Monthly Archives: February 2012


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Ian Sample writes in the Guardian: The government must overhaul its use of chief scientific advisers to prevent departments from ignoring and sidelining evidence that affects their policies, a Lords committee says. The committee examining the role and function of chief scientific advisers (CSAs) found that expert advice was sometimes blocked, dismissed or not sought early enough to influence the decisions they made. The failure undermined policies across government departments, including proposals for biometric ID cards, plans for offshore windpower, the closure of the Forensic Science Service, and the ongoing funding of homeopathy by the NHS and Department of Health. A report by the committee, chaired by Lord Krebs, says CSAs must sit on the boards of their departments, be consulted “early and throughout” policymaking, have a right of access to ministers, and crucially be required to sign-off on fresh policies. “We’re not saying the system is broken, but it’s […]

Government ignores or sidelines its scientific advisers, says Lords report


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The Register reports: The government is to double the number of people required to have a biometric residence permit (BRP) to stay in the UK, raising the number to 400,000 a year. The system is being expanded to include refugees and those given the right to live in the UK permanently. It will mean that all non-EEA (European Economic Area) nationals applying to remain in the UK for more than six months will now need the compulsory permits. BRPs hold a person’s fingerprints and photograph on a secure chip, and can be used to confirm information on each individual’s work and benefits entitlements. From June, an online Employers’ Checking Service for BRPs will enable employers, and later in the year public authorities, to run real-time checks on whether individuals are eligible to work or access services in the UK. Most of the 650,000 BRPs issued since their introduction in 2008 […]

UK.gov to double number of biometric chips for immigrants


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Tom Espiner writes on the ZDNet web site: An £870,000 IT project to share driver data between the DVLA and motor insurers is floundering over who will bear the costs, according to MPs. The Industry Access to Driver Data (IADD) project, which began in 2009, was designed to allow insurers to query DVLA records of driver licence information to decide whether to sell insurance to prospective customers, based on licensing information. The project, which cost £870,000 between 2009 and August 2011, has run up against the buffers of cost negotiations between the government and insurers, roads minister Michael Penning told the House of Commons on Thursday. He reports: The data-sharing project is designed to close a “loophole” that allows people driving without a licence to take measures to avoid detection by the police, Penning said in the debate. Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) technology, used by the police to scan […]

DVLA driver data-sharing project delayed by costs



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Simon Jenkins writes in the Guardian about the eBorders database, in the context of the Home Office’s recently-announced reorganisation of the Border Agency: As central government has burgeoned, ministers have been content with success but find blame ever harder to accept. They respond to failure not by streamlining their departments and directing resources to the frontline, but by the opposite. They hire consultants, reorganise departments and agencies and spend billions on computers. Well-publicised fiascos over the NHS computer, the ID card computer, the passports computer, the farm payments computer and innumerable defence computers make the postwar groundnuts scandal look small beer. One report last year suggested that computer failure had wasted taxpayers £26bn since 2000. The incompetence is stupendous, yet there has been no audit, no accountability, no halt to crazy procurement. A classic was the fate of the Home Office’s “e-Borders” computer, sold by Raytheon to a gullible Jacqui […]

Theresa May plays a familiar part in the farce of ...


David Barrett writes in the Sunday Telegraph: Details of every phone call and text message, email traffic and websites visited online are to be stored in a series of vast databases under new Government anti-terror plans. Landline and mobile phone companies and broadband providers will be ordered to store the data for a year and make it available to the security services under the scheme. The databases would not record the contents of calls, texts or emails but the numbers or email addresses of who they are sent and received by. For the first time, the security services will have widespread access to information about who has been communicating with each other on social networking sites such as Facebook. Direct messages between subscribers to websites such as Twitter would also be stored, as well as communications between players in online video games. The Home Office is understood to have begun […]

Phone and email records to be stored in new spy ...


Mark Blunden writes in the Evening Standard: London councils want unprecedented access to confidential driver and vehicle data to tackle illegal parking. Town halls are considering using the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency database to manage permits and fines, but campaigners fear it will lead to more incorrect tickets being issued and increased surveillance of drivers. The DVLA said councils now have only limited access to information about abandoned or “nuisance” vehicles, or to help combat fly-tipping. It has had requests from Newham, Kingston, Kensington and Chelsea, Southwark and Camden councils for blanket online access to its database, plus a “consortium” application from London Councils, parent body of the 32 boroughs. The requests have so far been refused, the DVLA said. London Councils said access would “provide a cheaper, more efficient, paperless parking system”.

Council parking chiefs want DVLA’s secret data on drivers



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Tom Whitehead writes in the Daily Telegraph about errors in Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks: The true number of people who were wrongly linked to crimes or misrepresented is ten times greater than annual Home Office figures suggest, The Daily Telegraph can disclose. The scale of errors made in background checks was only revealed through Freedom of Information requests. Annual error statistics published by the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) regularly suggested around 200 people are wrongly accused each year. However, those figures only refer to errors made directly by CRB staff when carrying out checks and disclosing information. Once errors made by other agencies who contribute to background checks, such as the police and education officials, are included, the figures run in to the thousands. Since 2003, a total 19,551 disputes over inaccurate CRB checks have been upheld. For 2010/11, the official inaccuracy figure stood at 172, but the new […]

Thousands wrongly labelled as criminals


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Rowena Mason writes in the Daily Telegraph: Plans to force households to have energy smart meters installed have been shelved over health and privacy fears. The Government had promised that every household would have a smart meter by 2019 in a £12 billion programme to stop gas and electricity bills being estimated. Officials are devising plans to allow people to reject the smart meters, which communicate remotely from households to energy companies. The move is a victory for campaign groups and backbench MPs, who raised concerns with ministers that the devices emit electromagnetic radiation 24 hours a day and cannot be turned off. Privacy campaigners were worried that half-hourly data on energy usage collected by smart meters could give clues about people’s way of life, such as when someone is on holiday, at work or asleep. Sources in the Department for Energy and Climate Change said the proposal was shelved […]

Smart meters for energy to be voluntary