Category Archives: Meeting notes

Data sharing consultation workshop I | 22 March 2016 | Meeting note


1 Horse Guards Road, London SW1A 2HQ

The following notes are a complete record of the comments and questions raised during group work at the above session. They are intended to be a faithful record of discussions in the spirit of open policy-making, and we have not provided a commentary or response to comments or questions at this stage. We are very grateful for all attendees for their participation (including those who volunteered to facilitate discussions or to be designated note-takers), and for the useful input that they have provided as a result. Whilst all comments will be carefully studied and used to inform our thinking, the content that has been summarised here does not commit us to recommending any particular course of action.

Where it is felt that a particular comment or question might need clarifying, we have added a suggestion in square brackets “[ ].”




Simon Burall, Director of Involve, welcomed attendees and explained how the session would work and set out the key principles which attendees would be asked to adhere to, such as openness, allowing all opinions to be heard and maintaining the spirit of collaboration that has been present throughout the OPM process.

Sue Bateman, Deputy Director of Data Access Policy Team in Cabinet Office, provided a recap of the OPM work carried out to arrive at this point in the public consultation process. Sue explained that the aim of the session was to explore in more detail the purposes and constraints of the proposed powers and make the details of these discussions available to help inform public responses to the consultation.

Public Service Delivery

Presentations were given by respective policy leads on the following subjects:

Public Service Delivery, including Fuel Poverty (Firoze Salim), and Civil Registration (John Duffy).

Group discussions – Public Service Delivery power

The meeting then divided into table discussions on questions relating to the Public Service Delivery power. A summary of these discussions against questions agreed with Involve (added here for reference) follows:

Discussion point 1: Do you agree with the power being used for these objectives?

(a)        ­ identifying individuals or households who face multiple disadvantages and enabling the public services to be provided to such individuals and households to be tailored to their needs, and

(b)        ­ reducing the energy costs of, or improving the health or well-being of, people living in fuel poverty.

Responses may be grouped around the following themes:


  • Are we identifying individuals or households? How do we define households, and should this be made clearer?
  • Will the powers only be used for the two purposes stated?
  • Is the criterion of “multiple disadvantages” required before these powers can be used? (Could the scope be widened? At present it is focussed on the disadvantaged and vulnerable.)
  • Will powers be sufficient to allow future data sharing needed for other purposes? (Some attendees not happy that it has been limited in this way.)
  • How permissive should these powers be?
  • Power should not be used to the detriment of the individual.
  • Is this bold enough to tackle the caution that some organisations demonstrate towards sharing data?
  • Who will decide what is allowable under the permissive power?
  • What is an appropriate share?
  • How broad should these powers be – broad enough to support multi-agency work whilst constrained to prevent widening of power to include unnamed organisations/purposes?
  • “In general objectives seem reasonable but detail is important”
  • The objectives do not clarify how the Bill relates to other powers

Safeguards and assurance

  • The public would recognise the good in data being collected for two purposes. (the individuals concerned might not want it shared.)
  • How would “improving the health..of people” be measured?
  • Safeguards will be required to protect health data and other sensitive information; what additional safeguards will be in place?
  • Will policy people have more data than researchers? [Presumably this refers to the fact that under the de-identified data proposals researchers would access aggregated datasets without personal identifiers.]

Links between powers

  • If as a result of a share under this power, a fraud issue is identified, can data collected for Public Service Delivery purposes be shared? (Data shared for PSD is collected for those purposes only)

Discussion point 2: The proposed powers do not permit disclosure of the information by the person or anyone else who has received it directly or indirectly from that person for purposes other than the listed objectives. Anyone who contravenes this will be guilty of criminal offence and on conviction be liable to being imprisoned, fined, or both. Do you have any views on these sanctions?

(5)        ­ A person who is guilty of an offence under subsection (3) is liable on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years, to a fine or to both.

(6)        ­ A person who is guilty of an offence under subsection (3) is liable on summary conviction —

(a)        ­ in England and Wales, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months, to a fine or to both;

(b)        ­ in Scotland, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months, to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum or to both;

(c)        ­ in Northern Ireland, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months, to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum or to both.

  • Could restrict willingness to share data
  • The same sanctions may not be appropriate for all datasets
  • Custodial sanctions are necessary to boost public trust, they must be seen to have ‘teeth’ to protect individuals
  • Individuals should be protected by an opt-out
  • These sanctions go further (in terms of sentence maxima) than the DPA. There are potential inconsistencies with enforcement of the power compared with the ICO’s enforcement of the DPA.
  • If private companies are included within scope of power (they are currently excluded but there is a question about their inclusion in the consultation paper), these sanctions may not be stringent enough
  • A clear code of practice will help third parties
  • How does individual accountability occur within a public organisation?
  • What happens when an organisation is culpable, e.g. how do you take a local authority to court?
  • Sanctions already exist for some organisations (e.g. Ofgen). How would that fit with proposed new sanctions?
  • “Consistency is important – and these appear to be consistent”

Discussion point 3: There are instances where disclosure of information received under the power is permitted (listed below). Do you have views on these conditions?

(a)        ­ which is required or permitted by any enactment (including section 1),

(b)        ­ which is required by an EU obligation,

(c)        ­ which is made in pursuance of an order of the court,

(d)        ­ of information which has already lawfully been made available to the public,

(e)        ­ which is made for the purposes of a criminal investigation (whether or not in the United Kingdom),

(f)        ­ which is made for the purposes of legal proceedings (whether civil or criminal and whether or not in the United Kingdom),

(g)        ­ which is made with the consent of the person to whom it relates, or

(h)        ­ which is made for the purposes of —

(i)         ­ saving life,

(ii)        ­ safeguarding vulnerable adults or children,

(iii)       ­ responding to an emergency, or

(iv)       ­ protecting national security.

  • How are we defining “saving lives,” as an emergency-only situation or towards data shares aimed at preventing deaths (Such as work being carried out by FRS and NHS, or medical research)?Is this too broad?
  • Similarly, how are we defining “vulnerable adults or children”?
  • Who arbitrates where the meaning of criteria, e.g. “national security” is disputed/unclear?
  • “Any enactment” or EU obligation is very vague
  • Could there be a requirement for future monitoring/review of the legislation?
  • Nothing about the length of time covered [possibly asking whether there should be duty to review power?]

Discussion point 4: The proposed power includes the ability for the relevant Minister to add or modify objectives as long as it meets certain conditions (listed below). Do you have views on these conditions?

(4) The condition in this subsection is that the objective has as its purpose —

(a) the improvement or targeting of a public service provided to individuals of a particular description, or

(b) the facilitation of the provision of a benefit (whether or not financial) to individuals of a particular description.

(5) The condition in this subsection is that the objective has as its purpose the improvement of the well-being of individuals of a particular description.

(6) The reference in subsection (5) to the well-being of individuals includes —

(a) their physical and mental health and emotional well-being,

(b) the contribution made by them to society, and

(c) their social and economic well-being.

  • These objectives are potentially very wide in their definition, some feel that they are too wide and that the power is set out unnecessarily broadly without sufficient constraints
  • Is this more about policy intent than effects?
  • In whose opinion is “well being” defined?
  • How is “contribution…to society” defined? Needs consideration
  • Need to be clear about specific objectives when setting out the details of how this would be used operationally (e.g. given the earlier point about not being used for the detriment of individuals).
  • Would individuals give consent to data share if they were asked (perhaps a good test?)
  • “There should be a presumption to share by public authorities”
  • There are some circumstances where data should not be linked [does not specify what they are]
  • If more objectives are added, will the original objectives be removed?
  • Checks and balances are required to assuage public concerns
  • Affirmative resolution will be required in Parliament – will this cause significant delays to public authorities accessing data in order to deal with the problem/issue that they need it for?

Discussion point 5: The proposal as it currently stands is to define public authority so that it excludes non-public sector organisations (such as charities and private bodies) who fulfil a public function to a public authority. The consultation paper asks the question whether the scope of the power should be broadened to cover such bodies. Do you have any views on whether the scope should be extended?  

(3)        ­ A person is not a public authority for the purposes of this Part if, apart from this subsection, the person would be a public authority for those purposes merely because the person exercises functions on behalf of another public authority.
  • Why disclose information to a non-public body? Given broad scope of power some caution required when sharing data with private sector?
  • It should be recognised that charities and private bodies already carry out some functions for the public sector
  • On a similar theme, the scope of the power needs to be broad enough and be adaptable to changes to the status of public bodies, etc. Extending the power to (private sector) service providers could come with requirement for consent [of individuals or data holder/] before making onward disclosure
  • Need more clarity as to why some parts of the data sharing work exclude private/third sector
  • Does not account for safeguards that are in place
  •  Can a broader version of the fuel poverty proposal be used?

Fuel Poverty

Discussion point 6: Should the Government share information with non-public sector organisations as proposed for the sole purpose of providing assistance to citizens living in fuel poverty or for any other reason?

  • “This proposal makes sense”
  • “Its purposes should be extended beyond fuel poverty (although it is not clear what other purposes should be included)”
  • “Warm Home Discount is acceptable as a purpose but extending scope of power would be an issue”
  • Depends what “any other reason” might include
  • “Clauses need to be tightly drafted to prevent broader use, e.g. using data to target other households in that area.”
  • How are we defining “citizen” – does this include groups of citizens?

Discussion point 7: Would the provision of energy bill rebates, alongside information about energy efficiency support, be appropriate forms of assistance to citizens living in fuel poverty?

  • “Yes they would be appropriate forms of assistance”
  • “Free energy efficiency surveys would be acceptable but should not be used beyond that.”
  • If they are provided this information, could fuel companies use this to select/deselect customers?

Civil Registration

Discussion point 8: The proposed power would allow civil registration officials to disclose civil registration information with specified public authorities and other civil registration officials to exercise one or more of their functions. Do you have any views?

(1)        ­ A civil registration official may, subject to this section, disclose any information held in connection with any of the official’s functions to —

(a)        ­ a specified public authority (see section 2), or

(b)        ­ any other civil registration official.

(2)        ­ A civil registration official may disclose information under this section only if the official is satisfied that the authority or civil registration official to whom it is disclosed (the “recipient”) requires the information to enable the recipient to exercise one or more of the recipient’s functions.

  • “Broadly happy with the powers”
  • Are we broadening the meaning of “public bodies”? [As a question number was not recorded, it was not clear where this comment should be placed. This appears to be the most likely discussion point for it to be placed.]
  • Some of this information (e.g. death records) is useful for research purposes. Would researchers be able to access this information through this route?

Discussion point 9: It is proposed that any  express restrictions placed on the data through other  legislation will not be overridden by this power. Do you have any views?

(4)        ­ The power to disclose information under this section is subject to any express restriction on disclosure imposed by another enactment (ignoring any restriction which allows disclosure if authorised by an enactment).
  • Some issues over consistency – this wording appears to place restrictions on sharing data in a way that the Public Service Delivery power does not.

Discussion Point 10:  Is it considered appropriate to include controls as part of a Code of Practice instead of criminal sanctions given that Misconduct in Public Office offences would act to safeguard any deliberate misuse of data. Do you have any views?

