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Points of Order

Volume 490: debated on Tuesday 31 March 2009

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. On 3 March, Dr. Challoner’s grammar school in my constituency received a final allocation letter for the spending on 379 sixth-form students for the financial year beginning tomorrow. Yesterday, the headmaster heard that the funding has been slashed by £119,000, so that it would cover only 362 students. Clearly, as the school already has 379 students, it cannot plan for a reduction at such short notice, so the decision will affect the quality of education offered to the school’s students starting this week. Can you advise me, Mr. Speaker, whether the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families can be asked to come to this House to make an urgent statement on why the Government have removed this funding at the last minute?

I cannot advise the hon. Lady about that, but perhaps she could try for an Adjournment debate. She could put her case there and a Minister would have to respond.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. On 1 July, I received a written answer in reply to an inquiry about the security of the redaction process to deal with the 1.3 million receipts being processed. The spokesman for the House of Commons Commission, the hon. Member for North Devon (Nick Harvey) stated:

“It is… planned that the scanning of some 1.3 million documents and first stage redaction to remove details such as addresses, telephone numbers, banking details and account numbers will be undertaken under secure conditions by a contractor familiar with providing services to Government and Parliament whose staff have been security”—[Official Report, 1 July 2008; Vol. 478, c. 742W.]

vetted. Do you agree, Mr. Speaker, that it is a very different thing when something that is going to be published later is released early in some sort of journalistic scoop and when personal information, such as home addresses, telephone numbers and bank account details, are hawked around journalists with a view to selling material in a way that would undoubtedly be both a crime of theft and a crime under data protection legislation? Is there anything you can do, Mr. Speaker, to protect hon. Members against this sort of personal data being disclosed when this House has voted that it never should be disclosed?

This House has in good faith, as the hon. Member for North Devon (Nick Harvey) pointed out, handed this work over to a contractor with security vetting, so I am deeply disappointed when any information like this has been put out. When a service is given by the House, it is obvious that security and confidentiality must be all-important. No one in that organisation, either for financial gain or any other reason, should be handing over information that has been put and safeguarded with it to do a certain job of work. I can confirm to the hon. Member that the House has started an inquiry to establish the facts relating to the release of personal documentation and to determine whether an offence has been committed. I shall of course keep the House informed whenever I can.