Skip to the content

Training provided to MPs and abusive behaviour towards IPSA staff
FOI074
Disclosure Date:29 Sep 2010
Categories: IPSA - BOARD
Exemptions Applied: Section 36 Section 40
Request

Please could you disclose the names of the Members of Parliament involved in the ten incidents of rudeness recently disclosed to the press and published on your website.

You may have good reasons for witholding the names, but the individuals concerned are elected representatives at the national level, one of them has already confirmed his identity publicly and media speculation, including at least one article published before your disclosure, suggests that the names are known to at least some journalists. Furthermore, the incidents described reflect to some extent the kind of behaviour on the part of MPs that was reported as having led to the problems under the old system. I would argue that there is therefore a strong public interest argument in favour of disclosure in this case.
    
Secondly, please could you disclose the following information in respect of each member of staff involved in each incident: their grade or, if that is too much identification, whether they are senior civle servants or not. Whether they were at the time of the incident described employed by IPSA, the House of Commons, a Government department or another body.
    
Thirdly, please could you disclose how many volunteers from outside IPSA were used to train MPs to use the new expenses system and how many hours on average each of them spent being trained (ie time spent showing each volunteer how to use the system) and how much time they spent training MPs.
    
Finally, please could you publish any general written material that you made available for MPs between the general election and the summer break. By this I mean any generic information that was made available to all MPs, but is not otherwise available to the general public. This includes leaflets and posters that were available in the House of Commons, and any mailshots that were sent to MPs. But not any individual correspondance or anything which is already available on line.

Response

I can confirm that IPSA holds the information that falls within the description specified in your request.

You requested the names of the Members of Parliament involved in the ten incidents recently disclosed as part of Freedom of Information request relating to MPs’ behaviour. In IPSA’s view the information you have requested is exempt under section36(2)(c) of the Freedom of Information Act and is therefore withheld.

Sir Scott Baker, the member of IPSA designated by the Lord Chancellor as the Qualified Person under s.36(5)(o)(iii) of the Freedom of Information Act, has conducted the public interest balancing exercise in relation to the engagement of the exemption at s.36(2)(c) (prejudice to the effective conduct of public affairs) of the Act. It is the opinion of the qualified person that certain forms of adverse effect would or would be likely to follow from a full disclosure of the names of the MPs you have requested.

The qualified person authorised the disclosure of information relating to MPs’ behaviour recently as it was felt that, although the information is personal information, there is a legitimate interest in the public knowing the details of the conduct to which IPSA staff have been subjected. However, it is also very important and in the public interest that there is a satisfactory and effective working relationship between MPs and IPSA in implementing the new expenses regime. This would, in the view of the qualified person, be damaged by making public the names of the individual MPs concerned. The qualified person has therefore concluded that there is a greater public interest in withholding this information than there is in its release.

You also requested details relating to the members of staff involved in each of the ten incidents. In IPSA’s view, this information is exempt under section 40 of the FOIA (personal information) as the information constitutes third party data. Section 40(2) provides that personal data about third parties is exempt information if one of the conditions set out in section 40(3)(i) is satisfied. (Please see http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2000/36/contents). Under the FOI Act disclosure of this information would breach the fair processing principle contained in the Data Protection Act (DPA), where it would be unfair to that person or is confidential and therefore the condition under section 40(3)(i) is satisfied.

However, IPSA can confirm that none of the incidents involved senior civil servants.  Those members of staff involved were either employed by IPSA, the IPSA Implementation Programme Team, or were Civil service Fast Stream volunteers who were employed by a range of Government departments.

Approximately 60 Fast Stream volunteers were used to train MPs in the online expenses system.  Each volunteer received two - three hours of training on the system: at the end of his/her training, each volunteer took part in a simulated exercise with a member of the IPSA Implementation Programme Team who assessed their suitability for providing training to MPs.  Further sessions were provided for those volunteers who wished to familiarise themselves further with the system in advance of training MPs.  Each volunteer spent a total of between two to twenty hours training various MPs. On average, each individual volunteered approximately six to eight hours on training MPs in the two week induction period.

You also requested any general written material that IPSA made available to all MPs between the general election and the summer recess.  IPSA publishes generic information sent to all MPs on its website (www.parliamentarystandards.org.uk). The only generic information made available to all MPs which does not appear on the website, is a letter which was in the pack MPs received from the returning officer. This letter is enclosed.