Data Protection for House of Commons Members and their Staff


This short online course is designed to give learners an overview of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). 

  • What General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is and why you need to know about it
  • What the principles of GDPR are
  • Differences between GDPR and the Data Protection Act (DPA)
  • Penalties and exceptions to the GDPR

To find out more and enrol, please go here:

Constituency Casework Data and Dissolution


The ICO is hosting a webinar for Members’ staff on Constituency Casework Data and Dissolution on Thursday 7 March from 2pm.

There will be an open Q&A session where you can ask any questions on this subject.

To attend, please visit this page and then follow the link to register:

Dissolution Guidance 2024

A view of Parliament from Gt Peter St

Updated 16 April 2024.

Dissolution is the official term for the end of a Parliament before a general election. When Parliament is dissolved every seat in the House of Commons becomes vacant. MPs immediately revert to being members of the general public and those who wish to become MPs again must stand for election as candidates.

Within Parliament a dedicated General Election Planning Group is leading work to ensure Parliament is fully prepared for a general election to take place by January 2025.

The House has now published its revised dissolution guidance, which aims to help Members and Members’ staff understand the rules in place and the support available to them before, during and after the next election, including what to expect during the dissolution period.

You can find  the guidance on the new parliamentary intranet, ParliNet.

There are separate areas for Members who are standing again and those who are not standing and a separate guide for Members’ staff which also includes information relating to boundary changes.

The full guidance is available as a PDF on Sharepoint

The checklists on ParliNet include useful material on each MP’s duties as an employer and how to prepare casework, with particular concern for data protection issues. Many things are time-critical, as staff passes are suspended five days after dissolution.

Handling personal data is a key aspect, and the Guidance for the use of personal data by elected representatives in carrying out constituency casework from the Information Commissioner’s Office will be invaluable.

There is also a page of Frequently Asked Questions on Constituency Casework Data and Dissolution on Parlinet.

There is also a lot of guidance on the IPSA website.

Please note that the guides etc may be updated before the election and so you should refer to ParliNet and not any stored web pages or PDFs for the latest guidance.

You may also find this report of interest: Smoothing the cliff edge: supporting MPs at their point of departure from elected office

Subject Access Requests – guidance for MPs’ offices


Please note that links to the old Parliamentary intranet have been removed as of October 2023. Please use search on ParliNet to find relevant current details, if available.

The Information Compliance Team has updated its guidance on Subject Access Requests for MPs’ offices and you can find it here

You could also have a look at our page on Data Protection here:

Data Protection


Data Protection 

Everyone who deals with personal information in a Member’s office has responsibility for the personal data that they handle for the Member, and must comply with the rules of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which is supplemented by the Data Protection Act 2018 (DPA).  The majority of this personal information will relate to constituency casework, but it also includes information about any identifiable individuals, such as staff and volunteers.  Parliamentary privilege does not exempt Members of Parliament from complying with the DPA with respect to constituency casework, and the requirements of the GDPR and the DPA must be observed. 

The GDPR lays down seven key principles for the handling of personal information.  The information must be: 

  1. used fairly, lawfully and transparently 
  2. used for specified, explicit purposes 
  3. used in a way that is adequate, relevant and limited to only what is necessary 
  4. accurate and, where necessary, kept up to date 
  5. kept for no longer than is necessary 
  6. handled in a way that ensures appropriate security, including protection against unlawful or unauthorised processing, access, loss, destruction or damage 
  7. handled responsibly with appropriate measures and records in place to demonstrate your compliance. 

Sharing personal data  

In order to allow an MP to fulfil their role as an elected representative, there is a separate piece of legislation – The Data Protection (Processing of Sensitive Personal Data) (Elected Representatives) Order 2002 that lays out the specifics around data sharing – for example, allowing Members to handle sensitive personal data (such as health information) in order to take action at the request of individuals, without having to obtain explicit, written consent from that individual. (although please note: if the wishes of the constituent are at all unclear, you should always discuss this with them!)  

The order also allows third parties (such as Government Departments or local authorities) to disclose sensitive personal data to a Member acting on behalf of a constituent where the disclosure is necessary to assist the Member in responding to the individual’s request. The condition is permissive; it does not compel third parties to disclose information to a Member and other organisations may still ask you to demonstrate that you are acting on your constituent’s behalf. 

