Investigations into MPs’ misconduct could be jeopardized after Commons authorities agreed to delete MPs’ attendance data, unions have warned.
Following complaints from Jacob Rees-Mogg and Mark Spencer, Commons Clerk John Benger agreed to delete data on when MPs were in parliament after seven days.
The row over the deletion of MPs’ data arose after Mr Rees-Mogg, a Cabinet minister, tweeted about a ‘leftist freedom of information request’ which showed he had attended the House of Commons 159 times in 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 it should be purged weekly .
When Sky News asked to see the reasons why the deputies did not want this data to be kept – where they could have been accessed through more freedom of information requests – the President 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 growing concerns about sexual misconduct by MPs involving parliamentary workers, it seems potentially unwise to destroy evidence that could support an allegation made about such an incident on the estate.”
Jawad Raza, a national officer at the FDA, who also represents officials, said: “House authorities need to be more transparent about why the decision was made to suppress MPs’ attendance data, because this information could be vital for safety and security purposes.
“Knowing which MPs have frequented the parliamentary estate is often useful in investigating cases of misconduct involving bullying or harassment of staff and, indeed, in tracking positive cases during a pandemic.”
Mr Rees-Mogg, alongside Commons Leader Mark Spencer, met Sir Lindsay before the decision was made.
Parliamentary authorities spoke with security, legal, information management, information compliance and HR advisers, as well as members of the House of Commons Committee.
This follows a series of complaints in recent months and years about the conduct of MPs, including the scandal surrounding the former Deputy Chief Whip Chris Pincherwhich contributed to the downfall of Boris Johnson.
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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 for Members. After Having reviewed relevant advice and representations, the Data Retention Policy for Members of Parliament has been updated so that all pass usage data is retained for only seven days.
“The Registrar is satisfied that retaining this data for the proposed period meets all of our health, safety and security requirements. We cannot comment further on details of our security or investigation processes.”