A controversial piece of legislation could hand the government permission to snoop on bank accounts in a move that has been described as “Orwellian” by Prem Sikka.
The Data Protection and Digital Information Bill threatens to open up the accounts of anyone in receipt of state benefits, including child benefit, state pension and universal credit.
According to Lord Sikka, the Bill uses developments in electronic transactions and artificial intelligence to place the poor, disabled, sick, old and pregnant women under surveillance.
It gives Ministers and government agencies powers to direct businesses, particularly banks, and financial institutions, to mass monitor individuals receiving welfare payments, even when there is no suspicion or any sign of fraudulent activity.
Speaking in parliament, Stephen Timms, the Labour MP for East Ham, questioned why the government is bringing these powers forward now without scrutiny.
“The amendment gives the government extremely broad powers, with no checks in place, and it’s being done in a way that minimises parliament scrutiny. And I find it hard to see how it can be defended”, he said.
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