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Correspondence between Andrew McDonald/Sir Ian Kennedy and George Osbourne, John Bercow, Jeremy Heywood and Francis Maude
CAS-18195
Disclosure Date:10 Jul 2015
Categories: CORRESPONDENCE
Exemptions Applied: Section 36 Section 40
Request

Please could you provide me with copies of the following documents:

  1. All emails/letters sent between Professor Sir Ian Kennedy and any of the following people: - George Osborne - John Bercow - Jeremy Heywood - Francis Maude Please include all such letters/emails that were sent or received in the period May 2010 - May 2015.
  2. All emails/letters sent between the former IPSA chief executive Andrew McDonald and any of the following people: - George Osborne - John Bercow - Jeremy Heywood - Francis Maude Please include all such letters/emails that were sent or received in the period May 2010 - March 2014
Response

IPSA holds the information that you request.

In processing your request, we have searched our systems for any correspondence which continues to be held which was exchanged by the former Chief Executive of IPSA, Andrew McDonald or the Chair of IPSA, Professor Sir Ian Kennedy, and the individuals named in your request.

Correspondence being disclosed

Please find below copies of correspondence that we have located, falling within the remit of your request.

From

To

Date

Regarding (click link to view correspondence)

Professor Sir Ian Kennedy

Rt Hon John Bercow MP

12 July 2010

SCIPSA meeting

Andrew McDonald

Rt Hon John Bercow MP

6 September 2010

IPSA’s operations

Professor Sir Ian Kennedy

Rt Hon John Bercow MP

1 April 2011

MoU between Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards and IPSA

Rt Hon Francis Maude MP

Professor Sir Ian Kennedy

15 November 2011

Ministerial pension scheme

Andrew McDonald

Rt Hon John Bercow MP

9 January 2012

IPSA’s supplementary estimate for 2011-12

Professor Sir Ian Kennedy

Rt Hon Francis Maude MP

10 January 2012

Ministerial pension scheme

Rt Hon Francis Maude MP

Professor Sir Ian Kennedy

10 February 2012

Parliamentary contributory pension fund

Professor Sir Ian Kennedy

Rt Hon Francis Maude MP

13 February 2012

Parliamentary contributory pension fund

Professor Sir Ian Kennedy

Rt Hon John Bercow MP

3 May 2012

Pay and pensions for MPs

Rt Hon John Bercow MP

Professor Sir Ian Kennedy

24 May 2012

Pay and pensions for MPs

Andrew McDonald

Rt Hon Francis Maude MP

9 January 2013

Pay and pensions for MPs

Andrew McDonald

Rt Hon John Bercow MP

9 January 2013

Pay and pensions for MPs

Professor Sir Ian Kennedy

Rt Hon John Bercow MP

10 July 2013

Consultation on MPs’ pay and pensions

Professor Sir Ian Kennedy

Rt Hon Francis Maude MP

12 December 2013

Consultation on MPs’ pay and pensions

Professor Sir Ian Kennedy

Sir Jeremy Heywood

12 March 2014

MPs’ Scheme of Business Costs and Expenses

Professor Sir Ian Kennedy

Rt Hon John Bercow MP

12 March 2014

MPs’ Scheme of Business Costs and Expenses

Andrew McDonald

Sir Jeremy Heywood

2 April 2014

IPSA’s Chief Executive

Professor Sir Ian Kennedy

Rt Hon John Bercow MP

26 September 2014

Compliance Officer’s Procedures for Investigation

Professor Sir Ian Kennedy

Rt Hon John Bercow MP

4 March 2015

MPs’ Scheme of Business Costs and Expenses

Rt Hon John Bercow MP

Professor Sir Ian Kennedy

24 March 2015

IPSA’s estimate for 2015-16

Professor Sir Ian Kennedy

Rt Hon John Bercow MP

26 March 2015

IPSA’s estimate for 2015-16

We have redacted a small amount of personal information, such as individuals’ signatures and the names of junior members of staff, under section 40 of the FOIA.

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 already published online

Much of the correspondence exchanged with the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, is published on the websites of the Speaker and of the Speaker’s Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (SCIPSA).

The correspondence published on the Speaker’s website can be found at the following address: http://www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/offices/commons/speakers-office/speakers-publications/general-correspondence/

The correspondence published on SCIPSA’s website can be found at the following address: http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/other-committees/speakers-committee-for-the-independent-parliamentary-standards-authority/publications/?type=&session=3&sort=false&inquiry=all

Further, all responses made to consultations held by IPSA – including those made by the individuals named in your request, are published on our website, and can be found at the following address: http://parliamentarystandards.org.uk/transparency/Pages/Consultations.aspx

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).

