No2ID and the Empire Windrush

The “scandal” concerning the “Windrush Generation” appears to be collateral damage from the failure to agree coherent policies for sharing public sector identities and personal information after the collapse of proposals for identity cards. The Home Office may have destroyed the landing cards for the Empire Windrush (or sent them to the National Archive) but the passenger lists, (collated by the Department of Transport) are not only in the National Archive but are used in one of their education resource packs . After landing the immigrants would have been given identity and ration cards, the records of which were later used to create central registry of the NHS . The identity card numbers survived as NHS numbers until the 1980s when they were  restructured into the current format . It is also difficult to see how either the Windrush Generation, or their children, would have been able to get jobs or claim benefits without National Insurance numbers, now in the hands of HMRC.

I wonder how many of those who successfully opposed the introduction of ID Cards believe that Home Office staff should not be allowed, let alone encouraged or required, to look across the records of other Departments before deporting those without Home Office “recognised documentation” such as a residents permit or passport.  Then comes the status of records transferred to the National Archive after the full implementation of GDPR.  When it comes to Government, Health and Welfare records the right to be forgotten should be an informed choice, not a default.

I look forward to the day when GDS Verify and the ID programmes of other Government Departments (including the separate ID systems for those at  School and those at College or University, with a ban on dual use) enter the real world and offer or recognise identity systems that do something else useful – like age checking (preferably to PAS 1296 so as to be able to tell the real from the fake) before giving access to controlled or sensitive products and services. Meanwhile perhaps the time has also come to revisit the original concept, under Home Secretary Michael Howard, of an entitlement card , issued via local not central government – giving as much (or little) access to benefits/housing/health and as “non-residents” have in Denmark, Germany or Holland. If so, that could indeed be an existential threat to Whitehall (and Home Office).

I could go on but the moral of the Windrush Saga is – “Be very careful what you wish for ….  when it comes to preventing data sharing and demanding the right to be forgotten“.


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