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MPs claiming dependant uplift for accommodation
CAS-28593
Disclosure Date:16 Oct 2015
Categories: MPs' ACCOMMODATION
Exemptions Applied: Section 21
Request

Please release a list of all MPs who are claiming additional accommodation allowance for a dependant in this current financial year and the last one. Please include the number of dependants and whether that dependant is a child or not.

Response

IPSA holds the information that you request.

As you will be aware, MPs are unusual in being required to work regularly in two places: Parliament and their constituency. This necessitates travel and maintaining a separate residence away from the MP’s main home (be it in London or in their constituency).

In addition, Parliament often sits after 10pm, requiring MPs to be in London late into the night. As such, non-London MPs can claim for overnight accommodation costs in either London or their constituency (but not both), in support of their role in both the constituency and Parliament.

It remains important to us that nobody should be prevented from serving as an MP because they need to care for their dependants. This flows very clearly from the principle that the MPs’ Scheme of Business Costs and Expenses (‘the Scheme’) should not unduly deter representation from all sections of society.

Under the Scheme, MPs deemed to have caring responsibilities are entitled to claim for travel for dependants and, if claiming rental accommodation under the Scheme, may have their accommodation budget limit increased (by up to £2,425 per financial year per dependant) to meet any additional costs that may be associated with having dependants routinely resident at the rented property.

The Scheme (paragraph 4.24) defines those deemed to have caring responsibilities.

“For the purposes of this Scheme, MPs will be deemed to have caring responsibilities where they:

  1. have parental responsibility for a dependent child of up to the age of 16, or up to the age of 18 if in full-time education; or
  2. are the sole carer for a dependent child in full-time education, of up to the age of 21 years; or
  3. are the primary carer for a family member in receipt of one of the following benefits:
    1. Attendance Allowance;
    2. Disability Living Allowance[1] at the middle or highest rate for personal care; or
    3. iii. Constant Attendance Allowance at or above the maximum rate with an Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit, or basic (full day) rate with a War Disablement Pension.

In order to be eligible to claim travel costs for a dependant or to have their accommodation budget limit increased, MPs must register their dependant(s) with IPSA.

As part of our annual publication for the financial year 2014-15, we published details of MPs’ accommodation budgets and included details of whether the MP had received an uplift as a result of a dependant registration – including the number of dependants registered. This information can be found on the following page: http://www.parliamentary-standards.org.uk/AnnualisedData.aspx, by selecting the financial year ‘2014-15’ then clicking the link for ‘all MPs’ annual expenditure data for 2014-15’. 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).

This information will be updated on an annual basis, and information relating to the 2015-16 financial year will be available following the end of the financial year. 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. It is our opinion that the public interest is best served by publishing a full list rather than on an ad hoc basis, as in this way a clear and complete set of information is published, avoiding any potential confusion. It is for this reason that the application of the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosure at this stage.

The age of MPs’ dependants – or confirming whether or not they are a child - is their personal data, as defined by the Data Protection Act. As you may be aware, the disclosure of personal data under the FOIA is a balancing act between the legitimate public interest and protecting the rights and privacy of individuals. We believe that the information we already actively publish relating to MPs’ expenditure on dependants satisfies this balance, but that confirming specific personal information relating to each MPs’ dependants would not be fair or lawful to those individuals. Section 40(2) of the FOIA 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.

However, you may be interested in a request we responded to on 8 September 2015 in which we confirmed that of all the dependants registered since 2010 for current MPs (and at the time of responding), 82 dependants were aged five or under and 95 dependants were aged 16 and over[2].

 

[1] Following the introduction of Personal Independence Payments for those 16 and over, MPs will be deemed to have caring responsibilities if they are the primary carer for a family member in receipt of the daily living component of personal independence payment.

[2] These figures are correct as at 8 September 2015. Of the dependants aged 16 and over, many will now have exceeded the relevant age limits specified in the Scheme and will no longer be eligible for claims.