Complaints by MPs about IPSA

Request

Please provide copies of all complaints received from MPs relating to Ipsa and the expenses system since the new regime was set up.

In each case, please include the name of the MP, and a copy of what they wrote.

Please also include any reports of verbal complaints that you have on record.


Response

IPSA holds the information that you request.

In responding to your request, we have considered the public interest arguments surrounding the release of complaints received from MPs relating to IPSA. 

Our qualified person, Sir Neil Butterfield, as designated by the Lord Chancellor under s.36(5)(o)(iii) of the FOIA, undertook a public interest test to assess whether the public interest in withholding the information outweighs the public interest in disclosure in relation to the s.36 exemption.

The public interest balancing exercise was conducted in relation to the engagement of the exemption at s.36(2)(c) (prejudicial to the effective conduct of public affairs) of the Act.  In doing so, our qualified person considered a Complaint Log we hold which details the names of MPs who have made formal complaints to IPSA, alongside copies of the complaints received, as requested, and the arguments for and against applying s.36.

Sir Neil considered that the presumption of Freedom of Information legislation is that information should be released on request.  It was also considered whether releasing such correspondence could impair the ability of IPSA to act as an independent regulator and could thus cause a detrimental impact on the conduct of public affairs.

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

“In reaching my conclusion I have considered the Complaint Log itself and also a sample of copies of complaints made by MPs and IPSA’s response to those complaints. I have reminded myself that there is a presumption that the information should be released on request. I have further given full weight to the public interest in understanding how decisions are reached within a public authority.

However, in my judgment release of the correspondence requested would be likely to lead to a significant breakdown of trust between IPSA and the MP whose complaint was disclosed and thence to a similar breakdown in trust between IPSA and all MPs. This would undoubtedly have a significant and adverse effect on the manner in which IPSA and MPs interact with each other and thus have a significant impact on the conduct of public affairs. There is further a significant likelihood that the release of correspondence relating to complaints between IPSA and MPs would inhibit the free and frank exchange of views between IPSA and individual MPs.

Those matters would, both individually and in combination, be likely to prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs.

For those reasons the correspondence itself should in my judgment be withheld under the exemption provided by Section 36 of the FOI.”

Sir Neil has, therefore, applied s.36(2)(c) of the Act to exempt some of the requested information from being released.  In line with our qualified person’s advice, we will not be releasing copies of the complaints received. 

Attached in Annex A is a list of 36 MPs who we have on record as making a formal complaint. 

The subjects of these complaints relate to: Budget overspend, Budgets/year end, Documentation, Payment card, Payroll, Phone opening times, Processing claims, Publication, Registrations, Responding to queries, Reviews/rejected claims, Reward & recognition, the Scheme and Simplified payments.  All of these complaints had been dealt with and closed at the date of the request.

Ref:
FOI2013-A209
Disclosure:
May 16, 2013
Categories:
IPSA - OPERATIONS
Exemptions Applied:
Section 36