An early day motion tabled by six Labour MPs raising concerns about the Data Protection and Digital Information (DPDI) Bill has been signed by a further 23 legislators.

The ‘government surveillance of bank accounts’ motion was initiated after MPs expressed alarm at the potential for “mass surveillance”, as the group puts it, of people’s bank accounts. The DPDI Bill is currently in the report stage of the House of Lords, requiring passage in the third reading to move on to the final stage.

Richard Burgon, Labour MP for Leeds East, is the primary sponsor of the early day motion, launched on 7 May. In Westminster politics, early day motion essentially functions as a means for MPs to raise awareness of a certain issue related to legislation.

The motion states that MPs are “deeply alarmed” at some of the powers within the DPDI Bill relating to financial surveillance. This will include banks being required “to spy on the 23 million individuals in the welfare system, including those who are disabled, sick, caregivers, jobseekers and pensioners,” the MPs assert.

MPs are also concerned about the use of private banking data of the above mentioned individuals, including partners, parents and landlords. The use of AI to monitor customer accounts for suspicious activity, meanwhile, has been highlighted as potentially leading to a “Post Office Horizon-style scandal” of innocent people facing prosecution.

In the seven days since the motion’s introduction it has amassed a further 23 signatures, primarily from the political left of British politics. Signatories include former Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and former Shadow Home Secretary Dianne Abbott, now both Independent MPs. 

Other signatures come from Labour, Scottish National Party (SNP), Green Party and Liberal Democrat members of the House of Commons, plus one other Independent – Claudia Webb, also a former Labour MP.

This shows a clear political divide on the DPDI Bill, its purpose and intentions between the right and left of the British political spectrum, and between certain members of the opposition and the government.

The DPDI Bill is government sponsored legislation. It was launched last year by the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (SIT), sponsored by Secretary of State Michelle Donelan and Jonathan Berry, 5th Viscount Camrose, and passed its first reading in March 2023.

The Bill’s essential premise is to regulate the processing of information relating to identified or identifiable living individuals, to verify facts about said individuals and to make provision about access to customer data and business data.

It has received a warmer reception from Conservative MPs, unsurprisingly. At Pay360 earlier this year, John Penrose MP delivered a speech praising the DPDI Bill as a major milestone moving the British payments system forward, in particular its Open Banking abilities.

Due to the Bill’s advanced stage in parliament, and the historic effectiveness of early day motions, it is unlikely that the MPs’ protests will halt the legislation’s progress or ascent into law.

However, the motion does highlight a rift in British politics regarding the payments, finance and fintech sectors. Although it is important to note that Labour leadership has not officially endorsed the motion, both parties have been making policies clear when on financial matters as an election looms, and data protection could easily fall within the parameters of this debate.