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Covid-19 (2020)

Request

  1. A copy of emails/notices sent to Members of both houses in respect of covid-19
  2. What advice has the speakers office been provided on a possibility of the closure of parliament

 

Response

  1. Please provide a copy of emails/notices sent to Members of both Houses in respect of covid-19.
    Please note initially, that the House of Commons and the House of Lords are separate public authorities for the purposes of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA). We can only provide information held by the House of Commons to respond to requests. In this instance, whilst information held by other Houses may overlap, we will not be able to provide emails or notices sent specifically to Peers in the House of Lords and you may be able to obtain this information from the House of Lords' Information Compliance Team .
    Information relating to Members of the House of Commons is held by the House.
    The House holds two emails and the content of a series of intranet news items sent and available to Members of the House of Commons:
    Email 1
    Email 2
    News items
    Please note that some contact details for a service made available to Members of Parliament during the Covid-19 pandemic have been redacted from the intranet content attached above. This information is being withheld on the basis that its disclosure to the public generally would be likely to endanger the physical or mental health and safety of Members of Parliament. We have therefore concluded that the information requested is exempt information as provided by section 38(1) (a) and (b) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA). This exemption is qualified by the public interest test.
    We have considered the public interest the disclosure of this information. There is a public interest that the House should operate in a transparent and accountable manner. There is a legitimate interest to the public generally that Members of Parliament, many of whom are undertaking work critical to the UK's response to Covid-19, are being afforded adequate protection from infection and the dangers they face from to virus' symptoms. Any information relating to advice and guidance made available to Members could impact their ability to perform their obligations as public officials and the advice they may pass on to constituents.
    However, there is a countervailing public interest that the health and safety of those who work in or visit the House should be protected. Disclosing the full contact details for this service which is reserved for use by a limited number of people risks attracting many more people to attempt to use these details. This use could outstrip the capacity of the service and prevent them from being able to receive of effectively respond to communication from the intended audience. Preventing Members of either House and their staff from receiving this information poses a direct risk to their physical health and safety in protecting themselves from Covid-19. This also increases the risk to all those working in Parliament around them and anyone they may share contact away from the parliamentary estate. Further, Members and their staff who are not able to access this advice may provide limited or inaccurate information to constituents, thereby increasing their risk of contracting or transmitting Covid-19. In turn, the disclosure of the information you seek would prejudice our ability to protect the direct and critical health and safety of Members, Peers and their respective staff as well as, indirectly, all others on the parliamentary estate, Members' & Peers' families, concerned constituents and, given the levels of infection from Covid-19, potentially many more people. In all the circumstances of the case it is our view that the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information.
  2. What advice has the Speakers office been provided on a possibility of the closure of parliament?
    This information is not held by the House of Commons. At the time of your request, no advice has been given to the Speaker's Office on the closure of Parliament.