Contracts and valuations for 7 Liberal Democrat MPs' constituency offices

Request

Clause 6.12 of the IPSA scheme states that:

"Where the constituency office is to be rented from a political party or constituency association ... the MP must provide a valuation of the market rate for the contract prepared by a valuer regulated by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors"

My interest is in the arrangements of the following MPs:

  • Danny Alexander

  • Menzies Campbell

  • Nick Clegg

  • Tim Farron

  • Lynne Featherstone

  • Simon Hughes

  • Charles Kennedy

For each MP please provide me with:

1: Copies of all rental contracts for their offices in respect of clause 6.12

2: Copies of all valuations from surveyors for their offices in respect of clause 6.12


Response

IPSA holds the information that you request.

Please find attached a redacted copy of the rental contract for each of the properties requested.  In some cases, the rental agreements take the form of a licence agreement or a letter stating the terms of rent, rather than a conventional lease.  In instances where the terms of the agreement have subsequently been updated from the original agreement, we have included confirmation of changes made, where we hold them. 

As you note in your request, the MPs’ Scheme of Business Costs and Expenses (‘the Scheme’) states that MPs who choose to rent their constituency office from a political party or constituency association must provide a valuation of the market rate by a RICS registered surveyor.  To account for annual inflationary increases in office rents, IPSA permits rent increases of up to 5% of the market rate valuation before an updated valuation report is required. 

We have redacted some information, such as the personal signatures of signatories, under Section 31(1)(a) (Law enforcement) of the FOI Act. This section of the Act states that information is exempt if its disclosure under the FOI Act would, or would be likely to, prejudice the prevention (or detection) or crime.

After considering the nature of the withheld information it is our opinion that were a disclosure to be made into the public domain it is probable that this information could be traced back to sensitive personal or commercial information which could be used for criminal activity. Although we recognise the public interest in transparency surrounding the publishing of invoice information there is also a strong public interest in ensuring that as an organisation we are able to protect our service users from the threat of being subjected to criminal activity, which is achieved through our capacity to withhold certain information from disclosure. It is for this reason that we have decided that the application of the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information.

We have also withheld information contained in the rental agreements relating to third parties, such as the private addresses of signatories, under Section 40(2) of the Freedom of Information Act.  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. Under the FOI Act disclosure of this information would 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. For further information, you may wish to visit the UK Legislation website.

Further, please also find attached a redacted copy of the valuation for each of the properties requested. We have redacted the clauses detailing the specific layout and arrangement of the building, as well as individuals’ signatures.  We have withheld this information under Section 31(1)(a) (Law enforcement) of the FOI Act, for the reasons outlined above.

We have also withheld information contained in the valuation relating to third parties under Section 40(2) of the Freedom of Information Act.  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. Under the FOI Act disclosure of this information would 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. For further information, you may wish to visit the UK Legislation website.

Lastly, in IPSA’s view, some information you have requested relating to valuation details of the property as a whole, or relating to third parties, is exempt under Section 43 (2) of the Freedom of Information Act which states that:

“__Information is exempt information if its disclosure under this Act would, or would be likely to, prejudice the commercial interests of any person (including the public authority holding it).”

Section 43 provides an exemption for information which is commercially sensitive.  We have considered whether the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosure and concluded that the balance is in favour of withholding the information.

Ref:
F1314-160
Disclosure:
December 12, 2013
Categories:
COPIES OF RECEIPTS/INVOICES
Exemptions Applied:
Section 31