  • Sanctions could help improve public trust in the process
  • Would outcomes/sanctions be published?
  • Who governs the Code of Practice, and is this a strong enough safeguard?

General comments (applicable to all three proposals)

  • What happens if (inputting) errors that are made in one dataset are duplicated as a result of the data share? Would they be reversible, and would there be any sanctions?
  • We need clarity about whether “personal information” would be correct wording, e.g. would it include house type
  • Punitive sanctions may discourage smaller third parties for using data

Fraud and Debt powers

There followed two short presentations on the Fraud proposals (Graeme Thomson) and the Debt proposals (Naomi Hunter)

Fraud powers

Discussion point 11: A definition of fraud is set out in the illustrative clauses. Do you have any views?

(2)        ­ In this section “fraud against a public authority” means an offence under section 1 of the Fraud Act 2006 which involves —

(a)        ­ loss to a public authority, or

(b)        ­ the exposure of a public authority to a risk of loss.

(3)        ­ In subsection (2) “loss” has the same meaning as in the Fraud Act 2006 (see section 5 of that Act).

  • At least one table happy with definition of fraud
  • Fraud Act 2006 extends to England and Wales only
  • There was some discussion about how this might be applied to devolved administrations
  • If fraud is discovered to be occurring in a public authority that is not part of a given data share, would there be a legal duty on those who are in the share to inform that authority?
  • Do these proposals cover non-monetised services?
  • Do they apply to companies as well as individuals?
  • Clause 4 (a) and (b) are possibly too broad and disproportionate as currently worded
  • Is there an inconsistency between scope of Clause 2 (which implies that fraud hs already taken place, and Clause, which includes the purposes of detection and prevention
  • No mention of “Error,” it may not be intentional fraud, could be an error on the part of a local authority

Discussion point 12: The purpose of the power is defined as taking action in connection with fraud against a public authority. The illustrative clauses provides a definition of such actions (set out below). Do you have any views on the definition?

(4)        ­ The reference in subsection (1) to taking action in connection with fraud against a public authority includes any of the following —

(a)        ­ preventing fraud of that kind;

(b)        ­ detecting fraud of that kind;

(c)        ­ investigating fraud of that kind;

(d)        ­ prosecuting fraud of that kind;

(e)        ­ bringing civil proceedings as a result of fraud of that kind;

(f)        ­ taking administrative action as a result of fraud of that kind.

  • At least one table agreed that this looked reasonable
  • Is there a danger of scope creep here? We need to identify how great the risk of fraud is to the public sector first

Debt powers

Discussion point 13: The illustrative clauses for the purpose of the proposed powers provides a definition of debt. Do you have any views?

(1) A specified person may disclose information held by the person in connection with any of the person’s functions to another specified person for the purposes of the taking of action in connection with debt owed to a specified person or to the Crown.

(2) For the purposes of this section debt is owed to a specified person or to the Crown if—

(a) a person is required to pay a sum of money to a specified person or to the Crown, and

(b) all or part of that sum remains unpaid after the date on which, or after the end of the period within which, it is required to be paid.

  • Do we need to define the purpose/benefit of this power more in the legislation?
  • Issue is sometimes one of losing contact with the individual, e.g. in the case of student loans, the individual may not be in debt but need to be able to check this.
  • It would be useful to explain meaning of “debt to the Crown”
  • Is this more controversial than fraud – is data going to be shared to obtain money from me?
  • Is a “person” here defined as a specific person or an organisation?
  • Does this apply to public authorities or to private bodies?

Discussion point 14:  The purpose of the power is defined as taking action in connection with debt owed to a specified person or to the Crown. The illustrative clauses provides a definition of such actions (set out below). Do you have any views on the definition?

(a) identifying debt of that kind;

(b) collecting debt of that kind;

(c) bringing civil proceedings as a result of debt of that kind;

(d) taking administrative action as a result of debt of that kind.

  • Is it a realistic proposal if a number of public authorities are involved? How will it work in practice, who leads etc?
  • Criteria (d) felt possibly to be too broad, although “administrative action” tightens this
  • Is there a requirement for transparency, e.g. to measure effectiveness of this power?
  • Is there a threshold for the size of debt to be recovered in order for this power to apply?

Issues relating to both fraud and debt proposals

Discussion point 15: The proposed powers do not permit disclosure of the information by the person or anyone else who has received it directly or indirectly from that person for purposes other than the listed purposes. Anyone who contravenes this will be guilty of criminal offence and on conviction be liable to being imprisoned, fined, or both. Do you have any views on these sanctions?

(5)        ­ A person who is guilty of an offence under subsection (3) is liable on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years, to a fine or to both.

(6)        ­ A person who is guilty of an offence under subsection (3) is liable on summary conviction —

(a)        ­ in England and Wales, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months, to a fine or to both;

(b)        ­ in Scotland, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months, to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum or to both;

(c)        ­ in Northern Ireland, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months, to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum or to both.

  • These sanctions are standard for HMRC
  • Sanctions should be strong as the power has a strong financial component?
  • Should the deployment of sanctions be preceded by a warning?
  • Why do these sanctions differ from those under Civil Registration powers?
  • Safeguards need to cover private bodies who might disclose/access data under this power
  • Can personal data be onwardly disclosed if used for the same purpose? How is it controlled?
  • These sanctions are consistent with the previous section but not DPA
  • Who is responsible for enforcement, and what is the process?
  • “The relevant Minister” does not suggest independence of process
  • Sanctions should be applied proportionately
  • Incentives for smaller organisations to comply?

Discussion point 16: It is proposed that the power be reviewed after an agreed period of time to determine whether it should be amended or repealed.

  • Do you have any views on what would be a suitable length of time for the gateway to be active before this review is carried out?
  • Do you have any views on who the Minister should consult when carrying out the review?
(1)        ­ As soon as is reasonably practicable after the end of three years beginning with the day on which this Part comes into force, the relevant Minister must review its operation for the purposes of deciding whether it should be amended or repealed.

(2)        ­ Before carrying out the review the relevant Minister must publish the criteria by reference to which that determination will be made.

(3)        ­ In carrying out the review the relevant Minister must consult —

(a)        ­ the Information Commissioner, and

(b)        ­ such other persons as the relevant Minister thinks appropriate.

(4)        ­ Once the review is completed the relevant Minister must —

(a)        ­ publish a report on its outcome, and

(b)        ­ lay a copy of the report before Parliament.

(5)        ­ If as a result of the review the relevant Minister decides that this Part should be amended or repealed, the relevant Minister may by regulations amend or repeal it (as the case may be).

  • Legislation to be reviewed after 3 years to ascertain that it is required, i.e. that the problem is indeed legal
  • Is 3 years long enough for the whole process to be demonstrably effective?
  • Is 3 years too long?
  • Who is “the relevant Minister”? Should it be someone more independent?
  • Who should they consult? Should this requirement include bodies already in the schedule to canvass their views on its efficacy? Should it include debtors’ representatives?
  • Will the Minister be obliged to take into account the findings of his consultation?
  • Civil society groups not specified to keep power future-proofed
  • Is there a requirement for transparency, to state who is sharing data with who, so that data source can vet service
  • Process and protections could be checked if consent was required for onward disclosure
  • How are the public assured that the authorities in the schedule are competent to carry out their functions under this power?
  • The Code of Practice will need to set expectations on the bodies covered in the Schedule (arms-length agencies etc)
  • Review of power should use open methodology on a continuous basis
  • Why piloting for Fraud and Debt but not other powers?
  • Standards required for processing and destroying of datasets over time, compliance with DPA principles etc

Discussion point 17: It is proposed that the scope of the power covers non-public sector organisations who fulfil public functions to a public authority. Disclosure of information will be strictly limited to the functions that the organisation exercises in taking action in connection with fraud against a public authority. Do you have any views?

(6)        ­ In the case of a person (“P”) who is within the Schedule merely because of providing services to another specified person, the reference in subsection (1) to the functions of a specified person is limited to the functions P exercises for that purpose.
  • Should the power extend beyond the public sector?
  • Schedule will set out who may access data under this power
  • Data is only shared for those specific purposes set out in DSP 13
  • Should power be consolidated with public service power?
  • What is risk of data being used for other purposes?
  • Consent will need to be re-sought over time [It is not clear whether this refers to consent of individuals, data holding authorities, or both]

Research and statistics proposals

Simon Meats gave a short presentation on the proposals for sharing de-identified data for research purposes. Ross Young then presented on the proposals for UKSA to access identified data for the purpose of prducing national and official statistics.

De-identified data for research purposes

Discussion point 18: The illustrative clauses defines the instances in which the proposed powers can be used by a public authority. Do you have views on how the purpose has been defined?

(1)        ­ This section applies to a public authority if —

(a)        ­ the authority holds information in the form of a dataset,

(b)        ­ the dataset contains information which directly identifies one or more persons, and

(c)        ­ the authority thinks the information in the dataset would, if combined with information in one or more other datasets held by one or more other persons, produce information which would be useful for the purposes of research which is in the public interest.

(2)        ­ The public authority may supply —

(a)        ­ the information by reference to which the person or persons are identified to an accredited indexer, and

(b)        ­ a de-identified dataset created from the dataset mentioned in subsection (1)(b) to an accredited access facility for the accredited access facility to exercise the functions in subsection (4).

  • Provides flexibility in the spirit of the DPA and also provides legal clarity
  • Is there a better way of setting out the purpose/process
  • “Pleased to see changes in the consultation paper allowing a public authority to be both the data provider and secure access facility
  • Re fees charging – some views from data holding departments that it is possible to calculate costs of making data available
  • What if information is held, but not as a dataset?
  • How are we defining “dataset”? What is the definition of this? Prefer “electronically held data.”
  • Re 1(c) – the use of the word “thinks” is odd, needs to be worded more positively
  • Does this place restrictions on existing facilities with existing processes and established teams for de-identification?
  • Why not simply have regard to the ICO’s Code of Practice on Anonymisation, rather than re-define something that is already defined?
  • We need a definition for research (purpose/statement/in public interest)

Discussion point 19: The de-identification process is set out in the illustrative clauses. Do you have any views about how it is described?

  • “This is acceptable provided terminology does not inadvertently restrict/exclude current practice”
  • Can we “future-proof” it more?
  • Can we take out the details of the specified process (Clause 1) and instead set out criteria/conditions that can be met?
  • Need to be careful and consistent in referring to “data” versus “information”
  • The UKSA needs to be clear about its role as accreditor and transparent about the purposes of the research undertaken under this power
  • Does this power make composite datasets (in other strands) accessible?

Discussion point 20: To allow the power to be kept up-to-date with new de-identification methods, the illustrative clauses allow the relevant Minister to modify or include additional procedures by regulations. Any changes will need to adhere to key parts of the de-identification process. Do you have any views on this power to amend the procedure?

