Please provide copies of the research materials supplied to IPSA by the European Research Group (ERG) for the purposes of assurance reviews.
In particular, please provide the documents referred to in paragraph 100 of IPSA's assurance annual review of November 2017 -- specifically the material produced by the ERG since the general election 2017 that IPSA requested to conduct additional scrutiny in response to questions from the media and MPs.
IPSA holds the information that you have requested.
Under the terms of the Scheme of MPs’ Business Costs and Expenses (‘the Scheme’), MPs can claim the costs of payments for pooled staffing services, which provide research, briefing and drafting services to groups of MPs. There are currently five such services which are registered with IPSA:
- the Parliamentary Research Service (for Labour MPs);
- the Policy Research Unit (for Conservative MPs);
- the Scottish National Party Research Team (for SNP MPs);
- the Parliamentary Support Team (for Liberal Democrat MPs) and
- the European Research Group (ERG), which provides briefings to Conservative MPs on issues relating to the UK’s relationship with the European Union.
As part of our core regulatory function, and to assure both ourselves and the public that public funds claimed are in accordance with the Scheme, we conduct regular assurance reviews on different areas of spending, including that related to pooled staffing services. We last conducted such a review in 2016, the report of which is available on our website, during which we examined all expenditure claimed by MPs relating to such services, reviewed the governance and operations of each service and scrutinised examples of output material.
In addition, we conducted a further review of material produced by the ERG since the 2017 General Election. Whilst a small degree of party-political language was identified (which has been highlighted to the ERG), the vast majority of the material was factual, informative and not in conflict with the Scheme.
Your request for information
In processing your request for information, we have considered the application of the exemption at s.36 of the FOI Act, where disclosure of the information you requested would, or would be likely to prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs. The exemption at section 36 can only be engaged if, in the reasonable opinion of a ‘qualified person’, disclosure would result in any of the effect set out in section 36(2) of the Act.
IPSA’s qualified person, Sir Robert Owen QC, as designated by the Lord Chancellor under s.36(5)(o)(iii) of the FOIA, considered the application of the exemption. He concluded that the exemption was engaged, and the information was exempt from disclosure. His full consideration can be viewed here.