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Energy suppliers to MPs’ accommodation
F1415-015
Disclosure Date:8 May 2014
Categories: MPs' ACCOMMODATION
Exemptions Applied: Cost limit Section 21
Request

I would like to make a FOI request relating to which energy providers are used by MPs in taxpayer-funded second homes and were therefore have bills charged to the public purse. Could you provide details of:

  1. Which provider supplies electricity and/or gas to these homes (i.e., British Gas or SSE)?
  2. How much the most recent annual bill was for?
  3. How often MPs switch energy supplier to their second homes?

 

Response

For reference, the MPs’ Scheme of Business Costs and Expenses does not provide for a ‘second home’. Under the provisions of the Scheme, non-London MPs may claim for accommodation expenditure to meet costs necessarily incurred on overnight accommodation which is required for the performance of their parliamentary functions.

MPs may only claim for Accommodation Expenditure in relation to a property at one location, which may be either in the London Area, or within the MP's constituency, (or within 20 miles of any point on the constituency boundary). Members are only permitted to have one property registered with IPSA for the purpose of claiming accommodation expenditure at any given time.

Paragraph 4.8 of the Scheme details the costs which may be claimed under Accommodation Expenditure. More information on this may be viewed via this link to the Scheme on our website.

Taking your requests for information in turn:

  • Which provider supplies electricity and/or gas to these homes (i.e., British Gas or SSE)?
  • How often MPs switch energy supplier to their second homes?

IPSA holds the information that you request.

In processing your request for the name of energy suppliers, we undertook a test to estimate the amount of time it would take to locate, retrieve and extract this information from the most recent 652 claims for gas and electricity. As this information you have requested is only located within bills and invoices which have been scanned in and attached to claims, we estimate that it would take 9.02 hours of staff time to locate and extract all of the information.

In addition, in order to ascertain how often MPs switch energy supplier, we would be obliged to locate, retrieve and extract this information from 7,770 claims. We estimate that this would take 107.49 hours of staff time to locate and extract all of this information.

Consequently, the aggregated cost of complying with these requests takes us considerably over the appropriate cost limit of £450 (part 1 of Schedule 1 of the Freedom of Information Act). As such, IPSA is not obliged to respond to your request (as per section 12(1), FOIA).

For reference, however, we believe we would be able to extract, within the cost limit, the names of suppliers providing energy to properties registered with IPSA for the purpose of claiming accommodation expenditure, should you wish us to process a new request for this information. This would, of course, still be subject to any exemptions which may apply under the FOIA.

  • How much the most recent annual bill was for?

IPSA holds the information that you request.

As you may be aware, IPSA publishes details of all claims for business costs and expenses on our website every two months, three months in arrears, via the following address: http://www.parliamentary-standards.org.uk. The most recent publication took place on 13 March 2014, which relates to claims made between October and November 2013. Using the search function, you can download details of all claims made for energy costs.

The following instructions may assist you in filtering the information:

  1. Select ‘Search Function’ via the menu bar at the top of the page
  2. Under ‘Select MP(s), Constituencies, Postcode or Region’, select an MP, or tick the box to select all MPs.
  3. Under ‘Select a year and, optionally, month(s)’, select a financial period.
  4. Under ‘Select category(s) of Business Cost or Expense’, select ‘Accommodation’.
  5. Under ‘Select type(s) of Business Cost or Expense’, select ‘Electricity’ and ‘Gas’
  6. Click ‘Find’ to retrieve the results. You can then need to export this data to a spreadsheet format via the link at the top right-hand corner of the page.

 

The FOIA states that information that is accessible by other means is not subject to release. Therefore, as the information you have requested is already available on our website, it is exempt from disclosure under section 21 of the FOIA (information accessible to applicant by other means).