  • “This is acceptable provided terminology does not inadvertently restrict/exclude current practice”
  • Who is the relevant Minister? Should it include departmental Ministers as well as MCO?
(3)        ­ Any procedure for which provision is made by virtue of subsection (1) must —

(a)        ­ enable the creation of information using a dataset held by a public authority and one or more other datasets held by one or more other persons,

(b)        ­ enable the information that is created to be supplied only for accredited research purposes,

(c)        ­ ensure that, where the datasets contain information that directly identifies a person (“identity information”), the identity information is removed before the information is supplied, and

(d)        ­ involve a person or persons who are accredited in the removal of identity information, the creation of information for supply and the supply of that information.

(4)        ­ Regulations under subsection (1) must have the effect that —

(a)        ­ section 2 applies in relation to the supply of information under a procedure for which provision is made by virtue of subsection (1),

(b)        ­ sections 3 and 4 apply in relation to personal information supplied under that procedure,

(c)        ­ section 5 applies in relation to the accreditation of persons and research for the purposes of that procedure, and

(d)        ­ section 6 applies in relation to the resulting functions of the Statistics Board.

  • Should requirements for accreditation for researchers, or at least the broad principles, be published?

UKSA access to identified data for the purpose of producing national and official statistics

Discussion point 21: Under the proposed power, the Board can only request information via a notice if it enables the Board to exercise its functions (as set out in the Statistics and Registration Service Act). Do you have any views?

(7)        ­ The Board may give a notice under subsection (1) only if the Board requires the information to which the notice relates to enable it to exercise one or more of its functions.
  • Is there a commitment to transparency? Will the notices be made public?

Discussion point 22: Under the proposed powers public authorities and undertakings do not have to comply to a notice to provide information if compliance would result in certain outcomes. Do you have any views?

(10)      ­ But the public authority need not comply with the notice if compliance —

(a)        ­ might prejudice national security,

(b)        ­ would contravene the Data Protection Act 1998, or

(c)        ­ would be prohibited by Part 1 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000.

  • Mandation is inconsistent with other proposed data measures
  • What about a cost recovery mechanism?
  • As a general comment, how do we guarantee data quality?

Discussion point 23: Under the proposed power, the UKSA can only use information received as a result of issuing a notice for the purpose of one or more of its functions. Furthermore, consent from the disclosing body is required where the Board wishes to to use the information for the purpose of its statistical services. Do you have any views?

(1)        ­ Information disclosed pursuant to a notice under section 45B or 45C may only be used by the Board for the purposes of any one or more of its functions.

(2)        ­ Information disclosed pursuant to a notice under section 45B or 45C may not be used by the Board for the purposes of its function under section 22 (statistical services) except with the consent of the person who disclosed the information.

Discussion point 24: Under the proposed power, the Board must publish a statement setting out how the procedures under the powers will be exercised. Do you have any views?

(5)        ­ The Board must prepare and publish a statement of —

(a)        ­ the principles to which it will have regard in exercising its functions under section 45B or 45C, and

(b)        ­ the procedures which it will adopt in exercising those functions.

  • This is similar in approach to current codes of practice
  • Data accessed by UKSA is not available to data providers – “a missed opportunity?”
  • Explicit consent for onward disclosure should also be in other proposed powers

General comments on Research and Statistics

  • “Consistency of sanctions is good”
  • We need consistency in approach to disclosure
  • Data access has been complicated by fragmentation/privatisation
  • Data quality is important and is not mentioned much
  • Implementation – are the processes/knowledge/will there to make this work\/
  • Work is needed to support legislation is educating officials to give them the confidence to use data
  • Proportionality is important, there seems to be an emphasis on big data, whilst some organisations, e.g. local authorities often need to share data in small volumes
  • “Allow data accessed by Fraud and Debt purposes be then de-identified and used for research purposes”
  • Bill should enshrine transparency needs


The main meeting ended with closing remarks from Simon Burall and Sue Bateman, including a reminder that the second session will be held on Monday 11th April.

Terms of Reference for the Quality Assurance Group which will monitor/audit consultation responses

Some delegates remained to meet on this issue in a discussion chaired by Simon Burall.

The meeting closed at 1500.

Data sharing workshop II | 19 January 2016 | Meeting note

A version of this note for comments is available here:


Tim Hughes welcomed attendees and explained Involve’s role as facilitator of the discussions for the Data Sharing proposals.

Sue Bateman explained that the aim of the session was to work through the proposals and to understand support and on-going questions or concerns. The views of the Open Policy Making (OPM) group would be reflected back to the Minister for the Cabinet Office as part of further advice on the consultation package and process. The session allowed for participants to voice their views on the proposals that most interested them.


It was agreed that the group continue to abide by principles, but remain open to changing the day’s schedule to run better at a majority of attendees’ behest.

  • Transparency– non-attributed comments but everything will be written up and made available.
  • Accessibility – everyone is open to engage if they have interest.
  • Collaboration- all participants are constructively participating in the process to improve the proposals.
  • Independence – there is no expectation of reaching consensus as an outcome but to know where the areas of broad agreement lie is the aim.

The first half of the workshop focused on the core package of proposals to closely understand the positive points for each, and where the OPM group felt that more work is required.

During the second half of the session, the group considered the new proposals along with the consultation process and next steps.


Each of the leads gave a short presentation to recap the main points and safeguards for their respective proposals. The full proposals paper is available here.

Identified Data

Key proposals:

  • To give the National Statistician the right to securely access identified data for the purpose of producing aggregate national statistics – from public sector bodies, charities and businesses.
  • To securely share data with Devolved Administrations to meet their statistical needs arising out of further devolution.
  • Reaffirm strict penalties for misuse of data
  • Create an obligation for data suppliers to inform/consult with the National Statistician before changing underlying stats collection and transmission systems so as to protect the integrity of official statistics outputs based on these data


  • UKSA’s independence from ministers, and direct reporting lines and accountability to parliament.
  • Standards, a code of practice and ethical principles will be consulted upon publicly.
  • Statistical disclosure controls exist and will apply to these proposals.
  • The National Statistician’s ethics committee will have an important role in evaluating relevant ethical questions.

De-identified Data

Permissive power proposed to:

  • Apply ​to all public authorities, with the exclusion of health and social care providers, to link de-identified data for the purpose of research in the public interest​.
  • In order to use this power, a process for ​the de-identification of data must be followed (removing ​of ​personal identifiers).
  • The legislation itself ​has been drafted with a certain level of detail and ​seeks to strike a balance between transparency of process and robust legal definitions on the one hand and flexibility (using measures such a delegated Ministerial power to amend through secondary legislation) on the other​.

Safeguards include:

  • Use of accredited access facilities for data use.
  • UKSA to govern the accreditation process
  • A code of conduct or similar​ will be published,
  • ​with sanctions for non-compliance by participants including withdrawal of accreditation​
  • Criminal sanctions will apply to individuals and organisations for unlawful disclosure  of data, with a maximum penalty of up to 2 years imprisonment, a heavy fine, or both.


Permissive power proposed to:

  • Act across devolved administrations.
  • The piloting of the power will be detailed in legislation and be subject to ministerial oversight and review.


  • A review will take place after three years to determine how well it is working, at which point it could be sunsetted.
  • Public bodies will have  conduct guidelines.
  • Unlawful disclosure rules will apply.
  • A clearly defined process for public accountability will be built into the power.

Tailored Public Services

Permissive power proposed to:

  • Ensure citizens receive the services they need, when they need it
  • The power will enable public authorities to share data to allow better delivery of public services.
  • Power is limited to a number of social policy outcomes, specific objectives will be listed on a schedule.
  • The power will only be used in specific circumstances.


  • There are definitions of when it could be used, ensuring that the objectives are intended only to benefit citizens.
  • Objectives could be amended in a schedule but this would go through an affirmative process, public bodies can be removed or added.
  • A code of practice will exist to detail how this power is intended to be used, including transparency measures about describe intent about how data is used.
  • Use of power must comply with Data Protection Act and Human Rights Act.

Discussion groups

The room split into four groups to discuss each of the proposals:

De-Identified Data discussion

Positive Points Raised in Table Discussion:

  • Proposal builds on existing good practice.
  • Standardises possibility of data sharing (eliminates the “if it’s external then probably not” argument).
  • The proposal specifies ‘public interest’ as a requirement.
  • There are criminal sanctions for misuse of data.
  • There is clear provision for accreditation.

Issues/Questions Raised in Table Discussion:

  • ​The need for clear and consistent messaging in consultation (language)
  • ​Do we need an appeals process, if not a ​mandatory gateway?
  • Does the current absence of ​health data cause a significant problem​?
  • ​How is ​”​unlawful disclosure” to be interpreted? Should there be a specific offence for “​re-identification​” of de-identified data​?
  • ​A definition of public interest, or public benefit, or how these will be defined, would be helpful.
  • A related point on defining the public interest is whether this would include benefits to private sector, i.e. research which led to increased profits, which could be a potential red line for some participants.

Identified Data discussion

Positive Points Raised in Table Discussion:

  • The proposals will lead to more robust data and National Statistics.
  • This will remove the need for ONS to make ad hoc data requests.
  • Proposals will aid research.

Issues/Questions Raised in Table Discussion:

  • Clarification is required about ‘obligation to consult National Statistician’, what does this mean?
  • How does this fit with EU data sharing regulation developments?
  • Clarity is required around terminology of data sharing/linking, where are the differences?
  • There needs to be read-across in policy documents between these proposals and the de-Identified strand.
  • How will the relationship with private companies work?


Positive Points Raised in Table Discussion:

  • This proposal will help to simplify a very complex legal landscape.
  • The proposal will Improve transparency.
  • Pilots and sunset clauses are sensible (but details need to be fleshed out further).

Issues/Questions Raised in Table Discussion:

  • How, when it comes to the evaluation of the gateway and the pilots, can we be sure this is being looked at objectively and counter the risk?
  • Is the three year window sensible? Is this long enough to make a sensible evaluation?
  • We need to be forward looking to new legislation like the GDPR on the horizon.
  • Lots of detail about which organisations, but there could be more information on what they could share, and where the boundaries lie.

Consultation Themes Raised in Table Discussion:

  • Detail required around code of practice
  • Evaluation criteria needs work
  • Exploring more about private company covered in the legislation – what are the safeguards around that?

Tailored Public Services

Positive Points Raised in Table Discussion:

  • Theme about transparency and streamlining the processes – increase the transparency for everyone.
  • Safeguards are well embedded.

Issues/Questions Raised in Table Discussion:

  • How to define benefits to citizen.
  • Cannot publish the code of practice but should explain what is going into it
  • Future-proofing and accidentally breaking future DPA?
  • Is there work around funding and training for new data skills?

Consultation Themes Raised in Table Discussion:

  • Define what ‘benefit’ means in this context.
  • Detail how best to engage with public both during and after consultation to ensure they are aware of the powers and their intent.

At the end of this first session, Tim asked the group whether they agreed that the identified strand should be brought back into the core set of proposals subject to addressing questions and points raised in discussion, this was agreed.

Subject to addressing issues of detail that had been raised, participants were in agreement with the approach of the respective core proposals.

New Proposal Presentations

After a short break, the room reconvened to discuss the new proposals being reviewed for inclusion in the package.

