back to article The British Home Office was warned about its crappy data management – then Windrush happened

The Home Office is under pressure to scrap data-sharing deals set up as part of efforts to hit immigration targets as its governance of such transfers have been slammed by the UK’s spending watchdog. Central to the government's immigration crackdown at the start of this decade – the so-called "hostile environment" – is the co- …

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

What Data?

Central to the whole story and integral to it is the destruction of Data.

When I tried to renew my son passport in 2012, the passport office put a temporary stop for more details on his application (the downside of a father applying apparently). When I called in, as a part of the "lovely" discussion with the Passport Office clerk I was told that all original documents serving as a basis for permanent leave to remain and any citizenship resulting from it have been destroyed. Deliberately. This is what we all know now to be the process of destroying the Windrush Landing Cards. It was not just the landing cards. It looks like quite a few other things were destroyed at the same time - work permit files, grants of permanent leave to remain, citizenship paperwork, etc.

So first and foremost, an integral part of this story is the fact that the home office chose (and quite deliberately) to destroy all "legally binding" primary original data in its possession and try to run the process off correlated hearsay being collected by other agencies.

That started the clusterf*ck. What the article describes is just the later stages and the conclusion of it. It was when the home office was trying to close the barn AFTER the horse had bolted. The NAO never got anywhere near the original decision which was frankly at the root of a lot of the Windrush (and later) clusterf*ck.

We still do not know who signed that order by the way. According to some of the posts on the subject on previous el reg articles it actually was in the days of Bliar, predating the Treasonous May.

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Re: What Data?

Back in the days before the Home Office had computers their handling of data left everything to be desired. As a snivel servant, I can remember being asked to provide my naturalisation papers because my mother was born in Lahore in 1904, the daughter of an army officer. They didn't seem to have heard of the red bits on the maps of the world, nor that Devon, my own place of birth, was in England.

plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

deive

Re: What Data?

Send it was planned by civil servants under Labour, then destroyed while May was home sec.

https://www.channel4.com/news/factcheck/factcheck-who-destroyed-the-windrush-landing-cards

CrazyOldCatMan
Silver badge

Re: What Data?

nor that Devon, my own place of birth, was in England

Devon? In England? Wash your mouth out!

(The disinclination to be labeled as English appears to be spreading from Cornwall to Devon - or at least according to my Cornish/Devonian[1] wife..)

[1] Not - not the geological era. Honest dear.. The bed in the garage again? OK.

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Re: What Data?

One can argue as to whether Theresa May should be held responsible for the destruction of the landing cards et al.

What certainly isn't in dispute is that she was the one responsible for (explicitly) calling for the "hostile environment" and having the associated policy set up under her watch as the then-home secretary.

Not that I have any sympathy for Amber Rudd, but her falling on her sword *did* usefull detract from the fact that if anyone was to blame, it was the (by now) prime minister May.

Of course, as has been noted, May might be quick to expect others to be held to account when it suits her, but has a somewhat uncanny knack of disappearing out of harm's way when the political flak starts flying.

A usefully self-serving skill from an otherwise incompetent leader who endlessly parroted the "strong and stable" mantra when she called an unnecessary election intended to increase her majority (and legitimacy), and proceeded to shoot herself in the foot by running an incredibly bad campaign, completely destroying her majority and leaving her at the mercy of coalition partners the DUP (which everyone in Scotland, England and Wales is effectively subsidising to the tune of £1bn.)

In other words, a "weak, incompetent and unstable" leadership- and this is the woman who's ultimately in charge of the Brexit negotiations.

Mephistro
Silver badge
Flame

In occasions like this...

... it's hard to tell whether it's a case of absolute evil or one of absolute incompetence.

Depressing.

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Re: In occasions like this...

You can, however, rest assured that the guilty will be dealt with and gotten rid of. By promotions.

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Re: In occasions like this...

You are absolutely correct: the Home Office was under the leadership of Blunder Woman at the time, who has since been promoted to being charge of the entire country......[shudders].

Yet Another Anonymous coward
Silver badge

Re: In occasions like this...

> it's hard to tell whether it's a case of absolute evil or one of absolute incompetence.

That's unfair - it could be both

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Re: In occasions like this...

Detailed analysis reveals the Home Office is run by a bunch of ignorant racist thugs, with the support of the present government.

The UK is now a hostile environment for everyone, including the native population. Eventually, it will lead to riots like the French ones (probably with even less sartorial flair).

And that is without Brexit.

CrazyOldCatMan
Silver badge

Re: In occasions like this...

case of absolute evil or one of absolute incompetence

They are not mutually exclusive - especially when the incompetence is deliberate..

Teiwaz
Silver badge

Re: In occasions like this...

it's hard to tell whether it's a case of absolute evil or one of absolute incompetence.

Really doesn't agree with the opinion of Lord Vetinari that evil people have better organisational skills.

Maybe we'd all be better off having the country run by means of the heroic cycle - allow some despot in to get things running nicely then aim a hero at him or her and then the population can rejoice in a cathartic moment of the fall of a tyrant (plus the occasional* messy overlord execution) be a great national unifier and morale booster every eight to ten years.

