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UK minister dumps official papers in trash can

AP News
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Posted: Oct 14, 2011 7:03 AM
UK minister dumps official papers in trash can

A British minister has acknowledged dumping official documents in garbage cans at a London park, his office said Friday.

Oliver Letwin, a Cabinet Office minister who works on government strategy, was spotted discarding letters, including some related to national security.

Britain's Daily Mirror tabloid reported that Letwin had been seen dropping documents into trash cans in St. James's Park on five occasions, and that some of the documents related to al-Qaida and to inquiries on extraordinary rendition.

Letwin's office insisted that none of the documents were government papers, or that any contained sensitive material.

The minister "does some of his parliamentary and constituency correspondence in the park before going to work and sometimes disposes of copies of letters there," a spokeswoman said, on condition of anonymity in line with policy.

She said the "documents contain no sensitive information on either constituent or government business," but confirmed he would no longer toss the letters into public trash cans.

Prime Minister David Cameron's office said the Cabinet Office was investigating whether or not any sensitive documents were among those that Letwin discarded.

A spokeswoman for Cameron, who also spoke on condition of anonymity in line with policy, said it was not thought Letwin handled sensitive material while working in the park, but mainly read letters from people who live in his Parliamentary district.

"Most of the business which Mr. Letwin does in the park is constituency based," she said.

Britain's Information Commissioner Office said is was making initial inquiries to check whether Letwin may have breached data protection rules, by discarding letters that included the names and addresses of members of the public.

"Keeping personal data secure is a key principle of the Data Protection Act and the Information Commissioner Office takes any breach of that principle very seriously," the commissioner's office said in a statement.