Two years after a Spy Blog FOIA request, Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs has now disclosed some information regarding their seemingly counterproductive practice of having a two tier, Us and Them policy for extra "security safeguards" on tax records.
See FOIA disclosure regarding HMRC tax record special categories
Remember that HMRC lost / misplaced the sensitive personal details of the entire Child Benefit database - names, addresses, details of children, National Insurance Numbers and some bank account details, affecting over 23 million people - every family in the UK.
There is no excuse for a "two tier" system - everyone's tax records should be secure from targeted or casual snooping, regardless, not just those of "Special Category" members of the Soviet style nomenklatura who have flourished under this authoritarian and secretive Labour government, and who far outnumber the people who are genuinely under the highest threat of violence, if their sensitive personal details are snooped on or leaked or lost or stolen.
The best way to reduce such security risks, is to vastly simplify the bureaucratic and over complicated taxation system, and to ensure that HMRC obeys the principles of Data Minimisation, and does not collect and store excessive amounts of personal data on individual citizens in the first place.
Categories and Numbers, excluding those subject to the s23 exemption or the s44
As at April 2008
Class of individual Number of records* HMRC staff [for reasons of propriety] 95,000 Certain [e.g. criminal justice] investigators in Govt depts; certain members of the police and judiciary 25,600 Protected for personal reasons: eg transsexuals,Gender re-assigned cases, domestic abuse and witness protection cases 24,500 Ministers of the Crown, Elected representatives, researchers and certain former Elected representatives 8,120
* We believe that in the majority of cases the number of records will equate to the number of individuals in a category, but there is a small possibility that they may include more than one record for a few individuals.
[The records of "celebrities" are not protected by additional safeguards.]
Note that by far the largest group, larger than all the rest combined, to whom this "Special Category" status of extra "safeguards" for their tax records is accorded, are HMRC staff themselves !
What exactly does [for reasons of propriety] mean ?
Some possible further FOIA request questions:
- Why are "researchers" of Elected Representatives given "special category" status". Presumably the context of the use of that term implies political or parliamentary "researchers", employed by Elected Representatives, presumably Members of Parliament (646 MPs) at the Westminster House of Commons, rather than, say, biomedical researchers who are targets for harassment or violence by animal extremists.
- Does "Elected Representatives" include Members of the European Parliament (72 UK MEPs 741 in total), Members of the Scottish Parliament (129 MSPs), Assembly Members (60 AMs) of the National Assembly for Wales and the Members of the Legislative Assembly (108 MLAs) in Northern Ireland Assembly ? Does it also cover County, Local and Parish Council Elected Members ?
- The figure of 8,120 seems very high for just current Elected representatives since the figure above add up to only 1684 (only 1015, if only UK MEPs are counted) and "certain former" Elected Representatives.
- What about non-elected Representatives i.e. Members of the House of Lords ?
The various Labour Lords who have been appointed as unelected, unaccountable Ministers, do seem to qualify.
- Will HMRC reveal the list of "Special Employers", in general terms ?
- It is noticeable that the vast majority of Military or Police or Prison Officer personnel are not given any "Special category" protection, even though their names, addresses and family details are of significant interest to terrorist and foreign intelligence agencies and serious organised criminal gangs etc.
- Who is the current "head of SSD (Special Section D)", and what are his / her contact details ?
- Is there a secure and confidential means of contacting Special Section D, without involving the main HMRC postal, telephone and internet infrastructure ?