IPSA’s assurance review of four pooled services


For the following pooled services organisations:

  • The Parliamentary Research Service (PRS), for Labour MPs,

  • The Policy Research Unit (PRU), for Conservative MPs,

  • The Parliamentary Support Team (PST) for Liberal Democrat MPs,

  • The Scottish National Party (SNP) Research Team, for SNP MPs,

All materials produced and scrutinised by IPSA as a part of its assurance review process.


IPSA holds some of the information that you request.

Under the terms of the Scheme of MPs’ Business Costs and Expenses (‘the Scheme’), MPs can claim the costs of payments for pooled staffing services, which provide research, briefing and drafting services to groups of MPs. There are currently five such services which are registered with IPSA:

  • the Parliamentary Research Service (for Labour MPs);

  • the Policy Research Unit (for Conservative MPs);

  • the Scottish National Party Research Team (for SNP MPs);

  • the Parliamentary Support Team (for Liberal Democrat MPs) and

  • the European Research Group (ERG), which provides briefings to Conservative MPs on issues relating to the UK’s relationship with the European Union.

As part of our core regulatory function, and to assure both ourselves and the public that public funds claimed are in accordance with the Scheme, we conduct regular assurance reviews on different areas of spending, including that related to pooled staffing services.

We last conducted such a review in 2016, the report of which is available on our website, during which we examined all expenditure claimed by MPs relating to such services, reviewed the governance and operations of each service and scrutinised examples of output material. The next review is due to take place during the course of 2019-20.

The materials IPSA holds which were examined as part of this review accompany this response. Please note that we do not hold any of the SNP Research Team’s materials as we had deleted these from our systems immediately following publication of the assurance review, at their request.

We have withheld some information from these materials in accordance with s.40 FOIA (Personal Information). Further information on the application of this exemption can be found below.

Exemptions applied

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, 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, would reasonably expect.

We do not consider it within the reasonable expectations of third parties named in the materials, that their personal information would be disclosed in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, which is deemed to be disclosure to the world at large.

As such, we are obliged to withhold the information 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.

25 July 2019
Exemptions Applied:
Section 40