When processing non-sensitive personal data, Members can usually rely on the consent of the constituent as providing the necessary condition (i.e. if a constituent has contacted the Member asking them to pursue a case on their behalf, it is reasonable to take this as confirmation that they are happy for their personal data to be processed as necessary to progress the case). I t is important to keep a record of any correspondence from the constituent that the Member is relying on as evidence of a request to act on their behalf. Please note, consent can also be withdrawn; you must make it easy for individuals to withdraw their consent at any time.  You can read more about sharing data here:

Registration with the ICO 

From 1 April 2019, Members of Parliament do not need to register with the ICO, including if they are using CCTV in relation to their functions as an elected representative, e.g. a video entry doorbell or CCTV for safety and security purposes.  

However, if the Member processes personal data for any purpose outside of their role as an elected representative, (for example if the Member runs a secondary business from their office) or if they use CCTV for business or crime prevention purposes in relation to their second business, then they would still be required to pay the fee. 

You can find this on the ICO website here:

You can find more information about paying the fee in the ICO’s data protection fee guidance 

FAQs for Parliamentarians –

Data Protection and Casework

If you receive a casework request from a third party, perhaps a relative of your constituent, it is important to ensure that you have the consent of the constituent unless it is not reasonably possible to gain that consent.  In order to safeguard an individual’s personal information and comply with the Data Protection Act 2018, many bodies will not respond if the request is made by someone other than the constituent without proof of their consent.

The House of Commons Library has a very useful briefing note on data protection and casework here: Data protection: constituency casework 

When a Member retires or loses their seat, it is good practice for them to contact those constituents who have open cases, to ask them what they would like to happen to their file.  Options include:

  • destroying the file
  • passing the file to the new Member (the constituent MUST sign a letter of authority to do this)
  • passing the file to the constituent themselves 

If your office has a robust data retention policy, then hopefully you should not have too many files to deal with.  Please note that it is not permitted to use Parliamentary stationery for this purpose once the Member has ceased to be an MP.  If the Member knows that they are retiring, letters asking for the constituents’ preference could be sent out several months before the election, so that the staff have plenty of time to prepare for any file transfers or destruction required.

When someone ceases to be a Member of Parliament, they have only four days in which to stop handling sensitive data

Data Retention

Principle 5 of the Data Protection Act states that information should be kept ‘no longer than necessary’.  However, it does not define what that time period should be.  Some MPs like to keep files for the length of a Parliament, some even like to keep them for the whole of their Parliamentary career, but it really isn’t a good idea to keep them this long.  Do you really need to keep a file on Jane Smith’s housing issue from ten or twenty years ago?  We are certain that the ICO would say that this is ‘longer than necessary’.  Once a case is closed, there really shouldn’t be any need to keep it longer than one year.  If you use casework management software, you can set a review date, so that it will flag up on the designated date, and you can review the file and decide whether to destroy it, or retain it if it looks like the issue might return.  When deleting a case on your casework management software, it is a good idea to add a note to the constituent’s profile stating the case number, a brief description of the nature of the case (one sentence, not an essay!), the date of the last action on the case and what date it was destroyed.  Then, if a constituent puts in a subject access request, you can tell them that you no longer hold that file, and on what date it was destroyed.

Guidance on the Information Commissioner’s Website also counsels against keeping data for too long:

“If you are not re-elected, it is important to be aware that you only have a condition for using special category data for four days after the election”


“If you no longer have a condition for processing and you continue to do so then you are very likely be in breach of UK GDPR.

“As four days is such a short time frame, it is sensible to review your records containing special category data in advance where practical and not to keep casework records for longer than is necessary. This will give you time to consider what to do with each case file and consult constituents, as necessary. This is particularly sensible if you are standing down at the election.”

Political campaigning

Be careful how you use constituents’ email addresses for political campaigning.  According to advice from the Information Commissioner, you need to gain their consent before contacting them with routine newsletters and offer them an opportunity to object. See the guidance link below:


Useful links relating to Data Protection: 

On the Parliamentary intranet (network account required): 

Online training 

Introduction to General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) for Members and their staff 

Data Protection for Members and their Staff 


Consult ParliNet for further information about data protection.

