This article considers the passage of the Children Act 2004 through Parliament. Drawing on recent debates in social science, particularly those concerned with informationalism, governance and cultural political economy, the article examines how welfare policies can be used as a vehicle for pursuing broader political goals. In particular, the development of information, retrieval and tracking systems (IRT) raise questions concerning the rapid growth in the use of instruments of surveillance. The aims of the article are, firstly, to analyse the use of surveillance as a mode of societal governance and, secondly, to illustrate how attempts to exercise governance take place through a particular discursive construction of children and their protection, a construction which presents the Children Act as a solution to some technical problems of information-sharing and inter-agency working in the service of children's welfare. The article argues that such a discursive construction is necessary in order to delegitimise and obscure key political questions of civil liberties and human rights that are raised by the Children Act.