MP Letwin escapes fine for dumping constituents' emails

Cabinet Office minister and MP for West Dorset Oliver Letwin has been given a ticking off by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) after being caught chucking confidential emails from constituents into park bins.

Unlucky Letwin was caught on camera by Daily Mirror snappers last month, disposing of a number of documents in bins across London's St James's Park.

Following an investigation, the ICO has ruled that the Conservative politician was in breach of the Data Protection Act after the dumped documents were found to contain the personal details of around 20 people, including information "relating to an individual's recent hospital treatment." Such breaches carry the potential for a maximum £500,000 fine.

However, the ICO has chosen not to take any further action after the senior Tory promised not to do it again. Information commissioner Christopher Graham said in a statement:

"It is clear that Mr Letwin has learned from this incident and we're pleased that he has co-operated fully.

"It is fortunate that most of the information he discarded was not of a particularly sensitive nature and was therefore unlikely to cause substantial distress to his constituents.

"But if we receive any further reports or complaints about Mr Letwin's conduct in this area then we will consider taking more formal action. I'm sure this case will also prompt other MPs to review their handling of personal data to ensure they're doing all they can to keep it secure."

A tightening up of data security around Westminster would seem more than a little overdue. Earlier this month, business secretary Vince Cable was forced to apologise after documents including around 200 letters and private papers from electors were found dumped outside his Twickenham constituency offices.