External links: 

Guidance for the use of personal data by elected representatives in carrying out constituency casework
Updated 18 September 2023 to include information about changes in constituency boundaries.

IPSA – Information Commissioner’s Fee

Data Protection – 

Guidance on political campaigning 


Subject Access Requests

You may receive a request from a constituent asking for you to provide them with any personal data that you hold about them. This is known as a Data Subject Access Request (DSAR) or a Subject Access Request (SAR) (they are the same thing) and, under the GDPR you are legally obliged to provide this information (ensuring you redact any personal data that does not belong to the requester). Details are on ParliNet.

If the request is for any other information, you are not obliged to provide it. 

Further Information

You might also find useful our guide ‘Protocol clarified on representing constituents‘. 

This page was last updated on 22 October 2023

Setting Up the Office


Setting up the Office

2.1  Choosing the right office(s)
2.2  Furniture, Equipment and Stationery
2.3  Computers
2.4  Email
2.5  Data Registration
2.6  Confidentiality
2.7  Involving Volunteers, Work Experience Students, Interns
2.8  Registering Interests
2.9  Health and Safety Policy for constituency offices
2.10 Dealing with post and deliveries

2.1 Choosing the right office(s)

The tasks performed by MPs’ staff include: research, providing briefings; drafting speeches and articles; casework, including handling letters, emails and calls; press and political work; diary and engagements; and keeping accounts.  Alright, so you do 101 other things as well, but the functions listed above, and who does them, will have a strong bearing on where any MP decides to locate his/her staff.

The choice is clearly between basing the office in Westminster or in the constituency – or a mixture of the two – and there are examples of every permutation.  Given the flexible tools of information technology, there are many tasks which could as well be done up a mountain as at Westminster, but the overriding considerations will be convenience and accessibility.  For example, having access to all the resources at Westminster and also having a visible presence in the constituency.

Here are some questions MPs will wish to answer before choosing the location(s) of their office(s):

  • Do you want constituents to have walk-in access to your staff?  (NB: please consider the security of you and your staff – see our brief comments on security in Section 3.9 on Advice Surgeries in our Everyday Tasks Guide)
  • Do you want to locate your staff in the office of your local constituency party?
  • Do you want to share with a neighbouring MP?
  • Is it most convenient to have a researcher at Westminster?  What happens to this role during parliamentary recesses?
  • Can all press contacts be adequately handled in the constituency?
  • Where is the most efficient place to locate your diary-keeper?
  • Is it possible to handle casework satisfactorily at Westminster?

In your office on the Parliamentary estate at Westminster, phone calls, rent, furniture, cleaning, photocopying costs are not charged to your Office Costs Budget; but you will have to pay for them all (and more) in your constituency office.

New MPs are entitled to a start-up budget, to enable them, amongst other things, to set up a constituency office.

Before you can claim any costs associated with your constituency office, including rent, you must register that property with IPSA.  Further details can be found in the ‘Guidance for MPs’ Business Costs’, the latest version of which can be found on the IPSA website.

2.2 Furniture and Equipment and Stationery

At Westminster, standard furniture is provided at no cost.  In the constituency, however, you will have to buy it, although you can use the start-up budget for this.

The biggest items of expense will probably be those unlovely objects, filing cabinets.  Filing is dealt with in more detail further on, but do try to resist the temptation to provide a home for every single scrap of paper that enters your office on the grounds that it-might-come-in-useful-one-day.  With most information available online now, the ability to scan documents, and the wonderful backup from the Commons Library, you can confidently consign 99% of all that bumph to your paper recycling box.  So buy as few good quality filing cabinets as possible and consider looking for bargains in second-hand furniture warehouses.

Desks, chairs, lamps, phones, filing trays, shelving, and all the other bits and pieces you will need can also be found in second-hand places but it’s worth comparing prices with those in the House of Commons preferred stationery supplier’s catalogue which you should have already, or can be found online here:  Your Member should have been sent login details already.  If not, please give their helpdesk a call.  Most items are delivered next-day.

