Labour asks FoI watchdog to probe report officials using WhatsApp to avoid rules

Shadow Cabinet Office minister Louise Haigh says use of WhatsApp should either be "banned completely or brought under the FoI legislation"

By Agnes Chambre

27 Apr 2016

Downing Street is facing criticism over a report that ministers and senior members of David Cameron’s team are using WhatsApp to formulate strategy for the EU referendum, potentially side-stepping Freedom of Information requests.

The encrypted messenger service is not subject to FoI laws and the group conversations will not be kept in historical records.

A government source told The Sun newspaper that the service was being used among Remain supporters “for planning and sharing news links”. ​

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“They did exactly the same before the election last year,” the source added.

The report has prompted shadow Cabinet Office minister Louise Haigh to write to the Information Commissioner, asking the watchdog to "urgently" investigate the claims and ensure the use of WhatsApp for official communications is "either banned completely or brought under the FoI legislation".

Haigh added: “This is yet one more example of the government’s attempts to avoid scrutiny and stop us knowing what’s happening with our taxpayers money.”

“Not only does this evade FOI but it could have implications for the 20 year rule of release of cabinet papers.”

A Number 10 source said: “This is the modern age, people communicate in variety of different ways.”

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