Details of Chris Law MP’s legal costs

Request

Can you please provide the fee note and receipted fee notes for two expense claims by Chris Law MP on October 25 2018 paid to Thorntons Solictors.

The first amount claimed amounts to £1800 and the second equals £4800.


Response

IPSA holds the information you request.

Under the Scheme of MPs’ Business Costs and Expenses (‘the Scheme’), MPs are reimbursed for expenditure they have incurred for parliamentary purposes. This may include any legal costs they incur in their role as MP and employer. Such costs can be claimed from the Office Costs budget and so the rules at Chapter Six of the Scheme apply.

Claims must be supported by appropriate evidence (such as an invoice). With regards to the claims noted in your request, we hold copies of the supporting invoices which include a description of the work undertaken. This information contains personal data, disclosure of which we believe, would breach the Data Protection Principles. We have therefore withheld this information in accordance with s.40 FOIA (Personal Information). Furthermore, we have withheld invoice numbers and bank details in accordance with s.31 FOIA (Law Enforcement). Further information on the application of both these exemptions can be found below.

Exemptions applied

Section 31 - Law enforcement

Section 31(1)(a) (Law enforcement) of the FOIA states that information is exempt if its disclosure under the FOI Act would, or would be likely to, prejudice the prevention (or detection) or crime.

After considering the nature of the withheld information it is our opinion that were a disclosure to be made into the public domain it is probable that this information could be traced back to sensitive personal or commercial information which could be used for criminal activity.

Although we recognise the public interest in transparency surrounding the publishing of information relating to MPs’ expenses there is also a strong public interest in ensuring that we are able to protect our service users from the threat of being subjected to criminal activity. In our opinion the public interest in protecting the financial security of MPs, their staff and third parties engaged by MPs, outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information.

Section 40 – Personal Information

Information relating to an identified or identifiable natural person is ‘personal data’, as defined by the General Data Protection Principle (GDPR).

Section 40(2) of the FOIA provides that personal information is exempt information if:

(a) it constitutes personal data; and

(b) the condition set out in s. 40(3A)(a) of FOIA is satisfied, namely that disclosure to a member of the public would contravene any of the data protection principles in the GDPR.

In our view (a) is satisfied because the information sought by you relates to an identifiable, living individual, and (b) is also satisfied because disclosure would breach the first data protection principle in Article 5(1)(a) of the GDPR, which requires that personal information is processed fairly, lawfully and in a transparent manner; processing includes disclosure. In relation to fairness, IPSA is required to process personal data in a manner in which people, would reasonably expect.

We do not consider it within the reasonable expectations of third parties named in the invoices, that their names and other information about them would be disclosed in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, which is deemed to be disclosure to the world at large.

As such, we are obliged to withhold the information from disclosure under section 40(2) of the FOIA.

This part of the section 40 exemption is an absolute exemption and so no consideration of public interest arguments for and against disclosure is required.

This concludes our response to your request.

Ref:
CAS-147372
Disclosure:
July 31, 2019
Categories:
Exemptions Applied:
Section 31, Section 40