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Speaker’s Statement

Volume 622: debated on Monday 6 March 2017

On 22 February, the hon. Member for City of Chester (Christian Matheson) raised a point of order about correspondence from the Department for Work and Pensions informing Members of new arrangements for accessing information about constituents’ universal credit claims. The same matter had been raised by the hon. Members for Stretford and Urmston (Kate Green) and for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Justin Madders) at Department for Work and Pensions oral questions on 20 February. I undertook to investigate and to report back to the House.

I can confirm to the House that there is no requirement in law for the Department to obtain explicit consent before releasing information on constituents’ universal credit claims to Members. The Data Protection (Processing of Sensitive Personal Data) (Elected Representatives) Order 2002 provides that a data controller may, in reliance on the order, provide sensitive personal data to a Member about a constituent, if the Member has been asked by the constituent to take up an issue on his or her behalf and the information is necessary for the purposes of that request. The Leader of the House has written to Members to confirm that position, and I am most grateful to him for doing so.

I am assured that the Department for Work and Pensions is continuing to look at how the security requirements of the new universal credit system can be made compatible with the needs of Members to act on behalf of their constituents. I would hope that Ministers will update the House as soon as possible. I hope that that is helpful to the House.