Details of Dr Paul Williams MP’s accommodation and dependents’ travel expense claims

Request

Please can you advise me on the details and circumstances of MP Paul Williams's dependent rail travel on 7 April, 8 October and 5 June 2018?  For example who this was, why public money was being used, why were they travelling to London that required use of public funds and what checks to ipsa put in place to ensure this use of public money is appropriate? Please can you also supply details of what accommodation is being rented and costing £2166.66 each month claimed by Paul Williams MP. This is public money so presumably you have to keep and provide receipts for the costs that are being claimed?


Response

IPSA holds the information you have requested.

I will take each of your questions in turn:

Please can you advise me on the details and circumstances of MP Paul Williams's dependent rail travel on 7 April, 8 October and 5 June 2018?  For example who this was, why public money was being used, why were they travelling to London that required use of public funds and what checks to ipsa put in place to ensure this use of public money is appropriate?

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.

Because of the volume of information, we undertake a risk-based approach to validation and assurance of all expense claims.  Post-payment checks are undertaken on a regular basis to identify any paid claims which are ineligible or for which insufficient evidence has been provided. If any such claim is identified, the MP will be asked to either provide the evidence or repay the claim.

Further information on how we assure expense claims is available on our website.

IPSA guidance on how we validate claims is available on our website.

We are unable to disclose the names of Dr Williams’ dependants as we believe this information to be exempt from disclosure under s.40 FOIA (Personal Information). Further information on the application of this exemption is available below.

Please can you also supply details of what accommodation is being rented and costing £2166.66 each month claimed by Paul Williams MP.  This is public money so presumably you have to keep and provide receipts for the costs that are being claimed?

Under the Scheme of MPs’ Business Costs and Expenses (‘the Scheme’), an accommodation costs budget is provided to meet costs necessarily incurred by MPs as a result of working from two permanent locations.

In accordance with paragraph 4.6 of the Scheme, MPs may only claim for accommodation costs in relation to one property at a time.  In this regard, non-London MPs may claim for accommodation costs which may be either:

  1. in the London Area, or

  2. within the MP’s constituency, or within 20 miles of any point on the constituency boundary.

For MPs who rent in the London Area, the annual accommodation budget is £22,920. For MPs who rent outside the London Area, the budget is £16,010. This budget is intended to cover the costs of rental payments and associated costs. Alternatively, MPs may choose hotel accommodation instead, in which case there is no cap on the budget.IPSA is able to make payments directly to MPs’ landlords for accommodation and constituency office rent, once MPs have submitted their rental agreement to IPSA.

I can confirm that Dr Williams has submitted such an agreement for a property he rents in London, and for which IPSA pays his accommodation costs. In accordance with our current policy, for security reasons, we will not disclose the exact location of MPs’ accommodation in accordance with s.38 FOIA (Health and safety). Further information on the application of this exemption is available below.

For further information, the full rules regarding accommodation costs (including IPSA’s requirements and the process for registering a property) can be found at Chapter Four of the Scheme.

Exemptions applied

Section 38 – Health and safety

IPSA will not disclose information which could be used to identify the location of an MP’s property, the disclosure of which would be likely to endanger the safety of the MPs concerned, or their families. This includes:

  • the address of the property;

  • the name of the landlord of the property;

  • the address of the landlord;

  • the name and address of the letting agent; and

  • any information pertaining to the layout of the property.

Section 38(1)(b) (Health and safety) of the FOI Act states that information is exempt if its disclosure under the FOI Act would, or would be likely to, endanger the safety of any individual. As required under the terms of the FOIA, we have conducted a public interest test with regards this exemption. 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 rely upon these locations for accommodation.

Although we recognise the public interest in transparency surrounding the publishing of this information there is also a strong public interest in ensuring that as an organisation we are able to protect MPs, their families and staff from threats to their safety, which is achieved through our capacity to withhold certain information from disclosure. This is also in line with our stated publication policy. It is for this reason that we have decided that the application of the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information.

Section 40 – Personal information

Information relating to an identified or identifiable natural person is ‘personal data’, as defined by the General Data Protection Principle (GDPR).

Section 40(2) of the FOIA provides that personal information is exempt information if:

(a) it constitutes personal data; and

(b) the condition set out in s. 40(3A)(a) of FOIA is satisfied, namely that disclosure to a member of the public would contravene any of the data protection principles in the GDPR.

In our view (a) is satisfied because the information sought by you relates to an identifiable, living individual (namely an MPs’ dependents), and (b) is also satisfied because disclosure would breach the first data protection principle in Article 5(1)(a) of the GDPR, which requires that personal information is processed fairly, lawfully and in a transparent manner; processing includes disclosure. In relation to fairness, IPSA is required to process personal data in a manner in which people, including the dependents of MPs, would reasonably expect.

We do not consider it within the reasonable expectations of Dr Williams’ dependants that their identities would be disclosed in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.

As such, we do not consider that disclosure of the names of Dr Williams’ dependants would be fair, and are obliged to withhold it from disclosure under section 40(2) of the FOIA.

This part of the section 40 exemption is an absolute exemption and so no consideration of public interest arguments for and against disclosure is required.

This concludes our response to your request.

Ref:
CAS-144561
Disclosure:
July 3, 2019
Categories:
MPs' ACCOMMODATIONMPs' TRAVEL
Exemptions Applied:
Section 38, Section 40