Investigations into wrongdoing of MPs could be jeopardized after House of Commons authorities agreed to remove MPs’ attendance records, unions warn.
Following complaints from the likes of Jacob Rees-Mogg and Mark Spencer, House of Commons Clerk John Benger agreed to delete the data on when MPs had sat in parliament after seven days.
The row over the removal of MPs’ data arose after Mr Rees-Mogg, a Cabinet minister, tweeted about a “left-wing freedom of information request” which revealed that he had visited the House of Commons 159 times in 154 session days.
He complained and MPs were then asked by the Speaker of the House Sir Lindsay Hoyle to comment on whether data should be deleted – and it was decided that it should be deleted every week.
When Sky News asked to see the reasons why MPs did not want this data kept – where access could have been gained through greater freedom of information requests – the Speaker refused.
Now, two separate unions have expressed concerns about how this could affect investigations into allegations against MPs.
Garry Graham, deputy general secretary of the union Prospect, which represents civil servants, said: “Given the growing concern about sexual misconduct by MPs involving parliamentary workers, it seems potentially unwise to destroy evidence that could make a claim about such an incident confirm. on the estate.”
Jawad Raza, a national official at the FDA, who also represents government officials, said: “Home authorities need to be more transparent about why the decision was made to remove MPs’ attendance records, as this information could be vital for security and safety purposes.
“Knowing which MPs attended parliamentary estates is often useful in investigating cases of misconduct related to bullying or harassment of staff and, indeed, tracking positive cases during a pandemic.”
Mr Rees-Mogg, along with the Leader of the House of Commons Mark Spencer, met Sir Lindsay before the decision was made.
Parliamentary authorities spoke to advisers in the areas of security, legal affairs, information management, information compliance and HR, plus members of the House of Commons committee.
It comes in response to a series of complaints in recent months and years about the behavior of MPs, including the scandal surrounding former deputy head whipping Chris Pincherwho played an important role in the downfall of Boris Johnson.
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A House of Commons spokesperson said: “The Clerk, as a data controller, has completed a review of the House’s data retention policy in relation to members. Having considered the relevant opinions and statements, has updated the Members data retention policy to ensure that all data on the pass use will only be kept for seven days.
“The Registrar is pleased that the retention of this data for the proposed period meets all of our health, safety and security requirements. We are unable to comment further on the details of our security or investigation processes.”