By Vincent Moss Political Editor
The Ministry of Defence has admitted that an amazing 571 of its laptops
have been lost or stolen in the past 10 years.
The disclosure comes as police continue to search for a stolen MoD
laptop with details of 600,000 potential recruits to the Royal Navy and
The embarrassing theft has forced Defence Secretary Des Browne to make
an urgent statement to the Commons tomorrow. But MPs also plan to quiz
Mr Browne about the hundreds of other lost laptops, which could contain
State secrets or confidential data on military personnel.
Last year alone, 75 MoD computers were stolen, according to figures
released by Defence Minister Derek Twigg. As well as the lost laptops,
30 other MoD computers had been lost or stolen since 1998. Other
Whitehall departments are believed to have lost dozens more. The bill
could total 2million.
Liberal Democrat defence spokesman Nick Harvey said of the laptop
thefts: "It beggars belief. It's a huge number to lose. Laptops are so
portable it makes them relatively easy to steal. People will be
astonished staff can risk taking them from offices." The latest blunder
comes two months after Downing Street was rocked by the loss of 25
million child benefit records.
We revealed last month that nine NHS trusts had lost confidential data
on tens of thousands of patients.
And hundreds of documents containing personal data were dumped in Devon
It emerged yesterday that a Navy recruiting officer had left the laptop
stolen in Birmingham in a car overnight.
Information Commissioner Richard Thomas said he would demand assurances
that the ministry had improved its data protection.
The amount of information, including passport and bank data and National
Insurance details, made it "a stark illustration of the potency of
personal information in a database world", he said.
Mr Twigg insisted security measures had already been beefed up.
But Tory defence spokesman Dr Liam Fox said the theft was "potentially
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