Tag Archives: data protection

DWP admits abusing data protection laws to shred 50 reviews of benefit-related suicides

Not smiling: and Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey really won’t be, once it gets through to her that the public now knows her department has been taking the p*ss out of all the people it has killed.

This is typical of the DWP: in the week that the minister for disabled people promises the department is working to improve its response to benefit-related deaths, we find it has been destroying records of them.

Particularly interesting for This Writer is the fact that they were records dated before 2015 – a period that I inquired about in a Freedom of Information request that the Department refused to honour.

I had to force the government to issue what turned out to be a tragically limited response, via an order from the Information Commissioner’s Office.

All of the above suggests that Linda Cooksey, sister of DWP victim Tim Salter (who took his own life after being deprived of benefits in 2013), was right to say the Department has been trying to “cover up” the facts.

It seems the DWP has feebly tried to excuse itself with a claim that the destruction was necessary due to data protection requirements.

But the Information Commissioner’s Office (again) has made it clear that there was no need to destroy any documents by a particular date, and in any case they could have been made subjects of a “public interest” protection.

It is interesting to hear that Stephen Timms, chair of the Commons Work and Pensions Committee, said there was a “lack of seriousness” about “putting things right when they go wrong”.

Perhaps that explains why Justin Tomlinson (the afore-mentioned minister for people with disabilities) was caught smirking during a debate about the DWP’s failure to address these issues.

So we see that the DWP minister was making fun of everybody who has suffered at the department’s hands, and the Department itself is laughing at anybody who seriously expects it to change its ways.

Source: ‘Cover-up’: DWP destroyed reports into people who killed themselves after benefits were stopped | The Independent

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Labour: contrite leader candidates will look stupid after former member has his day in court

The arena: The lies Labour used to expel one member are to be exposed at Bristol Civil Justice Centre.

Labour leadership candidates were falling over themselves to apologise for failing to tackle a fabricated anti-Semitism crisis, according to BBC News.

What a shame they have not been so forthcoming in apologising to the members they have wronged.

In my own case, Labour faked evidence and then passed it to like-minded members of the press, in order to create a false impression that I was an anti-Semite. The party then used this as an excuse to expel me.

And now Labour will have to answer for those activities – in court on May 26.

The party breached its own disciplinary rules and regulations, and data protection procedures – in the process breaking the Data Protection Act – in its determination to expel a perfectly innocent member with one of the most abhorrent smears there can be.

But party leaders did not realise that they had laid themselves wide open to a legal challenge in the courts – over breach of contract.

The party is governed by its rule book and it broke those rules in its attack on me. I feel sure that other people will have been similarly wronged.

The court hearing will begin at 10am and a whole day has been allotted to it.

In the meantime, candidates like Emily Thornberry are apologising for failing to kick out members on the basis of nothing more than a flimsy claim – most probably by people who support the Conservatives.

She’ll be singing a different tune in June.

Source: Labour leadership: Candidates apologise over anti-Semitism – BBC News

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Vox Political boss’s court joy is first step in new battle

Lawyers for the Labour Party have been sent away to think again after entirely failing to understand the allegations against them in a court battle – against me.

That’s right, This Writer has challenged the Labour Party over its decision to expel me from membership on charges relating to anti-Semitism, using a compromised disciplinary procedure that, I am alleging, breaches the terms of the party’s contract with its members.

My contention is that the party breached our contract by failing to follow its own disciplinary rules in investigating a complaint against me, by charging me with breaking a rule that did not exist at the time the complaint was made (let alone when I wrote the articles to which it related), and with two data protection breaches: passing information about me – including false information – to third parties and failing to honour a subject access request.

As I was making a money claim, I had to attach a value to the allegation. So I pointed out that my party membership had been suspended – and I had been denied permission to take part in any party activities – from the moment the disciplinary process against me was activated. As that process had been prejudiced against me, the outcome was wrong and I should not have been expelled. Therefore my party subscriptions for that period should be returned to me.

And I requested a declaration by the court that Labour had been wrong to expel me.

The party’s lawyers had failed to realise that a data protection breach can also constitute a breach of contract and had tried to say the part of my charge relating to them had not been properly made out. The judge disagreed.

To my joy, he explained that he had read the claim against Labour in exactly the way I had intended – and that it was Labour’s mistake to see it otherwise.

