Disclosure of information: disclosure of customer information in correspondence with Members of Parliament (MP, MSP, AM, MEP etc.)
Customers sometimes write to their elected representatives (whether elected at Westminster, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Belfast or Brussels) raising issues about their dealings with HM Revenue & Customs (NMWM02030).
As a general rule you must not disclose customer information to a third party without the specific written consent of the customer (NMWM16370). An exception to this rule is when you reply to correspondence from elected representatives.
A customer may ask their elected representative (for example Member of Parliament, MSP, MEP etc.) for help when they have been unable to satisfactorily sort out a problem with HM Revenue & Customs. If a Member of Parliament writes on behalf of their constituent you can assume that by involving their Member of Parliament the customer has, by implication, given consent for you to disclose the confidential information that concerns the enquiry when you reply to the Member of Parliament. This is called implied consent.
Information that cannot be disclosed
You must exercise care when disclosing information based on implied consent. Although you can reasonably assume the customer has consented to you disclosing information about the specific enquiry you cannot also assume that they have consented to you disclosing information that does not concern the enquiry made.
You must bear in mind that the customer’s implied consent does not give you authority to disclose to the Member of Parliament etc information about other members of the constituent’s family. Members of the family must be treated as separate customers in their own right. You must have their separate written consent before disclosing any information applicable to them.
When responding to a Member of Parliament etc, you can accept the implied consent of the customer to disclose information about another person only if the other person:
- is deceased and the customer is their personal representative,
- has given specific written consent for the customer to act on their behalf, or,
- is incapable of managing their own affairs and a power of attorney has been granted to the customer (NMWM16440).
However, if it is clear that, for example, a husband and wife have jointly approached a Member of Parliament about an issue common to them both, you can reasonably assume that they both have given implied consent for you to disclose information to the Member of Parliament about their individual affairs.
The Ombudsman may request information in connection with complaints against maladministration referred by Members of Parliament. These complaints are handled by a central team (NMWM16460).