Select Committee on Home Affairs Written Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Mr G M Walkley

  Kindly accept this document as written evidence to be placed before the Home Affairs Committee.

  My primary concern in relation to the subject of a surveillance society is one of principle. Which is that as a citizen of a democratic country we do not live by permission of the government. A government is elected as the servant of the people, not its master. We have a right to privacy and freedom and only allow our government to curtail these freedoms in very limited and important circumstances. It is not a proper function of government to involve itself in surveillance of law-abiding citizens, or to establish systems of compulsory identification, nor open files on each person.

  1.  Many individuals have details of themselves recorded on private databases and these should only be available to public agencies in specific circumstances. It should be obligatory on the agency attempting to access a private database to place the a request for such access before the judiciary who will decide the validity of the action.

  2.  This is a matter of trust. If a government believes that the general population is untrustworthy then they will do their utmost to prove any misdemeanour by insisting that data is shared by all departments and agencies. To suggest that measures such as ID cards will combat terrorism or wipe out benefit fraud is to capitulate to those who perpetrate the crime. One has to bear in mind that the criminal element in our society is in the minority and that the law abiding majority should not be criminalised. Therefore I submit that it is not necessary to take DNA from those not convicted of a criminal offence, nor to fingerprint our schoolchildren, or to have a national identity register. These are but a few of the measures that are being introduced to monitor the masses.

  3.  The safeguards suggested by the Government will never be enough as no computer system can be regarded as secure-one only has to look at the recent extradition of a UK citizen to the USA for hacking into the Pentagon computer systems to see that this is true.

  4.  Abuses will inevitably take place as the scope of these systems and those that can access them are vast. It is for this very reason that the Minister of State for Children, Rt Hon. Beverley Hughes, when referring to questions raised said that "records of children whose circumstances may mean that they are at increased risk of harm may be the subject of shielding". She goes on to say that unauthorised access will be prevented by using a combination (unspecified) of measures. As already stated in item 3 no computer system is secure.

  5.  We have just recently received confirmation that criminal elements have been targeting credit/debit cards used at petrol station in the UK. A sophisticated scam has taken place not very long after the introduction of the Chip and Pin. How long will it be before the criminal fraternity hack into the National Identity Register when it is up and running?

  6.  All these databases that have been or are being introduced by the Government impact on the privacy of the individual citizen and impinge on our human rights. We the electorate cannot allow this to continue.

  In conclusion I would say that this is a very serious breakdown of trust! We elect our Members of Parliament on the basis of trust and expect them to reciprocate that trust. Without trust between our elected representatives and the individuals who voted for them the very basis of democracy is threaten. It is recognised that CCTV cannot now be rolled back however I would strongly urge Parliament to consider the consequences on introducing more draconian measures and indeed reversing some that have been allowed to become law.

April 2007

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