Debt Presentation

Proposed to:

  • Enable public sector bodies and private bodies who carry out a function on behalf of a public body, to share data for the purpose of better debt management across government,
  • Identify people with multiple debts to government, to enable better repayment structures, provide appropriate advice and support to vulnerable debtors who owe multiple debts, and to help create a more ‘single debtor view’.
  • These debts are legally collectable and enforceable, and all appeals processes and disputes have been concluded.
  • This does not introduce anything new. Public authorities already have the ability to share debt data. However, these gateways are restrictive, often misinterpreted, and are complex and time consuming to use.


  • A schedule will list bodies who can share with one another.
  • Pilots will enable minimal amount of data to be shared and will help to create a single debtor view, must be able to identify vulnerable debtors, and will follow best practice around reclaiming debts.
  • There is a review clause of three years, although concerns have been acknowledged around the process of this.

DECC Proposals

Proposed to:

  • Provide a public service to citizens living in fuel poverty by enabling a wider group of households to receive an automatic energy bill rebate, provided by their electricity supplier.
  • This policy is currently only available to those in receipt of pension credit and takes place every winter.
  • This power would allow an expansion of the policy, allowing energy companies to provide automatic rebates to more people who need it, notably low-income working age individuals and families.
  • It would also allow this assistance to be prioritised for those in greatest need – i.e. those who live in the coldest homes.
  • Recipients could be made automatically eligible for other forms fuel poverty support, such as energy efficiency.
  • The ability to data match would remove the need for the customer to provide evidence, including copies of sensitive documents such as benefit entitlement letters i.e. it would be safer, securer and less intrusive than current methods.


  • A minimum amount of data is involved – no data would be shared outside government except for an eligibility flag to inform energy companies which of their customers are eligible. Steps are also taken to minimise the overall number of customers involved in the data match.
  • Criminal sanctions would be brought against companies misusing data.
  • The scheme administrator, currently Ofgem, would set up strict data protection procedures.
  • The Data Protection Act applies.

GRO Proposals

Proposed to:

  • Introduce a discretionary power that would allow the sharing of records, such as a birth record, with public bodies to ensure they can fulfil their respective functions.
  • The overall proposal is discretionary, allowing for civil registration information to be shared on a case-by-case basis, or in some areas on a bulk basis.
  • This proposal would not change governance of civil registrations or override any restrictions on sharing data of this nature.


  • The introduction of a statutory code of reference developed with the ICO,
  • A Code of Practice to be laid before parliament.
  • MOUs and data sharing agreements would be required.
  • Ministerial notification of data sharing in relation to GRO data is required.

Group Discussion

Attendees were given 10 mins to note points against the various new proposals Tim then summarized for the room in plenary. The room then broke into three tables for further discussion of the proposals. Attendees could choose to discuss the two proposals they felt most strongly about.

Debt Discussion:

Positive Points Raised in Plenary:

  • The idea that a single communication from a person who understands the entire case to a debtor, in principle, is good debt management.

Issues/Questions Raised in Plenary:

  • Most of the proposals are about data in relation to a policy, the problem is that this is the data sharing aspects of a policy that is yet to be made. We do not have a final proposal or policy outline, just a gateway without the debt management proposals to go with it.
  • Criticism that this is not a data-sharing proposal, it is a debt management proposal.
  • Without a centralised debt management system, the data sharing aspects apply to an undefined outcome.

Responses to Issues Raised in Table Discussion:

  • The policy proposal is to enable better debt management across Government, that is fair to our debtors.
  • The power to allow departments to share data currently exist, this power would simply enable a quicker process, and a more joined up approach.
  • It is recognised there are significant problems with the single debtor view, without piloting in the first instance these cannot be worked through to begin delivering benefits to government.
  • Pilots will enable departments to explore different ways that the power could be used, in line with the constraints set out in the Code of Practice.
  • A centralised debt management system could form one of the pilots. This would help identify overlapping debtors and enable recovery in a unified way. This is an objective that the Government, and NAO and many departments have.
  • The macro view of debt and department interactions is required through piloting otherwise we can never get to the point where we have a single debtor view.

DECC Discussion:

Positive Points Raised in Plenary:

  • It will achieve maximum possible uptake of the benefit by those eligible.
  • Removes the burden on vulnerable groups to actively apply.
  • Better use of limited resources to support young people.
  • Improved access to data for specific purposes.
  • Without this measure, suppliers would still promote energy efficiency to their customers (and the customers of others), but the marketing would be untargeted. This would result in a great many households, including the vulnerable, getting information about offers for which they turn out not to be eligible.

Issues/Questions Raised in Plenary:

  • Needs to be more safeguards around onward data usage (to prevent marketing, at least for non-fuel poverty purposes etc.).
  • Need clarification on whether the proposers have considered how this data sharing will potentially interact with the Internet of Things in the future, for example, with the greater use of Smart Meters and what their conclusions were
  • Reasons required that set this apart from Tailored Public Services.
  • What is the role of OFGEM in these proposals?
  • Is there an opt-out mechanism for people who do not want to receive the benefit?

Response to Issues Raised in Table Discussion:

  • These proposals are separate to TPS because they extend to private companies (which is out of scope for the core TPS proposals).
  • It is out of scope for sensitive data to be shared with the private sector using this power.
  • Energy companies would only be permitted to use the eligibility information for the strict purposes for which it was shared – i.e. for alleviating fuel poverty.

GRO Civil Registrations Discussion:

Positive Points Raised in Plenary:

  • Proposals will offer better services for citizens, and streamlining for some services.
  • Proposal clearly states policy application and how it will benefit citizens.
  • Wider benefits outside of government if used by organisations such as banks.
  • Clear benefits for digitising government services.

Issues/Questions Raised in Plenary:

  • Digitization of data is patchy and there will be gaps which need resolving.
  • Will there be an opt-out for individuals?
  • Individual data sharing cases are one thing, but the details of bulk sharing need further detail.
  • There are broader implications of this work in creating a de-facto ID database which need to be mitigated against.
  • Will this work have an inherent increased workload for Local Authorities or will it be covered by central government?
  • Are there links to Verify with this work?

Response to Issues Raised in Table Discussion:

  • Data  will be held by central government.
  • Sharing will take place via a data matching process.
  • There are no intentions to link up the records data in order to create an identity database.
  • The purpose of the data share will be specific to the public function of a department or body  and restrictions  on sharing information will continue to be in place.
  • Consent will be required in certain circumstances.
  • There are potential benefits from sharing information wider than government, however this proposal is focused on sharing within government.

High level narrative

Sue shared a two minute summary of the draft narrative in the spirit of the OPM sessions, in order to gather feedback from the group and help ensure future iterations reflect the :

Data is a vastly untapped resource –  with the potential to change and improve our lives and underpinning next wave of digital service reform.

By using information in Government more effectively we can revolutionise the way we interact with people,


  • seamlessly use information better to provide better services every day,
  • develop fit for purpose policy, whilst at the same time reducing costs for organisations and saving money for the taxpayer.


The current data sharing landscape is very complex

Restrictions are often placed on how information government can access from other parts of government, even where it is the greater public interest to share it.

And understanding the application of legislation is difficult – leading to practices that are over-cautious and inflexible, with data untapped or locked away in silos.

There are challenges and barriers in accessing data across organisational or departmental boundaries, often resulting in duplication of data collection and storing, which can be costly to the taxpayer.

While some gateways exist to permit the  disclosure of data between specified public bodies, there are many examples of where they have been created over-cautiously, often significantly limiting what information can be disclosed and to whom.

We recognise that the complexity of the current landscape means it would be nigh on impossible to try and tackle everything – so we have been running the OPM process and set up a consultation look at how we can remove barriers to data sharing within Government in a way that provides a better experience or service for the public.

Better data sharing offers us vast opportunities, in particular around policy development by providing up to date and fuller evidence on issues such as social mobility, economic growth and crime prevention. This consultation forms part of an open policy-making process we have been running together with government and civil society organisations since March 2014.

Our conversations have led to a focus on access to data for the purpose of


  • Better research and statistics -whereby  more complete and up to date information would be a rich source for researchers  to use  and would create a clear and accurate evidence base to inform critical decisions
  • The prevention of fraud and recovery of debt – meaning we can put taxpayers money to the purpose it was intended
  • Providing Tailored Public Services  – providing the right services at the right time – and we would see GRO and DECC proposals as part of this broader strand

Our proposals for new legislation will not give the Government fundamental new powers.

They will provide greater clarity in what can be shared as well as flexibility for government to respond to policy and public needs as they emerge.

Data will continue to be protected, using both data protection principles and safeguards and embedding them into any proposed legislation.

Proposed powers would provide  specific and immediate benefits across government to enable better and more efficient services unlock data as a driver of further public service reform. Furthermore, they will allow government to better understand and develop the right policies to support the modern digital economy and the public


Everyone was asked to stand up and show their levels of support for the narrative.

Feedback from the room:

  • “The proposals fit into the context of the narrative”.
  • “Proposals save money, more effective service delivery, fits with the narrative”.
  • “more enthusiasm and specificity, e.g. ‘this could improve people’s lives in concrete ways’”.
  • “The knives seem to be out for privacy campaigners in this process, no real detail or why/how the benefits work, other than just restating ‘it’s good to share data’, not much has been shared today, across the board, it’s a learning experience, but crucially a sharing experience”.
  • “we’re missing the context that these discussions are taking place,  positive stories like Google flu trends are being used. Other contexts are ignored, this data revolution that is taking place is out of control and everyone is tracked online etc. we are in the age where we are becoming digital profiles, a spectrum is emerging between tech driven authoritarianism on one extreme to citizens having digital autonomy on the other, the state should reflect on this”.
  • “It doesn’t reflect on who we need to consult with, it’s not addressed to the public or drawing out the benefits by conflating too many things and making them unclear, the consultation respondents should have questions like outsourcing, private companies, funding etc. should already be covered in the narrative, of Local Authorities are to give a meaningful response, this should be framed with this view”.
  • “The official stats, de-identified data and some of the GRO things are about research and anonymisation, with lots of detailed safeguards. None of the questions around debt/fraud etc. maybe it would be better to divide up the package between research elements and efficiency elements, more detail is required in the bill about who is going to appeal, who to, and what are the legal rights?”.
  • “Central issue about the benefits of sharing data, but there are lots of additional proposals bolted on and there is a huge amount of things being consulted on. The debt question jars with the public benefit narrative”.
  • “Debt and fraud sound more like research with the piloting and testing of the system, just looking at a legal gateway in itself is not enough for people to decide upon. In some of the areas,  it needs to be made clear that some parts are for policy development and others for different things”.
  • “When this goes to consultation, separate audiences will have specific interests in specific areas”.
  • “There are fundamental areas that need to be addressed, stating what is trying to be achieved”.
  • “Greater clarity is required, as people new to the process are asking questions that have arisen before, this would indicate a lack of coherence and communication with the proposals.”


Sue explained that taking the various proposals through as a single package is partly to ensure that things were brought to the OPM group that were relevant, rather than as single, disparate work strands.

