Receipts for expenses claimed by Andrew Mitchell

Request

Please publish on the IPSA website, receipts for all expenses claimed by Andrew Mitchell MP, whether refused or accepted, from when IPSA took over responsibility for paying claims. Should the time taken (and hence expense) of this request exceed the limit, please publish as many receipts as possible, whilst not exceeding the amount of time that it would take.


Response

Your request for information has been handled under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA).

You have specifically requested the following information “please publish on the IPSA website, receipts for all expenses claimed by Andrew Mitchell MP, whether refused or accepted, from when IPSA took over responsibility for paying claims. Should the time taken (and hence expense) of this request exceed the limit, please publish as many receipts as possible, whilst not exceeding the amount of time that it would take.”

IPSA releases details about MPs’ expense claims paid under the new, independent regime on IPSA’s dedicated publication website www.parliamentary-standards.org.uk as a matter of routine. The first tranche of expense claims, covering claims processed from 7 May to 31 August, were published on the 2 December 2010. 

Details of any expense claims submitted by Mr Mitchell and processed in September and October 2010 will be published on the IPSA website on Thursday 3 February 2011. Claims processed in November and December 2010 will be published on Thursday 7 April 2011. Details of any claims not paid by IPSA for Mr Mitchell will also be published on these dates. Therefore, IPSA have taken the view that the information you have requested is exempt under Section 22(1) of the FOIA (Information intended for future publication). 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 the information at set dates, rather than on a piecemeal basis, which will mean that a clear and complete set of information is published, and will also avoid causing confusion. It is for these stated reasons that the application of the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosure.

Claims made between 7 May and 14 September which were not approved for reimbursement will not be published proactively. Sir Scott Baker, the member of IPSA designated by the Lord Chancellor as the Qualified Person under s.36(5)(o)(iii) of the Freedom of Information Act, has conducted the public interest balancing exercise in relation to the engagement of the exemption at s.36(2)(c) (prejudicial to the effective conduct of public affairs) of the Act. It is his opinion that certain forms of adverse effect would or would be likely to follow from a full disclosure of the information you request.  

There is a legitimate interest in the public knowing whose claims were not approved for reimbursement and the reasons why. However, it is also very important and in the public interest that there is a satisfactory and effective working relationship between MPs and IPSA in implementing the new expenses regime. In July IPSA wrote to MPs announcing that we would not publish details of claims that were not allowed in the period between May and mid-September, in recognition of the need to give MPs time to become accustomed to the new rules and the online expenses system, unless there had been clear attempts to transgress the rules. In recognition of this need to give all parties time to adjust to the new rules and system, publication of this information would, in Sir Scott’s view, damage the working relationship between MPs and IPSA. Sir Scott has therefore concluded that there is a greater public interest in withholding this information than there is in its release. Please note that details of all claims made from 15 September onwards will be published in February and April, including those that have not been approved for reimbursement. Each claim not paid will cite a reason.

If you require further information once the data is published, please contact us to request the information.  

IPSA will not, as a matter of course, publish images of receipts or invoices supporting claims. We believe that the information we proactively publish on IPSA’s Publication website provides significant amount of detail and gives a clear picture of what MPs are claiming for and affords reassurance that claims are both appropriate for MPs to carry out their parliamentary functions, and in accordance with the rules set out in the MPs’ Expenses Scheme. 

The tables detailing information released on IPS’s publication website relating to the claims, as well as additional information contained on the invoices are at Appendix A. Please note, the telephone number and account/bill number of Mr Mitchell have been withheld as have the address details of Mr Mitchell’s constituent as they constitute personal information and therefore exempt from disclosure under Section 40 (personal information) of the FOI Act. Section 40(2) states that personal data about third parties is exempt information if one of the conditions set out in section 40(3) is satisfied. Under the FOI Act disclosure of this information would breach the fair processing principle (Principle 1) contained in the Data Protection Act (DPA),where it would be unfair to that person/is confidential. The information has been provided in the expectation that it will not be released into the public domain. To do so, would therefore be unfair and outside of both the individual’s legitimate expectations.

We have withheld the invoice numbers, BACS codes and account numbers. This information has been withheld under Section 31(1)(a) (Law enforcement) 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, prejudice the prevention (or detection) or crime. 

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 traced back to sensitive personal or commercial information which could be used for criminal activity. Although we recognise the public interest in transparency surrounding the publishing of invoice information there is also a strong public interest in ensuring that as an organisation we are able to protect our service users from the threat of being subjected to criminal activity, which is achieved through our capacity to withhold certain information from disclosure. It is for this reason that we have decided that the application of the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information.

Appendix A

Tables detailing information published on the website and additional information contained on the invoices.

Ref:
FOI107
Disclosure:
December 23, 2010
Categories:
COPIES OF RECEIPTS/INVOICES
Exemptions Applied:
Section 22