Safety in silence

We mentioned that the cost of the HMRC database has already risen from £3.5bn to £8.5bn, and now MP Vince Cable has been asking parliamentary questions about the costs of the government IT projects that didn’t get past first base – Dizzy has the lowdown on £12.6m flushed away by Defra.

Dizzy also point out that some departments have refused to reply to Vince Cable’s PQs:

on the grounds that it will cost too much to do so, or, and this is my favourite, because they had a name change therefore cannot answer questions about things that happened under the old name

That sounds familiar – as regular ARCHers will know, the Home Office has refused, on cost grounds, to give figures for the number of unconvicted children on the National DNA Database (which we suspect is well into 6 figures).

After speaking to two journalists last week, both of whom could quite reasonably be expected to have an interest in the lack of DNA figures, it seems that Home Office refusal to answer tricky questions is a very effective tactic: both journalists said that it would only be news if we actually had the figures.

ARCH is a great fan of the media. When it works well, it’s the way that the man on the Clapham omnibus, without regular access to politicians, finds out what’s really happening. But when journalists won’t hold government to account for its failure to give answers, our enthusiasm starts to dim. It looks as if the government can keep on keeping its mouth shut whenever it suits them.


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