Personal Smartphones: Government Business

Cabinet Office – in the House of Commons at on 18 January 2024.

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Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Northern Ireland), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Justice)

What recent assessment he has made of the prevalence of the use of personal smartphones for conducting Government business by Ministers and officials.

Photo of Alex Burghart Alex Burghart The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office

The Cabinet Office does not hold data centrally regarding personal smartphone use. We are committed to ensuring that Government business is conducted securely and to supporting individuals in meeting their security responsibilities. In March last year, we published guidance concerning the use of non-corporate communication channels for Government business, which set out considerations around the use of private devices.

Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Northern Ireland), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Justice)

I may be part of a very small and shrinking group, but I think it is sensible that Ministers, officials and advisers should be able to share their thinking and thoughts in private on occasion. However, the truth of matter is that the constant drip of stories—whether about Boris Johnson, Nicola Sturgeon or anybody else—and WhatsApp messages not being available to hold people accountable, is harming public confidence in government and politics. Will the Minister look again at this to see how we can have good, accountable and transparent government?

Photo of Alex Burghart Alex Burghart The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office

The right hon. Gentleman raised important points. I draw his attention to the document we published last year: “Using non-corporate communication channels (e.g. WhatsApp, private email, SMS) for government business”. I think he will be particularly interested in the summary table on page two.