Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Could 25 Million People Sue HMRC?

When drafting legislation the government is often very good at inserting clauses making sure that it is exempted from large parts of it, especially when it relates to being sued. I asked a legal friend of mine to look at the Data Protection Act and ask if HMRC could be sued over losing 25 million child benefit records. In short, he says there is no exemption for government in this area. He says Schedule 1 of the Data Protection Act is relevant here.

The data protection principles
The seventh principle
Appropriate technical and organisational measures shall be taken against
unauthorised or unlawful processing of personal data and against accidental loss or destruction of, or damage to, personal data...
Interpretation of the principles in Part I
9 Having regard to the state of technological development and the cost of
implementing any measures, the measures must ensure a level of security
appropriate to—
(a) the harm that might result from such unauthorised or unlawful processing or accidental loss, destruction or damage as are mentioned in the seventh principle, and

(b) the nature of the data to be protected.

My contact gives a lot of other reasons why a law suit could work, but they are very technical so I won't bore you with them here. But while the thought of 25 million taxpayers suing the government amuses me, I suppose we'd better remember that they would, in effect, be suing themselves. After all all, it's the PBT (poor bloody taxpayer) mwho's end up paying the fine or damages.


Anonymous said...

What liability does TNT have? Could be difficult for them too!

Why hasn't their MD resigned.

Edward said...

I think I am right in saying that in local government if coucillors make a huge mistake they can under certain circumstances be financially liable for it? Could this not be extented to ministers? Yes making Darling bankrupt, or whatever, won't help anyone, but might it make ministers sometimes stop and tihnk about what they are doing. Surely it would be better than them chucking more and more and more money (our money) down the drain..

Anoneumouse said...

Don't you mean we get a TAX rebate by stealth

Surreptitious Evil said...


But you/we/they have no right to sue under the DPA - under Section 40, enforcement action has to be taken by the Information Commissioner, who has said that he will be waiting for the PWC report.

And, of course, HMRC have been legally judged as having no duty of care under common law to us.

Anonymous said...

Could be interesting if someone actually tries to pursue this.

I have to accept some responsibility for this as well, seeing as yesterday I gave my blog post the title 'Look at the mess you have made, Darling' - which ended up being slightly prophetic.

My post today is called 'Look at the latest mess you have made, Darling'.

Anonymous said...

What 25 million people should do is demand Gordon Brown's resignation - and demand a general election.

This is the best solution.

Alex said...

There is no point in suing. We all have another form of redress, but we may have a few years to wait before we can use it.

Madasafish said...

anaonymous 10:17 is ignorant.
TNT will be liable for the value of 2 CDs.
About £2.50.

Their terms exclude value of information.

But he/she is a labour troll so they're all ignorant which is why we;re in this mess.

Anonymous said...

Of course all those affected could make an official complaint against HMCR which should keep everyone above manager level busy for a number of years. They would probably come up with 25 million different reasons why it happened.

Unknown said...

There is a right to compensation under section 13 of the DPA 1998, if you suffer damage as a result of a breach of the principles - so if you are the victim of ID fraud caused by this breach, you may be able too get your money back from HMRC - plus some for distress, possibly.

The information commissioner has published advice on how to go about claiming.

Anonymous said...

Let's hear it for the PBT. For a start, the meeja in all its forms should adopt the principle of binning all references to 'government' or 'public' funds or funding, and be required to use 'taxpayer's' on each and every occasion. That would be a start.

Chris Paul said...

Sorry to disappoint you Iain but we're on about 7 million taxpayers and 18 million under 16s.

Re Anonymous 10:17 - do we know that a package was ever even given into TNT's care?

And Edward - at the time of writing there is a good deal of worry and upset about but no particular sign that this data is "in the wild". I hope it is not. Don't you?

Anonymous said...

The fundamental problem here is that 10m adults (25m including the children) are receiving a tax rebate (not benefit) in the first place!

Scrap child benefit and increase the starting rate for income tax. Rich families lose benefits they don't need, poor working individuals and families get a much needed leg up. Disability Living Allowance can have a child benefit element added for those families with genuine need.

This would effectively provide a fairer and flatter tax system. It gives people an incentive to work, leverages folk out of the "benefits trap" and slightly increases the tax burden on the rich.

Why are the Tories not promoting this method of wealth creation?

wonkotsane said...

The CDs might not even be in TNTs hands - they could still be in a HMRC office or they might have found their way to the NAO and got lost there.