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Claims for constituency office rent by Hugh Bayley and Julian Sturdy
F1415-019
Disclosure Date:23 May 2014
Categories: COPIES OF RECEIPTS/INVOICES MPs' OFFICE COSTS
Exemptions Applied: Section 21 Section 22 Section 31 Section 38 Section 40 Section 43
Request

For the following periods: 2013/14, 2012/13, 2011/12 can you provide me with:

  1. All memos, documents, emails or any related literature to Hugh Bayley MP's claims for constituency office rent.
  2. A full copy of Hugh Bayley MP's claims for constituency office rent.
  3. All memos, documents, emails or any related literature to Julian Sturdy MP's claims for constituency office rent.
  4. A full copy of Julian Sturdy MP's claims for constituency office rent.

If the cost limit is not yet exceeded can you provide me with the name of the account holder the expenses claim was paid into for both MPs.

Response

IPSA holds the information that you request.

As you will be aware, Members of Parliament are entitled, under the MPs’ Scheme of Business Costs and Expenses (‘the Scheme’) to claim the cost of renting office space for the purpose of a constituency office. Chapter Six of the Scheme specifies the rules regarding Office Costs Expenditure (OCE), and can be viewed on our website, via the following link: http://parliamentarystandards.org.uk/IPSAMPs/Scheme/schemeversion/Documents/MPs%e2%80%99%20Scheme%20of%20Business%20Costs%20and%20Expenses%20Sixth%20Edition.pdf

Section 6.13 of the Scheme states that where the constituency office is to be rented from a political party or constituency association, the MP must provide a valuation of the market rate for the contract (prepared by a valuer regulated by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors), which must not be exceeded. Both Mr Bayley and Mr Sturdy submitted these documents to IPSA upon registration in line with the evidence requirements as required by the Scheme.

In processing your request, we searched our systems for any correspondence or documents which relate to claims for constituency office rent by both Hugh Bayley MP and Julian Sturdy MP. This includes the leases for the offices and independent valuations. As noted above, these were submitted to IPSA as supporting documentation when the offices were first registered with us.

Hugh Bayley MP

With regards to your first request, please find attached the following annexes:

We have redacted the names, home address, email addresses, signatures and any other personal information relating to third parties under section 40 of the FOIA. Section 40(2) provides that personal data about third parties is exempt information if one of the conditions set out in section 40(3) is satisfied. Under the FOI Act disclosure of this information would breach the fair processing principle (Principle 1) of the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA), where it would be unfair to those persons or is confidential. For further information, you may wish to visit the UK Legislation website.

An appendix to the valuation contains photos of the interior of Mr Bayley’s constituency office. We have redacted some of these photos under Section 31(1)(a) (Law enforcement) of the FOI Act. This section of the Act states that information is exempt if its disclosure under the FOI Act would, or would be likely to, prejudice the prevention (or detection) or crime. After considering the nature of the withheld information it is our opinion that were a disclosure to be made into the public domain it is possible that this information could be traced back to sensitive personal or commercial information which could be used for criminal activity. Although we recognise the public interest in transparency surrounding the publishing of this information there is also a strong public interest in ensuring that as an organisation we are able to protect our service users from the threat of being subjected to criminal activity, which is achieved through our capacity to withhold certain information from disclosure. It is for this reason that we have decided that the application of the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information.

We have also redacted information relating to valuation details of the property as a whole, or relating to third parties, contained within the valuation (Annex D), as we believe this information is commercially sensitive. Section 43 of the Freedom of Information Act provides an exemption for information which is commercially sensitive, where disclosure would, or would be likely to, prejudice the commercial interests of any person (including the public authority holding it). We have considered whether the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosure and concluded that the balance is in favour of withholding the information. As such, we are applying the exemption at Section 43 (2) of the FOIA to withhold the information requested.

We did not locate any correspondence on our systems from Mr Bayley relating to his claims for constituency office rent.

Julian Sturdy MP

With regards to your third request, please find attached the following annexes, relating to Julian Sturdy’s constituency office:

We have redacted the names and signatures, alongside any other personal information relating to third parties under section 40 of the FOIA. Section 40(2) provides that personal data about third parties is exempt information if one of the conditions set out in section 40(3) is satisfied. Under the FOI Act disclosure of this information would breach the fair processing principle (Principle 1) of the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA), where it would be unfair to those persons or is confidential. For further information, you may wish to visit the UK Legislation website.

We have also redacted information relating to the rateable value of the property per square foot, contained within the valuation (Annex D), as we believe this information is commercially sensitive. Further, we have redacted information relating to valuation details of the property as a whole, or relating to third parties. Section 43 of the Freedom of Information Act provides an exemption for information which is commercially sensitive, where disclosure would, or would be likely to, prejudice the commercial interests of any person (including the public authority holding it). We have considered whether the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosure and concluded that the balance is in favour of withholding the information. As such, we are applying the exemption at Section 43 (2) of the FOIA to withhold the information requested.

In one instance, we have redacted the home address of a third party contained within the lease. We have withheld this information under Section 38(1)(b) (Health and safety) of the FOI Act. This section of the Act states that information is exempt if its disclosure under the FOI Act would, or would be likely to endanger the safety of any individual.

After considering the nature of the withheld information it is our opinion that were a disclosure to be made into the public domain it is likely that this information could be used to endanger the safety of the individuals involved. Although we recognise the public interest in transparency surrounding the publishing of this information there is also a strong public interest in ensuring that as an organisation we are able to protect our service users from threats to their safety, which is achieved through our capacity to withhold certain information from disclosure. This is also in line with our stated publication policy. It is for this reason that we have decided that the application of the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information.

With regards to your request for claims for constituency office rent, 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 8 May 2014, which relates to claims made between December 2013 and January 2014. Using the search function, you can download details of all claims made for constituency office rent.

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 ‘Office Costs’ and ‘Constituency Rental’.
  5. Under ‘Select type(s) of Business Cost or Expense’, select ‘Const Office Rent’, Const Office Rent 2’, Const Office Rent 3’ and ‘Const Office Rent 4’
  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).

As noted above, the most recent publication relates to claims made between December 2013 and January 2014. The publication of claims made after this period will be published in due course. Section 22(1) of the FOIA states that information intended for future publication is exempt from release.

We have considered whether the public interest in releasing the information outweighs the application of the exemption. It is our opinion that the public interest is best served by publishing a full list rather than on an ad hoc basis, as in this way a clear and complete set of information is published, avoiding any potential confusion. It is for this reason that the application of the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosure at this stage.

Finally, you requested the name of the account holder to whom the expenses claims are paid. In both cases, the MP is the payee.