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Corporate Officer of the House of Commons v Information Commissioner [2008] EWHC 1084

PARLIAMENTARY PRIVILEGE – FREEDOM OF INFORMATION – JURISDICTION

Facts

Numerous requests were made to the House of Commons under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 for detailed breakdowns of some MPs’ claims under the Additional Costs Allowances scheme. These requests were refused on the basis that to allow them would infringe Parliamentary Privilege. At first instance, the Tribunal overturned this decision and directed that the information requested should be disclosed. The House of Commons appealed to the High Court.

Issue

The issues were: firstly, whether the court had the jurisdiction to review the decision; and secondly whether the decision to refuse the requests were substantively flawed, particularly in that it had failed to give sufficient consideration to the expectations of MPs as to what information would be made publicly available.

Held

On the jurisdiction issue, the Court held that although it did not have jurisdiction to revisit the findings of fact which had been made by the tribunal, it was able to consider whether the decision was legally flawed.

Substantively, the Court held that the decision of the Tribunal was not legally flawed and should be upheld. The exemption claimed was not available in this case, as the information claimed did not in fact infringe Parliamentary privilege. The issue of redactions had been addressed by the Tribunal, and this was sufficient to address any legitimate concerns about the privacy of MPs relied on by the House of Commons. Further, MPs had been made aware of the coming into force of the 2000 Act and should have been aware of what information might be disclosed under its terms.

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