Feeds

UK weakens supervision of Data Protection Act

Bills could remove Info Commissioner's independence

Security for virtualized datacentres

Opinion I have concluded that proposals published by the government in relation to “the bonfire of the quangos” (the Public Bodies Bill) and in relation to reform of parliament (the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill) can both serve to weaken the effectiveness of the supervision of the Data Protection Act.

There is a significant risk that a future government could use powers in both bills to reduce parliamentary scrutiny of its own processing of personal data or threaten the Information Commissioner into not taking regulatory action.

Before the Public Bodies Bill was published, I thought the Office of the Information Commissioner (ICO) was “safe” from abolition. The text of the bill shows that this is not the case, as the bill specifies all quangos as falling within one of seven Schedules of the bill.

For example, there is a schedule for quangos to be abolished; a schedule for those quangos that are to be merged with others; a schedule of those quangos whose powers and functions are to be changed; a schedule of those whose powers and functions are to be transferred; and finally a schedule of other public bodies which can be transferred into other schedules.

The ICO can be found listed in the last schedule. Technically, it is “safe” for the moment, but the powers in the bill mean that the ICO can be moved from the “safe” schedule to any other schedule (eg the “abolish” schedule or the “merge functions” schedule) at the stroke of a ministerial pen. All the minister needs do is lay an order before parliament changing the commissioner’s place in the schedules followed by another order removing powers, transferring functions or whatever the minister wants.

So suppose in future, an Information Commissioner is concerned about how government processes personal data. If the Information Commissioner is viewed by the minister to be “too pushy” or “unhelpful”, the bill allows the minister to change the powers and functions of the commissioner or transfer those functions to a more compliant body.

In other words, the commissioner cannot now be guaranteed to possess total independence from government. In my view, the risks associated with the Public Bodies Bill makes the overwhelming case for the commissioner to be taken away from the responsibility of the Ministry of Justice, and to report to, and to be funded by, parliament.

Mind you, the change proposed above is not a panacea, as the effectiveness of parliamentary supervision is likely to be eroded by the second proposal from government: the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill. At the heart of the bill there is a proposal to reduce the number of MPs by 50, so that 600 MPs are in parliament. There is no proposal in the bill to reduce the number of MPs who serve in government.

As the government is formed from MPs in parliament, there is a “block vote” called the “payroll vote” that is worth about 150 votes. MPs in government are expected to vote for the government (or resign). So by reducing the number of MPs – but not the MPs in government – the payroll block vote increases its power from 23 per cent to 25 per cent.

Security for virtualized datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Phones 4u slips into administration after EE cuts ties with Brit mobe retailer
More than 5,500 jobs could be axed if rescue mission fails
Driving with an Apple Watch could land you with a £100 FINE
Bad news for tech-addicted fanbois behind the wheel
Phones 4u website DIES as wounded mobe retailer struggles to stay above water
Founder blames 'ruthless network partners' for implosion
Sony says year's losses will be FOUR TIMES DEEPER than thought
Losses of more than $2 BILLION loom over troubled Japanese corp
Radio hams can encrypt, in emergencies, says Ofcom
Consultation promises new spectrum and hints at relaxed licence conditions
Why Oracle CEO Larry Ellison had to go ... Except he hasn't
Silicon Valley's veteran seadog in piratical Putin impression
Big Content Australia just blew a big hole in its credibility
AHEDA's research on average content prices did not expose methodology, so appears less than rigourous
Bono: Apple will sort out monetising music where the labels failed
Remastered so hard it would be difficult or impossible to master it again
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.