Skip to the content

Further details on referrals made to the police
CAS-41702
Disclosure Date:11 Mar 2016
Categories: IPSA - OPERATIONS COMPLIANCE OFFICER FOR IPSA
Exemptions Applied: Section 40
Request

I would like to request the following information about cases of MPs' expenses that have been referred to the police by Ipsa's compliance officer.

For each referral, please disclose:

  1. the date on which the referral was made
  2. the name of the force to which the case was referred
  3. a brief description detailing the nature investigation and the "reason to suspect a criminal offence may have been committed"
  4. whether the MP involved is still a serving member of the house.

Please also disclose the same information for cases which have been referred to the police by a member of the public, rather than the compliance officer directly, where Ipsa has been notified of the investigation.

 

Response

Background

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, statutorily 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. However, as he reports to IPSA’s Board, the information that you have requested in this instance is also held by IPSA, for the purposes of the FOIA.

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 at the following address: http://www.parliamentarycompliance.org.uk/transparency/Documents/Joint%20Statement%20with%20regard%20to%20the%20Metropolitan%20Police%20and%20DPP.pdf.

 

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.

In a general sense, information as to the alleged commission by a person of a criminal offence is the sensitive personal data of that person. As such, it attracts enhanced protection under the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA). It is therefore more likely that the disclosure of that information (pursuant to a FOIA request) would result in a breach of one or more of the data protection principles, such that the exemption contained in Section 40(2) FOIA can be relied upon to resist such disclosure. As data controller, IPSA must have regard to its obligations under DPA when deciding whether, and if so how, personal data should be processed.

Your request for information

You may be aware that the Compliance Officer for IPSA publishes details of complaints handled each financial year on his website. This information is available at the following address: http://www.parliamentarycompliance.org.uk/transparency/Pages/Complaints-handled.aspx.

This information provides a brief summary of each complaint handled (including those that were referred to the police), insofar as information can be published without identifying individuals in breach of the DPA.

IPSA does not hold the date any referral was made by the Compliance Officer for IPSA, nor any information on the “reason to suspect a criminal offence may have been committed".

Exemptions applied

Section 40 – personal information

In accordance with section 40 of the FOIA, we are withholding:

  1. the name of the police force to which a referral was made, and
  2. whether the MP involved is still a serving member of the house.

We believe that disclosure of this information is likely to lead to the identification of individuals, resulting in an unauthorised disclosure of sensitive personal data. In determining whether information that relates to an individual is their personal data, guidance from the Information Commissioner states that it should be reasonably likely that the individual could be identified from that data. We consider that test to be satisfied in relation to this information. Given the sensitivity of the information, we do not consider that it would be fair for the information to be disclosed to the requestor such that to do so would leave IPSA in breach of the first data protection principle. As such, we are withholding this information under the exemption contained in Section 40(2) FOIA.