Labour’s selective use of civil servants

Just after New Year the Times reported that the Treasury had published detailed official analysis of 22 Conservative tax and spending proposals yesterday in response to a Freedom of Information request.  This provoked a storm of opposition protest at Labour’s use of civil servants to draft information for party political campaigning use.  Compare and contrast the amount of effort that was devoted to collating and number crunching those 22 tax and spending proposals with the following story.

A Ministerial written answer was published in the House of Commons yesterday in response to a question from Dr John Pugh (Lib Dem, Southport) who mindful of data protection concerns had decided:

To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many members of NHS staff have been disciplined for inappropriate use of information on (a) an NHS database and (b) medical records in each of the last 10 years.

As the answer clearly wasn’t going to provide any party political ammunition for Labour in the forthcoming General Election, Minister Mike O’Brien’s response was no less than could have been expected from a government that is determined to hand many more public servants access to our personal data without proper controls or safeguards.  This is a defining issue for Autonomous Mind because it has far reaching implications for us all.  No doubt acutely aware of the implications for data protection, he wrote:

The information requested is not held centrally. Legal responsibility for the secure handling and management of patient information rests with individual national health service organisations. It is therefore a matter for NHS organisations to take the appropriate action where patient information has been inappropriately accessed by their staff.

In other words, the details would be too inconvenient and embarrassing to publicise and would Dr Pugh please stop asking awkward questions.  It seems that civil servants can be tasked with building policy strawmen for the government to use to attack the opposition.  But they cannot be tasked with collating important information, from health authorities and care trusts who could have it, about the misuse of our personal data by NHS employees.

Why is it left to Autonomous Mind to highlight this issue?  The press should be all over this deliberate attempt to conceal important information about data protection breaches from the public.  If we have nothing to hide we have nothing to fear, right?  Think again.

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2 Responses to “Labour’s selective use of civil servants”

  1. 1 jameshigham 12/01/2010 at 11:46 pm

    If we have nothing to hide we have nothing to fear, right?

    Wishful thinking of course. The fiddling with stats has reached ludicrous proportions now and pre-election it seems strange, sort of apocalyptic, with strange days upon us.

  2. 2 subrosa 13/01/2010 at 1:56 am

    A few of my readers will be interested in this. Thanks.

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