Tim drew the session to a close – asking guests to think about who needs to be engaged in the process of consultation to try and broaden the process out to as inclusive a group as possible.

Suggestions for engagement in consultation:

The following groups and organisations were highlighted by the OPM group as valuable to contribute towards the consultation process:

  • Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC)
  • Range of local service providers (e.g. for troubled families)
  • National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC)
  • UCAS
  • Schools (time issues – could go through specific vehicle e.g. UCAS)
  • Catch22, Prince’s trust
  • Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS)
  • Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS)

Supplementary Data Sharing Workshop: General Registrars Office proposal | 15 January 2016 | Meeting note

When: 10:30-12:00, 15 January 2016

Where: Conference Room B, 70 Whitehall, London, SW1A 2HQ


Session Info/details to cover
Welcome and introductions


Purpose of the session:

Recap of discussion from 6th and what we want to cover today

Quick recap of “principles” for discussion


Presentation of General Register Office Proposals (John Duffy)


Presentation of the proposals, including areas that were not comprehensively covered in the session on the 6th.


High level Q&A


General questions of clarification on the presentation.
Discussion of GRO proposals Discussion of the proposals in smaller groups
Plenary Discussion of proposals Groups to report back to the room on their discussions
Wrap-up and close.


Wrap up and forward look

Introduction from Sue Bateman, Cabinet Office who acted as facilitator, in the place of Involve.

This session was additional to the 6th of Jan and 19th of Jan sessions, to look more closely at the GRO proposals.

A Re-cap of the meeting on the 6th, which covered the main OPM strands of Research and Statistics, Fraud and Tailored Public Services, which garnered support for further development. We also discussed revised proposals on Identified Data and Debt and new proposals from DECC and GRO.

A number of comments were generated in discussion, some of which were incorporated into the pack that was circulated on 14th January; there are some that will require further exploration.

One of the main points we took away from the session on the GRO proposals was a lack of time to get into any of the details and some concerns expressed by a few people that this power would lead inadvertently to a national ID database that we wanted to discuss as a clear principle of the OPM is to avoid the creation of such databases.

This (GRO) session was run to give the opportunity to ask questions and have a more detailed discussion – these will inform the considerations around this policy area and how it fits into the package being proposed and the advice being given to the minister. A note of the meeting will go to the whole OPM group.

The OPM principles were covered as a way of framing the discussions:

Transparency – non-attributed comments but everything will be written up and made available.

Accessibility – everyone is open to engage if they have interest.

Collaboration – constructively participating in the process, there is no expectation of reaching consensus as an outcome but to know where the areas of broad agreement lie is an aim.

John Duffy presentation:

Civil Registration in England and Wales sits within a local authority framework and records are held centrally.

Slide 1 – Civil Registration is where someone goes to their local registration office and provide information which is collected and recorded, obtaining a certificate which are used for accessing services from government partners and service providers. Death certificates are required to close bank accounts etc. Certificates have a role and purpose in society, as the information obtained as part of that process.

Currently there is a complex and dated legislative framework that dates back to 1836.

There is a piecemeal data sharing approach taken to share data between departments, where data sharing is not possible, purchasing of records is required.

Slide 2 – The proposal is to introduce a discretionary power to allow civil registration information to be shared with public bodies for the purpose of fulfilling public functions.

The proposals are looking for discretionary information to be shared with public bodies through a gateway. The intention is to ensure complete transparency over what records are held and shared, providing an outline of the policy and the circumstances whereby information can be shared. Information and data will be shared within the public sector, not beyond this.

Slide 3 – The proposals are limited to England and Wales only, there is no intention to change the way civil registration information is currently obtained or held. There is no intention to link up civil registration records or to create a citizen database.

Slide 4 – benefits of the proposals are:

  • Improved customer experience
  • Improved security
  • Enabling public sector transformation
  • Increasing efficiencies across government

Slide 5 – Safeguards – strict adherence to the ICO data sharing code of practice.

Questions of clarification raised in plenary:

Q: For the data sharing powers to have any relevance will the remaining un-digitized records be digitized?

A: There is no funding to do this, so there are constraints.

Q: What do you have?

A: There are a huge number of records, half of which are digitized. Modern records are digitized by default and older records are digitized due to work around genealogy etc.

Q: Could funding be realised to digitize this information?

A: in terms of the records, they are available in different formats that aren’t on a system yet. There is still an ability to share information where possible. This is about enabling transformation across government, and this power would allow the sharing.

Q: What is the volume of the information that will be shared?

A: there is an opportunity for all records to be digitized on a system.

Q: Public authorities – looking at this in the broadest sense, is there any intention to provide this data to other bodies that have a public mandate such as ONS? For help with the census etc.

A: If the bodies are specified and there were affirmative procedures then the data could be shared.

Discussion Session:


  • For the citizen – partial digitization,
  • Within government – administrative cost savings.
  • Benefits to research/genealogists.
  • Improve protection against ID theft.
  • Could help to make the remaining digitization of paper document happen.
  • Identity fraud and issues around death registration would be improved.
  • Clarifying the legal scenario clear and replete with safeguards.
  • Benefits e.g. ensuring everyone who is eligible for a pension can claim it at the right time.

Concerns/potential issues

  • Handling and comms issues.
  • Patchy digitization.
  • Purpose and necessity as well as proportionality needs to be understood.
  • How will this legislation fit with DPA and future protection legislation without ‘trumping’ it?
  • Potential unintended consequences of onward disclosure between depts.
  • Issue about sharing parts of personal data, how to avoid the mosaic effect.
  • Architectural limitations stopping data being linked, will this always be the case? How do you safeguard against unauthorised disclosure?
  • One thing making an argument for case-by-case sharing, but quite another to talk about bulk data sharing.
  • On the transparency requirement – a public list of records being used would be desirable.
  • Links to Verify programme?
  • Risks around the data sharing, how it would work? What will be in the code of practice?
  • GRO to clarify what type of data sharing would be expected (beyond just a yes/no dichotomy).

Additional Points:

  • In terms of reducing identity theft – this could work if you remove the need for certificates, but with using digital systems this could increase the risk of bulk hacking and fewer, but greater magnitude, of theft.
  • The DPA may not be enough if the legislation removes the principle.
  • Will this process enable the big bulk of records to increase in footprint size?
  • Concrete concern is whether this data could end up inadvertently resulting in a quasi-ID system (i.e. not by design).

Any further questions, please direct to

Event Attendees:

Silkie Carlo (Liberty)

Javier Ruiz (Open Rights Group)

Frances Pottier (Department for Business, Innovation & Skills)

Sue Bateman (Cabinet Office)

Sam Roberts (Cabinet Office)

Firoze Salim (Cabinet Office)

Simon Meats (Cabinet Office)

Jackie Riley (HMRC)

John McIlwraith (DWP)

Jess Adkins (Cabinet Office)

Daniele Bega (HMRC)

Gillian Unsworth (HM Passport Office)

Amanda Hillman (DWP)

David Knight (Department of Health)

Edgar Whitley (London School of Economics)

Judith Jones (Information Commissioner’s Office)

John Duffy (HM Passport Office)

Data sharing workshop I | 6 January 2016 | Meeting note


On 6th January 2016, a plenary meeting was held to review the latest data sharing proposals against the recommendations  of the open policy making (OPM) process to check:

  •      That they fit with the spirit of what was discussed during the year long OPM process.
  •      What could be improved.
  •      Whether there were any aspects of the proposals that crossed any red lines.

The meeting was attended by representatives from privacy groups, civil society organisations and government. The meeting was opened by Rt Hon Minister for the Cabinet Office, Rt Hon Matthew Hancock MP.


Minister for Cabinet Office’s introduction

The Minister stated his hope that we can continue this relationship and dialogue which has existed for some time now. The data sharing discussion is vital historically. It is comparable to the printing press, which had huge and unpredictable consequences. The collapse in the cost of storing and transmitting data is having an impact on a similar scale.

The Minister stated that in government, we should be smart and thoughtful about responding to the discussion. We should be harnessing progress whilst at the same time  protecting citizens’ privacy. The DPA works well and there is a broad consensus. But as technology develops, the legal framework needs to continue to be relevant whilst protecting the citizen. There was much progress in the last Parliament on modernising rules. But the rules are significantly out of date in many areas, so we need to update them today. We plan to run a normal consultation, but we also wanted to fully engage the wisdom, insight and collective experience of those in the room.

There are three areas of importance:

  1.    Improving research and statistics.
  2.    Fraud.
  3.    Tailored public services.

At the core core is striking a balance between harnessing the opportunities of data and protecting citizens. Ultimately the Minister does not see this as a trade-off. If we get it right we can improve the way data is used and managed, and make sure citizen protected. He underlined how important this is for the government. The end goal is a system that works better for citizens. It is an exciting new area of policy yet to reach full maturity.


Previous OPM proposals: De-identified Data

Simon Meats, Cabinet Office, presented the current version of the proposals for sharing de-identified data for ​the purposes of research and statistics ​(“the de-identified data proposals”)​, part of the set of proposals ​originally explored during the OPM process.

Simon talked through the key areas of agreement that have been covered in the OPM process to date.

​These included:

  • That the power is permissive across all public authorities (with the exceptions of health and social care) to share/link de-identified data for the purposes of research and statistics in the public interest.
  • The use of models of data sharing (recommended by the​ 2012 Administrative Data Taskforce report*) that allow for such cross-linked research to take place whilst maintaining privacy protection for the data subjects by restricting the use of identity data.
  • Oversight through a designated accreditation body for indexers and accredited secure access facilities.

Simon went on to describe how these ​main policy features have​ been reflected in draft legislation. ​There are detailed clauses describing processes in a way that strikes a balance between; transparency and robust legal definition, and flexibility for future -​ proofing. There are also provision for accreditation and commitments to transparency (publishing registers of accredited indexers, access facilities and researchers​, for example).

The modifications that have taken place include:

  • UKSA being named as the accreditation body,
  • Limited delegated power for Minister to amend certain provisions by affirmative process,
  • Unlawful disclosure provision.

The reasons for these modifications are that the UKSA is the only body to fit the criteria agreed through the OPM process, there is a need to ensure legislation can be adapted to cover new processes and that universal protection of data held by all public authorities to share data under this power will provide additional assurance.

The group reflected upon the proposal and were broadly supportive of its inclusion for consultation. The following ​questions​ were raised​:

  • Who adjudicates/arbitrates if a public authority refuses an application to share data under this power​ (i.e. ​​should there be an ombudsman)?
  • What are the potential impacts ​from local authority devolution?
  • What about the effects of organisations leaving the public sector ​ e.g. schools academy programme, with the consequent loss of data sources?
  • ​With reference to implementation – what will/should​ be done to test the robustness of de-identification process​?
  • Is this simply a way of lowering the bar set in s.47 SRSA?

*Improving Access for Research and Policy, December 2012


Previous OPM proposals: Tailored Public Services

Jess Adkins, Cabinet Office, presented the Tailored Public Services (TPS) proposals.

