Government response

Digital public services: putting the citizen in charge, not the state

On its front page on 24 April, the Guardian ran an article on government data sharing plans which misrepresented government statements.

25 April 2012

On its front page on 24 April, the Guardian ran an article on government data sharing plans which misrepresented statements the government has made concerning existing data sharing arrangements.

Minister for the Cabinet Office Francis Maude today made a statement in response, pointing to the Government’s commitment to putting the citizen in charge, not the state.

He said:

One of the guiding principles of this government is the restoration of civil liberties and rolling back the intrusive state; that is why one of our first legislative acts was to scrap ID cards. So it is wrong to say our proposals are similar to the previous government’s abandoned “database state” legislation.

We want people to be able to interact with government online, for example, in applying for benefits or a disabled parking permit, in a way that is quick, easy and secure. To do this we need to give them a way of proving their identity online, but only if they choose to. This would be done without a national, central scheme.

This is all about putting the citizen in charge, not the state. But we are still taking great care to carefully consult on our plans. Throughout all our work in this area we have proactively engaged with privacy and consumer groups including NO2ID, Privacy International, Which?, London School of Economics, Oxford Internet Institute and Big Brother Watch.

In June the Cabinet Office will publish, in a white paper, plans for improving data-linking across government. What will not be published in this white paper are any “fast-track” proposals that would require changes to the existing legislative landscape. Any such proposals will need careful consideration with the involvement of the public and interest groups with whom we will continue to engage.

This is not a question of increasing the volume of data-sharing that takes place across government, but ensuring an appropriate framework is in place so that government can deliver more effective, joined-up and personalised public services, through effective data-linking.

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