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IPSA and the Freedom of Information Act

This guidance has been prepared for MPs and their staff in relation to IPSA’s responsibilities under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (‘FOIA’). It aims to answer frequently asked questions and provide additional background on IPSA’s responsibilities under the FOIA.

If you have any questions about IPSA and FOI, please do contact our FOI team via FOI@theipsa.org.uk. Additionally, comprehensive guidance can be found via the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

Please also contact us with any feedback you may have regarding this guidance or the notifications you receive about FOI disclosures – we are keen to ensure our communications are as helpful and concise as possible.

Frequently Asked Questions

Background

  • IPSA is a public authority listed in Schedule 1 of the FOIA, and so has a legal obligation to respond to any request for information that is held.
  • We are legally required to respond to all requests within 20 working days.
  • We hold information relating to:
    • MPs’ salaries and pensions;
    • claims for business costs and expenses made by MPs;
    • MPs’ staffing arrangements; and
    • our own operations.
  • We are required to consider each request on a case-by-case basis.
  • We will never publish any information which could identify your home address, any information relating to individual security claims or information identifying individual staff members – this information is exempt under the statutory exemptions. You can find out more about these below.
  • Any piece of information that we hold is subject to the FOIA.
  • This includes all correspondence exchanged with us, all documentation submitted in support of claims (eg. receipts or invoices), leases and contracts registered for accommodation or office rent and any notes made into the expenses system, to name but a few.
  • However, that something is subject to the FOIA does not automatically mean it will be disclosed. The FOIA provides a number of exemptions where information can be withheld from publication.
  • The most common of these are where:
    • extracting the information requested would cost more than £450;
    • the information is already published or scheduled to be published in the future;
    • disclosure could endanger someone’s safety or security; or
    • the information is someone’s personal data, and it would be unfair in the circumstances to disclose it.
  • You can find out more information about information that is exempt from disclosure on the ICO's website.

Requests about you or your MP

  • When a request is made about you or your MP, and the FOIA requires us to disclose information, we will always write to you (via email) in advance out of courtesy.
  • We are required to respond to all requests within 20 working days. We endeavor to notify all MPs about potential disclosures a week before publication.
  • This notification email will contain details of the specific request, the information that we hold, and the information that we consider needs to be disclosed.
  • This is your opportunity to review all of the information prior to publication. The information sent to you at this stage will have been reviewed (and redacted, if necessary) by a member of our FOI team. We encourage you to also review the information and get back to us as soon as possible if you have any questions or concerns.
  • In many cases, you may not have any concerns. If that is the case, there is nothing that you need to do. The email is just for your information.
  • The decision whether or not to disclose information ultimately rests with us and we must ensure that in responding to requests we are fully complying with our obligations under the FOIA. We will always consider your comments in full, but may not always be able to accommodate them.
  • If you do have any questions, you can respond directly to the email and it will come straight to the attention of the FOI team. Alternatively, you can call your Account Manager on 020 7811 6400.
  • We will always let you know if we are required to disclose information relating to you. This email is your opportunity to review all of the information prior to publication.
  • The information sent to you at this stage will have been reviewed (and redacted, if necessary) by a member of our FOI team. We encourage you to also review the information and get back to us as soon as possible if you have any questions or concerns. We can only withhold information from disclosure where it is legally exempt.
  • We may not always be aware of specific circumstances relating to you. Please do bring these to our attention if you believe they are relevant.
  • In most cases, you probably wont have any concerns. If that is the case, there is nothing that you need to do. The email is just for your information.
  • The decision whether or not to disclose information ultimately rests with us and we must ensure that in responding to requests we are fully complying with our obligations under the FOIA. We will always consider your comments in full, but may not always be able to accommodate them.
  • If you do have any questions, you can respond directly to the email and it will come straight to the attention of the FOI team. Alternatively, you can call your Account Manager on 020 7811 6400.
  • The names and identities of requestors are their personal data under the Data Protection Act. As such, without their express consent, we are legally prohibited from sharing their identities.
  • Under the FOIA, any information which, if disclosed, could endanger the health or safety of any individual may be exempt from disclosure.
  • Guidance from the ICO states that a clear, causal link between disclosure and someone's safety being threatened must be demonstrated for it to be exempt from disclosure.
  • When considering whether information can be disclosed without threatening you, your staff’s or your family’s security, our default position is that every request is high risk. That is, we assume any information being disclosed could be obtained by anyone, not just the specific requestor. We do not vary our response based on any assessment of individual requestor risk – we assume high risk in every circumstance.
  • If you have any security concerns about a potential FOI disclosure, please contact us, either via FOI@theipsa.org.uk or by calling 020 7811 6400.
  • In cases with specific security concerns, we will consult Parliament's specialist police team, the Parliamentary Liaison and Investigation Team (PLaIT) for their guidance.
  • IPSA is a public authority under the FOIA and is legally required to disclose information that is requested from us.
  • In some cases, there will be a good reason why we should not make public some or all of the information requested, such as where the information relates to sensitive staffing matters, or could prejudice legitimate security concerns.
  • The ICO provides comprehensive guidance on information that is exempt from disclosure.
  • If you believe that the information that has been requested should be exempt from disclosure, please let us know. You can email FOI@theipsa.org.uk or phone 020 7811 6400.
  • The decision whether or not to disclose information ultimately rests with us and we must ensure that in responding to requests we are fully complying with our obligations under the FOIA. We will always consider your comments in full, but may not always be able to accommodate them.

