POINT OF ORDER – THEFT OF MPS' DATA – 31 March 2009

Dr Julian Lewis: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. On 1 July, I received a written answer in reply to an inquiry about the security of the redaction process to deal with the 1.3 million receipts being processed. The spokesman for the House of Commons Commission, the hon. Member for North Devon (Nick Harvey) stated

“It is ... planned that the scanning of some 1.3 million documents and first stage redaction to remove details such as addresses, telephone numbers, banking details and account numbers will be undertaken under secure conditions by a contractor familiar with providing services to Government and Parliament whose staff have been security vetted.” – [Official Report, 1 July 2008; Vol. 478, c. 742W.]

Do you agree, Mr. Speaker, that it is a very different thing when something that is going to be published later is released early in some sort of journalistic scoop and when personal information, such as home addresses, telephone numbers and bank account details, are hawked around journalists with a view to selling material in a way that would undoubtedly be both a crime of theft and a crime under data protection legislation? Is there anything you can do, Mr Speaker, to protect hon. Members against this sort of personal data being disclosed when this House has voted that it never should be disclosed?

[Mr Speaker: This House has in good faith, as the hon. Member for North Devon (Nick Harvey) pointed out, handed this work over to a contractor with security vetting, so I am deeply disappointed when any information like this has been put out. When a service is given by the House, it is obvious that security and confidentiality must be all-important. No one in that organisation, either for financial gain or any other reason, should be handing over information that has been put and safeguarded with it to do a certain job of work. I can confirm to the hon. Member that the House has started an inquiry to establish the facts relating to the release of personal documentation and to determine whether an offence has been committed. I shall of course keep the House informed whenever I can.]