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Northern Irish MPs' constituency offices
F1415-058
Disclosure Date:15 Sep 2014
Categories: MPs' OFFICE COSTS
Exemptions Applied: Cost limit Section 21 Section 38
Request

The total amount of expenses for (i) rent and (ii.) rates paid to each Member of Parliament from Northern Ireland since 2010. Furthermore could you specify;

  • The full postal address of each office claimed for and the start date of each rent agreement (and end date where appropriate).
  • The landlord name for each address.
  • The agent name for each address when applicable.
  • Who ultimately benefits from the expenses claimed for.
  • Any correspondence between the MP and IPSA regarding any valuation of estimated rental costs or any concerns raised regarding the rents being claimed for.
  • Any correspondence between IPSA and the landlords and/or agents of any of the offices rented by MPs from Northern Ireland since 2010.
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. 

MPs may also claim the cost of ‘rates’, which may include energy and water bills, business rates, contents and business insurance and telephone and internet costs. 

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.

Claims for rent

With regards to your request for claims for constituency office rent and rates, IPSA publishes details of all claims for business costs and expenses on our website every two months, three months in arrears, on our dedicated publication website http://www.parliamentary-standards.org.uk. The most recent publication took place on 11 September 2014, which relates to claims made between April and May 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’.

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).

Constituency office addresses

Should an MP wish to claim rent and/or rates for a constituency office, each office must first be registered with IPSA, in line with the rules set out in the Scheme.  The information provided at Annex A lists those offices which have been registered with IPSA. The information does not indicate whether the offices listed are currently active as constituency offices or not.  

When paying rent, MPs can choose to either:

  1. pay the landlord or agent themselves, and then claim reimbursement for that cost from their office costs expenditure budget; or
  2. register a direct payment with IPSA, whereby IPSA pays the agent or landlord directly.

In our response, we have indicated whether: (1) the MP receives reimbursement, or (2) we pay either the agent or landlord directly.

Rent agreement dates

Where an MP claims the cost of rent, and has registered a rent agreement with IPSA, we have listed the start and end dates of those agreements at Annex A. 

Some MPs may choose not to claim the rental costs of their office and only claim rates.  Where this is the case, we have indicated so by stating “MP does not claim rent”.

Landlord and agents names

You requested the landlord name and agent, where applicable, for each constituency office.

We are withholding the name of the landlords and agents 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.

You may be aware that on 14 November 2013, IPSA published details of MPs rental agreements for constituency offices. This includes the name of the individual, company or organisation each MP’s payments are made to for constituency office rent. You can view this information on our website http://www.parliamentary-standards.org.uk/AnnualisedData.aspx. However, this information did not include MPs representing constituencies in Northern Ireland.

After considering the nature of the withheld information (and given that disclosures under FOI are made to the public as a whole and not just the individual requestor), we believe that if it were disclosed, there is a chance it could be used to endanger the safety of the landlords and agents listed.

We recognise the public interest in transparency surrounding the publishing of this information, as demonstrated by our publication of most MPs’ constituency office landlords last year. However, there is also a strong public interest in ensuring that we are able to protect our service users, and third parties, from threats to their safety. This is particularly true for MPs representing constituencies in Northern Ireland, and 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.

Correspondence

You also requested correspondence between IPSA and the MPs, and between IPSA and the landlords or agents.

In order to locate, retrieve and extract this information, we would be required to manually go through every piece of correspondence exchanged (relating to all MPs representing constituencies in Northern Ireland) to ascertain whether it falls within the remit of the request. We undertook a test to estimate the amount of time it would take to carry out this task. We estimate that it would take 23 hours of staff time which takes us over the appropriate cost limit of £450 (Part 1 of Schedule 1 of the Freedom of Information Act). Consequently, IPSA is not obliged to respond to this part of your request (see section 12(1), FOIA).

