Names of MPs staff: Internal Review Results

I received a decision notice (below) from the Commons last Thursday (hard copy arrived today) in relation to my FOIA request for the names and salary details of MPs staff. You can read my original letter to the House of Commons sent 2 January 2005. I made the request in order to abolish the needless secrecy surrounding who works for our public representatives. Despite being paid for with public money, the public actually has no way of knowing who is working for their MP.

The investigative reporter Michael Crick estimates that around 100 MPs employ family members, and while most may work very hard, some may do nothing at all. An MP’s signature is all that is needed to draw money for staff from the public purse, yet the public are not allowed to know who these people are.

I am appealing this unacceptable attempt to avoid public accountability and will be sending my complaint to the Information Commissioner this week.

What is most bizarre about the Commons’ answer is their argument that ‘Members of Parliament in their individual capacities are not public authorities subject to the 2000 Act’ .

What a ridiculous notion. Their claim that MPs staff are not public employees also holds no water as these are people paid entirely from the public purse.

The Data Protection Act states that information can be disclosed if it is fair. It is not unfair that a person working for a public representative and paid for with public funds should be accountable to the public. To hide behind the DPA in this way makes a mockery of both the DPA and the freedom of information law.

It’s also interesting to note that the Department for Constitutional Affairs (the department in charge of implementing FOI across central government) has issued guidance claiming that the FOIA does not give public authorities the power to disclose information about named individuals whether public employees or not. See in particular the sections 4.2.9 and 4.2.13. This goes against government commitments to make public the names of secondees, given in response to a successful campaign by Maurice Frankel, director of the Campaign for Freedom of Information.

The DCA guidance also contradicts the guidance on personal information issued by the Information Commissioner which clearly states information about public officials that relate to their public role should be disclosed. It seems the DCA might be trying to undermine the Information Commissioner’s stance on this topic.

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2 Responses to “Names of MPs staff: Internal Review Results”

  1. E Macaulay says:

    Less than acceptable but a possible way forward with this, may be to request the numbers of staff inc. how many are related to the MP – and associated pay scales. Even if they just released “Employee 1 not related £20,000 per annum” etc etc.

  2. Revelation says:

    Half the reason for this is that MPs often don’t pay their staff fairly or equitably and
    wouldn’t want one member of staff to know what another (often doing the same job) is earning.
    What would be really interesting would be to know the actual CVs of MPs’ staff to see how many
    of them would have been likely to achieve such employment anywhere else, and also how many
    members of MPs’ families are employed in other government and ministerial departments on the
    bais of the ‘who you know’ principle. Registers of electors/Council Tax information might also
    reveal how many MPs’ London second homes have been bought at public expense for the primary use
    of adult children working in London…..

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