Rôle reversal


February 2009


Two letters in the Financial Times:

Compare ...

National commissioner will not be ‘selling’ ID cards
Published: February 9 2009 02:00 | Last updated: February 9 2009 02:00
From Meg Hillier MP.

Sir, With reference to Sue Cameron’s Notebook (Wanted: Champion earner for old rope, February 4), the advertisement for the National Identity Scheme commissioner makes abundantly clear that this is not a “selling job for ID cards”. The commissioner will be an independent regulator who will act in the interests of the public.

When people talk to me about identity cards, one of their most frequent concerns is how they can be sure their data will be secured safely. The commissioner will have oversight of this, reporting at least once a year to parliament. The government is committed to genuine independence and powers of scrutiny for this role.

Meg Hillier,
Minister for Identity,
London SW1, UK

… and contrast

NIS commissioner will be restricted
Published: February 10 2009 02:00 | Last updated: February 10 2009 02:00
From Mr Andrew Watson.

Sir, Meg Hillier is wrong to say the proposed National Identity Scheme commissioner would report “to parliament” (Letters, February 9). In fact, her government overturned amendments to the Identity Cards Act that would have made this post accountable to parliament.

Instead, the legislation says “the Commissioner must make a report to the secretary of state”, who may then “exclude” material from the report before laying it before parliament.

The Act also contains a list of matters that the Commissioner cannot review at all.

If the government is “committed to genuine independence” of the NIS commissioner, why did it restrict his remit and overturn efforts to make him or her independent of the Home Office?

Andrew Watson,
Cambridge, UK

One of these letters is confidence-inspiring. It is the assured work of a responsible and well informed person.

The other is the work of one of those dotty cranks we specialise in in the UK who can’t help grumbling to the newspapers in green ink.

But which is which?

And WIBBI* the government had an unshakable grasp of its own brief?


* wouldn't it be better if