Group of parliamentarians criticise DWPs plan to monitor bank accounts

24/04/2024 | Big Brother Watch

A cross-party group of parliamentarians has written an open letter calling for the government to abandon its plans that will enable the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to monitor every bank account in the country to cut benefit fraud. The letter to the government states that the move endangers "financial privacy and the presumption of innocence in Britain." The signatories, including crossbench peer Baroness Kidron, DWP Select Committee member and Labour MP Debbie Abrahams, Conservative MP Sir Charles Walker, long-standing civil liberties campaigner Baroness Chakrabarti, and Lib Dem DWP spokesperson Wendy Chamberlain MP, share common concerns about the rights of those in the welfare system. Ahead of a debate on the powers during committee stage scrutiny of the government's Data Protection and Digital Information (DPDI) Bill, the parliamentarians voiced their concerns about the measures that "risk replicating this disaster on a much broader scale" similar to the sub-postmaster Horizon scandal.

In a statement commenting on the move, Silkie Carlo, Director of Big Brother Watch, said: "This is a vital intervention by parliamentarians to try to prevent Horizon-style injustice and mass financial spying in Britain. These are Orwellian spying powers that are unjustified, cruel and unworkable. Everyone wants fraud to be dealt with, and the government already has strong powers to investigate the bank statements of suspects. However, this is a completely unprecedented system of mass bank spying that will impact the whole population, without any need for suspicion of crime at all. This action by parliamentarians shows that opposition to bank snooping spans across all parties and both Houses of Parliament. The government must avert this disaster and drop their bank spying plans."

In a further attempt to raise awareness and force the government to reign in its plans to monitor bank accounts for benefits fraud, Silkie Carlo published an article in The Telegraph (£) warning the next Horizon scandal will be bigger. An interesting fact highlighted in the article indicates that the government's impact assessment estimates the surveillance plan will recoup less than 3% of the estimated annual loss to welfare fraud and error if it works.

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A version of The Telegraph article is available without subscription via Big Brother Watch.

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Department for Work and Pensions, DWP

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