Room hiring (2014)

Request

In December last year, 15 rooms in the Palace of Westminster became available for private hire by members of the public. These include the Macmillan Room and Attlee Suite (Portcullis House,) the members’ dining room, Jubilee Room, the Pugin Room and Moncrieff’s. Of these 15, I wish to know the following:

  1. How many times have any of those rooms been hired for private functions by members of the public?
    For each hiring, please detail the date, which rooms were hired, the cost and the reason for the event, e.g. wedding, christening, party.
  2. During the same period of time (since December 2013), how many times have any of those 15 rooms been hired by members of parliament?
    For each of these hirings, please detail the date, which rooms were hired, the cost to the member and the reason for the event, e.g. wedding, christening, party. If the MP was sponsoring an event held by an external organisation, please include the name of the organisation.

 

Response

  1. How many times have any of those rooms been hired for private functions by members of the public?
    The rooms made available for private hire have been booked 65 times since December 2013 (CSV CSV 4 KB). For individual rooms, statistics can be created using the data in the attached spreadsheet.  Some bookings made use of more than one room. For those events, all rooms booked are listed under ‘venue’.
    For each hiring, please detail the date, which rooms were hired, the cost and the reason for the event, e.g. wedding, christening, party.
    Details of all bookings, including the total revenue received from these events are included in the attached spreadsheet. 
    Further information on the cost of hiring rooms is available (PDF PDF 307 KB).
  2. During the same period of time (since December 2013), how many times have any of those 15 rooms been hired by Members of Parliament?
    For each of these hirings, please detail the date, which rooms were hired, the cost to the Member and the reason for the event, e.g. wedding, christening, party. If the MP was sponsoring an event held by an external organisation, please include the name of the organisation.
    All events, including any booked for private hire and paid for by Members of Parliament, are included in the spreadsheet.  Rooms booked for private functions are outside of the scope of a Member of Parliament’s parliamentary duties.  Therefore any Member making such a booking is afforded the same right to privacy as members of the public. 
    Information about MPs booking private functions 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. 
    MP sponsored events in facilities within the Palace of Westminster to 31 July 2014 are a separate matter and details are already publicly available.
    This data is published annually in October. Information about MP sponsored events for 1 August 2014 onwards is withheld under section 22 (intended for future publication) of the Act as it is scheduled for publication in October 2015. Section 22 is a qualified exemption, and accordingly we have to consider whether the public interest is in withholding the information or in disclosing it. The arguments for and against disclosure are detailed below. The general argument in favour of releasing information is that there is a public interest in being able to scrutinise aspects of the House of Commons including usage of the Parliamentary Estate where Members have sponsored events for outside organisations which then make use of taxpayer funded facilities. There is a strong argument in favour of disclosure where that information might be easy to access and will not prejudice the House.
    Against disclosure the argument is the public interest in permitting public authorities to publish information in a manner and form and at a time of their own choosing.  It is a part of the effective conduct of public affairs that the general publication of information is a conveniently planned and managed activity within the reasonable control of public authorities.  A routine and managed publication process significantly reduces the cost of staff time to the taxpayer.   Where the decision has been made in principle to publish, there is a reasonable entitlement to make arrangements to do so.  In these circumstances and owing to the ongoing publication process for this information we consider the public interest in withholding the information at this time outweighs the public interest in disclosure.