CSPA, and our partner organisations in Later Life Ambitions (LLA), have echoed concerns raised by the Chair of the Parliamentary Works & Pensions committee, Sir Stephen Timms MP, about Government plans to allow the inspection of Pensioners bank accounts, as set out in the ‘Data Protection and Digital Information Bill’ currently going through Parliament.
Sir Stephen spoke in a House of Commons debate at the end of November to criticise wide-ranging powers that Government amendments to the bill would give ministers to inspect the bank accounts of people on social security and those in receipt of the State Pension. A particular concern is that the powers could be used to means-test the State Pension and other universal pensioner benefits.
The Data Protection and Digital Information (DPDI) Bill aims to create a new regime for digital rights and data protection in the UK. Ahead of its third reading in Parliament, the Government proposed new amendments, including New Clause 34, that would grant ministers the power to inspect the bank accounts of people claiming benefits and the State Pension.
The Government argues that the powers to inspect social security claimants bank accounts are to reduce fraud and error. However, there are no clear safeguards to the powers and ministers only admitted that the powers would include people claiming the State Pension when questioned by Sir Stephen in the House of Commons. The Minister also could not give an example of where those powers would be used.
“The proposal in the Bill is for surveillance where there is absolutely no suspicion at all, which is a substantial expansion of the state’s powers to intrude,” Sir Stephen said.
“I think that all of us would agree, whatever party we are in, that the powers of the state should be limited to those absolutely necessary. The power in the new clause is definitely not absolutely necessary.”
CSPA are working with our LLA partners and Parliamentary advisors to seek clarity of the Government`s intentions behind the proposed new Clause and will be briefing MP`s and Peers to seek amendments to the Bill to safeguard the privacy of pensioners bank accounts.