Coffee House

Big Brother (and HMRC) is watching you

21 January 2013

10:38 AM

21 January 2013

10:38 AM

It’s the anniversary of George Orwell’s death today – and HMRC seem to be marking the occasion with adverts in cashpoints celebrating their emerging status as the Big Brother of Britain.

The above picture, which I took the other day from a cashpoint, shows a pair of female eyes staring and blinking at you as you take our you money, with the clear message from the taxman: be warned, we have the power to pry. Not yet they don’t: the Snooping Bill has been attacked in parliament and looks like it may not survive.


The disingenuous rationale for the Bill was that it would help MI5 crack down on terrorists who use new ways of communicating. As the jihadis change their tactics, ran the argument, you need to let our spies do the same. This is bunkum. The spies already have powers to intercept anything that can be categorised as a ‘communication’ which can include anything from a smoke signal to General Petraeus-style method of writing a ‘draft’ email and then changing it without sending it.

What the Snooping Bill would do is force email providers to keep records of who messages whom and when, and hand it to the tax man when he pries. The Snooping Bill is mainly intended to arm government with new ways to spy on its citizens, in ways that Orwell would immediately recognise. This June would have marked his 110th birthday. It would be encouraging if Cameron’s government marked the occassion with a Bill of Rights protecting the privacy of the citizen from the snooping powers of the state.

UPDATE As if to mark Orwell Week, the Prime Minister has declared perpetual war – well, a generational war anyway – against African jihadis and another journalist has been charged by the Crown Prosecution Service.

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Show comments
  • Laurence England

    It would be encouraging if Cameron’s government marked the occassion
    with a Bill of Rights protecting the privacy of the citizen from the
    snooping powers of the state.

    Er…good luck with that one! Any Government that thinks it can redefine marriage will have no problems with presiding over other ‘Godlike’ powers over citizens.

  • Shadowworld

    Cameron… Bill of rights… Same sentence…. Hahahahahahaa

  • ButcombeMan

    HMRC have been getting less and less effective, the combined Department has not been a success, how could it be? Remember it was “Jonah” Brown who combined the Departments, after an evidence free report from G.O.D.

    Almost everything Brown did turned to dust.

    The IR/HMCE merger took too much effort to do, the combined Department has become unmanageable. It was always going to be like that.

    Brown is a fool and the G.O.D. report was commissioned with the result decided. It was all about saving staff numbers with no regard to efficiency. It was a Jonah Brown nonsense on a par with working familes tax credits and the winter fuel allowance.

    HMRC has since formation been using planted stories in the newspapers about campaigns against, Doctors, Lawyers, Plumbers, indeed anyone. These planted stories come thicker and faster as the end of the tax year aprroaches. One must assume that at the highest level they have some effect.

    Frasers unworthy and childish, linking with the Communications Data Bill is silly nonsense, communications data has no releveance to the tax affairs of ordinary tax payers, even the ever so prevalent, slightly dishonest ones.

    Electronic contact data as an investigative tool is about serious criminality as is interception of communications. It has to be as I say, not what Fraser suggests, because of sheer quantity.

    The prime use of contact data retention is to enable the analysis that leads to an interception warrant for serious crime, terrorism or tax fraud.

    An increasing multiplicity of electronic contact methods without some access for the most serious casework will, inevitably -over time- degrade the UKs national ability to respond to new threats.

    This is just a simple fact, that no amount of sneering or ill thought out, playing to the gallery by Fraser, can overcome

  • LastOrders

    The answer is to shrink government, government itself is the problem here and it’s increasing expansion. It spends too much & wastes far too much, £11 billion a year on overseas aid which is set to rise to £14 billion a year under Cameron’s govt is a prime example and the tip of the iceberg.

    If we shrank government we wouldn’t need to overtax those that create wealth, more money in people’s pockets creates confidence and growth in the economy. The actions we see are of a dying breed – MPs are desperately clinging on to their wasteful ways. Inflated salaries for their part time jobs, plus generous expense accounts where they can siphon another £300k into their bank accounts each year is another example of why things have to change. The public sector is rife with leeches that feed at the teat of the taxpayer.

