Fuel receipts and a copy of the lease for Robert Syms MP's rented London property.

Request

I should be grateful for the following information regarding the above named MP

  1. Copies of the Fuel Receipts supporting Mr Syms claims for weekly journeys in his own vehicle to and from his constituency Poole

  2. A copy of the lease relating to his rented London property, the full name and address of his landlord and the date Mr Syms took occupancy of the property at Minford Gardens


Response

You specifically requested:

  1. Copies of the Fuel Receipts supporting Mr Syms’ claims for weekly journeys in his own vehicle to and from his constituency Poole.

  2. A copy of the lease relating to his rented London property, the full name and address of his landlord and the date Mr Syms took occupancy of the property at Minford Gardens

In relation to the first part of your request, I can confirm that IPSA does not hold this information. Under section 9.2 of IPSA’s MPs’ Expenses Scheme, Third Edition, Members of Parliament may claim for Travel and Subsistence Expenditure for journeys which are necessary for the performance of their parliamentary functions, and fall into one of the categories under section 9.2, including the following:

  • Part a) for MPs who are eligible for Accommodation Expenditure, journeys between any point in the constituency (or a home or office within 20 miles of their constituency boundary) and Westminster or a London Area home; and

  • part c) travel within the constituency or within 20 miles of the constituency boundary.

When an MP submits a claim for car journeys that fall into one of the above categories, MPs are required to state the start and end points of the journey; the date of the journey; the miles travelled and MPs are then reimbursed according to the mileage rates set out under section 9.12 of the Scheme. MPs are usually reimbursed at the rate of 40p per mile for car journeys, up to the first 10,000 miles claimed. MPs are therefore not reimbursed according to their expenditure on fuel. Under section 3.2 of the Scheme it states that “In making any claim under the Scheme, an MP must certify that the expenditure was necessary for performance of their parliamentary functions, and that in incurring the expenditure they had complied with the Scheme”.

In the second part of your e-mail, you requested the rental agreement relating to Mr Robert Syms MP’s London accommodation at Minford Gardens, including the name and address of the landlord and the date Mr Syms took occupancy of the property. I can confirm that IPSA does hold this information.

IPSA regularly publishes details of all MPs’ expense claims, including claims for accommodation 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 rental agreement is already in the public domain. In 2011/12, for example, the information we have published shows that Mr Robert Syms MP submitted a number of claims for accommodation rent to the value of £1,750.00 per month. This amount is supported by the rental agreement provided to us as supporting evidence. I can also confirm that the tenancy for the premises began on 1 July 2010.

The specific terms of the rental agreement between Mr Robert Syms MP and the landlord for the premises at Minford Gardens 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 accommodation in an open and honest way.

The competing argument that weighs in favour of withholding the requested information is that the rental agreement 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 with other parties. It is IPSA’s view that the public interest is therefore best served by the engagement of this exemption. However, please note that the annual rent for the premises at Minford Gardens, London can be deduced from the details released as part of IPSA’s expenses publication programme, as detailed above.

We have also withheld information regarding name and address of the landlord 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.

Ref:
FOI2011-094
Disclosure:
November 14, 2011
Categories:
MPs' ACCOMMODATION
Exemptions Applied:
Section 40