I wish to request the names of the two MPs referred to in recent reports as being investigated by police over their expenses.
Please also specify how many MPs have been investigated by police since Ipsa was created in 2009.
The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) is the body responsible for administering and regulating the system of business costs and expenses provided to MPs and their staff.
The Compliance Officer for IPSA is an independent office-holder, separate from IPSA, who is responsible for investigating claims that an MP has been paid an amount by IPSA under the MPs’ Scheme of Business Costs and Expenses (‘the Scheme’) to which they were not entitled.
IPSA and the Compliance Officer are two separate public authorities for the purposes of the FOIA, and information held by one body is not necessarily held by the other.
A Joint Statement sets out how IPSA and the Compliance Officer will work with the Metropolitan Police and the Director of Public Prosecutions in the event that IPSA or the Compliance Officer are given reason to suspect that a criminal offence may have been committed. A copy of this statement can be viewed on the Compliance Officer’s website via this link.
Where IPSA has reason to suspect a breach of the Scheme, a referral will be made to the Compliance Officer. If the Compliance Officer has reason to suspect a criminal offence may have been committed, his enquiries are suspended and the Metropolitan Police are contacted. Both IPSA and the Compliance Officer will then assist the appropriate police force with any enquiries they undertake. Further, the police may receive complaints from third-parties (such as members of the public); in such instances, IPSA may be contacted to assist their enquiries.
The Metropolitan Police is not necessarily responsible for investigating all referrals made by IPSA or the Compliance Officer - the police force responsible relates to the location in which the offence is alleged to have been committed.
MPs investigated by the police
Under the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA), ‘personal data’ (such as an individual’s name) must be processed (or in this instance, disclosed) ‘fairly and lawfully’. In most circumstances, it would not be ‘fair or lawful’ to disclose ‘sensitive personal data’. The commission or alleged commission of any offence is defined by the DPA as ‘sensitive personal data’, which means that it would not be ‘fair or lawful’ to disclose information pertaining to an allegation that an individual may have committed an offence. Further, disclosure of this information could be prejudicial to the legal rights and freedoms of the individuals in question. As such, we consider that we are bound by the DPA to withhold this information from disclosure under section 40 of the FOIA which states personal information is exempt from disclosure where it would not be fair or lawful.
We have interpreted your request regarding the number of MPs investigated by the police, as the number of MPs that IPSA (or the Compliance Officer for IPSA) have referred to the police. As at the time of responding, the police have been contacted with relation to four MPs. No referrals were made prior to the 2014-15 financial year. Any referrals made within each financial year will be noted within the Annual Report of the Compliance Officer for IPSA, which is published following the end of each financial year.