Information relating to claims totaling over £65,000 to one organisation for research services

Request

You requested information or invoices relating to claims totalling over £65,000 to one organisation for research services in the four-year period of the ‘Professional Services assurance Review’, and claims totalling more than £100,000 since 2012, specifically:

  1. The full name of the MP that made claims totalling over £65,000 to one organisation for research services.

  2. The name of the organisation, as well as the full names of those that provided those research services to the MP.

  3. Copies of the invoices as referred to in the passage above.

  4. All correspondence and communications between IPSA and the MP in reference to the claims, including minutes and notes taken during the meeting held between IPSA, the MP and the representative of the professional service provider.


Response

IPSA holds some of the information that you have requested.

1. The name of the MP submitting the claims

The claims were submitted by Mr Philip Davies.

2. The name of the organisation, as well as the full names of those that provided those research services to the MP.

The organisation providing the research services is the Big Ben Partnership. IPSA does not hold details of the individuals carrying out the research services.

3. Copies of the relevant invoices.

Copies of the eleven invoices you have been provided in the attached PDF. Please note that we have redacted some information from those receipts in accordance with section 31 (Law enforcement).

Section 31 – Law Enforcement

Information relating to:

  • Invoice numbers

  • Bank account details

This information has been withheld under section 31(1)(a) (Law enforcement) of the FOIA.

This section of the Act states that information is exempt if its disclosure under the FOIA 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 information relating to MPs’ expenses, there is also a strong public interest in ensuring that we are able to protect our service users from the threat of being subjected to criminal activity.

In our opinion the public interest in protecting against fraud outweighs the public interest in disclosure.

4. Correspondence and communications between IPSA and the MP in reference to the claims, including minutes and notes taken during the meeting

IPSA has two letters relating to the claims, copies of which have been attached as PDFs. Personal data about third parties has been redacted.

IPSA does not hold any minutes or notes of the meeting.

Section 40 –Personal data

Some of the information in the correspondence relates to third parties and are ‘personal data’ as defined by data protection law. As such, we are unable to disclose this information.

Section 40(2) of the FOIA provides that personal information about third parties is exempt information if disclosure would breach the fair processing principle, Article 5(10(a) of the General Data Protection Regulation, where it would be unfair to those persons or is confidential.

We do not consider it within the reasonable expectations of the individuals concerned that their details would be disclosed. As such, we do not consider that disclosure of personal information relating to members of staff 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.

You can find out more information about personal data and the FOIA from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) on their website.

Section 43 –Commercial interests

Under section 43(2) of the FOIA, we have withheld information in the correspondence which would reveal business information about supplier, as disclosure of this information would be likely to prejudice the commercial interests of the supplier. Section 43 of the FOIA provides an exemption for information which is commercially sensitive, where disclosure would, or would be likely to, prejudice the commercial interests of any person (including the public authority holding it).In considering this exemption, we have balanced the competing public interest arguments for and against disclosure.

IPSA believes in transparency, and publishes details of all claims made by MPs on our publication website. In this instance, we believe that the public interest in assuring the public has already been fulfilled by:

  1. the active publication of amounts paid to the supplier on a monthly basis on our publication website;

  2. provision of redacted copies of invoices and correspondence provide the information requested

As such, we do not consider that the public interest in disclosure outweighs the application of the exemption and we are therefore applying the exemption at Section 43 (2) of the FOIA to withhold the information requested.

This concludes our response to your request.

Ref:
CAS-154874
Disclosure:
December 6, 2019
Categories:
COPIES OF RECEIPTS/INVOICESMPs' OFFICE COSTS
Exemptions Applied:
Section 31, Section 40, Section 43