How does IPSA handle FOIs?

  • Requests are made to us in writing, via the post, email or through whatdotheyknow.org. Once a request has been made, we are required by law to respond within 20 working days. If the information is held by IPSA, and is not already publicly available, then it is internally requested from the team which holds it.
  • The information may be held on multiple systems or in different formats. Extracting the information can take time. Information held internally is rarely held in a format suitable for publication and so work is often required to assure the data.
  • Once internally provided, the information is reviewed by the FOI team. Here, any information which is exempt from release is removed and redactions are made (if necessary). Where images of receipts or leases have been requested, redactions are made by the Publication team, which are then peer reviewed twice by two other individuals to ensure that sensitive data remains secure.
  • When considering whether information can be disclosed without threatening you, your staff’s or your family’s security, our default position is that every request is high risk. That is, we assume any information being disclosed could be obtained by anyone, not just the specific requestor. We do not vary our response based on any assessment of individual requestor risk – we assume high risk in every circumstance.
  • Although there is no statutory obligation to do so, if the request relates to an MP (or their office), we will always write to that MP as a courtesy. We endeavor to notify a week prior to disclosure – and certainly no less than three working days prior to disclosure. This gives MPs and their staff the opportunity to review the information and raise any concerns, which we will then take into account when finalising our response.
  • The decision whether or not to disclose information ultimately rests with us and we must ensure that in responding to requests we are fully complying with our obligations under the FOIA. We will always consider your comments in full, but may not always be able to accommodate them.
  • A written response is then provided to the requestor, no later than 20 working days after the request has been made – which will ordinarily include the information requested (subject to any exemptions applying).
  • This response is then published on our website in full.
  • We now receive around a hundred requests each year, two-thirds of which are from members of the public.
  • We also receive requests from journalists, MPs, campaigners, councillors and international organisations.
  • We publish annual statistics on FOI requests that we have received, which includes anonymised information on requestors.
  • The majority of requests we receive are for receipts or invoices associated with expense claims which have been published on our website. Following the decision of the Court of Appeal in 2015, we are required to disclose images of these documents, subject to any exemptions applying.
  • We also receive requests relating to MPs' staffing arrangements, copies of correspondence and a range of information relating to our own operations.
  • We publish annual statistics on FOI requests that we have received, which includes the categories of information requested.

 

  • We publish all our responses to FOI requests on our website; you can search through all requests or filter by category or financial year.

Last updated: September 2018

 

Contact Us

If you are an MP, work for an MP or are a member of the public, you can contact IPSA's Information team.

 

Call us on 020 7811 6400 (Monday - Friday, 10am - 5pm, calls may be recorded for training and quality purposes).

 

Email: info@theipsa.org.uk.