If you need any workplace adjustments, please see this guide:


Please see here for the current rules on the use of House stationery and post-paid envelopes.

2.3 Computers

Each Member is entitled to loan computers, laptops, mobile devices and printers from Parliament.  The catalogue can be found on ParliNet, or you can ask for advice by ringing the Parliamentary Digital Service helpdesk on x2001.

The Parliamentary Digital Service will also arrange for a free broadband installation at the constituency office and you can find more information about that here.

Please note that computers supplied by Parliament are only accessible by people who have security clearance.  Without it, you cannot even log onto a machine.  Therefore, it is very important that new staff apply for their security clearance as soon as possible, in order to avoid delays in getting network access.

Don’t forget to purchase a television licence for your constituency office.  Even if you don’t have a television in your constituency office, you will still need a licence if you watch live TV on your computer or any mobile devices, or download any programmes from BBC iPlayer.  You can find further information here: and purchase a licence here:  You can pay for it on your IPSA card.  You do not need to purchase a television licence for your Westminster office as this is covered by the House authorities.

2.4 Email

The vast majority of MPs’ correspondence comes in by email, and you may be surprised at just how many emails arrive every day – it can often be in the hundreds, so it is important that you agree with your Member how you are going to deal with them.  Some MPs give their staff ‘delegated access’ to their inboxes, which allows staff to monitor and respond to emails on their behalf.  Some MPs have two mailboxes, one of which is accessible by their staff, and one which remains private.  Having a second mailbox can be very useful, for example, if you want to use one specifically for casework.  It is very easy to drag and drop emails between the two mailboxes, if required.

Many Government departments and agencies also have special MP ‘hotline’ email addresses, which are extremely useful.  There is a list of hotlines on the Parliamentary intranet.

2.5 Data Protection Registration

Please see our guide to Data Protection here:

2.6 Confidentiality

Working for an MP involves daily access to confidential information, both political and private.  It should be treated as such and protected from unauthorised disclosure.  Your constituents expect you to deal sensitively and appropriately with any personal information they give you.  Being given confidential information about a constituent can sometimes put you in a tricky situation.  Let’s look at three examples.

A constituent has asked you to contact the Home Office to speed up an application for his wife to join him in this country.  After interminable and inexplicable delays, an Immigration Officer reveals to you over the phone that the reason for the delay is that the wife is being investigated for deception.  This will involve an investigative trip to a remote part of her home country and there will be further delays; he asks you not to reveal this to your constituent.  Meanwhile, your constituent is ringing you three times a week to check progress.

Another example: your MP has written to Social Services on behalf of constituents who say they are being unfairly prevented from having reasonable access to their children who are in a foster home at present.  You receive two replies: one repeating the line that there is an agreement, made in court, that access is only allowed in tightly supervised conditions.  The other reply, marked “Confidential”, informs you that the children have made allegations of sexual abuse against one of their parents, which are currently being investigated.

A third example: you receive an anonymous email (so you can reply to it but you have no idea of the name or postal address of the sender) claiming that a named person is defrauding the Benefits Agency and asking you to pass on this information.

You need to discuss with your MP how you deal with these situations.  It is also important that, despite the pressures on your time, you read all letters from constituents and replies from agencies carefully before forwarding them.  Sometimes you will get what appears to be a very forthright or stark response for forwarding to a constituent.  Don’t underestimate the value of your role in achieving clarity (light but not sweetness, perhaps) for constituents; the unvarnished truth can sometimes help them to move on.

Only in exceptional circumstances should you pursue an issue for a constituent if it has been brought to your attention by someone else: a neighbour or a relative, for example.  Always get the permission (preferably in writing) of the person whose problem you are being asked to help resolve.  Here’s an example of a permission form.

Permission Form

NAME [Please print]________________________________________________________

National Insurance No: _____________________________________________________

ADDRESS _________________________________________________________________

I have instructed my Member of Parliament [NAME] to act on my behalf in this matter and would be grateful if any correspondence or documents could be sent to the address of my MP.
I confirm that I have given my MP permission to pursue these matters and to use all information I have provided, whether written or spoken, and including sensitive personal information.
I understand that this will be done in line with the requirements of the Data Protection Act 2018.