Correspondence being withheld

We believe that a small amount of the total correspondence, if disclosed, would be likely to prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs. As such, in processing your request for information, we have considered the application of the exemption at s.36 of the FOI Act. As you may be aware, the exemption at section 36 can only be engaged if, in the reasonable opinion of a ‘qualified person’, disclosure would result in any of the effect set out in section 36(2) of the Act. IPSA’s qualified person, Sir Neil Butterfield, as designated by the Lord Chancellor under s.36(5)(o)(iii) of the FOIA, considered whether the information requested would, or would be likely to prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs. Having come to a reasonable opinion as to whether or not disclosure would or would be likely to prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs, Sir Neil undertook a public interest test to assess whether the public interest in withholding the information outweighs the public interest in disclosure in relation to the s.36 exemption. The public interest balancing exercise was conducted in relation to the engagement of the exemption at s.36(2)(c) of the Act. In doing so, our qualified person considered the arguments for and against applying s.36. Sir Neil considered that the presumption of Freedom of Information legislation is that information should be released on request. It was also considered whether releasing such correspondence could impair the ability of IPSA to conduct its public role effectively and could thus cause a detrimental impact on the conduct of public affairs. In balancing the arguments, Sir Neil has commented as follows:

As a matter of record, there is no correspondence passing between Sir Ian Kennedy or Andrew McDonald and George Osborne. The correspondence between Sir Ian Kennedy or Andrew McDonald and Jeremy Heywood and Francis Maude will be disclosed in its entirety.

As the Qualified Person designated by the Lord Chancellor under Section 36(5) of the Freedom of Information Act my duty is to assess whether the public interest in withholding the information outweighs the public interest in disclosure in relation to the exemption specified in Section 36 of the Act, and in particular in this case whether disclosure is likely to be prejudicial to the effective conduct of public affairs. In doing so I have considered all the correspondence to which the request relates and the arguments for and against applying Section 36.

In determining whether in my reasonable opinion the release of some or all of that correspondence would, or would be likely to prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs I have given full weight to the presumption in the FOIA that information should be released on request.

I further recognize that such part of the material to which Section 40 (personal information) might apply can be redacted. In addition I acknowledge that it is in the public interest that a publicly funded independent organisation should be transparent in the way it interacts with MPs. I also acknowledge that there should be a high degree of transparency and accountability relating to the exchange of correspondence between MPs and the Chairman and Chief Executive of IPSA.

However, I have also given weight to the consideration that releasing some of this correspondence might lead to a significant breakdown in trust between IPSA and certain of the recipients named in the request. Some of the correspondence relates to sensitive, personal and private matters in which there could be no proper public interest.

Further, much of the correspondence to which the request relates concerns letters passing between John Bercow and either Sir Ian Kennedy or Andrew McDonald. IPSA has a close working relationship with the Speaker, who chairs the Speaker’s Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, the body responsible for the appointment of the Chairman and Board Members of IPSA and for considering and approving the annual budget of IPSA. That close working relationship is essential for the continued effective conduct of the work of IPSA.

The nature of the relationship between the Speaker and IPSA necessitates written communication. If sensitive correspondence between the Speaker and IPSA were to be disclosed the inevitable consequence would be that neither IPSA nor the Speaker would be willing openly and frankly to discuss issues central to the conduct of the affairs of IPSA, something which of itself would be likely to prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs. That prejudice would be compounded by the almost certain undermining of IPSA’s relationship with the Speaker, which would be additionally detrimental to the effective conduct of public affairs.

Further, in my judgment there is a strong likelihood that releasing such correspondence would adversely affect the ability of IPSA to carry out its functions in a professional, competent and efficient manner and to engage effectively with the Speaker and with the SCIPSA.

It is important and in the public interest that there is an effective and trusting working relationship between IPSA and the Speaker. The release of sensitive correspondence would, in my judgment, have a significant and detrimental impact on that relationship.

I am firmly of the view that these considerations are of fundamental importance and outweigh any public interest.

For the reasons set out above it is my reasonable opinion that the release of that part of requested information which relates to confidential and sensitive correspondence would be likely to be prejudicial to the effective conduct of public affairs.

As such, Sir Neil has engaged the exemption at section 36(2)(c) to a small number of pieces of correspondence exchanged with the Speaker, John Bercow, but has recommended disclosure of much of the correspondence, which is attached.