Northern Ireland MPs’ air travel expense claims

Request

For each of the Northern Ireland MPs, across the financial year 2017/2018:

A) How many flights from NI to London were claimed on Parliamentary expenses? (Please specify if return or one-way).

B) What was the total cost of (A) per MP?

C) How many flights per MP were: business class, standard or other classification?


Response

IPSA holds the information you requested.

Under the Scheme of MPs’ Business Costs and Expenses (‘the Scheme’), the costs of travel made in support of the MP’s parliamentary functions can be reimbursed. Where MPs have caring responsibilities, they may claim for journeys by their dependants between their constituency and London. MPs’ dependants must be registered with IPSA before travel can be claimed for them. For journeys by public transport, MPs may buy a ticket of any class but reimbursement will be limited to the rate of an economy class ticket available at the time of booking. In the case of air travel, ‘economy’ includes ‘flexible economy’.

In accordance with our Publication Policy, IPSA will not publish any information which we deem may pose a risk to MPs’ security.

For Northern Ireland MPs, we will normally only publish an aggregated total of their travel expense claims for each financial year, broken down by expense type. This information is published on our website.

We consider the information under A and C of your request to be exempt from disclosure in accordance with s.38 (Health and Safety). Further information on the application of this exemption can be found below.

Exceptions

Section 38 – Health and Safety

Section 38(1) states information is exempt information if its disclosure under this act would, or would be likely to:

(a) endanger the physical or mental health of any individual, or

(b) endanger the safety of any individual

In accordance with section 38 of the FOIA, we withheld information about the number of flights undertaken by each MP in Northern Ireland, and the associated information related to the class of each flight. Section 38 states that information is exempt if its disclosure under the FOI Act would, or would be likely to, endanger the safety of any individual.

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 likely that this information could be used to endanger the safety of the individuals who may regularly travel by air between their constituency in Northern Ireland and London. This is because disclosure of information at this level of granularity could assist those with ill intent to build a picture of a specific MP’s travel pattern, thereby enabling them to carry out harm.

Factors favouring disclosure of the requested information

Disclosure of the requested information would lead to better informed public awareness and debate.

Factors favouring withholding the requested information

To disclose this information would endanger the health and safety of MPs, their staff or families by affording terrorists or those with criminal intent the ability to better understand the regularity of certain MPs’ travel, which by itself or with other publicly availably information could assist them better plan and successfully carry out attacks.

Evidence of Harm – Section 38

Any information identifying the regularity of Northern Ireland MPs’ travel could be used to the advantage of terrorists and/or criminal organisations. The disclosure of the requested information could lead to attacks being carried out against MPs, their staff or families, and could involve criminal acts which would threaten their health and safety.

This concludes our response to your request.

Ref:
CAS-141314
Disclosure:
May 29, 2019
Categories:
Exemptions Applied: