Skip to main content

Information Commissioner's Office Investigation

Volume 742: debated on Wednesday 13 December 2023

I would like to update the House on the announcement made today, 13 December 2023, by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). The announcement follows an investigation by the ICO into an Afghan relocation and resettlement policy scheme data incident involving group emails sent in September 2021. The Ministry of Defence (MOD) has fully co-operated in the ICO’s investigations.

On 21 September, the then Secretary of State stated before the House how disappointing it was. While this mistake was the result of human error during a pressured time in the aftermath of the Operation Pitting airlift, it should not have occurred, and better data handling processes needed to be in place.

I take compliance with the Data Protection Act extremely seriously and we are committed to learning from these incidents. To support those who were impacted, the MOD will establish a financial compensation scheme to enable all directly affected individuals to receive compensation in respect of any damage that may have been caused. Work is well under way on designing the scheme and further details will be shared as soon as is reasonably practicable.

The Defence Afghan relocation and resettlement team have worked hard to improve information management practice while continuing to deliver a challenging programme at pace. Process improvements include a new case management system which significantly reduces the need to send mass emails. We have recruited information management specialists into the team and will continue to grow this capability to meet the demands of holding vast quantities of personal data. Training has been delivered to all members of the team and through frequent mandatory training we will ensure that staff are continuously improving their knowledge and practices concerning information security and data protection, and a significant programme of work is being delivered to safeguard best practice in these areas.

Despite this setback, we have continued to deliver the ARAP programme and make good on the commitments we made to those brave Afghans who served alongside us in support of the UK mission in Afghanistan. At the time of writing, my Department has relocated over 13,600 eligible persons and family members to the UK under the ARAP scheme. We will continue to honour our commitment to relocate all eligible Afghans and their families to the UK.