2.7 Involving Volunteers, Work Experience Students and Interns

Given that anyone wishing to use a computer must have security clearance, this means that any short-term volunteers or work experience students must not be allowed to use them.  You need to consider this requirement when agreeing to any such positions, and you should never share log in details.  Additionally, anyone who will be working on the Parliamentary Estate must get a Parliamentary pass, even if they’ll only be there for a day or two.   Most pass applications are processed in 5 working days, so get the application in as early as you can, but a few weeks in advance should be fine.

There may be problems about the use of volunteers in any office where paid staff are working, but most of us reckon that, despite some of the drawbacks, there’s a net gain from involving volunteers in our work.

For information on the logistics of having for work experience students in your office, have a look at this guidance note.  It includes information on security and health and safety.  You can also read the information on safeguarding.  You may also find w4mp’s guide to Organising Work Experience in an MP’s Office useful.

There are a host of jobs which suit the skills and time availability of volunteers. Bear in mind a few principles and the arrangement can be mutually beneficial.

  • Manageable Tasks. Most volunteers come in for just a few hours a week so you need to give them manageable tasks which can be completed in that time.  Although some jobs – like culling the archived case files – are endless, make sure that volunteers don’t bite off more than they can chew and leave stacks of un-shredded papers lying around when they go.  You don’t want to have to finish the job when they’ve gone home.
  • Check Reliability. Say, for example you have given your volunteer the job of opening and sorting the post.  As you well know, it’s not just a simple job of opening envelopes and stamping the date received on it.  Sheets need to be fastened together, replies must be linked to existing files, invitations checked against the diary, Order Papers checked for PQs tabled by your MP, stacks of unwanted bumph separated from letters you must answer, etc.  That’s a skill it takes time to develop so it will pay you to tell them how you want it done and check it has been done correctly.  Otherwise, their work will be a drain on your time rather than a bonus.

Make sure volunteers know that their time is valued and that you expect to rely on them being there when they said they would.

  • Silence Please!  Make it clear, right from the start, that there’s work to be done and you don’t have time to sit and chat.  OK, be kind to yourself (and them) and do the chatting during a tea break!
  • What’s in it for the Volunteer?  Well, plenty actually.  A sense of involvement, achievement or helping out; perhaps some experience to be included on their CV (so get them to keep a running list of the tasks they undertake in case you need to write a reference later); and, hopefully, some genuine appreciation from you!
  • Confidentiality Agreement.  However well known the volunteer may be to you, he or she should sign a confidentiality agreement before starting work in your office.  It’s not just about guarding Party strategy.  You will inevitably handle very sensitive material about constituents from time to time and anyone working in the office will fall under the provisions of Data Protection Act 2018.  Here’s an example of a confidentiality agreement which you can use or adapt for your own office.  Let us know if you have an alternative agreement: use the Feedback Form.

Confidentiality Agreement

To be signed by all staff, volunteers, interns, secondees etc.

  1. Work undertaken in the office of _____________ MP involves access to information which is confidential. It should be treated as such and protected from unauthorised disclosure. It is an express condition of your relationship with ________________ MP that you should not divulge to any person outside the office of the MP any confidential information or aid the outward transmission of any such information or data.
  2. This undertaking continues after you cease to work for the MP.
  3. This undertaking applies to all material, including constituents’ casework, research, party political material, statistics, data, reports, etc.
  4. In the case of constituency casework, where it is necessary to relay information, letters, records of telephone conversations etc to third parties, this will always be done only in accordance with the interests of the constituent.

I have read this agreement and I understand and accept the above.

NAME _________________________________________________________

SIGNED  _______________________________________________________

WITNESS * _____________________________________________________

DATE __________________________________________________________

* line manager

Internships:  click here for all you need to know about a) becoming an Intern, and b) finding and looking after an Intern.

2.8 Registering Interests

When you first apply for a parliamentary pass, renew your pass, or change your sponsor you will be given a registration form to complete by the Pass Office.  A Resolution of the House requires that you register:
(1)  any relevant paid employment you are engaged in outside Parliament, and
(2)  gifts or other benefits which relate to your work in Parliament.

