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MPs using their constituency offices as campaign bases
CAS-30208
Disclosure Date:29 Oct 2015
Categories: MPs' OFFICE COSTS
Exemptions Applied: Cost limit Section 21 Section 22
Request
  1. Following dissolution of parliament for the 2015 General Election, how many MPs did not claim rent and other expenses for their constituency office for the duration of the campaign
  2. Following dissolution of parliament for the 2015 General Election, how many MPs converted their former constituency office into their re-election campaign headquarters
  3. Following dissolution of parliament for the 2015 General Election and prior to the election, how many MPs claimed expenses from IPSA for staff travel from London (or elsewhere) to work in their constituency
  4. Following dissolution of parliament for the 2015 General Election and prior to the election, how many of the MPs who claimed expenses from IPSA for staff travel from London (or elsewhere) to work in their constituency had a) ceased to claim expenses for a constituency office and b) had converted their constituency office to their campaign headquarters
  5. Following dissolution of parliament for the 2015 General Election and prior to the election, how many MPs claimed expenses from IPSA to accommodate staff in their constituency
  6. Following dissolution of parliament for the 2015 General Election and prior to the election, how many of the MPs who claimed expenses from IPSA for staff accommodation in their constituency had a) ceased to claim expenses for a constituency office and b) had converted their former constituency office to their campaign headquarters
  7. When a Member of Parliament converts their former constituency office to their campaign headquarters what steps does IPSA take to ensure that IPSA funded staff resources, equipment and consumables are not used to support the former MPs re-election campaign?
Response

Under the MPs’ Scheme of Business Costs and Expenses (‘the Scheme’), Office Costs Expenditure can be claimed to meet the costs incurred renting and maintaining an office in the constituency and equipping an office in Westminster. It can only be claimed for the performance of parliamentary functions, which excludes activities which could be construed as campaign expenditure or work conducted for or at the behest of a political party.

I will take your requests for information in turn.

  • Following dissolution of parliament for the 2015 General Election, how many MPs did not claim rent and other expenses for their constituency office for the duration of the campaign
  • Following dissolution of parliament for the 2015 General Election and prior to the election, how many MPs claimed expenses from IPSA for staff travel from London (or elsewhere) to work in their constituency
  • Following dissolution of parliament for the 2015 General Election and prior to the election, how many MPs claimed expenses from IPSA to accommodate staff in their constituency

IPSA hold this information, and publishes details of all claims made by MPs under the Scheme on our dedicated publication website. Using the search function, you can identify claims made by MPs for the costs to which you refer.

Claims are published on our website every two months, around three months after they have been processed by IPSA. The most recent publication, on 11 September 2015, related to claims processed by IPSA during April and May 2015. 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).

However, as MPs have up to 90 days to submit a claim to IPSA after incurring a cost, it is possible that costs incurring during the General Election period may continue to be published in future publication rounds. You can view a copy of our publication schedule via this link. 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 in line with our stated publication policy, 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.

If you require any further assistance locating this information on our publication website, please do let me know.

  • Following dissolution of parliament for the 2015 General Election, how many MPs converted their former constituency office into their re-election campaign headquarters
  • Following dissolution of parliament for the 2015 General Election and prior to the election, how many of the MPs who claimed expenses from IPSA for staff travel from London (or elsewhere) to work in their constituency had a) ceased to claim expenses for a constituency office and b) had converted their constituency office to their campaign headquarters
  • Following dissolution of parliament for the 2015 General Election and prior to the election, how many of the MPs who claimed expenses from IPSA for staff accommodation in their constituency had a) ceased to claim expenses for a constituency office and b) had converted their former constituency office to their campaign headquarters

As noted above, costs incurred by MPs relating to party political or campaign activities are not permitted under the Scheme.

Where an MP established a regular direct payment between IPSA and the landlord of their constituency office for the regular rental costs, and wished to use that office for campaign purposes, they were required to repay to IPSA the appropriate amount. Details of all repayments are subsequently published on our website. In this instance, IPSA would hold a record of the fact the office was used for campaign purposes in the form of correspondence between the MP and IPSA. Alternatively, we may hold correspondence where an MP has instructed IPSA to reduce the direct payment amount, although this may not specify the reason for the reduction.

Where an MP claims the cost of rent through reimbursement (instead of a direct payment to the landlord), a claim would simply not be made. In this instance, the lack of any claim means IPSA would not hold a record of whether the office was used for campaign purposes or not.

We do not hold a central log of all MPs who used their constituency offices for campaign purposes. To extract the information that we may hold (relating to MPs who established a direct rental payment, informed us of their intentions and subsequently repaid an amount), we would be required to manually search through correspondence exchanged with MPs. The cost of completing this exercise would exceed the appropriate cost limit of £450 (part 1 of Schedule 1 of the Freedom of Information Act). Consequently, in line with section 12(1) of the FOIA, IPSA is not obliged to complete this exercise and provide the information.

  • When a Member of Parliament converts their former constituency office to their campaign headquarters what steps does IPSA take to ensure that IPSA funded staff resources, equipment and consumables are not used to support the former MPs re-election campaign?

Prior to the dissolution of Parliament we issued guidance to MPs and their staff regarding what was permitted under the Scheme, which emphasised claims are only permitted for parliamentary duties. You can view copies of this guidance at the following links (which are contained within the House of Commons’ own guidance):

In addition, six months prior to the expected dissolution of Parliament, new rules came into place stating that claims for purchases of office equipment, IT and furniture under Office Costs Expenditure were not to be permitted – except for in exceptional circumstances where prior approval from IPSA was to be obtained.

In addition to validation checks made at the time a claim is submitted, we also carry out a range of post-payment assurance reviews to look for claiming patterns and trends, to identify any areas of potential non-compliance with the Scheme. Where it is determined that a claim should not have been allowed, repayment is required.

Any specific complaints regarding non-compliance with the Scheme’s rules by MPs can be made to the Compliance Officer for IPSA. The Compliance Officer is an independent office-holder, statutorily independent from IPSA, responsible for investigating claims that an MP has been paid an amount under the Scheme that should not have been allowed. Further information on the Compliance Officer can be found on his website: http://www.parliamentarycompliance.org.uk.