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Gender breakdown of MPs' staff
CAS-21860
Disclosure Date:22 Jul 2015
Categories: MPs' STAFFING
Exemptions Applied: Section 22 Section 40
Request

Under a FOI request could I enquire of the total number of staff employed by MP's in the current parliament could you advise of the gender breakdown per MP.

For clarity could you name the MP, total staff employed and how many male, how many female?

Response

IPSA holds the information that you request.

IPSA’s Publication Scheme states the information we will publish on regular basis and when it will be published, and can be found via the following address: http://www.parliamentarystandards.org.uk/publicationsdocs/IPSA%20Publication%20Policy.pdf.

The Scheme states the following.

We will publish the job titles of any staff employed during the financial year, whether the role was part or full time, and whether the staff member was employed for the whole financial year. In line with the Government’s approach to the wider public sector we will also publish, in bands of £5,000, the details of the salaries of members of staff earning £60,600 or more. Further, we will publish the names, job titles and salaries (expressed in bands of £5,000) of connected parties employed from public funds. With the exception of these connected parties, staff names will not be published.

As such, the number of staff employed by each MP, including their job titles, will be published as part of our annual publication on 10 September 2015. The information is therefore exempt from disclosure, in accordance with section 22 of the FOIA. 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. Collating information relating to all 650 MPs and preparing that information for disclosure into the public domain takes a considerable amount of time. This exercise is currently being undertaken in preparation for publication in September. We have set out a clear schedule, as part of our Publication Scheme, to ensure we are able to carry out the necessary work whilst reasonably managing the expectations of the public. It is our opinion that the public interest is best served by sticking to the schedule established in our Publication Scheme rather than disclosing information on an ad hoc basis, as in this way a clear and complete set of information is published, avoiding any potential confusion. There is understandably a strong public interest in MPs’ expenditure and we think this interest is best served by providing all information and context related to such expenditure at regular, scheduled dates. We believe this strikes a fair and reasonable approach to both MPs and the public. It is for this reason that the application of the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosure at this stage.

Personal information of MPs’ staff, such as their gender, is their personal data under the Data Protection Act. 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.

When considering whether disclosure of this information would comply with the DPA, we must primarily consider whether it would be fair and lawful. Although the information requested relates to the MPs’ office rather than specific individuals, it would still be possible – by collating all the information publicly available – to identify individuals. We do not consider that junior members of staff would reasonably expect that their personal data – which relates to them in their personal lives rather than their professional capacity - would be disclosed. Further, we do not believe that, in this instance, there are any legitimate interests in the public having this information which would outweigh the rights and freedoms of the individuals who are the data subjects. As such, we consider that disclosure of this information would breach the fair processing principle of the DPA, and is therefore exempt from disclosure under the FOIA.

However, we can confirm that of the 3303 individuals currently employed by MPs (or former MPs who departed in the 2015 General Election), 1867 are female and 1436 are male.