The Pass Office forwards the form to the Office of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, where your details are added to the Register of Interests of Members’ Secretaries and Research Assistants.  You will be sent a copy of your entry then and whenever the entry is subsequently amended.  The Register is available for public inspection and is on the internet.  Members’ staff who are not issued with a parliamentary pass are not included on the Register, so if you have security clearance for access to the Parliamentary Network only, then you do not need to register.

Members’ staff may also be asked to assist their sponsoring Member in completing and maintaining his or her correct and up-to-date entry in the Register of Members’ Interests.  The Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards and Registrar of Members’ Interests are available to offer advice to Members and their staff on any aspect of registering and declaring interests.

The relevant telephone numbers are as follows:

Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards: 020 7219 0320
(Personal Assistant): 020 7219 0311
Registrar of Members’ Interests: 020 7219 3277
Assistant Registrar (for Members’ staff): 020 7219 0401

2.9 Health and Safety policy for constituency offices

There is an intranet page dedicated to Safety at Parliament, which may not be directly relevant to constituency offices but still contains some useful information.  There is also a page dedicated to Health and Wellbeing.

 2.10 Dealing with post and deliveries

Courier deliveries (e.g. Amazon, ASOS etc) cannot be made directly to the Parliamentary Estate, nor must passholders meet deliveries outside the Estate and then bring them in.  Deliveries present a huge security risk and these rules must be adhered to at all times.  If you must have items delivered to Parliament, please read the guidance here.

Members and Constituency Etiquette


Should I be representing this constituent?  S/he doesn’t live in my constituency but has asked for our help.

There is an oft-quoted “strict parliamentary protocol” that MPs do not pursue issues raised by or about constituents of other MPs.  Our view on this has always been: “In the absence of any very clear definition of this protocol, you should use common sense and refer any matter concerning someone who is not your constituent to his or her own MP.”

If you receive a letter or email from an individual who is not your MP’s constituent, you should therefore forward the letter to the correct MP and, if you can, include a cover note or compliments slip to briefly explain that the letter was incorrectly sent to your office.  To find the MP for any address in the UK, use this web page: – all you need is the postcode.  The House of Commons Enquiry Service 0800 112 4272 can also give you the same information.

It is good practice to write back to the individual to:

  • thank them for their communication
  • let them know you are not their MP and it is against parliamentary protocol for you to be involved
  • let them know who their MP is and explain that you have passed their communication on

As ever, we recommend staff to use their judgement when forwarding mail on to another MP.  If the constituent has raised a particularly sensitive matter, then the staffer should simply write to them and tell them to contact their own MP themselves, but if it is something fairly ‘run of the mill’, then there is no reason why it cannot be forwarded.  An example of the former might be a letter from a constituent who has clearly identified with the political views of your MP; they would possibly feel betrayed if you were to just pass on the letter to a neighbouring MP in another political party.

We have liaised closely with the Data Protection Officer in relation to this subject, and it has been confirmed that, unless the subject of the correspondence is particularly sensitive, then there is no reason why, under the Data Protection Act, an MP cannot forward correspondence on to the correct elected member.

If a constituent moves to a different constituency whilst a case is ongoing, you should contact the constituent to explain to them that you can no longer deal with their case.  You should offer to either transfer the details to their new Member of Parliament or to return their case file to them.  Occasionally, you may wish to continue to deal with the case after the constituent has moved.  If you wish to continue with a case, you should, ideally, contact the constituent’s new MP and explain why you would like to retain the case and give them the opportunity to respond.

Rarely, a constituent from another area feels unable to deal with their own Member of Parliament and asks for your assistance.  If this should happen, you should try to ascertain exactly why they feel unable to approach their own MP and then use your judgement to decide whether or not to take on the case.

For more complicated instances, including where someone has Power of Attorney for another, there is a very helpful Commons Library Research Briefing by Richard Kelly in the Commons Library:’Members and constituency etiquette, which spells it out.  You should read it in detail and add it to your own collection of essential guides.

For those who enjoy reading the fine detail, you can see Hansard’s account of the debate which took place on 5 November 2008 on the topic of Constituency Correspondence (Confidentiality).

See also: