Peter Lilley, MP for Hitchin and Harpenden, has highlighted what he called the ‘series of incredible and repeated scandals’ involving the loss of official data. He called for an inquiry which should also cover how crooks can use data from the Land Registry to steal people’s homes – a problem experienced by his constituents.
Referring to the loss of child benefit information, pensions data and military laptops, he said it was time for an in-depth examination of the problems of data protection that went far beyond anything the government was proposing.
Peter Lilley is especially concerned about the information which the government does release to the public, particularly property ownership details held by the Land Registry which can easily be accessed on the internet.
“This information has resulted in tens of millions of pounds of people’s freehold property being robbed – including my own constituents.”
Peter Lilley has drawn the government’s attention to this misuse of official data and is campaigning for tighter security measures.
Note for editors:
Extract from Hansard 21 January 2008 attached:
Mr. Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden) (Con): Given the series of incredible and repeated scandals involving child benefit discs, Department of Work and Pensions data in binbags, and military laptops, has not the time come for an analysis of the problems of data protection more extensive, comprehensive and independent than anything that the Government have initiated so far? Should not that also cover information that they deliberately make public, which, in the case of the Land Registry information, has resulted in tens of millions of pounds of people’s freehold property being robbed? And should not the lessons of all this be learned before we proceed with identity cards?
Des Browne: The right hon. Gentleman tempts me into discussing the Land Registry, an area where, because of my professional experience, I may have some limited but now dated expertise-but that is not my responsibility. I accept his point. It is very important that the Government and the Government’s employees take responsibility for complying with the data protection standards for which we have legislated in this House, but it is equally important that the independent Information Commissioner’s Office can properly keep accountable all those who hold information, including the Government. That independent regulation is the right construction, and we have to ensure that it is robust enough. However, at the heart of this is the point, which has already been made, that there needs to be a cultural understanding that such data and information, particularly when it relates to individuals, is as valuable as any other property that the Government or any other institution might have, and it is obvious that that culture is not there across substantial parts of the public sector.