Documentation relating to Bob Russell MP's constituency office

Request

Information relating to Bob Russell MP's constituency office

  • a copy of any lease or sublease;

  • a copy of the recent independent valuation; and

  • a copy of the agreement for services with the constituency association or other political organisation

  • details of any payments made in relation to Bob Russell MP’s use of Magdalene Hall, Wimpole Road, Colchester, Essex


Response

IPSA is the independent body responsible for setting and administering expenses for Members of the House of Commons and we became fully operational in May 2010. As such, IPSA has set its own MPs’ Expenses Scheme, which is intended to ensure that Members of Parliament are reimbursed for costs and provision of support necessarily incurred in the performance of their parliamentary functions. The MPs’ Expenses Scheme replaces the Green Book used by the House of Commons Authorities and can be found on the IPSA website.

In the first part of your e-mail you specifically requested the following documents in relation to Mr Bob Russell MP’s constituency office based in Magdalen Hall, Wimpole Road, Colchester, Essex:

  • ‘a copy of any lease of [sic] sublease;

  • a copy of the recent independent valuation; and

  • a copy of the agreement for services with the constituency association or other political organisation’.

I can confirm that IPSA does hold a copy of the sub lease for Mr Russell’s constituency office based in Magdalen Hall, Wimpole Road, Colchester, Essex. I can also confirm that IPSA does hold a copy of a recent independent valuation of the premises. IPSA’s MPs’ Expenses Scheme does not typically require a copy of the agreement of services with a political party or association. Therefore, we do not hold this information for Mr Bob Russell MP.

IPSA regularly publishes details of all MPs’ expense claims, including claims for constituency rent, on its website. As part of the regular release of details relating to MPs’ expense claims, some of the relevant information contained within the sublease is already in the public domain. In 2010/11, for example, the information we have published shows that Mr Bob Russell MP submitted a number of claims for constituency rent to the value of £780.42 per month. This amount is supported by the sublease provided to us as supporting evidence and by the opinion of the Chartered Surveyors that provided an independent valuation of the premises.

The terms of the sublease between Mr Bob Russell MP and the landlord for the premises at Magdelen Hall, Wimpole Road, Colchester, Essex are commercially sensitive. In IPSA’s view the full disclosure of the information is therefore exempt under Section 43(2) of the FOIA (Commercial interests). The engagement of this qualified exemption requires an explanation of the competing public interest arguments surrounding its use. Arguments in favour of disclosure include transparency in the accountability of public funds, helping to ensure that MPs are getting value for money and procuring constituency offices in an open and honest way.

The competing argument that weighs in favour of withholding the requested information is that the sublease is a private document between two third parties and so to release the information could prejudice the MP’s or the landlord’s commercial interests by affecting adversely their bargaining position during any future contractual negotiations, either with each other or other parties. It is IPSA’s view that the public interest is therefore best served by the continued engagement of this exemption. However, please note that the annual rent for the premises at Magdalen Hall, Wimpole Road, Colchester, Essex can be deduced from the details released as part of IPSA’s expenses publication programme, as detailed above.

In the second part of your request, you asked for details of any payments made in relation to Bob Russell MP’s use of Magdalene Hall, Wimpole Road, Colchester, Essex since May 2010.

As mentioned above, IPSA regularly publishes details of all MPs’ expense claims, including claims for constituency rent, on its website. Every two months IPSA publishes claims processed up to three months previously. To date, we have published details of expense claims processed up to May 2011 and on 3 November we will be publishing details of expense claims made in June and July this year. If you search the database you will find details of claims processed for all MPs, including claims for constituency office rent. This information is, therefore, exempt under section 21 of the FOIA (information accessible to the applicant by other means). We have taken the view that claims in the period from June 2011 to the present are 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 an ad hoc basis, as this way a clear and complete set of information is published, which should also avoid causing confusion. It is for these stated reasons that the application of the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosure.

Ref:
FOI2011-089
Disclosure:
October 20, 2011
Categories:
COPIES OF RECEIPTS/INVOICES
Exemptions Applied:
Section 21