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Members expenses - destruction (2015)

Request

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  • The decision making process that led to the authorisation of the destruction of Papers/Documents regarding MPs expenses and explain to me what made you destroy them?
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  • Could you also state which officials and offices were involved at each stage?
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  • Also what the destroyed documents actually documented.
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Response

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  • Could you please detail the decision making process that led to the authorisation of the destruction of Papers/Documents regarding MPs expenses and explain to me what made you destroy them?
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The Houses of Parliament dispose of records to an agreed schedule which ensures that we abide by various statutes and guidance as well as demonstrating best practice of the management of our documentation.  This schedule is called the Authorised Records Disposal Practice and is publicly available for inspection on our website.

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For Members’ expenses data, the retention period of three years plus current year was determined by the House of Commons Commission in 2002 following consultation with the National Audit Office and the Inland Revenue (now HMRC).  Once this was agreed, it was incorporated into the ARDP in 2004, long before any inquiries into Members’ allowances began.

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It may also help you to know that all disposal of expenses data was suspended in 2010 when the decision to retain records for longer was made, to assist on going inquiries.  This suspension was only lifted in 2012 after sufficient time had elapsed for further inquiries and the House of Commons had no further business need to hold the information.

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  • Could you also state which officials and offices were involved at each stage?
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As stated above, the House of Commons Commission agreed the original retention period.  The ARDP is managed by the Information & Records Management Team, who are part of the Parliamentary Archives based in the House of Lords.

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In accordance with our ARDP, the House ensures records disposal occurs on an annual basis.  Each department of the House is responsible for ensuring their records are destroyed when appropriate by identifying them from records.  For Members’ expenses a destruction list would have been compiled by administrative staff and authorised by the appropriate Head of Department.

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  • Also what the destroyed documents actually documented?
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Up until May 2010, the House of Commons held documentation which included receipts, claims, letters and emails which were submitted by Members for payment as part of their agreed expenses and allowances, according to the Members’ Expenses Scheme.

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These documents, numbering millions, were redacted for personal data (such as Members’ bank details or spouse names) and published online.

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The original unredacted hard copies of these documents have been destroyed, in accordance with the ARDP.

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After May 2010, the responsibility for Members’ expenses transferred to IPSA, so no further information is held by the House of Commons.