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Rees-Mogg condemns ‘unethical’ academics for sending MPs spoof emails

Academics from King’s College London sent more than 1,000 emails to MPs from invented people with false concerns as part of a research project.

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Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg (Aaron Chown/PA Wire)

Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg (Aaron Chown/PA Wire)

Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg (Aaron Chown/PA Wire)

Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg has condemned “unethical” academics for sending out spoof emails to MPs to gauge response times.

He told MPs it was “deeply foolish” for university staff at King’s College London to send correspondences to elected representatives from fictitious constituents as part of a research project.

It came as MPs from all parties called on those involved to “dwell upon the ethics of what they have done”.

Earlier this week it was reported that academics from King’s College London sent more than 1,000 emails to MPs during the pandemic from invented people with false concerns about their finances.

The correspondences included fictitious job descriptions in an attempt to analyse whether a constituent’s employment title had an impact on MPs’ response times.

Raising the matter during business questions, Conservative MP Chris Green (Bolton West) said MPs’ staff had wasted an estimated 650 hours responding to the spoof emails.

This is really deeply foolish behaviour and you do wonder what the point of an ethics committee is if an ethics committee encourages dishonesty because that’s what it isJacob Rees-Mogg, Leader of the House of Commons

Mr Green told the Commons: “Year in, year out, our caseworkers do an immense amount of good work and this has been especially true during the coronavirus pandemic where the casework has gone up immeasurably.

“They are dealing with issues of parents’ fears about the education of their children, businesses on the verge of collapse and people frightened about getting healthcare treatments. This is what they are dealing with day in and day out.”

Mr Green said it was “completely the wrong time” for King’s College London to be sending “many hundreds of spoof emails to Members of Parliament”, adding: “An estimate I’ve seen is that this has consumed about 650 hours of caseworkers’ time to deal with these spoof emails.”

Asking Mr Rees-Mogg to join him in “condemnation” over the matter, Mr Green said those at King’s College London should “sit down quietly” and “dwell upon the ethics of what they have done”.

Mr Rees-Mogg said: “I am absolutely appalled by (Mr Green) telling me 650 hours of time have been wasted.

“It shows how deeply foolish the behaviour of King’s College has been, especially in the context of the pandemic, and this is clearly being taken up, Mr Speaker, by you.

“But I hope the condemnation of the House rings out in the ears of this unethical ethics committee.”

He added: “This is really deeply foolish behaviour and you do wonder what the point of an ethics committee is if an ethics committee encourages dishonesty because that’s what it is.

“Writing to people with a false name is dishonest, it’s cheating and it’s the sort of behaviour that no respectable ethics committee would approve.

“If there were ever a right time to do it, it certainly was not in the midst of a pandemic when we all know how hard-pressed our parliamentary assistants were and indeed continue to be.”

Speaker Lindsay Hoyle confirmed he had written to King’s College regarding the project.

He told the Commons: “I just want to reassure the House that I did send a letter to King’s on behalf of the House and copied (in) their ethics committee.

“It was appalling what has happened here and I am waiting for a response from the university. It is totally unacceptable.”

Highlighting the issue in a point of order on Wednesday, Labour MP Sarah Owen (Luton North) said their actions were “unethical” and a waste of taxpayers’ money.

Deputy Speaker Dame Eleanor Laing said it was a “disgraceful situation”, and added it was hard to see how it could have been seen as a good idea.

PA


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