A senior Tory MP was forced to apologise “unreservedly” to Parliament today after an investigation recommended he be suspended for paying his “all-but-invisible” son £1,000 per month in taxpayers’ money.
The House of Commons Standards and Privileges Committee was scathing about the £11,773 per year salary, plus bonuses, paid by Derek Conway to his son, Frederick, who was studying at Newcastle University at the time.
Recommending a 10-day suspension – and that Mr Conway apologise personally to the House – the committee said it was “astonished” to find there appeared to be no evidence of any aspect of Frederick’s work.
As well as his yearly salary, he also received four one-off bonuses between September 2005 and May 2007 totalling just over £10,000.
THE government faced a new data row this weekend after it emerged that HM Revenue and Customs has set up a secret “two tier” security system for online tax records giving extra protection to a small group of MPs, royals and other VIPs.
Although the HMRC denied that the security of its online computer system was in doubt, a spokesman admitted that there were “bad apples” in the organisation who could present a risk that data would be compromised.
Tax records contain home addresses, bank account details, national insurance numbers and details of savings and investments, all valuable to fraudsters.
And of course they are valuable to journalists too, as Nick Davies explains in Flat Earth News. Fundamentally there is a market for that information and people willing to participate in the market as suppliers.
Asked if the extra security measures meant that the department didn’t trust its own employees to deal with sensitive data, [the spokesman] said: “The system is secure. We do trust our own people but as with all things there are bad apples.”
She’s in a difficult position because of course she must say that her colleagues are trustworthy and that the system is secure. But clearly it is not 100% secure, in terms of the technology and the people who have access to it.
Is it not in the public interest, particularly the taxpayer’s interest in this instance, to be aware of how (in)secure it is? Joe Bloggs might think, as it happens there is someone after him and he’d like to be on the more secure ‘tier’.
SpyBlog’s concern about this comes through in a great (perhaps unwitting) gag:
It should be made clear to terrorists, that Members of Parliament, even members of the Government, who are supposedly serving the Public, not just themselves, are not a worthwhile target, since we, as a society will simply replace them democratically, whilst mourning any individual casualties.
Although I’m not sure about the mourning – perhaps that bit was sarcasm.
My headline is of course a quote from George Orwell’s Animal Farm, which you should read if you haven’t already done so.
The Government is looking at using “coercion” tactics as a way of introducing the controversial ID card scheme, a leaked memo suggests.
The Home Office document said that young people could be made to apply for an ID card when they applied for a driving licence.
Gordon Brown has always insisted that ID cards would remain voluntary unless Parliament decided otherwise. But the latest memo headed “Options Analysis” suggests that officials are already thinking about how they can be made compulsory.
It states: “Various forms of coercion, such as designation of the application process for identity documents issued by UK ministers (eg, passports) are an option to stimulate applications in a manageable way.
“There are advantages to designation of documents associated with particular target groups, eg, young people who may be applying for their first driving licence.”
The document adds that “universal compulsion should not be used unless absolutely necessary”.
It’s in the Identity Cards Act, in the sections about designated documents and entries on the National Identity Register. A Minister can designate a document, for example a passport or driving licence, and when you apply for that document you will be entered on to the Register. Of course, if you don’t mind living an abnormal life (80% of UK population have passports, don’t know the figure for driving licenses) this enrolment is entirely ‘voluntary’.
Clearly it is preferable to coerce people into being enrolled as a side-effect rather requiring them to enrol as the primary goal.
Nice to have these underhand tactics being published though.
and what do we get out of it? Harassment from cowboy clampers? Yeah, great.
The DVLA’s sale of driver details to anyone with £2.50 to spare must stop, says the Scottish National Party, having uncovered just how many peoples’ records have been sold by the department.
Christine Grahame, an SNP Member of the Scottish Parliament, accused the agency of recklessly handing out driver and vehicle requests to private companies. …
Last year the DVLA sold 1.3m records to private companies – a 54 per cent increase in five years. Grahame made the FOI request because several of her constituents were wrongly sent fines from private parking companies demanding payment. She said letters were written in a way which left people frightened and intimidated. …
Not sure why I haven’t seen this before:
A growing number of Councils and other major bodies, such as the Scottish Parliament, and the Welsh and London Assemblies have passed strongly worded motions against ID cards. Many of these will refuse to cooperate with the ID scheme; some have even affiliated to NO2ID.
Lay things on the line — the millions that each Local Authority is going to have to pay to make its systems compliant with the ID Register and people’s ID number usually wakes people up. This money has to come from somewhere — either cuts in local services, or rises in Council Tax.
It is also worth pointing out that the Home Office’s stated position is currently that every Government Department, Local Authority and public sector body will have to do a “business case” and decide whether or not to ‘buy in’ to the ID scheme, i.e. all the costs will come out of their existing budgets, but there are NO PENALTIES (yet) for those that decide not to join up. …
It is welcome news that a number of organisations within the public sector are refusing to sign up.
It is worth emphasising the point about the budgets. The (under)estimate that the scheme will cost £5.6 bn is just the estimated cost of setting up and running the scheme at the IPS. The cost to the rest of the public sector in getting involved is not included.