I think I’m right in saying we all agreed, though, that the online submission form run by HM Courts and Tribunals Service was not clear in its instructions and had failed to provide me with the information I needed, in order to provide the court – and the defendant – with the necessary information in the form it expected.

Labour had expected a charge, followed by itemised particulars, but the online form had not requested that – it had called for me to write the reasons for my claim, which I did in narrative form.

(I had expected to be contacted again with instructions on how to provide a properly made-out charge sheet, but this had not happened, hence the confusion).

The judge kindly decided that this was not the fault of either myself or the defendant.

But he said it would be unfair to try the case there and then – not only because Labour had not properly grasped the issues but because there was only an hour’s time left to do so, and there was far too much evidence to consider.

So he adjourned the case, to allow me to prepare a charge sheet, with particulars, and for Labour to draft a new response, and possibly to gather evidence and witness statements.

He also pointed out that this case has implications that go far beyond a small money claim.

If the court finds against the Labour Party, it can only harm that organisation’s reputation.

And think what may happen if the court declares that the party wrongly expelled a member charged with offences relating to anti-Semitism!

On hearing this, the party’s advocate asked for the case to be transferred to the next level of civil court proceedings – the ‘fast track’, in which the costs to the parties are much higher. The judge told me I would have to pay £7,000-£10,000 over the course of only a few months.

But he had already offered us the opportunity to change track and we had both turned it down (Labour in the knowledge of what a finding against it would mean), so he ruled against Labour’s request. He said the reputational damage to Labour would arise from a finding against it, not from the remedy.

The judge also expressed surprise that no members of the press were present at the hearing in Bristol Civil Justice Centre yesterday.

Well, I’ll give them ample warning before the next hearing.

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The new Tory government has imposed Nazi-style persecution of disabled people – on its very first day

Arbet macht frei: Boris Johnson’s policy for people with physical and mental disabilities is stolen from the Nazis.

This is how it’s going to be.

The Conservative government has started as it means to go on – by smashing the right of sick and disabled people to have sick notes signed by their doctors.

Claimants of sickness and disability benefits are now no longer permitted to decide for themselves whether the outcome of Work Capability Assessments should be shared with their doctor.

The DWP can now send letters to doctors, telling them not to sign patients’ sick notes if they have been found “fit for work”.

The new regulation overturns an option not to report the outcome of WCAs to GPs that was only included on the ESA50 claim form on December 5, after the Information Commissioner warned that omitting the option contravened data protection rules.

This is an example of the de-humanisation process that minorities undergo when they are to be persecuted by a malicious and despotic national government.

The Nazis took away the rights of Jews, for example.

Note that people are routinely found fit for work when their physical and/or mental health shows that they are not. This is therefore a move to override medical evidence, with only one logical purpose:

In order to inflict further and deeper harm on people who are already injured or ill.

People who voted Conservative are reminded that this is what they wanted.

It is a policy that follows the words of tinpot despot Boris Johnson earlier this year; he said working harder would help people with mental health disorders.

Fine words from a man who has never done a hard day’s work in his life!

This Writer will refrain from commenting on the crackpot Con-man’s mental condition.

Source: Tories use first day back to attack the disabled | Morning Star

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Latest phase of Tory ‘hostile environment’ would force charities to help deport people sleeping rough

The Conservative government has been caught trying to persecute foreigners and some of the UK’s most vulnerable people – yet again.

The scandal centres once again on the Home Office, which has been trying to pressgang homelessness charities into becoming border guards.

The plan – euphemistically titled the Rough Sleeper Support Service (RSSS) – is to get charity outreach workers to pass on the personal details of homeless people to the Home Office where, if they were found to be from foreign countries, enforcement officers would deport them.

The scheme deliberately ignores data protection and privacy laws by demanding that personal information be passed to the Home Office regardless of whether the subject gives their consent.

This breach of national and international law was imposed to make it easier to deport people. A Home Office email stated that this would be harder if individuals were allowed to withdraw consent for their information to be used in this way, as would be permitted legally.

There has been pushback from charities who have refused to agree a data-sharing deal – that breaks the law – with the Home Office and local authorities.

This Writer wonders whether charities were also being gagged with non-disclosure agreements foisted on them by the Home Office – a Conservative government trick we have encountered before.

It seems odd that the first time this atrocity came to public attention was after the human rights charity Liberty received answers to a Freedom of Information request.

And Liberty was not pleased. According to the charity’s Gracie Bradley:

“It’s disgraceful that the Home Office, local authorities, and charities are attempting to turn trusted homelessness outreach workers into border guards. Homelessness charities must refuse complicity in the hostile environment.

