Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Information Commissioner orders disclosure of MPs’ travel expenses

The ICO has released the following press release about a further case relating to MPs' travel expenses, this is adding to the emerging case law about the interaction between the Data Protection Act 1998 and the FOIA 2000 section 40 exemption. In February of this year the ICO upheld other complaints realting to requests for breakdowns of the travel expenses claimed by individual MPs.

View PDF of Decision Notice FS50071194 and Decision Notice FS50072319

The House of Commons have appealed the notice issued in February and the case will reach the Information Tribunal, 7th December 2006.

Also see Ibrahim Hasan's discussion in Open Government on the subject of personal data and the FOIA

The Information Commissioner has ordered the travel expenses of two MPs to be released by the House of Commons after ruling on four appeals under the Freedom of Information Act.

Three complainants requested a breakdown of travel claims made by Anne Picking MP (now known as Anne Moffat MP) for herself and for her spouse. A further complaint requested the number of rail warrants issued for Rt Hon. David Blunkett MP.

The House of Commons refused to release the information on the basis that it was exempt personal information and disclosure would contravene the Data Protection Act.

The Commissioner does not accept that disclosure of the requested information would contravene the Data Protection Act. His view is that the information relates to individuals acting in an official, rather than a private capacity, and that the journeys for which an MP may claim reimbursement, relate to official business. They are paid for out of public funds.

When considering the request for the travel claims of an MP’s spouse, the Commissioner finds that the information requested still arises from the MP’s position as a holder of public office. The costs incurred by an MP’s spouse - when travelling between the MP’s constituency and Westminster - can be claimed by the MP from public funds.

The Commissioner has ordered that the information be released within 35 days of the issue of his Decision Notice.

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