Veteran Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm has been barred from seeing a file kept on him by the British MI5 Security Service. 91-year old Hobsbawm, who applied to see his personal data under the Data Protection Act, is something of a national institution, having been given the status of Companion of Honour by the Queen. Although he joined the now defunct British Communist party in 1936, he says:
“To the best of my knowledge I have never been involved in anything of security interest. I think the only reason can be that the security people don’t want to give away who snitched on me to the authorities.”
The Labour life peer Lord Lipsey has since tabled a question in the House of Lords, asking ministers to lift the ban on Hobsbawm’s access to his files.
According to The Guardian, Hobsbawm applied to the Security Service in June 2007 for access to his personal files under part II, section 7 of the Data Protection Act, receiving the following reply:
“We have conducted a search of Security Service records and have determined that the service does not possess any personal data to which you are entitled to have access under section 7 of the act. You should not take this response to imply that the Security Service does or does not hold any personal data about you.”
Hobsbawm seeks the data in question in the hope that it will enable him to correct any errors in his autobiography.