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Gov opens consultation on how to best to use your data

'This is not about selling public or personal data'

The government wants to introduce legislation to make it easier for local authorities and government departments to share citizen data without breaching the Data Protection Act, it said in a consultation opened this week.

Proposals in the Cabinet Office's Better Use of Data (PDF) consultation are intended to give the government a single picture of citizens and allow them to provide direct discounts off the energy bills of individuals living in fuel poverty; better identification of families with "multiple and complex problems"; a reduction in the estimated £24.1bn of overdue debt owed to government; and improve its detection of fraud.

A legal gateway could allow HMRC data on corporation tax and income tax information to be shared directly with the Office for National Statistics, it said.

It said health and care data will play a critical role in the design and delivery of public services. "However, health and care data is particularly sensitive and rightly needs additional protections," it said in a nod to the controversial scheme.

The government also wants to allow the use of de-identified data to support accredited researchers to access and link data in secure facilities to carry out research for public benefit.

It claims the proposals will help simplify "a complex legal landscape" which currently slows the pace of government’s work "to modernise and improve the services it provides to citizens and businesses".

It said the proposals are not about about selling public or personal data, collecting new data from citizens or weakening the Data Protection Act.

"The proposed legislation will create a single gateway to enable public authorities to share personal data for tightly constrained reasons agreed by Parliament, so long as its purpose is to improve the welfare of the individual in question," it said.

Cabinet Office minister Matt Hancock said in a foreword to the proposals: "These legislative proposals are part of a broader programme to modernise the UK data landscape. Our goal is to transform and improve the relationship between the citizen and the state. Increasing citizens’ confidence in the government’s use of their data while simultaneously making better use of that data to deliver services they need will help us to build a more prosperous society."

However, the Cabinet Office itself has come under fire for its poor record of keeping government data.

"The deterioration in the quality of economic statistics has taken place under the nominal responsibility of the Cabinet Office," said Andrew Tyrie MP, Chairman of the Treasury Committee in a letter yesterday. He urged that responsibility for statistics be returned to The Treasury.

The consultation will close on 22 April 2016. ®


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