All current Members of Parliament are issued with a pass to the Parliamentary Estate. Information on the names of current Members is already available to you in the public domain via the MPs, Lords and Offices pages of the Parliamentary Website.
Details of All-Party Groups, Journalists and Members’ Secretaries and Research Assistants are also already available in the public domain and can be found via the Publications and Records pages of the Parliamentary Website.
Members may apply for passes for their secretaries and research assistants (provided that they genuinely and personally provide parliamentary secretarial or research assistance to the sponsoring Member). Members are also entitled to a pass for their spouse/civil partner.
APGs are allowed passes where the pass holder will be “employed wholly or primarily within an All Party Group”. The pass is sponsored by the Chair of the Group (he/she may be a Member of either House).
Journalists are normally sponsored by the House of Commons Service whilst the Register of Interests lists the Members sponsoring each individual secretary and research assistant.
Pass data is also held for the following individuals who are issued with House of Commons or bicameral passes:
• Contractors employed to carry out works to and for the House services
• House staff (to include Parliamentary ICT which sits across both Houses)
• Government department staff
Information about staff of the House, contractors and Government department staff is personal data as explained below.
We have therefore considered whether disclosure of the information would breach any of the data protection principles.
As the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) guidance on exemption for personal information makes clear, only condition 1 (consent), which is not relevant here, and condition 6 (legitimate interests) of Schedule 2 should be relevant to disclosure under the FOIA. A public authority is required to approach condition 6 as a three-part test:
– is there a legitimate public interest in disclosure?
– is disclosure necessary to meet that public interest?
– would disclosure cause unwarranted interference with the rights, freedoms and legitimate interests of the individual?
There is a legitimate public interest in knowing who the senior staff members are within the House of Commons service and these are already named in the public domain via the Parliamentary Website but we do not consider that there is also a legitimate public interest in knowing the names and details retained for individual staff across the organisation who may have no public facing duties. Disclosure of such details would add no value to the public. The second test of whether disclosure is necessary to meet that public interest is therefore not relevant.
In respect of the third test, we have considered whether it would be fair to disclose the personal information. The Information Commissioner’s Office guidance on this exemption poses three questions to be considered in judging whether such disclosure would be fair: the possible consequences for the individual; the reasonable expectations of the individual and the nature of the information. A key factor in relation to this request is the expectations of the individual. Staff employed by the House service are issued with a pass to enable them to carry out their duties by accessing the appropriate areas of the Parliamentary estate. Staff, contractors and government department staff have the reasonable expectation that their details, provided for the purpose of issuing a pass are private, for administration purposes only and shall remain so. Given that reasonable expectation, publishing the names of the above categories in this instance would not, in our view, be appropriate.
Consequently, we have concluded that providing the names of staff, contractors and government staff would be inconsistent with the House’s obligations under the Data Protection Act. This information is exempt by virtue of section 40 (2) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the exemption for personal information), as disclosure of this information to the public generally, in the House’s view, would not be consistent with data protection principles in the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA). This is an absolute exemption and the public interest test does not apply.
The House of Lords is independently responsible for data concerning its staff and Members. It is a separate organisation and public authority for the purposes of the Freedom of Information Act 2000. Should you wish to request information concerning its pass data you may forward your request to email@example.com