Bradley said referrals will likely result in immigration enforcement action.

She said ministers should be concentrating on combating the root causes of homelessness rather than targeting rough sleepers. “Consent and data protection should also be at the heart of our interactions with public institutions,” she added.

[A] Public Interest Law Centre spokesman added: “Despite its name, the new RSSS offers no ‘support’ to homeless migrants living in the UK. It is a ‘hostile environment’ measure in all but name.”

Shockingly, the Tories have been unrepentant, now that their plan has been revealed.

A Home Office spokesman actually told the Guardian: “This enables individuals to access support or assists them in leaving the UK where appropriate.”

Assists them? They can only be assisted to leave the UK if they have been asked whether they want to – and it seems perfectly clear that the Home Office does not intend to seek any such permissions.

This is yet another atrocity from the home of the “hostile environment” and Home Secretary Sajid Javid should be hauled before Parliament to explain his department’s flagrant abuse of the law.

If he fails to account for his department’s actions, then we will have yet more proof of the Conservative Party’s prejudice against anybody who isn’t rich and privileged.

Source: Secret plan to use charities to help deport rough sleepers | Politics | The Guardian

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Damian Green affair: Information Commissioner to examine possible data protection breaches

Bob Quick: One of the former officers who has been accused of breaching the Data Protection Act, Mr Quick was still at the Metropolitan Police when this image was taken.

The Information Commissioner has been asked to investigate whether former police officers breached their data protection responsibilities to make information public that pornography was found on a computer in Damian Green’s Parliamentary office in 2008.

It is alleged that former Metropolitan Police officers Bob Quick and Neil Lewis should not have retained the evidence they used to accuse Mr Green, nor should they have made it public.

That’s all very well – but the fact is that Mr Green has been forced to resign because he lied about those allegations; they revealed an aspect of his character and/or behaviour that was unacceptable in a UK government minister.

Mr Green had claimed he was not notified of the fact that pornography was found on the office computer, when in fact he was made aware of it in 2008 and 2013.

So it may be argued that the ex-officers had a duty to disclose the information in the public interest. And don’t all police officers swear an oath to pursue justice – an oath that overrides all other considerations?

As I am writing this article, a Conservative has appeared on BBC News, saying the former officers should be investigated for “misconduct in public office”, saying people would not be able to trust the police with their personal information.

But this was damning information – people who are innocent of wrong-doing have nothing to fear, it seems to This Writer. And they would have to still be in public office, to be accused of misconduct in it. Wouldn’t they?

The issue is complicated – and the law may not be written in a way that supports justice in this case.

So the Information Commissioner has a difficult job. Let us hope the final verdict supports the interests of the public and of justice – and not the petty concerns of politicians who have been shamed.


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Why are expense fraud MPs above the law?

One law for them...: This image appeared on Twitter, summarising how the law treats MPs in comparison with the rest of us.

One law for them…: This image appeared on Twitter, summarising how the law treats MPs in comparison with the rest of us.

How strange that John Bercow would want to make himself an accessory to MPs’ fraudulent expenses claims!

It seems the Speaker of the House of Commons has ordered that details of all MPs’ expenses, claimed before the system was reformed in 2010, should be shredded.

The decision will have come as good news for Members such as George Osborne, who made a cool £1 million off the taxpayer from expenses payments made to cover a mortgage on open land in his Cheshire constituency which he claimed he was using for Parliamentary business.

(The bad news for him is that Vox Political holds copies of relevant documents and will certainly launch another attempt to have Osborne prosecuted, if the opportunity presents itself. Oh, and the Daily Telegraph – which has a complete record of claims made under the former system and used it in a series of reports that shocked the nation and led to the system being reformed, a matter that has now become a two-edged sword.)

Bercow’s reasons for burning the books are a mystery. According to the Telegraph, weakling standards watchdog Kathryn Hudson has been dealing with multiple allegations raised by constituents. Now she is able to tell them that their concerns cannot be investigated due to lack of evidence.

This is not good enough.

In fact, it is worse than the original, scandalous system. At least, with that, it was possible to find out who had claimed money and why; that is no longer the case.

The Telegraph article tells us that the Commons’ ‘Authorised Records Disposal Practice’ lays down guidelines about the length of time for which records may be kept. Thousands are stored indefinitely in the Parliamentary Archive. The pay, discipline and sickness records of Commons staff are kept until their 100th birthday. Health and safety records are kept for up to 40 years.

