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Government laptop losses revealed

More than 1,000 have been lost or stolen


Laptops a month went missing from government bodies in 2007

More than 1,000 laptops have been lost or stolen from government departments in recent years, new figures have revealed.

At least 200 – 16 a month – went missing last year alone, including dozens each from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), the Ministry of Defence and the Department of Work and Pensions.

The statistics have been released to MPs increasingly concerned about Whitehall data handling following a series of high-profile blunders.


The losses are probably even higher than the figures suggest as they do not include those for several departments and much of the data covers only the most recent year.

The disclosures come after the Ministry of Defence admitted in January that a laptop stolen in Birmingham contained the details of 600,000 people interested in joining the forces.

HMRC lost computer discs containing the details of 25 million child benefit claimants last year, followed by the loss by a DVLA contractor of millions of learner drivers’ names.

Home Office

Last week a disc marked ‘Home Office – confidential’ turned up in a laptop purchased on eBay and taken into a computer shop near Bolton.

In total, at least 1,052 laptops have gone missing. However, the figures do not include the Home Office, Foreign Office, Department for Transport or Department for Business.

Following recent incidents, Cabinet Secretary Gus O’Donnell launched a review of procedures within departments and agencies for the storage and use of data.

In January he issued a blanket ban on Whitehall staff taking unencrypted laptops containing personal details from their offices. Scottish National Party MP Mike Weir, who has been investigating the issue, said the figures were ‘mind-boggling’ and called for an end to even encrypted information being taken off government premises.

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