rejected on these grounds, as well as another 248 because criminal proceedings were ongoing.

Other reasons for not disclosing information included confidentiality (193), because it was prohibited (120), law enforcement reasons (115) and because the answer might reveal too much about the creation of government policy (110).

The total number of applications made under the Freedom of Information Act was the lowest since the legislation came into effect in 2005.

The number of requests was 8% lower than in the same period in 2006.

The Health and Safety Executive received more requests, 1,531, than any other department or agency, followed by the National Archives, with 1,026.

The Ministry of Defence was the most questioned government department, with 667 requests, followed by the Department for Transport (482) and the Ministry of Justice (455).

One in five FoI requests rejected | Special Reports | Guardian Unlimited Politics

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