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Correspondence and valutation relating to Ian Paisley MP's constituency office
F1415-101
Disclosure Date:31 Dec 2014
Categories: CORRESPONDENCE MPs' OFFICE COSTS
Exemptions Applied: Section 31 Section 38 Section 40
Request
  1. A copy of the independent valuation provided to IPSA for the rental expenses claimed for the constituency office at 9-11 Church Street, Ballymena.
  2. Copies of any correspondence between IPSA and the MP for North Antrim since the 2010 general election on the rental expenses claimed from IPSA for the constituency office at  9-11 Church Street, Ballymena.
  3. Please include details of any information provided on the percentage share of both office use and rental costs between the MP and the N Ireland Assembly members who also use these premises.

 

Response

IPSA holds the information that you request.

Constituency Office Valuation

The MPs’ Scheme of Business Costs and Expenses (‘the Scheme’) states that Office Costs Expenditure may also be claimed for the rent of one or more premises to be used as a constituency office, each of which must be registered with IPSA before a rental claim is made.

Paragraph 6.13 of the Scheme states:

“Where the constituency office is to be rented from a political party or constituency association:

  1. 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; and
  2. that market rate must not be exceeded.”

Under the terms of the Scheme, Mr Paisley is not required to provide a valuation. However, upon registering the office with IPSA, Mr Paisley voluntarily provided an independent valuation, which is now held by IPSA. Please find attached, at Annex A, a copy of that valuation.

Outside of the information contained within the valuation, we do not hold any information relating to use of the office by Members of the Legislative Assembly.

We have withheld the following information from the valuation under the terms of the FOIA:

Information withheld

Exemption

Valuation reference

Section 31 (Law enforcement)

Description of office

Section 38 (Health and safety)

Names of third parties

Section 40 (Personal information)

Section 31(1)(a) (Law enforcement) of the FOIA 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 probable 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 all information contained within the valuation 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.

Section 38(1)(b) (Health and safety) of the FOIA states that information is exempt if its disclosure under the FOI Act would, or would be likely to, endanger the safety of any individual. Again, we have considered the nature of the withheld information, and it is our opinion that were this information to be disclosed into the public domain, it is likely that this information could be used to endanger the safety of the individuals who regularly use this location as a place of work. There is 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.

Section 40(2) provides that personal information 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.

Correspondence

In locating any correspondence between IPSA and Mr Paisley relating to rental expenses claimed from IPSA for the constituency office at  9-11 Church Street, Ballymena, we have manually searched through all correspondence exchanged with Mr Paisley to separately identify those relating to rental claims. Please find attached, at Annex B, any correspondence we hold within these parameters.

We have redacted some personal information relating to IPSA staff from the correspondence under section 40(2) of the FOIA.

Shared use of the constituency office

The office registration we hold states Mr Paisley is responsible for 33% of the office rates and rent.