Government must stop dodging questions on data loss to restore public trust – Carmichael

Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesperson, Alistair Carmichael MP, has today called on Home Office ministers to stop “dodging questions” and take responsibility for the major data loss from police databases, reported in the press last week. Over 400,000 records were lost due to “human error”, while the Times has reported that outdated software was to blame for the failure.

Speaking remotely in the House, Mr Carmichael said:

“The Times is reporting today that the Home Office was warned in July 2019 that police databases were kicking and that they operated on end of life, unsupported hardware and software. They further report that the Home Office response was that they would only fix on fail. In other words, knowing that there was likely to be failure they decided to just let it happen and fix it if they had to. Can the Minister tell the House whether or not that response was one in which there was ministerial involvement, and if there wasn’t, doesn’t he think there should have been?”

Responding for the Government, the Policing Minister, Kit Malthouse MP said:

“I don’t know whether there was ministerial involvement in that particular decision. We have been working quite hard over the last year or so to get the technology projects in the Home Office – the National Law Enforcement Data Project and indeed the new communications network for the police – back on track. They have had their fair share of problems, I don’t think it’s any national secret to reveal that, but I’m confident things are in a better position now than they were before.

“This issue had absolutely nothing to do with the state or otherwise of the hardware and software of the police national computer. It was pure human error in coding, and not necessarily a reflection of the age of that particular system. We are committed to putting in place a brand-new system. That project is now back on track after a reset, and I am confident that over the next two or three years we will see a significant change in the way UK policing uses technology.”

Reacting after the exchange, Mr Carmichael said:

“The Government needs to get on top of this issue and stop dodging the questions. The Minister’s response today suggested that those in charge are trying to keep a distance from meaningful decision making and accountability. Are they in charge of their department or not?

“This major data loss raises serious questions about the amount of personal data the Home Office holds. If they cannot be trusted to look after people’s data safely then that affects every one of us.”

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