Jess described the myriad of legal barriers which impact on the ability of public authorities to share data between them and identify which citizens are eligible for particular services or benefits, ensuring that the right people receive the right intervention or offer, at the right time.

The TPS power is designed to facilitate data sharing where it would directly benefit service recipients, by enabling authorities to better tailor services; as well as protecting privacy by restricting the authorities and the purposes involved in any particular share quite tightly.

The power is also future proofed to meet data sharing needs of public policy delivery as they change over time.

The key elements of the power are:

  • The power is permissive. Data controllers retain the right to say no to a data share,
  • The power is intended to benefit individuals – the purpose of a data share cannot be detrimental to individuals,
  • Only specified public authorities – not private providers – can use the power.

A separate policy paper was developed in the OPM process, bringing together safeguards that were new with those already existing in practice/legislation. Draft clauses reflect where there is a need for new primary legislation, where existing legislation is reflected it will not be mentioned, and where legislation isn’t appropriate the safeguards will be included in the Code of Practice.

The OPM group discussed the proposal, generating several questions:

  • Who makes the decision that the power is being used appropriately?
  • How can you ensure that any data share is for ‘The benefit of citizen(s)’? Conversely, how do you define ‘not to detriment of citizens’?
  • What are the unintended consequences of TPS data sharing? What is the mitigation/solution to this?
  • How does the power work for ‘direct’ (e.g. face-to-face) interventions?
  • What is the rationale behind excluding private companies? How does this work in public/private service partnerships? Can private sector organisations receive data from authorities to provide services with explicit consent?
  • How are data shares communicated transparently to those whose data is being shared?
  • Does this power lead to data segregation within organisations? (e.g. debt recovery teams using data collected by other areas of the department).
  • Would the power overrule departments’ existing data powers and agreements?
  • Does a family count as an individual for the purpose of processing?
  • How can the term ‘beneficial outcome’ be adequately constrained?
  • Will information-sharing orders be used?
  • Is there a statutory bar for information release under FOI?


Previous OPM proposals: Fraud

Graeme Thomson, gave a presentation in plenary to explain why this proposal is being re-introduced and outlining the new proposal.

Previously the group had an OPM session which recognised that government faces substantial problem with fraud, and the process for data sharing is very slow and may take up to six years. However, fraud moves very quickly and it takes too long to get the data for it to be useful. Data sharing could be an answer to this. Government dropped the idea of looking at error in addition to debt as it was decided that there would be too much data and too much sharing required to address it.

This proposal is permissive, not mandatory. A business case will be needed to justify sharing, and it will be used to measure success. The proposal allows for pilots to prove that this data sharing is of value, as the previous OPM process asked for this evidence. If the pilots do not prove value within a defined period of time, they will stop. They will publish criteria for measurement and the outcome of what benefit is. There is also the capacity for minister to shut the whole thing down, and there is a review period after three years. An assessment will judge whether it has been successful and if not will shut down.

There will be a code of conduct and if it is breached, the data will be surrendered. If you breach the legislation you can be taken to court, It includes all public authorities including local government. It’s not clear whether it includes the NHS, more discussion is needed on this.

This project will involve the ICO and external civil liberties groups. ICO anticipate a huge number of requests for data and are considered ways of managing it. They will be starting the project with a team in place to implement. The secretariat will be in Cabinet Office.

The groups had some reflections and questions on the revised proposal:

  • More detail is required on the assessment criteria for the pilot, and what the criteria will be for it to be deemed successful after the 3 year period.
  • There were some concerns that three years is not long enough for projects to be established and prove their value.
  • The measurement criteria needs to be set near the start and a support team set up immediately.
  • Will there be a statutory bar for release under FOI?  
  • Transparency of benefits and measurements and transparency of openness and sharing will be vital.
  • How will citizens be protected from false positives, could greater transparency be an answer?


New/revised proposals: Identified data for research and statistics

Ross Young, UK Statistics Authority, gave a presentation in plenary to explain why this proposal is being re-introduced and outlining the new proposal.

This proposal is to open up sources of administrative and other data for the Office for National Statistics for the sole purpose of producing aggregate National and other official statistics. Official statistics are a core part of UK’s information and data infrastructure. Everyone needs official statistics ‐ legislators, policy makers, companies, academics, media, the public. The proposal is good for efficiency, improved official statistics and statistical research, and better decision making.

The powers will enable ONS to share data with the statistical functions of the Devolved Administrations while preventing the use of information for any operational purposes, ensuring information is only used for statistical purposes. In terms of safeguards, the UKSA is independent and reports and is accountable directly to Parliament. ONS has strong track record of security and confidentiality of data. They will reinforce rigorous penalties for the misuse of data.

The groups were supportive of the proposals. The groups had some reflections and questions on the revised proposal:

  • There was support for powers to compel disclosure of information – permissive powers may not allow desired outcomes.
  • How to make the difference between de-identified and identified data intelligible to people?
  • How to guarantee quality and standardisation of the data?
  • Greater clarity is required on how the powers to compel businesses will impact global companies based in the UK.
  • Clarification is required on where indemnity lies in the case of a data breach.
  • Will there be an explicit statutory bar on FOI requests and other legal obligations?
  • What type of data is covered?
  • Transparency should be an integral part of this proposal – i.e. the number of data breaches and failures to comply recorded and published.
  • Clarification is required on who meets the cost of the provision of data?
  • Clarification is required on where the permissive power ends and power to compel starts?
  • What does it mean to say that the National Statistician is “consulted” on changes to systems for collecting data? What power does that confer?


New/revised proposals: Debt

Naomi Hunter, Cabinet Office, gave a presentation in plenary to explain why this proposal is being re-introduced and outlining the new proposal.

Naomi stated that they are bringing back the proposal for consideration to align with the fraud proposals. There will be the same safeguards, code of conduct and review period process  as the fraud proposals. The objective is to recover money owed to different parts of government under one payment. This is more affordable for debtors and more effective and efficient at recovering debt.

Currently government has powers to share data regarding debt owed. However, the system for accessing it is bureaucratic and neither timely nor practical. The process can take two to six years. The National Audit Office believes that there was £22 billion owed in 2013 which rose this year to £24 billion. Sharing this data can help government to identify the people who can pay and the people who can’t. There will be different responses to those people

When this proposal was considered before, there were a few issues. The OPM group felt that the key purpose was unclear. In response they have defined the purpose as to help people manage their debt better and pay back the money they owe. In addition, the OPM group identified a need for better terminology, and they responded by creating clear and consistent terminology.

Naomi clarified that the Debt Market Integrator (DMI) doesn’t do anything independently that government doesn’t mandate.

The groups had some reflections and questions on the revised proposal.

  • The group felt that not enough detail or clarity was provided on the revised proposal to consider it thoroughly.
  • How is the ownership of shared debt viewed, given that it seems to focus on individual debt?
  • It is unclear whether the legislation will only support a pilot of this project.
  • Are corporations subject to this data sharing or only individuals?
  • Will data be shared with private sector companies such as Experian?
  • Attendees had concerns about the quality of the data being shared and noted that there is a lack of persistent identifier in the data – which may cause issues in relation to projects pertaining to debt.
  • Attendees saw identifiable data elements as a potential red line for citizens.
  • The group felt that debt assessments need to be linked up and that it doesn’t make sense to centralise information.
  • There were concerns about the Debt Market Integrator (DMI). As a joint venture, will government’s position be as the supplier or the customer?


New/revised proposals: GRO Civil Registration Data

John Duffy from the General Register Office presented new proposals for the sharing of Civil Registration data.

The data in scope is the registration of all births, stillbirths, adoptions, deaths, marriages and civil partnerships. John explained that the data is governed by a complex and dated legislative framework that dates back to 1836. Civil registration is a devolved function in the UK with Scotland and Northern Ireland having their own registration services.

The General Register Office (GRO) supports the delivery of local registration services that are delivered by 174 local authorities and retains all centralised records – 270m dating back to 1837. Records are held in a variety of formats.  Approximately half are digitised.

Civil registration information is only shared where there are statutory gateways in place.

Current legislative gateways have been built up over time, in a piecemeal manner, in response to individual requests for registration information.  Examples include:

  • Police and Justice Act 2006 – Provides for death registration information to be shared with private bodies for the specific purpose of preventing, detecting and prosecuting fraud offences,
  • Immigration Act 2014 – provides for information to be shared for immigration purposes.

The GRO is aiming to enable wider use of registration data without requiring primary legislation each time a new requirement emerges; remove requirements for paper certificates, therefore reducing the opportunity for fraud in relation to forged certificates; increase the integrity of data across government systems; providing benefits for citizens who would have greater choice over how they access government services

Restrictions on sharing civil registration information within government will continue to be constraining unless additional powers are put in place to extend information sharing.

GRO would benefit from getting to a position where they have:

  • A discretionary power that allows civil registration information to be shared with public bodies for the purpose of fulfilling public functions,
  • Restrictions on sharing information to continue to apply where there are prohibitions – e.g. linking gender recognition records,
  • Secretary of State control over the sharing of GRO data.

It is proposed that a number of safeguards would be introduced, including:

  • Strict adherence to the current UK legal framework including the Data Protection Act and the Human Rights Act,
  • Ministerial notification and agreement on data sharing provisions relating to GRO data,
  • Completion of Impact Assessments, Data Sharing Agreements and Memoranda of Understanding,
  • Adherence to data sharing principles and a developed criteria for considering requests to access information.

The subsequent discussions with the OPM group generated the following questions and comments.

  • Can case study examples be generated?
  • What is the implementation plan when not all GRO data is digitised?
  • Is there a consent element to these proposals?
  • Distinction is required between service and sharing of a dataset.
  • Data is currently openly available but not in bulk.
  • Why is this data only for the public sector?
  • Why is death data not already completely openly available?
  • What’s the purpose of sharing marriage data?
  • There are potential issues around the collection and recording of marriage data.
  • Using this data as a means of verification seems justifiable.
  • Clearer benefit analysis is required to justify the proposals.
  • What does this proposal extend to (birthday, marriages, deaths – anything else)?
  • Will this power be used to:
    • Verify individuals?
    • Nationality/immigration status?
    • Provide access to services?
  • How is it different to National ID? Using the same justification as for Verify.
  • Data is big, complex and nuanced, could this lead to accidentally creating a national database?
  • Is this effectively creating a national register?
    • It’s not centralised and the linkages are not there to create an identity database.


New/revised proposals: DECC assistance for fuel poor citizens

Alan Clifford from the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) presented on proposals to expand the automatic provision of direct energy bill support for citizens living in fuel poverty. This type of assistance is currently provided each winter under the Warm Home Discount scheme.

Each winter, approximately 1.4million pensioner households receive an automatic discount off their energy bill. This is possible because energy suppliers can ‘match’ some of their customer records with DWP to identify who is eligible without the customers’ prior consent.

The policy is delivered in a way that:

  • Ensures eligible customers get support automatically.
  • Ensures that vulnerable customers don’t miss-out.
  • Is simple and low-cost to administer, so helps to keep everyone else’s bills down too.

