Dear Sir or Madam,
As you are certainly aware, a controversy recently erupted over the arrest of Mr Damian Green MP and the search of his Palace of Westminster office by the MPS. At the core of the issue was how and on which authority the MPS had received permission to enter the Palace and to perform its search.
In response to this incident, the Speaker of the House of Commons has drawn up guidelines (a "protocol") on how to deal with such situations should they ever arise again. As reported in Hansard, the Speaker made, in pertinent parts, the following statement:
"A warrant will always be required when a search of a Member's office, or access to a Member's parliamentary papers, is sought. Every case must be referred for my personal decision, as it is my responsibility. All this will be made clear in a protocol issued under my name to all hon. Members."
May I ask you whether the House of Lords administration, especially but not limited to the Office of the Lord Speaker, the Office of Black Rod, the Office of the Clerk of Parliaments and the Office of the Leader of the House have held consultations on how a similar case would be treated in the House of Lords and whether similar (to the HoC's) protocol should be issued. I would like to request access to all records and documents relevant to and produced for, in or after such discussions by any member of the House of Lords' staff.
This includes "the protocol" if any such has been issued (I am using the term protocol analogously to the usage of Mr Speaker) as well as formal or informal guidance that has been given to staff members including Black Rod on how to deal with such cases, viz. and in plain language: "The MPS or any other police service standing in front of the doors and requesting access to search a member's office, to seize material belonging to a member, to arrest a member in the premises of the Palace of Westminster or to perform any other police business in the Palace which has a connection with or targets a Member of the House of Lords"
I am aware that there have been short exchanges on the Floor of the House on these matters and obviously, as material already published, I am not requesting access to it under FOI terms.
Thank you for your email.
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Dear Mr. Bimmler,
Further to your request, which was received by the House of Lords
administration on 8 January, I can confirm that the House administration
holds information relevant to your request.
The attached document refers to a paper by the Clerk of the Parliaments
which sets out the current position in respect of police access to the
precincts of the House of Lords for the purpose of searching a Member's
office, and includes a draft protocol. This document will be made
available on the parliamentary website (www.parliament.uk) in the next
few days. I will write to you again with the details as soon as the
document is published.
The House administration also holds other relevant documents, but the
information in them is exempt information under Part II of the Freedom of
Information Act 2000 and is subject to the attached copy of a certificate
signed by the Clerk of the Parliaments. Please let me know if you would
like a hard copy of the certificate.
Section 50 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 provides that any person
may apply to the Information Commissioner for a decision whether, in any
specified respect, a request for information made by the complainant to a
public authority has been dealt with in accordance with the requirements
of Part I of the Act. In this context you should have regard to the fact
that under section 2(3) the exemptions conferred by sections 34 and 36 are
absolute exemptions and to the terms of sections 34(3) and 36 (7).
The Freedom of Information Act can be accessed at:
Freedom of Information Officer
020 7219 0100
Dear Ms Grey,
many thanks for your reply.
I am looking forward to your notification of a link to the Protocol in question as soon as the same is published.
For my own records, I would be grateful if you could send me the offered hard copy of the Clerk´s Certificate. My postal address is:
[ postal address removed ]
Last but not least: In your answer, you refer to the fact that the requester may file a complaint with the Information Commissioner´s Office concerning the handling of his request by the public authority. It is my understanding, that the ICO will not usually deal with a complaint until the authority´s internal complaint procedures have been exhausted. Usually, public authorities have a system of "Internal Review" in place for FOI requests. Could you please confirm that, as a decision has already been made by the Clerk of the Parliaments, no Internal Review is available and any complaint would directly need to be taken to the ICO?
I am very grateful for your kind assistance in this matter,
Dear Mr Bimmler,
Thank you for your e-mail of 5 February.
In response to your request for a hard copy of the Clerk of the
Parliaments' certificate relating to your request for information, I have
posted a copy to the address you supplied.
The paper by the Clerk of the Parliaments setting out the current position
in respect to police access to the precincts of the House of Lords for the
purpose of searching a Member's office, which includes a draft protocol,
is now available as DEP2009-0343 on the parliamentary website at
http://deposits.parliament.uk./ . To access it, you will need to save a
copy onto your computer. You will then be able to open the two constituent
Word documents. If you experience any problems doing this, then please do
not hesitate to contact me.
With regards to your final query about the procedures for making a
complaint, the Clerk of the Parliaments as the authorised officer of the
House of Lords may refuse to disclose information on the ground of either
parliamentary privilege (section 34) or prejudice to the effective conduct
of public affairs (section 34). A certificate signed by him is conclusive
of the fact, on the ground that it is exempt information by virtue of
section 34 (parliamentary privilege) or section 36 (prejudice to the
effective conduct of public affairs) of the Freedom of Information Act
2000. A certificate signed by him under section 34(3) and 36(7) is
conclusive of the facts certified in it, and the Information Commissioner
would not have jurisdiction on a complaint under section 50 of the Act to
reach a different view on the facts so certified.
However, if you have a complaint that relates more generally to the way in
which your request has been handled, for instance, as respects section 11
or 17 of the Act, then you would, of course, be entitled to ask the House
of Lords to conduct an internal review. Requests for an internal review
should be addressed to [email address] , or to the Freedom of
Information Officer, House of Lords, London SW1A 0PW. Arrangements will be
made for someone who has not been involved in dealing with your request to
conduct an internal review within 20 working days.
If, following this review, you remain dissatisfied with the House's
treatment of your request for information, then you may take your
complaint to the Information Commissioner at Wycliffe House, Water lane,
Wilmslow, Cheshire SK9 5AF.
I hope that clarifies the situation with regards to complaints. If you
have any further queries, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Freedom of Information Officer
020 7219 0100
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