ICO press release: 22 January 2007
The Information Commissioner, Richard Thomas, has ordered the House of Commons to release further details of some MPs’ spending, including incidental expenses and staff costs, on the grounds that such expenses arise from their role as public representatives and are reimbursed from the public purse.Read the decision notice
The Information Commissioner has ruled that a breakdown of the total amounts claimed by some individual MPs for travel, incidental expenses, staffing, central IT provision, centrally purchased stationery and additional cost allowance should be released under the Freedom of Information Act. In the Commissioner’s view the legitimate public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the prejudice to the rights, freedom and legitimate interests of MPs.
This follows a request under freedom of information for details of spending relating to a number of MPs, including Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, Michael Howard and Charles Kennedy, during the year 2003-2004.
The travel expense information requested in this case is the most detailed travel information considered by the Information Commissioner to date. After consideration the Information Commissioner has ordered disclosure of the individual amounts claimed for 2003-2004 broken down by mode of travel under the following headings, MPs’ travel (further broken down by European and travel on parliamentary business within the UK), family and staff’s official business travel and summary details of the number and cost of individual journeys.
In making his decision the Information Commissioner considered whether the information requested related to individuals acting in an official rather than a private capacity. In the Information Commissioner’s view if individual MPs had not been elected to carry out their role as public representatives they would not be entitled to claim the related expenses. However the Information Commissioner fully accepts that MPs are entitled to a degree of privacy and are entitled to expect that personal information about their private lives will be appropriately protected from disclosure.
The Information Commissioner ruled that it would be unfair to disclose the specific sums paid to named staff members during the year covered by the request. The Information Commissioner believes that releasing the total staffing costs broken down by month for the year requested and the number of staff this pertains to each month would not be unfair.