Under the Freedom of Information Act (2000) please could you supply me with the name of the law firm who provided IPSA with legal advice regarding connected parties, copies of that legal advice, minutes of any Board meetings at which this issue has been discussed, and the cost of the legal advice.
IPSA holds the information that you request.
As you will be aware, as part of a comprehensive review of the Scheme of MPs’ Business Costs and Expenses (‘the Scheme’) conducted in 2016, we considered (and consulted on) whether funding should continue for MPs’ to employ connected parties. Following that consultation, it was decided to discontinue funding for any new connected parties. The employment of connected parties who were employed before the 2017 General Election were not affected by this decision.
IPSA has a contract with Browne Jacobson LLP for the provision of legal services. Between October 2015 and April 2017, legal advice was sought on a number of occasions on various aspects the review, including that related to the issue of connected parties. We also sought advice from counsel at Temple Garden Chambers and 11 Kings Bench Walk. The total cost of this advice was £5,856.00.
Minutes of all Board meetings are published on our website.
Particular consideration to the issue of connected parties was made at the meetings of 30 November 2016, 25 January 2017 and 2 February 2017.
With regards to the specific advice provided, section 42 of the FOIA provides an exemption for information that is protected by Legal Professional Privilege (LPP). For the purposes of the exemption, this covers communications between professional legal advisers and their clients, specifically for the purpose of obtaining legal advice, or documents created specifically for the purpose of litigation. We have also considered whether the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosure and have determined that the importance of the principle behind legal professional privilege, safeguarding openness in all communications between client and lawyer to ensure access to full and frank legal advice, exceeds the public interest in disclosing the advice. As such, we are withholding this information under Section 42(1) of the Freedom of Information Act.