Please provide the following information
- A copy of the lease agreement between Michael McCann MP (not returned) and South Lanarkshire Council regarding the rental of a constituency office within East Kilbride Civic Centre. In asking for a copy of this agreement, I am aware that leases have been withheld in the past based on commercial confidentiality. I would argue that this is not applicable in this case for the following reasons:
- South Lanarkshire Council is a public authority and operates a standard set of lease terms, which are readily available and have been provided
- The monthly rental is already in the public domain through the IPSA publication scheme and is therefore not confidential.
- The property in question is in the principal operating centre for the Council in East Kilbride and is made available as a matter of Council policy to MPs, MSPs, or MEPs as requested, therefore there is no wider commercial interest.
- Based on the above, I would argue that there is no public interest in withholding this information based on commercial confidentiality, however, there is significant public interest in disclosure.
- The public interest in disclosure arises from the fact that South Lanarkshire Council enforces a policy of no political materials displayed on or within the curtilage of the Civic Centre. Yet, prior to the General Election, this constituency office - still badged as being for MP Enquiries - was converted into Mr McCann's campaign HQ and decorated with election posters. The public is entitled to know whether permission to do this was implicit in the agreement entered into between Mr McCann and the Council.
- The last date for which IPSA a) has funded, and b) will fund, if claimed, any expenses relating to this office.
- Again, the reason for asking this is the public interest in knowing when Mr McCann removed the office from entitlement to IPSA funding, as it became festooned with party political materials open to public view 24 hours a day. Therefore, at that point, the premises must have been the sole responsibility of Mr McCann and the Labour Party.
- What Mr McCann has claimed for staff costs for February, March and April 2015.
- Again, the the reason for asking is the public interest in knowing that Mr McCann, having removed his constituency office from entitlement to IPSA funding, made appropriate arrangements with his staff, having nowhere to conduct parliamentary activities, to take annual leave or unpaid leave for the duration of the campaign. I understand that this information will be published at a future date. I would argue against the application of this exemption because of the relationship between this issue and the other two requests.
I will take your requests for information in turn.
1. A copy of the lease agreement between Michael McCann MP (not returned) and South Lanarkshire Council regarding the rental of a constituency office within East Kilbride Civic Centre.
Please find attached in Annex A a copy of the lease for the property requested (and covering letter), alongside a letter from the landlord confirming an extension of the term. We have redacted some information 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 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 invoice 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 withheld information contained in the lease relating to third parties under Section 40(2) of the Freedom of Information Act. 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.
2. The last date for which IPSA a) has funded, and b) will fund, if claimed, any expenses relating to this office
Under the MPs’ Scheme of Business Costs and Expenses (‘the Scheme’), the Winding-Up Expenditure budget is provided to meet the cost of completing the outstanding parliamentary functions of a person who ceases to be an MP. You can view a copy of the Scheme on our website, at the following link:
This can be used to cover office rent, the costs of removing items such as furniture from an MPs’ office, costs reasonably incurred under the terms of an office rental agreement (such as cleaning or redecorating) and other associated costs (such as the shredding and disposal of confidential office waste). More information on the Winding-Up Expenditure budget can be found at chapter eight of the Scheme.
Former MPs may claim for expenses incurred for a maximum of two months after they cease to be MPs. As such, Mr McCann can claim for expenditure covered by the Winding-Up budget until 8 July 2015. At the time of your request, claims were still being paid relating to Mr McCann’s office.
During the 2015 General Election campaign, Mr McCann informed IPSA that the office would be used in part for campaigning purposes, and submitted a cheque for £439.62 to cover the rent during this period, in line with the terms specified in the Scheme
3. What Mr McCann has claimed for staff costs for February, March and April 2015.
All staff members registered with IPSA are paid through IPSA’s payroll. During February, March and April 2015, £33,227.54 was paid through the Staffing Expenditure budget for staffing costs. This is the total staffing cost for the three months, and includes any national insurance and employer pension costs as well as gross salaries.