Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg today confirmed that over £7 billion worth of government databases will be scrapped, in an attempt to reverse what he called an encroachment on civil liberties.
The databases were an “outrageous” attack on “decent, law-abiding people” who were “regularly treated as if they have something to hide”, he said in a televised speech from a college in London. “This has to stop.”
Promising a “big-bang” approach to political reform, Clegg made a list of the databases that will be scrapped under the new government.
The £1.3 billion identity cards scheme will be cancelled, as well as the £3.6 billion biometric passports database. The £224 million ContactPoint database of vulnerable children will also be scrapped.
ON THE SCRAPHEAP
ContactPoint database of vulnerable children
Database of emails, web usage and phone calls
But no news yet on NHS patient records, e-Borders or pension processing
The plan for internet service providers and phone companies to hold records of all the web, email and phone communications of UK citizens will be shelved – some £2 billion of public money had been allocated for this. Clegg said: “We won’t hold your internet and email records when there is just no reason to do so”.
The deputy PM also promised restrictions on the storage of innocent people’s data on the DNA database. He gave no further details.
But neither Clegg nor prime minister David Cameron has revealed what will happen to centralised patient records under the £12.7 billion National Programme for IT. This is in spite of both parties continually insisting in the run up to the election that the database, or ‘spine’, would be switched off.
On Sunday, business secretary Vince Cable told the Sunday Times Labour had “hidden” £1.8 billion of IT spending commitments before the election, commitments that may be undone.
Before the election, the Conservatives also accused the government of attempting to rush through a £1 billion, ten-year contract for defence logistics software, as well as an £800 million communications and IT services deal for the Serious Organised Crime Agency.
The new chancellor, George Osborne, said two days ago that day-to-day cost reduction – including through cutting specific IT projects – will deliver £6 billion worth of operational cost cuts for the government this year alone.
It will not be easy for the government to undo these contracts, as many contain terms and conditions making cancellation costly. Analyst house TechMarketView notes that the government spends £11 billion a year with its top IT services and software providers.
But the cuts may still go ahead, according Geogina O'Toole, research director at analyst firm TechMarketView. "Suppliers such as HP, CSC, BT, Fujitsu and IBM will have all fingers crossed that the axe won’t fall on their contracts," she said. "However it appears that their coming through this period completely unscathed is highly unlikely."