Remarkable piece by Martin Kettle on the data debacle:
There can hardly be a person alive who hasn’t lost something important
– keys, wallet, passport, watch, car, even children – at some time or
another through their own inadvertence or stupidity. We’ve all done it.
A lot of us have also had things stolen too, not least in the post or
by couriers. So, in that sense, today’s announcement
that the Revenue and Customs have lost some CDs full of data is
actually a very human story. We’ve all been there. It’s incredibly
annoying, but it’s life. We ought to feel sympathetic.
Of course people make mistakes. That is exactly why the Government should have foreseen that making more and more data accessible to more and more officials on fewer and bigger databases was a recipe for trouble.
What is most culpable is that even in the face of a debacle that has demonstrated the dangers of this approach, the Government is still fully committed to carrying a flawed policy to its logical conclusion, a national identity database.
I have long thought that the ID cards plan could become Labour’s poll tax. (In fact, given that we will all be forced to pay through the nose for the privilege of having them, ID cards effectively are a poll tax.) It represents an epochal shift in the balance between the state and civil society, that will fundamentally change this country for the worse.
I have come across a fair few Labour people, including some I greatly respect, who have a blind spot on this point. Well, the loss of data about every child in the country ought to be evidence enough that this is a bread and butter issue. Any national identity database will be intrinically and inevitably prone to similar problems.
Nothing less than the end of the ID cards plan will demonstrate that the Government has learnt anything from this episode.