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Palace of Westminster complaints (2015)

Request

Copies of all complaints made to the Department of Facilities relating to problems with the interior/exterior fabric of the Palace of Westminster during 2014? This includes all issues related to maintenance e.g. loose stonework, a broken light etc.

 

 

Response

Please note that although the House of Commons and the House of Lords are separate public authorities under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA), the maintenance of the Palace of Westminster on the Parliamentary Estate is a bicameral service and our answer covers both Houses.

Requests, complaints and notifications relating to building and maintenance issues received by the Facilities helpdesk, by phone or email, are logged on a computerised system which then provides the facility to track and complete each task. For information, requests are not categorised by whether the requestor is a Member, a member of staff or any other occupant of the Estate.

There are around 40,000 repairs or maintenance activities carried out on the whole of the Parliamentary Estate each year. These are logged alongside requests for other services relating to the Palace such as porterage and cleaning requests. It would not be possible to determine with certainty how many of these requests represented relevant complaints without individually examining each record.

Most non-project repair requests are initially logged on a database which is possible to search using keywords. If an activity has been reported as a ‘complaint’ it has been possible to search for entries containing this word. In addition, it is possible that numerous staff in the Department of Facilities may receive emails, letters or verbal complaints or notification of issues which were not sent directly to the Facilities helpdesk. In a high proportion of cases, these incidences would then be logged on the system as previously described. As a Department of approximately 600 staff, it is not possible to identify which complaints and issues sent to staff have also been logged on the Facilities helpdesk system, or which have been addressed in some other way.

For these reasons, to fully comply with your request we would have to manually locate and review each entry to ascertain if it could be categorised as a ‘complaint’. We estimate that the cost of complying with your request would exceed the appropriate limit of £600. The appropriate limit has been specified in regulations and for the House of Commons is set at £600. This represents the estimated cost of one person spending 3½ working days in determining whether the House holds the information, and locating, retrieving and extracting the information. Under Section 12 of the Freedom of Information Act the House is not obliged to comply with your request.

You may wish to consider narrowing the scope of your request to a smaller date range, or suggest further specific keywords for which we could search our database. Please note that, depending on the scope of any further request, exemptions or refusals under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 may apply. Please note that this may not represent every relevant job in this batch, however to identify every possible job it would require review of all call logs, encountering the cost limit referred to above.

To be helpful, we have supplied you with as much relevant information as possible on the spreadsheet by using a search of the database under the key-words ‘complain’, ‘complains’, and ‘complaint’. Please note that complaints and requests may be logged under numerous key-words or may have been electronically archived, so we cannot guarantee the information on the spreadsheet is a full list of all complaints.

We have also supplied you with as much relevant information as possible by searching the emails and correspondence of several senior managers who may receive emails or letters which were not sent directly to the Facilities helpdesk (although these issues may have subsequently been logged on the case management system). We have also searched these for relevant emails using the keyword ‘complaint’. One letter relevant to your request (pdf 1.4MB) (pdf 1.4MB) has been located.

Names and telephone numbers of individuals have been redacted from the data provided. This information is exempt by virtue of section 40 (2) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the exemption for personal information), as disclosure of this information to the public generally, in the House’s view, would not be consistent with data protection principles in the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA). This is an absolute exemption and the public interest test does not apply.

We have also redacted details of office locations of staff and Members from the data provided. The House considers that releasing this information would be likely to prejudice the prevention or detection of crime and apprehension and prosecution of offenders. The information is therefore exempt by virtue of s.31(1)(a) and (b) of the FOIA (the exemption for law enforcement). This is a qualified or non-absolute exemption and the public interest test applies.

We have considered our obligation to assist the public in understanding how we conduct our business and the legitimate interest in the use of resources funded by the taxpayer including how money is spent on maintenance and the allocation of office space within the Parliamentary Estate. These obligations and legitimate interests are outweighed by the risk of the prejudice that arises in relation to the prevention of crime by disclosing specific locations of offices of named individuals, which would assist anyone with malicious or criminal intent towards those individuals or offices in identifying exact locations to carry out such activities. Disclosure of this information would fail in our duty to assist those services providing us with law enforcement as it would hinder their work in preventing and detecting crime and apprehending offenders. By providing information as to where individuals are most likely to be located on the Estate we would be assisting those individuals that might plan attacks against the Estate and its occupants.

Lastly, the information relating to office locations is being withheld under section 38 (1) (a) and (b) (health and safety) of the FOIA as to disclose this information would be likely to endanger the safety of individuals. This is not an absolute exemption and requires a public test to be performed.

We have considered our obligation to assist the public in understanding how we conduct our business by operating in an open and accountable manner and in understanding that cleaning and maintenance on the Parliamentary Estate is carried out effectively. These legitimate interests are outweighed by the risk of prejudice that might arise in relation to the health and safety of the individuals in the specific offices named. By disclosing the office locations of these individuals we would make it easier for them to be located within the Parliamentary Estate by anyone planning to cause harm to their health and safety. The information would make it easier to target their offices in criminal attacks designed to harm their and others health and safety. In these circumstances it is our view that the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information.