Jacqui Smith - Standards and Privileges Committee Contents


Thank you for your letter dated 22 April 2009 regarding help you seek for your enquiries relating to Rt. Hon. Jacqui Smith MP and her claims against the House of Commons Additional Costs Allowance in respect of identifying her London residence as her main home.

This request raises some important issues and needs careful consideration. In considering your request I have taken into account Data Protection and Freedom of Information issues as well as the interrelationship between the privacy and security of the person protected. It is further complicated by the fact that the data has been created primarily for an accounting purpose for other reasons and is not in a format to immediately produce the answers you seek.

Before replying we have consulted with West Mercia Police who share our views.

Dealing with these issues in turn, the privacy versus security concerns could cause principals, where risk decrees that they need to be protected, to understandably reconsider their position over concerns of a breach of privacy if material were to be released. This could cause significant problems around future protection arrangements.

Regarding Freedom of Information, the MPS regularly receives FOIA requests to reveal details of protection provided to individuals. The MPS and ACPO's position has been to use a neither confirm or deny response with exemptions applied under National Security, Law Enforcement and Health and Safety. I am concerned that supplying the details requested could undermine that position when considering future FOIA requests. Security arrangements are a serious and ongoing concern.

The next issue is Data Protection. I am advised by our legal department that details of the whereabouts/movements/timings of the Home Secretary amount to "Personal Data" within the meaning of the Data Protection Act and that such information should only be released with the express and clear written consent of the subject. Otherwise there is a clear danger of the MPS breaching the Data Protection Act.

Whilst I am keen to provide appropriate assistance, having taken all these issues into account my view is I am not in a position to release the information requested upon the basis of considerations as they pertain at this time. Should the position change I would be content to reconsider that view.

I trust this letter will be treated in confidence unless you advise me otherwise.

30 April 2009

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