  • Badly Done Emma

    My annual call to the HMRC begging for a few weeks grace was a more pleasant affair than last year when a complete cow reduced me to tears. The above poster is frightening and threatening – no question. Whether anyone has anything to hide isn’t the point. FN is correct, spies can intercept anything they choose. What’s the point of me hiding bags upstairs and saying ‘what this!, I’ve had it for years’ if the govt can spy on my bank account?

  • ScaryBiscuits

    It would be nice if the Cameron government just got lost. We need a new leader who can unite rather than divide and who represents the people of this country not the self-appointed elite.

    • 2trueblue

      It would have been better if they had not been ‘lucky’ enough to get in, then we would have Millipede, et al in play and the blogs would be about them. All the blogs are just Cameron bashing sessions, it darn boring.

  • HooksLaw

    Heaven forbid the Barclay Brothers should pay more tax. Why else should Mr Nelson be worried about a pair of lovely female eyes.
    Keep stirring up the hysterics Mr Nelson.

    • Curnonsky

      And Comrade Stalin has such a nice smile, don’t you think?

  • Dimoto

    I wanted to make an investment recently.
    I tried three brokers.
    The first one (who I had dealt with before), said I needed a signed and stamped affidavit to verify identity, from a JP, Doctor or school teacher (sic). Money laundering prevention don’tcha know.
    The second one said I would have to split the amount and send it on successive days.
    The third one said OK, and did a quick “electronic check”.
    Tax and financial regulation is the same stupid, red-tape bound, garbage that it has always been, don’t let them tell you any different.

  • Allen

    Telling you to pay your tax, which is a clearly and widely-known law, can hardly be called snooping. Might be bossy, but not snooping.

    • Alan Douglas

      May not be snooping, but it IS threatening. The state has NO business threatening the vaste majority of readers of their ad, for the sake of catching a very few. I fear having to PROVE I have nothing to hide – indeed I failed and was ripped off £26,000 by HMRC, the gouging dept.

      Alan Douglas

      • HooksLaw

        My wife for one has just gone to a lot of trouble to honestly fill in her tax return on line. Why should others sneak out of it?

        There is no ‘snooping’; the taxman has always been relentless, its what got Capone – Mr Nelson’s agenda is transparent and his rationale bogus.

  • In2minds

    ” disingenuous” – far too polite!

  • Colonel Mustard

    It is sad that a British government now uses this type of scare “advertising” without any sense of shame in doing so. And that no-one in government appears to question it as a development that re-defines the relationship of state to citizen in an unacceptable way.

    Even if they were to, the worst case scenario of demonised examples – fat cat tax evaders, terrorists and paedophiles – would be emotively used to shut down opposition. Anyone objecting is immediately characterised as defending those categories. Pure soviet and maoist coercion of the worst kind that inhibits debate, reason and balance in the powers sought.

    That old cliché “If you have nothing to hide” really seems to have taken root in their approach to “managing” us. Who then will stand up for the people?

    • an ex-tory voter

      HMRC, like the Police Forces have forgotten that they are public servants. They both behave more and more like Rambo and as a result they are losing the support of the electorate. It is all very well for the political millionaires and HMRC to spout about tax avoidance etc etc, but in the end the ever more draconian behaviour of HMRC only impacts on the average family. The wealthy manage to keep the state at bay, it is everyman who is actually screwed by HMRC. Let’s have flat taxes and a statuatory limit on the percentage of GDP which can be taken in taxes.

      • Dimoto

        The “fearsome” HMRC can’t even secure a conviction against a dodgy, and not very smart football manager.

        • Bruce_UK

          Or his very smart (and expensive) lawyers.

        • eeore

          Maybe they will when they are allowed to use the information NSA and DARPA have been collecting for them.

      • 2trueblue

        That is what they do in Hong Kong, collection costs less’ and the gain is greater for all.

