UK & World News

  • 30 March 2014, 8:36

Whitehall's 700k Lost And Stolen Devices Bill

MPs and civil servants have lost or had stolen 1,370 laptops, ipads and mobile phones in the past three years, potentially costing the taxpayer hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Freedom of Information responses to Sky News have discovered MPs alone lost 47 laptops or tablet computers over that period.

Deputy Information Commissioner David Smith said: "It's certainly worrying and you'd expect MPs to be setting a good example over security of the personal information that they keep, which could be extremely sensitive when they're dealing with constituents' problems.

"It could be medical records, all sorts of information."

Last year, 292 mobile or smartphones were lost or stolen, with 59 from the Cabinet Office alone.

A total of 103 laptops and 15 tablet computers disappeared - 13 of those from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

The responses from government departments show between 2010-11 and 2012-13 equipment potentially worth up to 700,000 was lost or stolen. That includes 956 phones, 371 laptops and 43 tablet computers.

Two laptops were taken from the locked House of Commons office of West Worcestershire MP Harriett Baldwin in June 2012.

It was not the first time a break-in had happened in the building and it is understood the Serjeant at Arms, who is responsible for security of the House, and the Met Police were investigating whether it was an inside job.

Each office has a sophisticated lock system, but cleaners, postal staff and other workers have access to each office throughout the day and night.

Jonathan Isaby, chief executive of the Taxpayers' Alliance, said: "Clearly there will be some examples where there's been a criminal act that's taken place.

"If that's the case, there needs to be a crime number, and it needs to be reported to the police in the usual way.

"It certainly would not be acceptable for hundreds of these devices every year simply to be written off, as down to a loss that the taxpayer will have to pick up."

There have been several high-profile data breaches by government departments in the past few years.

In November 2008, a memory stick, holding passwords for a government computer system, was found in a pub car park in Staffordshire.

In August 2008, a contractor working for the Home Office lost a memory stick containing personal details of all 84,000 prisoners in England and Wales.

In June 2008, a senior intelligence officer was suspended after documents classified as "UK Top Secret" were found on a commuter train in London.

In November 2007,HM Revenue and Customs lost two discs containing the confidential details of 25 million child benefit recipients.

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