I would like to make a request for information under the freedom of information act. Please could I see transcripts of conversations with MPs and IPSA staff since IPSA was set up. In addition, please could I see copies of all internal memos, reports, letters and other written material (including notes of conversations between ipsa staff and people outside the organisation) about MPs attitudes and behaviour towards IPSA staff, including rudeness, shouting, unreasonable language and behaviour, insults, swearing, accusations, threats and other intimidatory conduct
I am responding to your request as 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. I can confirm that IPSA does hold information relevant to your request but that some of the information is exempt from disclosure.
You specifically requested transcripts of conversations with MPs and IPSA staff since IPSA was set up and copies of all internal memos, reports, letters and other written material about MPs attitudes and behaviour towards IPSA staff.
As the Qualified Person I have 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 my opinion that certain forms of adverse effect would or would be likely to follow from a full disclosure of the information you request. However, I am also of the opinion that some of the information you request does not qualify for exemptions under the Act and should be disclosed.
Please find attached the following documents:
- An internal email correspondence chain regarding IPSA’s position on unacceptable behaviour from MPs;
- a digest of excerpts taken from internal meeting notes;
- an internal file note; and
- a digest of recorded details of instances of inappropriate behaviour. This information is already in the public domain as it released in response to an FOI request on 20 August 2010.
You will note that individual names and place names have been redacted. It is my opinion that this information is exempt in respect of MPs under s.36(2)(c) and for IPSA staff under s.40(2) of the Freedom of Information Act. In respect of your request names of IPSA officials have been redacted as they are irrelevant.
In short, 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 my view and in the view of those at IPSA whom I have consulted, be damaged by making public the names of the individual MPs concerned. I have therefore concluded that there is a greater public interest in withholding this information than there is in its release.
I should make clear that IPSA has a clear anti-bullying position and that no member of staff who has experienced inappropriate conduct by MPs has wished any action to be taken against them.