Annex A

MP Name

Lease start date

Lease end date

Office Address

Recipient of rental payment

Gerry Adams

August 1, 2010

July 31, 2013

53 Falls Road

Belfast

County Antrim

BT12 4PD

 

Reimbursed to MP

Gregory Campbell

April 5, 2004

No end date

Unit 3 & 4

Sindy's Shopping Mall

6/8 Catherine Street

Limavady

County Londonderry

BT49 9DB

 

Landlord or agent

Pat Doherty

October 1, 2010

September 30, 2015

4-5 James Street

Omagh

County Tyrone

BT78 1DH

 

Reimbursed to MP

Jeffrey Donaldson

March 20, 2004

February 28, 2019

Ground & First Floor

Former Town Hall

29 Castle Street

Lisburn

BT27 4DH

 

 

 

 

Reimbursed to MP

Mark Durkan

September 15, 2005

September 15, 2010

2nd Floor

23 Bishop Street

Londonderry

County Derry

BT48 6PR

 

Reimbursed to MP

October 29, 2010

October 28, 2011

First Floor Suite

23 Bishop Street

Londonderry

County Derry

BT48 6PR

 

Landlord or agent

October 29, 2011

October 28, 2014

First Floor Suite

23 Bishop Street

Londonderry

County Derry

BT48 6PR

 

Landlord or agent

Michelle Gildernew

October 1, 2009

No end date

5-7 market Street

Enniskillen

County Fermanagh

BT74 7DS

 

Reimbursed to MP

Sylvia Hermon

November 1, 2001

No end date

17A Hamilton Road

Bangor

County Down

BT20 4LF

 

Landlord or agent

Naomi Long

May 1, 2008

No end date

56 Upper Newtownards Road

Belfast

BT4 3EL

Landlord or agent

Paul Maskey

June 1, 2011

May 31, 2015

53 Falls Road

Belfast

County Antrim

BT12 4PD

 

Reimbursed to MP

William McCrea

October 23, 2007

October 22, 2017

Units 5 & 6, Market House

15/21 The Square

Ballyclare

County Antrim

BT39 9BE

 

Landlord or agent

Alastair McDonnell

September 29, 2005

May 1, 2011

5 Finaghy Road North

Belfast

County Antrim

BT10 0JA

Reimbursed to MP

 

May 1, 2011

 

April 30, 2015

 

5 Finaghy Road North

Belfast

County Antrim

BT10 0JA

 

 

Reimbursed to MP

MP does not claim rent

Ground Floor

120A Ormeau Road

Belfast

County Antrim

BT7 2EB

 

 

Martin McGuinness

August 1, 2007

July 31, 2011

26 Burn Road

Cookstown

Co Tyrone

BT80 8DN

Reimbursed to MP

April 1, 2005

December 31, 2015

79 Quarry Road

Gulladuff

County Derry

BT45 8NT

Reimbursed to MP

Francie Molloy

April 1, 2013

June 30, 2015

26 Burn Road

Cookstown

Co.Tyrone

BT80 8DN

Reimbursed to MP

April 1, 2013

June 30, 2015

79 Quarry Road

Gulladuff

BT45 8NS

Reimbursed to MP

Conor Murphy

October 1, 2008

September 30, 2013

First and Second Floor Offices

1 Kilmorey Terrace

Newry

County Down

BT35 8DW

Reimbursed to MP

Ian Paisley

May 9, 2011

May 1, 2016

Ballymena Advice Centre

9-11 Church Street

Ballymena

BT43 6DD

Landlord or agent

Margaret Ritchie

July 1, 2010

June 30, 2014

Ground and First Floor

32 Saul Street

Downpatrick

County Down

BT30 6NQ

Landlord or agent

Jim Shannon

May 6, 2010

May 6, 2015

34a Frances Street

Newtownards

County Down

BT23 7DN

Landlord or agent

July 1, 2010

July 31, 2015

36a Main Street

Ballynahinch

BT24 8DX

Landlord or agent

David Simpson

October 4, 2011

No end date

8 Rathfriland Street

Banbridge

BT32 3LA

Reimbursed to MP

Sammy Wilson

March 29, 2010

March 29, 2015

31 Lancastrian Street

Carrickfergus

County Antrim

BT38 7AB

Reimbursed to MP

September 1, 2009

August 31, 2015

116 Main Street

Larne

County Antrim

BT40 1RG

Reimbursed to MP