How long are records of MPs’ expenses kept until they are destroyed? Three years.

Why such a short period? “Data protection”.

Why does this only apply to MPs’ expenses and not to the other matters? No answer.

We know why, though, don’t we? It’s in order to cover up the wrongdoings of the most corrupt Parliament in living memory.

We know that the government has been legislating to ensure that money is drained from the poor and needy into the hands of the rich and the powerful corporations they run, in return for generous donations to the Conservative Party (arrangements for the Liberal Democrats are not known to this blog).

Who knows what backbenchers have been doing in the meantime? They’ve certainly been living the life of Riley while some of us have had to struggle simply to secure the state benefits that we have spent our entire working lives subsidising – and many others, having been denied those benefits for spurious reasons, are no longer with us as a result.

Still, considering the limp punishment handed down to Maria Miller, who between 2005 and 2009 claimed £90,718 in Parliamentary expenses for the mortgage and upkeep of a south London house that was occupied, not by herself, but by her parents, there is no reason to believe any of them would have received a just and proper punishment.

(She was fined £5,800 and made a half-hearted apology – not to the taxpayer, but to Parliament, after a committee of, you guessed it, MPs overruled the standards commissioner’s recommendation that she be made to repay £45,000.)

If any other citizen (who did not have the right business- or class-based connections) embezzled that much money, they would be jailed for a lengthy period of time – in fact we have recently seen cases in which people who were reduced to stealing from supermarkets or food banks, after the DWP sanctioned their benefits, have been jailed for unduly lengthy periods. Yet MPs are, essentially, let off the hook.

The problem is: They’re above the law.

There won’t be any justice in this system until the whole mechanism for investigating allegations against MPs – of any kind – is handed over to the police, where it belongs.

And not just the Metropolitan Police, who are nearby and may end up facing their own corruption allegations. Perhaps it is best that the responsibility be handed between forces on a rota system, in order to minimise the opportunity for underhandedness.

No MP would ever vote for that, of course. In a perfect world they might but, in this one, all that is required to buy their silence is peer pressure. In a perfect world (again) the electorate would be able to hold MPs to account with the threat of being removed from their seat at the next election, but we know that this does not happen in practice. Some ex-MPs who were disgraced in the last expenses scandal will be standing for election again next May.

What’s the answer, then?

A petition has been started, to have MPs accused of fraud investigated and prosecuted – but this seems doomed to failure for practical purposes; the evidence no longer exists!

Perhaps the best way forward would be to pursue Bercow, for ordering the destruction of the files, and the weakling Hudson for allowing them to be destroyed.

Alternatively, the Telegraph could make its files publicly available, and we could all carry out investigations of our own.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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DVLA Website STILL Lets People Check Neighbours’ Benefits – Benefits and Work

[Image: ipayroadtax.com]

[Image: ipayroadtax.com]

Here’s an important warning from the Benefits and Work blog:

The DVLA is still letting visitors to its website find out if their neighbours are claiming certain disability benefits, in spite of assuring the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) that it is no longer doing so after the ICO held that “releasing this information unnecessarily reveals the personal circumstances of individuals using their vehicle”. The DVLA vehicle check service is now receiving over 1.5 million visitors a month.

At the beginning of July we warned readers that a new vehicle check service on the DVLA website allows visitors to find out whether their neighbours, friends or relatives are receiving the higher rate of the mobility component of disability living allowance (DLA) or either rate of the mobility component of personal independence payment (PIP).

We argued that disclosing this information was a breach of the data protection laws. Initially, DVLA denied that this was the case.

However, after multiple complaints to DVLA and the ICO by Benefits and Work readers it seems that DVLA have now quietly made changes to their site. Unfortunately, we have been contacted by several members already to say that the changes have made no difference.

It appears that the tax class category has now been removed from the DVLA look-up service.

But at the top of the screen there is an entry entitled:

Vehicle excise duty rate for the vehicle.

For people in the disabled tax class this, we understand that this states:

12 month rate: £0.00

In other words, it is still possible to work out who’s claiming disability benefits from this website.

Read the rest of the article on the Benefits and Work website.

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Our upstart politicians have an important lesson to learn: Respect.

vote

Sometimes events coincide to create a coherent pattern, apparently by accident.

