Gordon Brown’s government has lost another batch of sensitive information, this time courtesy of one of his own cabinet ministers.
A laptop belonging to Hazel Blears, the Communities and Local Government secretary, was stolen from her constituency office in Salford over the weekend, it emerged this afternoon.
The Press Association, quoting a government spokesman, said the PC was primarily used for Blears’ constituency work, and carried “some material from her department.”
“None of the departmental material included sensitive personal data about the public or would be of use to criminals,” the spokesman soothed. However, it is not “personal information” that is the issue of the week, but the government’s loss of top secret eyes only type stuff, after Whitehall staffers spent last Wednesday dumping bundles of hush-hush files on commuter trains running in and out of Waterloo.
The spokesman told PA that: "The PC did not contain any secret or top secret information and the contents of the PC are protected and clearly this is now subject to a routine police investigation."
The BBC however reported that “the machine contained a combination of constituency and government information which should not have been held on it". These included “sensitive documents relating to defence and extremism,” the Beeb said.
Blears’ department recently said it would send teams of Whitehall staffers into areas which had received large numbers of immigrants to help ease “friction”. It’d be a fair bet that “sensitive” documents detailing this policy might have been on the machine, and at best these could produce some embarrassment for the government.
Even more embarrassing though is the fact that despite repeated claims by the government that it took data security seriously, civil servants, and now even Cabinet ministers, clearly think the rules don’t actually apply to them. ®