Investigations into misconduct by MPs could be jeopardized after Commons authorities agreed to delete the attendance data of MPs, unions have warned.
Following complaints from the likes of Jacob Rees-Mogg and Mark Spencer, Clerk of the House of Commons John Benger agreed to delete the data on when MPs had been in Parliament after seven days.
The row over MPs’ data being removed arose after Rees-Mogg, a cabinet minister, tweeted about a “left-wing Freedom of Information request” which showed he had attended the Commons 159 times during 154 sitting days.
He complained and MPs were then asked by Speaker of the House Sir Lindsay Hoyle to make representations about whether the data should be deleted – and it was decided that it should be purged every week.
When Sky News asked to see the reasons why MPs did not want this data retained – where it could be available through requests for more freedom of information – the speaker refused.
Now two separate unions have raised concerns about how this could affect investigations into allegations against MPs.
Garry Graham, deputy general secretary of the Prospect union, 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 support an allegation that such an incident has occurred. on the estate.”
Jawad Raza, national officer at the FDA, which also represents civil servants, said: “The House authorities need to be more transparent about why the decision has been taken to delete MPs’ attendance data, as this information could prove vital for safety and security purposes.
“Knowing which MPs have attended the Parliamentary estate is often useful when investigating misconduct cases involving bullying or harassment of staff and actually tracking positive cases during a pandemic.”
Rees-Mogg, along with Leader of the House of Commons Mark Spencer, met Sir Lindsay before the decision was made.
Parliamentary authorities spoke to security, legal, information management, information compliance and HR advisers, plus members of the House of Commons commission.
It comes after a series of complaints in recent months and years about the behavior of MPs, including the former deputy whip scandal Chris Pincherwhich was instrumental in Boris Johnson’s downfall.
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A House of Commons spokesperson said: “The Clerk of the House, as data controller, has completed a review of the House’s data retention policy in respect of members. After considering the relevant advice and representations, the data retention policy for members has been updated so that all passport usage data will be kept for only seven days.
“The operator is satisfied that the retention of this data for the proposed period meets all our health, safety and security requirements. We cannot comment further on the details of our security or investigative processes.”