Thursday 29 October 2009

Backwards Government decision making

I know this looks like a longy. But read on, it’s interesting.

There was a story in the Daily Mail today to which there are a few hidden details which merit an airing.

I actually thought the tale deserved a better show – it appeared at the bottom of page 19 and stated that a "leaked" e-mail had revealed ministers want to keep the DNA of innocent people on the national database for six years.

A bit of background – the Government has a huge DNA database which holds profiles of many innocent people, including kids.

Some angry people who had their DNA recorded by police despite never being charged with anything, took the Government to the European Court which ruled it was illegitimate for ministers to endlessly retain the DNA of innocents.

This blog revealed in March and showed again in April that then Home Office Minister Vernon Coaker was looking for ways around the European ruling, with the good old statutory instrument – a law which gets passed without a Commons debate – as the weapon of choice.

In other words, ministers have been planning to retain innocent people's DNA for months.

The "leaked" e-mail however, and I have seen the original, shows more than that. It reveals something that is as worrying as the Government’s desire to keep DNA.

The document shows that officials have been tasked, and are working hard, to gather evidence to back the Government’s chosen view point – that innocents’ DNA should be kept for six years.

I know it sounds benign, but actually it is very dangerous. It suggests there has been no investigation to find evidence to indicate whether it is a good idea to keep innocent people’s DNA.

Rather than the results of an investigation informing the Government’s conclusion, they have reached their conclusion and are looking for evidence to back it up.

It’s that kind of backwards decision-making process that leads to fiascos like the Iraq War's dodgy dossier.

On a lighter point the e-mail was not actually leaked, at least not purposefully. It was sent by mistake from a Home Office official to a lobby hack who happens to bear the same name as another Home Office official.

They tried to recall it several times in a panic, but it was too late. A wonderful gaffe.


Gareth said...

Policy based evidence making.

The Home Office slogan in the picture; They shouldn't be building any kind of society just Policing it. The Home Office shouldn't set the rules Parliament should.

The Home Office should take it's medicine. Parliament delegated authority to Europe and Europe has said the HO must remove innocent people from the database.

McGonagall said...

"Policy based evidence making."

Sums it up.

Unknown said...

Just goes to show how arrogant these tw*ts are...

At what point will the actually begin to understand our right to privacy?

Andy said...

Just a thought.

There's a tendency in the media atm to talk about 'statutory instruments' as if they're a new thing that the government can just come up with willy nilly. Not true.

In fact SIs are as old as Acts of Parliament. An SI is 'secondary legislation' ie Regulations whereas an Act is 'primary legislation'.

An awful lot of primary legislation is simply about granting powers to the executive to pass secondary legislation in defined areas and within certain limits. Ministers can't just wake up of a morning and knock off an SI for the fun of it.

So if we're worried about SIs being used inappropriately then MPs and select committees need to do their jobs properly and scrutinise primary legislation carefully to ensure that they're not handing too much power to ministers.

One last thing, unlike primary legislation, SIs can actually be struck down or disregarded under the Human Rights Act if they are incompatible with the Convention on Human Rights. So a judicial review action citing the previous EHCR case should result in the SI being declared 'ultra vires'.

Lobbydog said...

@ Allnottingham

Good points. Just one thing to add to...

"So if we're worried about SIs being used inappropriately then MPs and select committees need to do their jobs properly..."

Too true. But this highlights a deeper problem with the system - that the most influential select committee posts are dealt out by the whips. For example, can we imagine the Home Affairs Committee ever really hitting the Government and holding it to account while Keith Vaz is in charge.

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