Citizen Smith is only half guilty

How’s that for Newspeak? They’ll make me Central Scrutiniser one of these days…

Much as I dislike Jacqui Smith, she is not wholly to blame for the latest data-loss scandal.

From the Campaign for Public Ownership:

Data including the names, addresses and dates of birth of around 33,000 offenders in England and Wales with six or more recordable convictions in the past 12 months on the Police National Computer have been lost by the private company PA Consulting, contractors for the Home Office. Also lost were the names and dates of birth of 10,000 prolific and other priority offenders, and the names, dates of birth and, in some cases, the expected prison release dates of all 84,000 prisoners held in England and Wales.

Sounds familiar?

Back in December it was announced that US firm Pearson Driving Assessments, a contractor to the Driving Standards Agency, had lost the details of three million candidates for the driving theory test. Pearson reported that a hard drive was missing from a “secure facility” in Iowa.

And of course earlier this summer we had the news that thousands of British [sic] schoolchildren would have to wait until the autumn for key test results after the US-owned company brought in to administer the tests ‘ETS Europe’ failed to deliver on time.

Shadow Chancellor Dominic Grieve says, a propos of the latest loss of data by a private company: “What is more scandalous is that it is not the first time that the government has been shown to be completely incapable of protecting the integrity of highly sensitive data, rendering them unfit to be charged with protecting our safety.”

Of course, Grieve doesn’t mention that it’s a private company, not the government, which has lost the data. He doesn’t because he and his party are fanatical supporters of privatisation- and the process of sub-contracting government tasks to private, often foreign owned companies. In fact, it was the Conservatives who started this process when they were last in power. The biggest charge that can be made against the present Labour government is that they have continued with such a disastrous policy. Back in the 1960s and 1970s, before the days of privatisation and sub-contracting government work to private companies, such loss of data never occurred.

Once again, the British people are losing out due to adherence to neo-liberal dogma.

It’s time for the government to end the sub-contracting of government work to private companies and to keep all such work ‘in-house’. Not only would this reduce the chance of confidential data going missing, it would also save the taxpayer a small fortune in paying for inefficient private companies.

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