EXCL Commons fake news inquiry faces probe from data watchdog over Arron Banks passport leak

Posted On: 
22nd June 2018

A House of Commons committee is facing a probe from the UK’s data watchdog after revealing Brexit chief Arron Banks' passport number online, PoliticsHome can disclose.

Andy Wigmore and Arron Banks give testimony to the DCMS fake news inquiry
PA Images

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) confirmed they were "making enquiries" into the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee after the personal details were made public.

The Leave.EU chief's passport number was left unredacted on a copy of a Russian visa which was submitted as part of the committee's ongoing inquiry into fake news.

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The committee - which has championed the protection of personal data - quickly amended the post, but have been accused by Mr Banks of "unbelievable incompetence".

The cross-party group of MPs could now face an embarrassing formal investigation from the data watchdog over the breach.

A Information Commissioner’s Office spokesperson told PoliticsHome: "We’re aware of an incident relating to the Fake News DCMS select committee and are making enquiries."

In a letter to Mr Banks, seen by this website, Commons authorities confirmed that they had self-reported the incident to the ICO.

But Commons clerk Sir David David Natzler did not accept that there had been a personal data breach, and said Parliamentary privilege rules exempted Commons committees from elements of the new GDPR data protection rules.

He wrote: "While there was no obligation for the committee to do so, the published evidence was amended within two hours of your concern.

“While we do not accept that there has been a personal data breach in this instance, as a matter of good practice, the ICO was informed of the incident and your objection on Monday, 18th June 2018."

Sir David said that the committee had made it clear that it planned to publish the visas as a written submission in advance, adding that Mr Banks had confirmed during his appearance that he had "no issues with it at all".



A spokesperson for the House of Commons said: "Mr Banks consented to the evidence being published, as the transcript of the evidence shows.

"Evidence to a select committee is also covered by parliamentary privilege and therefore some provisions of the General Data Protection Regulation do not apply: these provisions include the right to object and the right to erasure.

"Although not therefore required to do so, we amended the evidence in question when we became aware of Mr Banks’ concerns."

Speaking to PoliticsHome, Mr Banks hit out at the response, saying: "It is fairly outrageous that the rules apply to everybody but the House of Commons. They should be upholding their own rules.

"It is a weird response, they are pretty much saying that because I did not redact it that they shouldn’t have to, which I find bizarre."

He added that the exposure of the passport could leave him open to identity theft or have negative implications for his business interests.

But Committee Chair Damian Collins said: "Mr Banks made it clear that he was happy for the documents he handed to the Committee to be published.

“After his request we have since amended the evidence and republished it. We have not been contact by the ICO about this."

As a result of the data breach, Mr Banks confirmed that he would no longer be submitting written evidence to the Committee if requested.