Decision to publish aggregate totals of MPs’ expenses


FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REQUEST
Sent to the House of Commons 30 March 2009

Dear Mr Castle

Under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 I seek the following:

1) All communications related to the decision to publish on 30 March 2009 aggregate totals of MPs expenses for 2007/2008.

2) All policies and communications related to the Commons decision to publish data disclosures such as allowances and registers in pdf rather than the more user-friendly format of Excel or a non-proprietary format such as .txt or csv.

My preferred format to receive this information is by electronic means. If you need any clarification of this request please email me. If FOI requests of a similar nature have already been asked could you please include your responses to those requests.

I would be grateful if you could confirm in writing that you have received this request, and I look forward to hearing from you within the 20-working day statutory time period.

Regards,
Heather Brooke
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Response from the House of Commons received 30 April 2009

Dear Ms Brooke,
Thank you for your request for information which is copied below.
In response to your questions :

All communications related to the decision to publish on 30 March 2009 aggregate totals of MPs expenses for 2007/2008. All policies and communications related to the Commons decision (or policy) to publish data disclosures such as allowances and registers in PDF rather than in user-friendly formats such as Excel, .txt or csv.

Attached is a copy of a letter to Members about this decision dated 9 March 2008. The Members Estimate Committee is responsible for considering matters to do with the release of expenses claims of MPs. Their minutes are available at:

http://www.parliament.uk/parliamentary_committees/mec.cfm

While more detailed records of deliberations are held by the House of Commons these relate to the official proceedings of the Committee. The information is therefore exempt from the requirement to provide a copy by virtue of section 34(1) of the Act which provides and exemption to material subject to parliamentary privilege. We have concluded that providing the information to you would be an infringement of those privileges and your request is refused.

The figures to which you refer were provided as one of several links from pages providing access to various details about the allowances system. If requesters would prefer the figures in a different format, any request received would of course be considered under the provisions of the FOI Act. The Registers of Interest appear in two formats including PDF.

The number of FOIA requests rejected in the past year citing section 22 which referred to the future publication of all MPs expense claims and receipts.

In the period 1 April 2008 – 21 April 2009 the exemption for information held with the intention of future publication has been applied 122 times in cases where requests referred to the future publication of all MPs expense claims and receipts.

You may, if dissatisfied with the treatment of your request, ask the House of Commons to conduct an internal review of this decision. Requests for internal review should be addressed to: Freedom of Information Officer, Department of Resources, House of Commons London SW1 OAA or [email protected] Please ensure that you specify the nature of your complaint and any arguments or points that you wish to make.

If the decision to apply section 34 of the 2000 Act in respect of your request is upheld by review, a certificate signed by the Speaker may be issued. This certificate would provide conclusive evidence that the exemption was required for the purpose described above.

If you remain dissatisfied, you may appeal to the Information Commissioner at Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire SK9 5AF.

Yours sincerely
Bob Castle
Head of Information Rights and Information Security
House of Commons
020 7219 2032
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My request for an internal review 12 May 2009

Dear Bob,

Please note that I seek an internal review for those parts rejected in this request. I note the reliance on s34 parliamentary privilege. For such an exemption to be invoked you will know that a certificate must be signed by the Speaker. This has not been supplied. Please either forward the certificate or release the information.

Regards,
Heather Brooke

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