I realise that I’m sounding like a man obsessed with yet another post about the loss of the benefit data (possibly because I am directly affected by it – and remain astonished at the ineptitude).
I am struck by one news story today, overwhelmed by the resignation of the Labour party general secretary. This story involves Michael Wills, questioned by a Parliamentary committee today. Mr Wills is the minister for state at the Ministry of Justice and has responsibility for the land registry. the review of voting systems, and devolution. However, WIlls is also minister responsible for data protection and sharing as well as being responsible for freedom of information. I didn’t think that freedom of information extended to revealing 25 million records, but that’s by the by.
ANyway, data protection and sharing is the responsibility of the Ministry of Justice whose website helpfully reveals what this involves.
“We develop policy that strikes a balance between the many benefits of public organisations sharing information and maintaining and strengthening safeguards and privacy. Data sharing is central to the Government’s ability to fulfil its commitment to improve public services and provide greater protection and support – both for individuals and society as a whole.”
So while the information revealed comes from the Treasury (via Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs) the Ministry of Justice has responsibility for the overall policy of data-sharing, ensuring that the government protects privacy and provides protection for individuals and society as a whole.
One would have thought that given his ministerial responsibilities on the formulation of government policy in the general area (potentially affected by a systemic operational failure where somehow a copy of 25 million records is lost) that Mr Wills would have been in the loop, informed about what was going on at an early stage, or at the very least prior to the statement to PArliament.
Wills was asked by the parliamentary committee when he first became aware of the data loss,
If you check my earlier posts on benefit data you will see that I knew before him (posted 3 and a quarter hours before Darling’s statement), through reading the BBC news website.
Is Wills concerned about this?
Of course not.
“I would expect … the responsible ministers first of all to discover the extent of the problem; and then to do whatever they could to put the problem right immediately.”
Which is reasonable – but not to tell the man responsible for formulation of government policy on data protection AND data sharing, that one instance of data sharing has collapsed spectacularly? Surely joined-up government should see Wills made aware?
The Beeb report that,
“he said his department was responsible for data protection regulations and their enforcement – not to personally to stop any breaches of data protection “where and whenever they may occur”.”
Well, that’s clear then. The man responsible for policy on the area – doesn’t want to know.