Details of total number of serving MPs who pay Scottish rates of Income tax
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At the time it was made there were 75 serving MPs who were paying the Scottish rate of income tax. The names and constituency information is subject to a Refusal Notice under sections 31(1)(a), 38(1)(b), 40(2) and 40(3A)(a).
I need to begin with sections 40(2) and 40(3A)(a). This exemption applies to information which IPSA considers to be personal data within the meaning of Article 4(1) of the General Data Protection Regulation 2016 (GDPR) which states:
‘personal data’ means any information relating to an identified or identifiable natural person (‘data subject’); an identifiable natural person is one who can be identified, directly or indirectly, in particular by reference to an identifier such as a name, an identification number, location data, an online identifier or to one or more factors specific to the physical, physiological, genetic, mental, economic, cultural or social identity of that natural person;
Obviously the names of MPs would fall within this definition.
I then had to consider whether disclosure of this personal data would breach any of the Principles relating to the processing of personal data in the GDPR.
The relevant principle falls at Article 5(1)(a).
Personal data shall be: (a) Processed lawfully, fairly and in a transparent manner in relation to the data subject
IPSA then considered whether there was a lawful basis within Article 6 of GDPR.
At this point I believed that an argument could be made for disclosure under Article 6(1)(f) of GDPR, which relates to the legitimate interests of the person making the request. I could understand how transparency and accountability would benefit from the disclosure of a list of MPs who are paying Scottish income tax, and their constituencies, as this would also enable the public to also work out those MPs who are not paying Scottish income tax.
However I must now turn to the other exemptions. Section 31(1)(a) prevention or detection of crime. This exemption applies where the disclosure of information would or would be likely to prejudice the prevention of crime. Section 38(1)(b) health and safety. This exemption applies where the disclosure of information would or would be likely to endanger the safety of any individual.
These exemptions are both concerned with a high likelihood of prejudice to the prevention of crime, i.e. there is a real possibility that crime could occur, and a high likelihood that the personal safety of an individual would be put in danger if information was disclosed.
I now considered how disclosure of the names of MPs and their constituencies could lead to a high likelihood of risk to the life of the MP In effect their safety would be a risk from physical attack. Even if just the names of those paying Scottish income tax was released a motivated individual could use information in the public domain to work out their constituencies.
Both sections 31 and 28 are qualified exemptions and therefore subject to the public interest test. I also had to consider the interests, rights and fundamental freedoms of the MPs under GDPR. While IPSA is concerned with holding MPs to account and informing the public, it is also aware of its need not to increase the risk to their safety.
In 2017 following the attack on Westminster Bridge in London, the IPSA Board agreed that it would no longer publish any details regarding MPs’ travel arrangements, which could potentially put at risk the safety of MPs. In the light of this, and because the threat to the safety of MPs has not changed since 2017, I therefore find that the public interest in withholding this information outweighs the public interest in disclosure at this time. The information is also therefore exempt under sections 40(2) and 40(3A)(a) of FOIA.
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- June 8, 2020
- Exemptions Applied:
- Section 40