Information relating to the increase in MPs' staffing budgets
I shall answer each of your questions in turn.
Details of how the new budget was reached are set out in the published Report on the Consultation of January – February 2011 which formed part of the review of the Scheme. The sections on staffing can be found on pages 94 – 102 of this document which is available on IPSA’s website and I enclose an extract from this at the end of this letter.
I can confirm that when considering the questions around staffing budgets, national insurance, inflation and pension contributions were all discussed and taken into consideration. Chapter 4 of the Report comments on National Insurance and Pension contributions. Information relating to the discussions on all three issues is covered in question 2 below.
You will also find on IPSA’s website copies of all submissions received during the consultation period.
You requested a range of information, some of which engages the exemptions at s.36(2)(b) (inhibit the free and frank provision of advice and exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation) and (2)(c) (prejudice to the effective conduct of public affairs) of the FOI Act. The application of these qualified exemptions requires a public interest balancing test. IPSA’s qualified person as designated by the Lord Chancellor under s.36(5)(o)(iii) of the FOI Act, Sir Scott Baker, has conducted a public interest test. He has concluded that IPSA, as a publicly-funded body, is accountable for the decisions it makes. It is important therefore that a robust, decision-making process underpins the decisions made by IPSA. Disclosure of the information may provide some insight into the deliberations that have taken place in the decision-making process. It may also assist in proving greater transparency and lead to increased public engagement in the process. For this reason, the Qualified Person is of the opinion that some of the information you request is not exempt under the Act and should be disclosed. Please, therefore, find attached two papers on staffing issues submitted to IPSA’s Board members to help inform them as they carried out their deliberations.
However, it is also in the public interest that IPSA is able to continue to function in an effective and efficient manner. In order to achieve this, officers must feel confident that they are able to engage in open and candid discussions without the fear that certain information will be disclosed. It is also essential that officers are able to provide free and frank advice on policy matters in the confidence that the information will remain private. It is the opinion of the Qualified Person that a release of certain information would have an adverse impact on future discussions and advice and also prejudice relations with external partners. Consequently there is a real likelihood that the ability of IPSA to continue to operate in an effective manner would be jeopardised.
For these reasons the Qualified Person has decided that the public interest in disclosure of certain information is outweighed by the application of the exemption. We are therefore withholding certain information, as set out below:
the recommendations in the disclosed papers;
various emails between members of IPSA’s staff and members of IPSA’s Board members; and
Minutes of the meetings of IPSA’s Board are available on our website and are therefore exempt under s.21 of the FOI Act (information accessible to applicant by other means). Certain other information is due to be published in due course and for this reason we have taken the view that the information you have requested is exempt under Section 22(1) of the FOIA (Information intended for future publication). The information in this category is data taken from IPSA’s payroll system on the number and geographical distribution of MPs’ staff, scheduled to be released in July. We have considered whether the public interest in releasing the information now outweighs the application of the exemption and have concluded that the public interest is best served by publishing this information at a set time in an accessible manner, rather than by publishing partial information at this time.
Beyond the discussions that took place in Board meetings, the minutes of which are, as stated above, available on IPSA’s website, discussions on staffing took place at regular meetings of IPSA’s policy team and at consultation meetings.
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- 25 April 2011
- IPSA - POLICYIPSA - BOARD
- Exemptions Applied:
- Section 22