* has to be ocassional, if there's not the chance they might be able to escape and live a life in luxury and tax exile we'd not have any recruits for despot.

Potemkine!
Silver badge
Pirate

Re: In occasions like this...

it will lead to riots like the French ones

Chiche!

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Re: In occasions like this...

Blunder Woman may be so incompetent that she destroyed her government's majority with an unnecessary election intended to increase it. But she does have the self-preserving skill of disappearing whenever there's the risk of career-endangering political flak, and somehow managed to get Amber Rudd to accept the fall for something that was primarily her fault.

John Smith 19
Gold badge
Gimp

" the pool caught all cases, even those where the application was incomplete or incorrect,"

<monty burns>

Excellent

</monty burns>

To a data fetishist (like those who set policy in parts of the HO) all data is good data, because more data is always better than less data.

And besides, just because it's wrong doesn't mean it won't be wrong in the future ("And then we get them" as the KGB would have observed)

Data fetishism. It's not a sane policy. It's a personality disorder

ElReg!comments!Pierre

Re: " the pool caught all cases, even those where the application was incomplete or incorrect,"

To a data fetishist (like those who set policy in parts of the HO) all data is good data, because more data is always better than less data.

Except when the data supports inclusion in the benefits system, in which case it can be safely ignored or indeed destroyed. These budgets are not going to cut themselves, after all.

Mike Richards
Silver badge

Imagine what would have happened had the Home Office had its way?

The thought of the damage they could have done with a national ID card database can hardly be imagined.

And is it just me who has noticed a few trial balloons going up from people associated with government about whether we should have them to stop beastly foreigners getting benefits post-Brexit? Last week, George Osborne was publicly questioning whether the Tories should have scrapped New Labour's project when it came to power.

Never trust the Home Office.

cantankerous swineherd
Silver badge

the home office is staffed by proto totalitarian racists and needs cleaning out.

CrazyOldCatMan
Silver badge

the home office is staffed by proto totalitarian racists

T'was ever thus. As can be seen from the BBC series "Peaky Blinders" which, although a drama, was pretty well researched as to prevailing morality and customs.

John Smith 19
Gold badge
Joke

"the home office is staffed by proto totalitarian racists and needs cleaning out."

We know many people think this.

But sadly with demise of the National Identity Card scheme and the National Identity Register we only have a rough idea who you are.

So far.

Signed

The Home Office.

Doctor Syntax
Silver badge

At some point, assuming the whole Brexit process doesn't choke itself to death, we'll be looking for an adequacy rating from the EU for data sharing. I don't think the HO going rogue in this way is going to help get that.

Cynical Pie

Not a cat in hells chance..

The UK was always going to be urinating into the prevailing breeze when it came to gaining adequacy post Brexit but this has put any hope of that safely to rest.

Still at least we have our Blue passports back and that extra £350m per week for the NHS... wait... what ... that isn't true?

Dr Scrum Master

Notes from a Small Island

Having lived on a tropical island (with the population of large city) for over a decade where ID cards are the norm I have less of a revulsion for ID cards and identity confirmation between government bodies. Knowing the nationality of children for school admission or one's nationality for medical treatment is just par for the course, and it determines the different fees to be paid - yes, over hear the foreigners get to pay more for health and education services (which is rather popular with the locals).

However, as a long time Private Eye and El Reg reader I am always delighted to read about the new and exciting ways in which HMG can truly cock things up.

SImon Hobson
Silver badge

Re: Notes from a Small Island

It wasn't the ID card per se that people objected to. It was the massive database to go with it, the requirement to hand over all sorts of data that wasn't required, and massive fines for not informing them of every little change. So instead of having an innocuous card that would be useful as official ID, we had a data fetish's wet dream of a database that no-one (or at least, no more than a handful of people) was prepared to trust the authorities with.

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

My old IT project! Don't blame the IT system its the users issue.

Years back I worked on this project for a large IT service delivery company.

Project itself was fun and games, with a constant stream of interference from May Bot's "Ministry of Good Ideas". In the end they binned two of the new systems [what a waste], and went back to the older text based one - I suspect for political reasons. The whole project was then shutdown due to the Tory cuts. However the system I worked on was delivered and its still running.

Uncomfortable truth is that no matter how much we testing to ensure the quality of the system, if you put rubbish information in you are going to get rubbish information out.

I'm sad that the current government is now using this system to persecute people, I don' think it was designed to do that in the original specification.

CrazyOldCatMan
Silver badge

Re: My old IT project! Don't blame the IT system its the users issue.

if you put rubbish information in you are going to get rubbish information out

Too true - I was involved with a system sold into hospitals where we were reliant on the accuracy of data put in my both medical personnel and clerks. And we were constrained from having inputs selected from dropdowns and made to make them free-text fields (despite the medical staff wanting them to be dropdowns - it was the DoH minders that wanted free-text).

The result of which is that when they also new features that required data migration we had to spend a *lot* of time (at our own expense) cleansing the data..

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