MPs' mortgage interest valuation reports
IPSA holds the information that you request.
We wrote to you again in December explaining that our reply would be delayed. We have now conducted a careful examination of the information we hold and have also sought further advice on any potential release or publication.
As a result, there has been a delay in providing you with a response, for which we apologise.
In relation to all parts of your request, we first considered whether an exemption under Section 40 of the Freedom of Information Act (personal data) applies.
Section 40(2) FOIA provides that
(2) Any information to which a request for information relates is also exempt information if—
(a) it constitutes personal data which do not fall within subsection (1), and
(b) either the first or the second condition below is satisfied.
(3) The first condition is—
(a) in a case where the information falls within any of paragraphs (a) to (d) of the definition of “data” in section 1(1) of the Data Protection Act 1998, that the disclosure of the information to a member of the public otherwise than under this Act would contravene—
(i) any of the data protection principles, or
(ii) section 10 of that Act (right to prevent processing likely to cause damage or distress), and
(b) in any other case, that the disclosure of the information to a member of the public otherwise than under this Act would contravene any of the data protection principles if the exemptions in section 33A(1) of the Data Protection Act 1998 (which relate to manual data held by public authorities) were disregarded.
It has been therefore necessary to consider whether the disclosure of the requested information would breach the First Data Protection Principle of the DPA. This provides that
Personal data shall be processed fairly and lawfully and, in particular, shall not be processed unless—
(a) at least one of the conditions in Schedule 2 is met, and
(b) in the case of sensitive personal data, at least one of the conditions in Schedule 3 is also met.
We have also considered, in relation to the engagement of Section 40(2), whether:
the public interest is already served by the information IPSA already intends to release in relation to mortgage interest subsidy;
the release of the personal information requested would add any value to the information to be released
We considered the above first in relation to the valuation reports and values (or sale values) of the properties and have concluded that the information constitutes personal data and is therefore exempt under section 40(2) (personal information) of the FOIA.
We have concluded that the valuation report and the value (or sale value) of the property – which is owned by the Member of Parliament, notwithstanding that the interest element of the mortgage may have been partially or wholly funded by the taxpayer for a period – constitutes personal data. Disclosure of this personal data would therefore breach the fair processing principle (Principle 1) of the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA), where it would be unfair to those persons or is confidential. Further information on the DPA can be found via this link to the UK legislation website.
We have considered the public interest and concluded that while there is a clear public interest in knowing i) that a Member of Parliament has been in receipt of mortgage interest, ii) the level of that mortgage interest iii) the capital gain due to be repaid and the method by which that repayment has been calculated, this does not extend to knowing the actual value of the property or the details of the valuation report. The same considerations apply to the sale value of the property.
In relation to the names of the surveyors who provided the valuation reports, we can confirm that it is already IPSA’s intention to publish this information as part of the publication of information relating to mortgage interest subsidy and capital gains repayments, following the end of the transitional period for payment of the subsidy. This information is due to be published on 21 March 2013.
Section 22(1) of the FOIA states that information intended for future publication is exempt from release.
We have considered whether the public interest in releasing the information outweighs the application of the exemption, and have concluded that it is reasonable to withhold the information prior to publication on the grounds that work is already underway to ensure that the information is complete and accurate with a view to publication as soon as practicably possible.
The guidance from the Information Commissioner’s Office states that the public interest is harmed where publication is far in the future or if there is no firm indication of the likely date of publication. In this instance, as stated above, IPSA is planning to publish the information in March.
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- February 15, 2013
- MORTGAGE INTEREST
- Exemptions Applied:
- Section 22