DECC stakeholders from all sectors have called for more use of this type of data matching to facilitate the provision of assistance to fuel poor citizens. It’s tried, tested and demonstrably safe.

Currently many recipients of fuel poverty support are not actually fuel poor, so DECC want a way to prioritise those with the most pressing need – i.e. households in the coldest homes and lowest incomes:

There are already powers (s.131 of the Welfare Reform Act 2012) to extend automatic provision of assistance to some non-pensioner households. This includes recipients of means-tested benefits.

But there are two important gaps:

  • No power to include those on tax credits, which are some of those facing the most severe levels of fuel poverty.
  • No power to use the Government’s housing stock data, which would allow the coldest homes to be prioritised.

The proposed permissive power would enable Government to use HMRC tax credits data, housing stock data (e.g. that held by the Valuation Office Agency), and other relevant public sector datasets. It would dramatically improve the targeting of finite resources, meaning that the Government helps more fuel poor citizens sooner. The power would use the same tried-and-tested approach and safeguards as existing Warm Home Discount (WHD) data matching process.

The discussion raised the following questions:

  • Why does this practice not share attribute data (rather than full data sharing)?
  • Why this specific policy area? What about all the others?
  • What do poverty groups think of this?
  • How would this work with tax credits data (as structured around individuals not households)?
  • What stops energy providers from musing this data for their own purposes (e.g. marketing services to fuel poor customers)?
  • Is there a link to schools and academy data?
  • What will flagging data be used for outside of government? Is there potential for private companies to use it to pitch/market products?
  • What are the red lines/unintended consequences of the data sharing?
  • Are there opt-out mechanisms for the discount?
  • Could this data be used by academia/private sector in a safeguarded environment?
  • In terms of future proofing, if successful is there scope for a private sector role in Tailored Public Service proposals?
  • Safeguards are required to ensure energy companies do not misuse the data – irrespective that the data shared is just a flag as that offers considerable insights to an energy company.


Final Plenary session

In the final plenary session the group was posed two questions:

  1.   What do you need from the Cabinet Office to be able to contribute to the 19th January follow up session?
  2.   What’s the overall steer?

Attendees had the following reflections:

  • More detail is needed in advance of the next session.
  • There could be too many proposals now and this is a big risk.
  • Send paperwork in advance. Paperwork should include anything that is being presented on the day, even the material which is already published online. Paperwork should be circulated at least 5 working days in advance.
  • Need a clear definition of safeguards and the details. What exactly will they be?
  • On 19th January need to think of ways to communicate these proposals to the public, and be able to explain clearly what it means in practise.
  • There needs to be greater clarity on how these proposals will actually work: where responsibilities lie and who makes the decisions on data sharing in these proposals.
  • There needs to be greater clarity on the ways in which proposals are different to each other.
  • Should be a greater explanation of the extent to which there have been thoughts about permissions and penalties.
  • Need to know about the transparency across the piece. Will there be something which articulates this clearly?
  • Something like an appendix on the website which defines terminology. Need evidence of consistency as terms are being used inconsistently currently.
  • The narrative on this set of seven proposals is missing. If they’re going to hang together in one consultation, there needs to be a narrative.
  • Need examples. If this legislation passess, what will be possible but what will still not be possible?
  • There needs to be clarity on the very simple questions of what data, to who, why and how
  • There needs to be some consideration of the impacts at local level and the need for training for local staff. This legislation won’t change the problems they have. Don’t want this to come to a grinding halt if the legislation doesn’t go forward.

Attendees requested the email address of one point of contact to email suggestions. Sue Bateman gave her address.

Concluding plenary workshop with Francis Maude | 10 March 2015 | Meeting note


On 10th March 2015, a plenary meeting was held to conclude the data sharing open policy process, attended by representatives from privacy groups, civil society organisations and government.


Peter Lawrence (Cabinet Office) introduced the session and gave a recap of the policy process so far. The open policy process has taken place over the past year. It was established due to the recognition that the complexity and potential controversy of data sharing means it could not be developed behind closed doors. The policy process set out to find and build consensus, but where consensus could not be found it would seek to understand the disagreement.

He summarised where each of the strands had got to. This is outlined in the Conclusions policy paper.

Progress of the strands

Simon Burall (Involve) introduced the next session. There are issues still to be resolved across the three strands, but the policy process has reached an area of rest. Participants were split into groups to discuss the strands and given the task of describing what the state of rest looks like. Specifically, each group was asked to discuss what had been banked (i.e. where agreement had been reached); what is still to discuss, and what the different options are.


Tailored public services


  • It’s for social policy objectives
  • It must demonstrate the benefit to the individual.
    • Not punitive intent
    • This is to be used if can’t get informed consent
  • Make an offer to identified people
  • Process transparent
  • Social care and health ‘are in’

To discuss

  • Onward sharing of information. Departments – Partner – Onwards?
  • Good business case – 1 local authority + 1 department
    • How to replicate to be cost effective?


  • Explore “fall out” findings further
    • Safeguarding
    • Fraud
  • Consent/data relating to deceased
  • MyData – individuals hold own
  • LEPs – where in definition of “bodies”


Research & stats


  • Fundamental scope of 3 distinct sub strands (ONS; Trusted Third Party de-identified;HMRC) including how they fit together (coherence)
  • Getting HMRC to same starting point as others
  • Broad power for all public authorities to disclose to each identified data for research and statistics was a step too far
  • Agreed on the need for, and the terminology on, a power for all public authorities to to disclose de-identified data to accredited safe havens using trusted third party indexers for accredited research purposes to accredited researchers
  • Bodies delivering health and social care – appropriate they have separate treatment and get no new powers in the de-identified strand
  • Any requirement for consent would be unworkable for this strand.

To discuss

  • Trusted Third Party governance and control
  • Need for sanctions in de-identified strand?
  • Identified strand: are any of the alternatives to Parliamentary scrutiny of Information Sharing Orders for ONS acceptable?
  • Impact of European Data Protection Regulation
  • Definitions in the legislation still not agreed:
    • Public benefit
    • Public interest
    • Public body
  • Flexibility and future proofing.
    • Scope? Is there scope in the future for data from health bodies to be included in the powerShou
  • Need to make the case continually for the powers
    • Evidence
    • Communications
    • Public engagement
  • Conversations beyond legal barriers


  • Next steps – White Paper
    • What structure?
    • Do all strands belong in the same bill?
    • Would any legislation move forward with ONS power, HMRC power and de-identified power?
  • Fit with other legislation e.g. new EU Data Protection Regulation
  • Funding
    • Governance bodies
    • Of data shares
  • How much of the policy should be in hard legislation and how much included in statutory or non-statutory guidance




  • Most agree error is complex and not suitable / proportionate for data sharing solutions
  • Agree that fraud is a significant problem, which needs addressing
    • Fraud is a cost everyone
  • Pilots provide the opportunity to to better understand tolerance level / cost effectiveness of proposals
  • Survey / feedback to understand citizens views of data sharing
  • Essential that appropriate privacy safeguards are present in proposals
  • Feedback mechanisms built into pilot proposals
  • Consensus on PIA / DPA principles

To discuss

  • A number of representatives from the public sector felt there was greater evidence / certainty of value of data sharing than set out in the paper
  • Data is a facilitator for decision making, not the solution itself
  • Evaluation / what does success look like?
  • What are the tolerance levels for fraud?
    • Cost effective
    • Evaluation is linked to the level, quality of analysis,data cleaning, etc.




  • Best approach is to rely on consent if possible
  • Only rely on compulsion (i.e. legislate) if absolutely necessary
  • Clarified definitional issues

To discuss

  • How will DMI work in practice
    • Openness (FoI)?
  • Will local authorities be included?
  • Is DMI an opportunity to promote best practice and “level up” approach to debtors
  • Prioritisation of debts
  • Tension between benefit to individual and efforts to “get the money in”
  • Sharing with private sector? Individuals have debts with a number of different organisations – private & public
  • Balance success between collection and intrusion
  • Safeguards
  • How to get full picture when some debts not in DMI
  • How to separate success of DMI as a project/initiative and the data sharing aspects
  • Overlap between DMI and statutory debt solutions (e.g. bankruptcy, DRO, etc.)

Reflections from the Minister

Having heard summaries of the group discussion, the Minister for the Cabinet Office reflected on the process. There is a potentially large public benefit to be gained from data sharing, but it is a contentious area with potential risks, and needs to be done in a measured way. There would be no better way to raise suspicion than conducting the policy process in a closed way. Participants had taken part in something groundbreaking – a genuinely open policy making process. He recognised the time and energy that participants had given.

Reflecting on the Tailored Public Services strand, he commented that one of biggest challenges of supporting troubled families is data sharing. Actual and perceived barriers hamper government’s ability to help people. There are two key issues – joining up data and joining up money. Both need to be joined up as close to the individual family as possible, so it’s not about creating big databases. He highlighted the importance of working out the settling point [between opportunities and concerns].

On Research and Statistics, the Minister commented that there are a huge range of issues that we don’t understand, but we have the data that might help us understand. Again he concluded it was about finding the settling point.

Regarding fraud and debt, the Minister stated that there are lots of misperceptions about where data can be shared already. Much of what is needed is about clarity – finding a way through the current patchwork of gateways. On debt he commented that government is not very good at collecting money from those who won’t pay, and not very sensitive to those who can’t pay. Data sharing could help distinguish the two, and support a more humane interaction with those who need it.

To conclude, he highlighted that data sharing is an issue that most new governments don’t want to touch. They get frustrated and see the need for it over time, but then it’s too close to an election. There is no party politics in this and a real opportunity to take forward in early stages of next government.


Q – Why has the role of individuals owning and controlling their data been out of scope for this exercise?

A – Partly because you have to limit things because it could be a conversation you have for ever.’s work on this is now in live beta testing.

Q – Is there scope for civil society organisations to engage on the Debt Market Integrator?

A – Absolutely yes.

Q – What cross party support is there?

A – A lot. All main parties have had recent experience of government and understand the issues.

Q – Potential White Paper – is it overly complicated with strands structure?

A – Good question with no perfect answer. Issue is the simpler you make it, the more all encompassing you make it. It needs to be simplified, but not at cost of benefits we can take from doing in a more complicated way.

Q – It’s been helpful to have a strong but open leadership from Cabinet Office. Would like to build on that post election.

A – Credit to the team. It’s not a comfortable way of doing things. Credit to team for embracing. We now understand what the prize is.

Next steps

The Minister departed and the conversation moved onto the next steps. Groups were formed around four issues for consideration.

Policy & white paper

  • Creating White Paper that’s accessible and engaging. Rational.
  • Difficult to understand across the strands. How do we describe strands. Alternative:
    • Tagline: Reprocessing data for public good.
    • Two themes – administrative (things that have positive impact on individual) – statistical (no impact on the individual)
  • Using examples and case studies.
  • Identifying cultural as well as legal issue.
  • Scrutiny processes that work in a cohesive way.

