Data Protection and Elected Representatives

Constituents bring lots of problems to the attention of their MP, and ask for help to resolve them.  But how many times have you contacted the relevant agency only to be told “Sorry we can’t give you that information, because of the Data Protection Act”.  Infuriating, isn’t it?  Especially since they are, in many cases, wrong.

It is always good practice to get written consent from constituents who ask you to take up issues on their behalf, even if you think you won’t need it.  It can save a lot of time and bother if you obtain written consent for every case as a matter of routine.

On 19 December 2002, the Leader of the House of Commons, the Late Robin Cook, made the following statement to the House:

“I am pleased to confirm that the Data Protection (Processing of Sensitive Personal Data) (Elected Representatives) Order 2002 came into force this week and that from now on it will not be legal for any public body to cite the Data Protection Act 1998 as a reason why it cannot respond to a request from a Member of Parliament. That was the right decision to take because, when our constituents come to see us, they expect us to take action; they do not expect us to say that we cannot take action because of the Data Protection Act.”

This Order covers not only Members of Parliament, but also:

  • An elected member of the National Assembly for Wales
  • An elected member of the Scottish Parliament
  • An elected member of the Northern Ireland Assembly
  • An elected member of the European Parliament elected in the United Kingdom
  • Elected members of a local authority within the meaning of section 270(1) of the Local Government Act 1972[4] namely
    • (i) in England, a county council, a district council, a London borough council or a parish council
    • (ii) in Wales, a county council, a county borough council or a community council
  • An elected mayor of a local authority within the meaning of Part II of the Local Government Act 2000
  • The Mayor of London or an elected member of the London Assembly
  • An elected member of
    • (i) the Common Council of the City of London, or
    • (ii) the Council of the Isles of Scilly
  • An elected member of a council constituted under section 2 of the Local Government etc (Scotland) Act 1994[6]
  • an elected member of a district council within the meaning of the Local Government Act (Northern Ireland) 1972[7].

The text of Statutory Instrument 2002 No. 2905 : The Data Protection (Processing of Sensitive Personal Data) (Elected Representatives) Order 2002 can be found here: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2002/2905/contents/made