        All of those in positions of power in this country have forgotten that we pay them, we are just another irrelevance to them.

    • dpict

      “That old cliché “If you have nothing to hide” really seems to have taken root in their approach to “managing” us.”

      Here’s a decent article dealing with the old “nothing to hide” chestnut.

    • telemachus

      Even though in France I cannot let Nico get away with such dangerous views
      We have mass murder in Africa just days ago and folks say they do not need intelligence
      If you have nothing to hide is a truism not to be scoffed
      To let the Fundamentalist terrorists get away with it is to achieve what they want
      A Jihad opposed by a Crusade
      Show some common sense

  • Dominic Allkins

    “It would be encouraging if Cameron’s government marked the occasion
    with a Bill of Rights protecting the privacy of the citizen from the
    snooping powers of the state.”

    As Bluesman says – Fat chance.

    The American’s have the 2nd Amendment to help defend themselves against an overbearing state. Would that we had too.

    • an ex-tory voter

      They won’t have it long if Obama is not kept in check.

  • Harold Angryperson

    “This year will mark his centenary”

    Er – Orwell was born in 1903…

  • Boudicca_Icenii

    LibLabCON read 1984 and thought it was an Instruction Manual.

    • nemesis

      Or a love story.

  • eeore

    Apparently if you want to communicate and not be snooped on, you need to get a ham radio and send messages in morse code.

  • Bluesman

    “It would be encouraging if Cameron’s government marked the occasion
    with a Bill of Rights protecting the privacy of the citizen from the
    snooping powers of the state.”

    Fat chance.

    • LB

      Yep, its because they are running a Ponzi, and its reached tipping point.

      • Dimoto

        It’s much more hum-drum than that – the government, like many before it, has been captured by sections of the civil-service, and become dominated by the producer agenda. That is a much easier route than the hard slog of effective government, and this is a lazy government.

        • LB

          James M. Buchanan died recently.

          There are some interesting points in his research about how civil servants and MPs are operating in their own personal interest, and not for the public good.

        • LB

          I think is part of it.

          However, given that they are hiding 6 tr of a 7 tr debt off the books, they are desperate.

          You can fund 7,000 bn of debt, when you have an income of 550 bn, on spending of 700 bn.

          Equally, they know that if they cut 30% just to stop the borrowing from increasing, the civil service is out of a job.

          If they reveal they have lost 6,000 bn of debt down the back of the sofa, they are also done for.

          And since 1,500 bn of that is their pensions, they know what would be coming.

          Also, if the public used to their giro, doesn’t get it, they will conclude their human rights have been violated and go on the riot.

          Then there are the others, who were told, if you pay your NI and taxes you will get your pension. Now given the debt, they won’t.

          Heaven forbid when the 26K a year worker finds out that he or she have been diddle out of 430K’s worth of pension. They would have got 560K in a fund, if their NI had gone into the FTSE. State pension costs 130K at most. What will the victims of the long con have to say?

          • HooksLaw

            There is no 7 trillion hidden down the sofa. Once again we see the loonys bowing down to the Great God Nutjob.

            Where do you go to dress up on All Hallows Eve, or for the summer solstace?s Eve?

            • LB


              In summary, the estimates in the new supplementary table indicate a total Government pension obligation, at the end of December 2010, of £5.01 trillion


              Since that’s 2 years old, and its risen above inflation since just because of the triple lock, its currently around the 5.3 trillion mark. That’s just the pensions bit.

              The rest of the 6 trillion is made up of PFI – off the books, Guarantees (post office pension, BT pension black hole, bank losses), Nuclear decomissioning.

              You’re task, if you are up to the job, is to come back and show where these debts are included in the books. Good luck with your mission.

              [PS as a hint, the official debt is 1.1 trillion. The total of outstanding Gilts is 1.1 trillion]

    • eeore

      But it isn’t a state that Cameron has any control over that is doing the snooping. It is the military industrial complex that Eisenhower warned against, and no elected official has control over them.