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Scottish MPs' landlords and the office leases of Michelle Thomson MP and Natalie McGarry MP
CAS-47557
Disclosure Date:16 May 2016
Categories: MPs' OFFICE COSTS
Exemptions Applied: Section 21 Section 38
Request
  1. The landlord/agent for each Scottish MP's constituency office. Please provide the start date of the tenancy, the address of the office, and whether the lease is still active.
  2. Specifically please provide the full tenancy agreement for the constituency offices of Michelle Thomson (Edinburgh West) and Natalie McGarry (Glasgow East)
Response

IPSA holds the information that you request.

Office Costs Expenditure is provided under the MPs’ Scheme of Business Costs and Expenses (‘the Scheme’) to meet the costs of renting a constituency office. Claims may only be made for constituency office rent once IPSA has approved the MP’s rental contract and agreed that such claims can be made.

The landlord/agent for each Scottish MP's constituency office

As you may be aware, we publish details of all claims made by MPs under the Scheme every two months. At the end of each financial year, we also publish information relating to each MP’s expenditure over the financial year. This includes the landlord of properties rented and the first part of the postcode for the property rented. You can find this information on our website at the following address: http://www.parliamentary-standards.org.uk/AnnualisedData.

The most recent available data relates to the 2014-15 financial year. Information relating to the 2015-16 financial year will be published later this year, in line with our publication policy. 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 relating to all MPs over a specific and comparable period, 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.

Tenancy agreements for constituency offices rented by Michelle Thomson MP and Natalie McGarry MP

Please find attached, at Annexes A and B, a copy of the most recent rental contract held relating to constituency office accommodation rented by Michelle Thomson MP (click to view) and Natalie McGarry MP (click to view) under the Scheme.

As noted above, information relating to MPs’ constituency offices, including the names of landlords, will be published later this year, in line with our publication policy. 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 relating to all MPs over a specific and comparable period, 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.

We have also withheld information pertaining to the location or layout of the properties under Section 38(1)(b) (Health and safety) of the FOI Act. This section of the Act states that information is exempt if its disclosure under the FOI Act would, or would be likely to, endanger the safety of any individual. After considering the nature of the withheld information it is our opinion that were a disclosure to be made into the public domain it is likely that this information could be used to endanger the safety of the individuals who rely upon these locations for accommodation. Although we recognise the public interest in transparency surrounding the publishing of this information there is also a strong public interest in ensuring that as an organisation we are able to protect our service users from threats to their safety. In our opinion the public interest in protecting the personal safety of MPs outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information.

Further, personal information, such as the names and signatures of third parties (under section 40 of the FOIA) has been withheld under section 40 of the FOIA. Section 40(2) provides that personal information about third parties is exempt information if disclosure would breach the fair processing principle (Principle 1) of the DPA, where it would be unfair to those persons or is confidential. You can find out more information about personal data and FOI via guidance from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) on their website: http://ico.org.uk.