Citizen engagement and consultation

  • Who are we trying to engage with? How to get representative groups?
  • Meaningful engagement.
  • Need to ensure not hijacked by particular groups.
  • Clarity about intention and outcomes.
  • Need to understand public attitudes and what individuals think is important.
  • Different strands using for operational purposes and others not.
  • Sharing consensus points.
  • Simple messages that resonate with public
  • Need to engage public through case studies and examples – can’t engage in abstract.
  • E-petitions will gather lots of feedback. Need to think of digital forms of engagement.
  • Red lines: Don’t renegotiate – consult – on banked ideas. But will be a question for the next government. But…
  • Can’t guarantee that will be sacrosanct, but will need to be substantial case for change. New evidence, etc.


  • Complex message – and different messages on different strands. Essential to use plain and jargon-free language.
  • Need a communications strategy. Stakeholder analysis and segmentation to tailor messages.
  • Need to have good examples that resonate with people.
  • Important to get champions from outside of government.
  • Being clear about the public benefits and risks – so can have mature conversation.
  • Using the right channels at the right time.
  • Can expect negative media attention – need to put consistent and clear message out.

Devolved nations and regions

  • Lots of discussion going on about devolution – need to make sure that we’re engaging those areas with discussions
  • Control over aims, rather than data. Some data can’t be owned by devolved areas.
  • Joining together contacts in devolved regions. Using networks and assets.
  • Future proofing. Establishing trust.

Closing remarks

Simon Burall (Involve) recognised the time people had given up to participate and thanked the Cabinet Office team for their role.

Peter Lawrence reported that the Cabinet Office team would take on the points they’d heard in the meeting. Over the next few weeks the will start to pull together into a draft White Paper, which a new government can make a decision to take forward if they wish. The Cabinet Office team will have to go quiet during the pre-election purdah period, but will talk to people again when they can .

When there’s a new government, there will be something robust to give to them, with options for next steps. One of the key questions is how to engage the public in this conversation.

Plenary workshop with Francis Maude | 22 Oct 2014 | Meeting note

10:00 – 13:00, 22nd October 2014
Admiralty House, Ripley Courtyard, 26 Whitehall, London


For the past 6 months, representatives from government, the wider public sector, academics, privacy organisations, and wider civil society have been discussing data sharing as a solution to three issues.

  • Better understanding UK society and economy, through enhanced research and statistics
  • Tackling fraud and better management of debt
  • More effective tailoring of public services

These open policy discussions have resulted in an interim progress update which summarises the current areas of consensus and disagreement. This half-day session on the 22nd October, jointly facilitated by the Cabinet Office and Involve, allowed civil society organisations to review with policy officials and the Minister the progress and findings thus far, and discuss next steps.

Introduction to the session by Simon Burall & Peter Lawrence

The objective of the plenary workshop was outlined; to ensure that the interim update was a fair reflection of progress to date and agree how to move forwards.

The group were updated on longer term objectives. Originally the hope was that consensus could be reached around September after which a White Paper and or draft legislative clauses could be developed. However, it was now clear that whilst high level consensus had been reached on many matters there was still much to discuss on how current thinking could be implemented in a way that would enhance public services whilst maintaining citizen privacy. Therefore the expectation of a White Paper or draft clauses being published in this Parliament was removed. It was suggested that moving forward with discussions around points of detail would enhance the level from which any following publications or public consultations would then begin.

The workshop was framed as a staging point, to work out where the group agrees, disagrees and where more work needs to be done.

Open space discussions

The process

There was discussion looking both backward and forward. The group suggested it would be helpful to understand the levels of engagement in the process through numbers of attendees from civil society and government at the various meetings. It would also be helpful to acknowledge barriers to engagement, such as time, resources, location and issues such as high impact data sharing decisions or policies being announced at short notice from other parts of government being prioritised. This would feed into lessons learned from the process.

The group also suggested that there should be an acknowledgement of how the policy paper might be used in future, as a platform for future policy proposals.

Having undertaken some round table discussions, where people were free to move from group to group the feedback was:

Research & statistics

The group felt that the paper as it stands should address issues relating to the application of any resulting powers in relation to third parties and the devolved administrations. It was also felt the paper needs to be clearer on the questions of the destruction, retention and timescales for each agreed, accredited or approved data share. There needed to be more on: scrutiny options and concerns around them, the cost and the benefits, clarity around information assurance strands and the consequences that could arise from current review of EU data protection legislation.

Fraud, error and debt

The group fed back that the government’s ‘digital by default’ agenda is central to questions of data around fraud, error and debt, and government should be able to share data automatically, otherwise there would be no benefit gained from digital by default.

The group also made the point that government is doing a lot of work on data sharing at the moment, which is not reflected in the report. There needs to be greater use of case studies made, of where it’s worked well.

The group also reflected that there needs to be a better reflection of debt and the problems around debt. Should we take debt off the table, as it’s different to error and fraud?

Tailored public services

The group asked the question: how do we assess the benefits of data sharing and make the business case? Is it possible to evidence the assertion that the majority would benefit?

They also discussed consent, asking: what is the mechanism for those who want to withdraw consent?

The group also felt there needed to be more work done on defining the objectives in the draft.

In the context of public services delivered by others outside of the public sector it was asked what the implications might be for third sector, private sector or other external bodies, for example those delivering commissioned services.

The Minister’s reflections

The minister thanked those present for their contribution so far. He welcomed the degree of engagement and commitment of the group, especially non-governmental actors for who contributing to this process was an additional burden beyond the day job. He said being open was the only way to conduct a process like this – doing it the ‘old world’ way would not work in this territory.

We’re working in the public interest, which is very complex. There is a real benefit in using the data we have better, and this is an uncontroversial outlook. However, people are rightly concerned with government abuse of data, and this is a counter opinion. The third dimension is that technology is changing minute by minute, and this discussion of mixed use data would not have been the same five years ago. This is a hugely worthwhile exercise and the more we know between us the more chance we have of finding the point of settling and consensus.

The risks and threats will change, to privacy, security and the abuse of state power, but the possibilities and benefits will also change.

The Minister described the process as incredibly beneficial and ground-breaking in its focus on collaboration.

He asked everyone to remain engaged as we move forward to the next steps of looking at lower level detail. He suggested a checkpoint of the end of the year.

The Minister noted his intention to check in with government colleagues across all parties, as it’s not a party political issue. He was hoping to have draft legislation ready for the next parliament with a high degree of consensus. He acknowledged it was unlikely anything more formal would happen in this Parliament, but noted as he was a politician he wouldn’t, of course, rule it out.

Questions to the minister

  • What is consent? How do you revoke it? How can you consent to a monopoly service? Should you, and how do you, remove consent from de-identified data for targeted services?
  • What is the aspiration on data-sharing? What does the minister feel the negatives are? Looking for a political steer.
  • Using private sector techniques for debt collection is an area of concern. Debt is fundamentally different from fraud and error, when the issue is that people fundamentally cannot afford to pay back a debt to the government.
  • Worry about the lines blurring between statistical and operational data, and giving government access to identifiable data. This could be a red line for civil society.
  • Comment that an independent code of practice on data matching is necessary. Statutory sharing is a challenge to the Data Protection Act so a code is necessary.
  • Will there be acknowledgment of this work present on

Next steps

Research & statistics

Going forward the default for this strand would be communication by documente-mail with meetings only where necessary. By Christmas, the group plans to circulate justification and powers on trusted third parties, push health to come back on the exclusion de-identification strand and engage with open policy-making members on the process for devolved issues. ONS is reviewing detail of options around what could possibly stand instead of Parliamentary scrutiny, this will be shared for comment to the OPM group as soon as possible.

Fraud, error, & debt

The group discussed plans to conduct social media sentiment analysis, with the aim to understand the appetite and tolerance point on data-sharing for fraud, error and debt. They are planning an internal government wide survey to understand the data sets which are necessary and the perceived barriers. They plan to develop pilots and a bank of case study data in order to evidence the benefits of data sharing. There was a discussion of what is possible to do without legislation.

By Christmas, the group plan to have completed the surveys (both external and internal) and developed the bank of case study data. Designing the pilots will take until the end of January.

Further discussion on the future of the Debt element would need to take place quickly to decide if it should remain in play, and if so whether as part of the fraud and error strand or as a separate strand.

Tailored public services

The Tailored Public Services strand will look in detail at the objectives with a draft list to be developed with rationale. Half day sessions with smaller group work will be timetabled, in order to look at detail around defining benefit to citizens.

More work will be undertaken with local authorities in order to understand who they are working with. This will help to answer the question of where to draw the boundary between public and private/3rd Sector.

Final Comments

In wrapping up the point was reiterated that there were now no plans for a formal white paper prior to the election. The aim was to review at the end of this year and jointly take a decision on next steps based on progress at that time.

On the topic of databases, it was commented on that the focus of the group should be around permissions and appropriate access levels, rather than size.

The group were at this point reminded the principles underpinning the data sharing work were that we are not interested in:

  • Allowing the indiscriminate sharing of data,
  • Weakening the Data Protection Act,
  • Building large permanent databases or collecting further data.

Data Sharing Disclosure Standard | Proposal for comments

The paper linked below sets out a draft proposal developed by Tim Davies and Reuben Binns, and updated following discussion at the Tailored Public Services full day strand workshop, for a data sharing disclosure standard. Tim and Reuben are interested in receiving comments on the proposal.

Proposal for a Data Sharing Disclosure Standard

Fraud, Error & Debt | Draft proposals for comment

The paper linked below sets out draft policy proposals on the Fraud, Error & Debt strand for comment until end Friday 29th August 2014. These papers have been developed and revised by the Cabinet Office based on discussions during the open policy process, most recently the 18th July full day strand workshop.

Following the return of comments on this draft, the paper will be revised and amalgamated with the Research & Statistics and Tailored Public Services strand papers to form a single document. This will form the basis for ongoing scrutiny and engagement around the proposals.

Draft policy proposals for Fraud, Error & Debt

Tailored Public Services | Draft proposals for comment

The paper linked below sets out draft policy proposals on the Tailored Public Services strand for comment until end Monday 25th August 2014. These papers have been developed and revised by the Cabinet Office based on discussions during the open policy process, most recently the 28th July full day strand workshop.

Following the return of comments on this draft, the paper will be revised and amalgamated with the Research & Statistics and Fraud, Error & Debt strand papers (to be published for comment shortly) to form a single document. This will form the basis for ongoing scrutiny and engagement around the proposals.

Draft policy proposals for Tailored Public Services

Research & Statistics | Draft proposals for comment

The papers linked below set out draft policy proposals on the Research & Statistics strand for comment until end Friday 22nd August 2014. These papers have been developed and revised by the Cabinet Office based on discussions during the open policy process, most recently the 23rd July Full day strand workshop.

Following the return of comments on this draft, the paper will be revised and amalgamated with the Fraud, Error & Debt and Tailored Public Services strand papers (to be published for comment shortly) to form a single document. This will form the basis for ongoing scrutiny and engagement around the proposals.

Part One – Draft De-identified Strand Paper

Part Two – Draft Identified Strand Paper

Part Three – Draft HMRC Proposals

Part Four – Additional Issues

Part Four – Appendix One – Offences Matrix