Dominic Raab MP Tells Constituents “Don’t email me…it’s becoming a real nuisance”

Dominic Raab, Conservative MP for Esher & Walton is threatening 38 Degrees that if we don’t take his email address off our “contact your MP system” he’ll report us to the Information Commissioner.

We’ve been in touch with the Information Commissioner and they’ve reassured us that because he is an MP and his e-mail address is in the public domain, he has no grounds to report us.

We let Mr Raab know this and he responded by having the House of Commons remove his e-mail address from their website. We spoke to the Information Commisioner’s office and again they reassured us that because he is an MP and because his email address is in the public domain we’re in the right by letting his constituents get in touch with him.

We want to be totally transparent about this, so we’re publishing a copy of all the e-mails between 38 Degrees and Mr Raab below.

When Mr Raab was an election candidate he gave out his personal email address to use. Now he’s an MP, with an official parliament email address paid for by the taxpayer, he’s telling us to stop people using it and making threats. No other MP anywhere in the UK has ever threatened 38 Degrees in this way.

Mr Raab is a trained lawyer with friends in high places. Even though he appears to be wrong, he could cause us some trouble and cost us money in legal advice.

So what next?  Today we’ve launched a local poll of 38 Degrees members in his constituency to decide what we should do next.

What do you think we should do? Let us know in the comments below.

What the Information Commissioner’s Office website said:
Dear Mr Chatterton

Thank you for your email dated 15 July 2010 regarding the use of MPs House of Commons email addresses by 38 Degrees.

I can confirm in writing that, as discussed on the telephone last week, MPs House of Commons email addresses are publicly available. This means that, although they will be considered personal data under the terms of Section 1(1) of the Data Protection Act 1998 (the DPA), the individuals who the data relates to will have a lower expectation of privacy due to the fact that this information is already within the public domain.

You have indicated that your website allows individuals to email MPs at their House of Commons email addresses about specific subjects that their constituents have issues concerning. Use of MPs email addresses in this way is likely to be within their reasonable expectation and is unlikely to be significantly different from the purpose for which they expect their House of Commons email address to be used. It is unlikely, therefore, that the use of MPs personal information in this way will constitute a breach of the DPA.

With regard to an MP requesting you to cease processing their personal information, individuals do not have the right to request deletion of personal information under all circumstances. Under Section 10 of the Act, individuals have the right to request that an organisation ceases processing their personal information where it is causing them damage or distress. This is, however, unlikely to apply in this case because, as previously stated, MPs should have a legitimate expectation that their constituents will contact them via their House of Commons email addresses in relation to issues they have concerns over. Individuals also have the right under Section 11 of the Act to request that organisations cease processing their personal information for marketing purposes. However, this is again unlikely to apply in this case due to the fact that 38 Degrees is not using the email addresses for marketing purposes.

I hope the above information is of assistance to you in clarifying the legal situation surrounding this issue and consolidates the information I supplied to you over the telephone.

Yours sincerely

The full e-mail thread

From: Johnny Chatterton
Subject: Re: Re:
To: “Dominic Raab”
Date: Thursday, 5 August, 2010, 10:37

Hi Dominic,

Thanks for your prompt reply.

To be honest personally I don’t agree with your stance. However, we’re a people powered organisation so we’re going to ask our local members what they think we should do.

If they think we should remove your details we will do.

In the meantime we’d be very happy to talk to you in person or on the phone about this.

All the best,

Johnny

From: Dominic Raab

Subject: Re: Re:
To: “Johnny Chatterton”
Date: Thursday, 5 August, 2010, 10:33

Johnny

No change.

It sounds like we have received very different advice. The ICO made it clear that, unless I was advertising my details publicly, you had no right to use them.

The point is that there are hundreds of campaign groups like yours, and flooding MPs inboxes with pro-forma emails creates an undue administrative burden. I welcome anyone who feels strongly about AV writing to me in person – rather than copying an automated template – and they would always received a reply.

Dominic Raab

From: Johnny Chatterton

Subject: Re: Re:
To: “Dominic Raab”
Date: Thursday, 5 AuUgust, 2010, 10:28

Dear Dominic,

Thanks for your reply.

I’m writing to let you know that we’ve been in touch with the
Information Commissioner’s Office and they’ve reassured us that our
postcode-based” contact your MP” system does not breach their rules.

Given this advice we’re very reluctant to remove you from our system
without consulting our members in the local area. Before we do this I
wanted to check that your position remains as stated previously.

We’re planning to contact our members at  0800 this coming Monday. If
your position has changed please let us know before then.

All the best,

From: “Dominic Raab”
Subject: Re: Re:
To: Johnny Chatterton
Date: 19 July 2010 09:30

Dear Johnny

I have now had my email address removed from the public HoC internet, to avoid it being used by lobby groups such as your own. I have spoken to the Information Commissioner’s Office who inform me that – as it is no longer in the public domain – I am entitled to request that you stop using it on your campaign website, so that I no longer receive pro-forma emails.

