Board papers relating to MPs' staffing issues

Request

I understand from the minutes of IPSA Board meetings that a number of papers relating to staffing have been discussed. I would be grateful if copies of these could be forwarded to me. I understand the papers are as follows:

  • Papers on staffing from the 21 June 2011 Board meeting.

  • Paper: IPSA/170511/5 – Staffing review – Note of Board brainstorm, from 17 May 2011

  • Paper: Papers: IPSA/190411/1A, 1B: Minutes; Ongoing Actions, from 19 April 2011

  • Copies of all documents, papers and minutes relating to the scoping meeting held on 11 May 2011

  • Paper: Paper: IPSA/220311/2-3; annexes A – B, from 22 March 2011

  • Paper:  Paper: IPSA/220211/2.0-2.1; annexes A – M, from 22 February 2011

In addition, I would also like a copy of: Paper: IPSA/170511/6 – Communications update from 17 May 2011


Response

I can confirm that IPSA holds the information you have requested.

We wrote to you on 8 August and 6 September advising you of an extension to the deadline, in order to enable Sir Scott Baker, the Qualified Person as designated by the Lord Chancellor under s.36(5)(o)(iii) of the FOIA, to assess whether the public interest in withholding the information contained in some of the requested documents outweighs the public interest in disclosure in relation to the s.36 exemption.

Sir Scott has conducted the public interest balancing exercise in relation to the engagement of the exemption at s.36(2)(b)(i) (likely to inhibit the free and frank provision of advice) and (ii) (likely to inhibit the free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation) of the Act. In doing so, Sir Scott considered the Board papers requested and the arguments for and against applying s.36 for specific papers.

Sir Scott considered that the presumption of Freedom of Information legislation is that information should be released on request; that although some exemptions, most notably s.40 (personal information), would apply to some of the details contained within the papers, much of the requested information is of a routine nature; is of less sensitivity, in some cases, given the time that has lapsed; and that the information had been extracted within the cost limit. Sir Scott also noted that IPSA’s Board has agreed, at its meeting on 21 June 2011, to release the majority of Board papers according to a six-month release schedule. This process will begin in October for papers considered by the Board at their April 2011 meeting.

However, Sir Scott also considered whether releasing such details of the advice contained within the following papers: IPSA/170511/5 – Staffing Review - Note of Board Brainstorm; Email dated 6 May 2011 and IPSA/170511/6 – Communications update, could inhibit the free and frank provision of advice and exchange of views. These papers have been written with the intention of inviting a free-flowing and wide-ranging exploration of staffing and communications issues and the publication of them may make Board members and/or IPSA officials less likely to engage in such wide-ranging debate in future, affecting directly the quality of debate and advice that helps inform decisions on key policy issues.

In balancing the arguments, Sir Scott has commented as follows:

“In my view, there is no justification for applying Section 36 to the Staffing Brainstorm papers. MPs’ staff are the largest element of IPSA’s expenditure and the public has a real interest in understanding IPSA’s approach.”

“Section 36 should be applied to the communications paper because disclosure would be likely to impede the free and frank provision of advice from the communications office. Disclosure of the paper would [also] impair IPSA’s relationship with some MPs and thus be likely to prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs.”

Sir Scott has therefore, in his capacity as the Qualified Person, applied s.36(2)(b)and (c) of the FOIA to exempt the release of IPSA/170511/5 – Communications Update.

IPSA will therefore be releasing the following documents with this letter:

Paper reference numberTitle of PaperBoard meeting
IPSA/210611/7Staffing Review Board paper21 June 2011
IPSA/170511/5Staffing review – Note of Board Brainstorm11 May 2011
IPSA/190411/1BOngoing Actions19 July 2011
IPSA/220311/2Covering note22 March 2011
IPSA/220311/3Third Edition of the MPs’ Expenses Scheme Covering note22 March 2011
IPSA/220311/3Annex B – Staffing Budgets (Please note that this paper is the same as Annex E contained within IPSA/220211/2.1)22 March 2011
IPSA/220211/2.0Covering note for papers 3-522 February 2011
IPSA/220211/2.1 + Annexes A-MMPs’ Expenses Scheme Review22 February 2011
Copies of all documents, papers and minutes relating to the scoping meeting held on 11 May 2011E-mail dated 6 May 2011; (Please also see paper IPSA/170511/5 – Staffing review – Note of Board Brainstorm above for the meeting note)

Please note that the data contained in IPSA/220211/2.1 Annex M an early version, which was later corrected and published as part of the Annual Review of the MPs’ Expenses Scheme, 2010-11. The link can be found below.

Please also note that dates on some of the papers have been redacted to avoid confusion because these dates were automatically updated by Word when opened for redaction. Please refer to the reference numbers contained within the title of the documents or at the top of the page, for the original date of the paper.

The names of junior officials, consultation respondents, email addresses and telephone extension numbers have been withheld under section 40 (personal information) of the FOI Act as the information constitutes third party data. Section 40(2) provides that personal data about third parties is exempt information if one of the conditions set out in section 40(3) is satisfied. (Please see http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2000/36/contents). Under the FOI Act disclosure of this information would breach the fair processing principle contained in the Data Protection Act (DPA), where it would be unfair to those persons or is confidential.

You also requested IPSA/190411/1A – Minutes of the 22 March 2011 meeting and IPSA/220311/3 – Annex A - Annual Review of the MPs’ Expenses Scheme, 2010-11. These two documents can be found on the IPSA website at the following links:

IPSA/190411/1A – Minutes of the 22 March 2011 meeting

Annual Review of the MPs’ Expenses Scheme, 2010-11

Ref:
FOI2011-075
Disclosure:
October 31, 2011
Categories:
IPSA - BOARD
Exemptions Applied:
Section 21