So it seemed today, with publicity surrounding the legalised corporate theft of all our images on the Internet, the part-privatisation of the government unit that has been carrying out illegal psychometric experiments on jobseekers… and the publication of my letter to the local newspapers, deploring a previous missive from a Conservative politician who was determined to parrot disproved assertions from his superiors in London, rather than treat us like intelligent creatures and try to connect on an equal footing.

We’ll start with the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013, which received Royal Assent last week. Under this act, any image that does not contain information identifying the owner (or has had that information stripped away) will become available for exploitation by commercial organisations.

These so-called “orphan works” are placed into “extended collective licensing” schemes. Any user wishing to, say, put that silly photograph you uploaded to Facebook onto a T-shirt, only has to perform a “diligent search” for the owner which, when it comes up with a blank, will allow them to proceed with impunity. And they won’t have to pay you a single penny for the use of your work.

What can you do about it? Nothing, unless you can afford costly and cumbersome legal action – despite the fact that, previously, ownership of your creation has been automatic, enshrined in the Berne Convention and other international treaties where it is still considered to be a basic human right.

Would you like to know how the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills describes the changes? Like this: “For the first time orphan works will be licensed for use; these are copyrighted works for which the owner of the copyright is unknown or can’t be found.”

That makes it seem like a good thing; in fact, it’s quite the opposite – as you’ll soon find out.

Meanwhile, we see that the government’s Behavioural Insights Team – otherwise known as the Cabinet Office’s ‘Nudge Unit’ – is being part-privatised after causing immense embarrassment to the government when it was revealed that a psychometric test it had devised for the Department for Work and Pensions to use on jobseekers was not only fake but, in fact, illegal.

The team was established after the 2010 election to – according to the government – find ways of getting people to make better choices themselves, rather than through state intervention.

But the psych test foisted on jobseekers by Iain Duncan Smith’s Department for Work and Pensions was the exact opposite of this. Firstly, workless people have been forced to take the test or lose their benefits. Next, the results have been proven to be a sham – it seems you get the same set of personality results, no matter what answers you enter – so there is no possibility of personal choice. Finally, it turns out that the whole exercise is illegal according to both UK and EU law, as “informed consent” is required before anyone takes part in a test of this kind. This is because the test has been presented as research – a “randomised control trial” (see that use of the word ‘control’? Dodgy!) according to a Cabinet Office blog.

As fellow blogger Steve Walker stated in his Skwawkbox blog on the subject earlier today (which I have reblogged), “the test itself is not the point – what is being trialled here is the supposed effect of going through it on the subjects of the trials – the unemployed people being made to participate”.

Informed consent must be given before people take part in such trials, according to the law. A person cannot be pressganged into it; they must freely make a decision to take part – written, dated and signed – after being informed of its nature, significance, implications and risks.

There is also a data protection issue.

Apparently a competition is to be held to find a business partner for the Nudge Unit. It might be hard to envisage many reputable firms seeking to collaborate with an organisation that is known to have been acting illegally, but even worse is the possibility that this will be the first of many instances where parts of the publicly-owned, operating for the benefit of everybody in the country, civil service will be hived off into private, profit-making ownership by a government of privateers who can’t wait to get their hands on all that lovely moolah – that should belong to the people, not them.

Finally, the letter I wrote last week, in answer to one from the local Conservative Parliamentary candidate, was published today in the local newspaper. It responded, with evidence-based information, to a series of groundless assertions about the bedroom tax, the benefit cap and Employment and Support Allowance, that had clearly been handed down to him from Conservative Central Office. Particularly incendiary was the parroted claim that 900,000 people dropped their claim for ESA rather than take the work capability assessment. This had been disproved and ridiculed on the same day Grant Shapps originally came out with it!

It takes a special kind of contempt for your intelligence to repeat, as fact, a claim that we all know is false. The Coalition government seems to be trying to make a living out of it.

The attitude that we see, time and time again, is “oh, they’ll take what they’re given. As long as we put a nice spin on it, they won’t even notice what’s happening to them”.

What’s happening is, of course, that our freedoms are being stolen from us, and all we’re getting in return is meaningless soundbites.

There is an election tomorrow (as I write this). You can see that certain politicians, currently in office, have no respect whatsoever for you, your opinions or your freedoms. You can’t shift them out yet.

But you can – those of you who are voting tomorrow – send a message to them and, if you have any self-respect, you will.

I hope you get the representatives – and the respect – you deserve.