Please understand that MPs get a high volume of correspondence and emails. Just processing the emails from your website absorbs a disproportionate amount of time and effort, which we may wish to spend on higher priorities, such as helping constituents in real need or other local or Parliamentary business.

These emails from your and other lobby groups are becoming a real nuisance. I am easily contactable by constituents, who can write to me at the House of Commons, and readily accessible via surgeries and other public meetings.

So, I am now formally requesting that you remove my email from your website system. If you refuse, I will submit a formal complaint to the Information Commissioner.

Regards,

Dominic Raab

From: Johnny Chatterton
Subject: Re: Re:
To: “Dominic Raab”
Date: Thursday, 15 July, 2010, 17:57

Dear Dominic,

Thanks for your email.

The only emails you will receive about 38 Degrees campaigns are emails from people who have identified themselves as your constituents, using the postcode-based MP finder system we offer on our web site . Our web site enables anyone to quickly identify and email their MP about issues they care about. It’s a very popular system because it’s quick and easy to use for constituents and provides a useful service to MPs – because it means you hear from your constituents and will be able to engage with their concerns. Our system uses your House of Commons email address which, as an MP, is published online and is in the public domain.

I must admit I was surprised by the tone of your last email, and wanted to check there hasn’t been a misunderstanding. It appears that you are asking to be removed from a system that quickly and easily allows your constituents to get in touch with you about issues they care about.You mentioned complaining to the Information Commissioner. As an MP you are paid, with taxpayers’ money, to represent your constituents, and we believe that as your parliamentary email address is in the public domain it’s legitimate to use it to facilitate your constituents getting in touch with you. We have been in touch with the Information Commissioner to confirm this. Before the election when you were still a candidate you were happy to encourage people to email you and provided an email address for us to use – I expect some of your constituents would be disappointed if it was the case that you were less happy to be contacted now you have been elected.

In your original email to us you requested that “If people wish to contact me on AV, I ask that they write to me at my HoC address.”. This is exactly what we have done now – all emails from your constituents are now sent to your House of Commons email address.

Thanks,

Johnny

On 12 July 2010 20:06, Dominic Raab wrote:

Dear Johnny

For the final time, I am asking that you do not use my email address at all for your campaign. If you continue to do so, I will submit a formal complaint to the Information Commissioner.

Dominic Raab

From: Johnny Chatterton
Subject: Re: Re:
T
o: “Dominic Raab”
Date: Monday, 12 July, 2010, 20:00

Hi Dominic,

Thanks for your email.

I’d like to reassure you that we won’t be emailing you directly – it will be your constituents who want to contact you about issues they care about via your Parliament email address.

I spoke with our technical team today and they’re working to get your email address changed over as soon as possible.

All the best,

Johnny

Johnny Chatterton | Digital Campaigns Manager | 38 Degrees
38 Degrees brings you together with other people to take action on the issues that matter to you and bring about real change. Find out more at http://www.38degrees.org.uk/

On 12 July 2010 16:03, Dominic Raab wrote:
Thanks, but I don’t want my email details on your system at all.

From: Johnny Chatterton
Subject: Re: Re:
Dominic Raab
Date: Monday, 12 July, 2010, 15:57

Dear Dominic,

Thanks for your email. We’ve passed the correction onto our data provider who will be updating your details very soon.

I’d also like to reassure you that we don’t publish email addresses on our website. When our members want to email you they just see your name – your details are kept on our system.

If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me directly.

All the best,

Johnny


Johnny Chatterton | Digital Campaigns Manager | 38 Degrees

Date: Wed, 7 Jul 2010 16:02:03 +0000 (GMT)
From: Dominic Raab

To: 38 Degrees

Dear James

Please do not put any of my email addresses on your website.

Regards, Dominic

From: 38 Degrees
Subject: Re:
To: “Dominic Raab”
Date: Wednesday, 7 July, 2010, 16:28

Dear Dominic,

Thanks for getting in touch and apologies for any inconvenience caused by emails being sent to your personal account. I’ve forwarded your email to Johnny, who manages our website, so we can make sure that future emails will only be sent to your House of Commons address.

Best wishes,

James and the 38 Degrees team

On 06/07/2010 8:06 AM, Dominic Raab wrote:
Please stop using my private email address for your campaign immediately, or I will report your website to the Information Commissioner’s Office. If people wish to contact me on AV, I ask that they write to me at my HoC address.

Thank you.

Dominic Raab

MP for Esher & Walton

[Note – we have edited this email thread to remove email addresses and to make it easier to read. We haven’t altered the text of the emails in any way].

Update: We’ve clarified a couple of things that have been misunderstood in a new blog post here.