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For casual enquiries this will include no more than a name and contact details, but for those who applied to join the forces more extensive personal data may be held. In some cases this will include personal information such as next of kin details, passport and national insurance numbers, drivers’ licence and bank details and national health service numbers. EDS assesses that it is unlikely that the device was encrypted because it was stored within a secure site that exceeded the standards necessary for restricted information. An investigation is being conducted by the MOD police. The MOD has set up a help line for those who may be affected by this incident, and for those individuals whose financial details may be involved, action has been taken through APACS (the Association for Payment Clearing Services) to inform banks so that the relevant accounts can be flagged for scrutiny against unauthorised access.

As a result of the review conducted earlier this year by Sir Edmund Burton, the MOD is clear about the crucial need to implement wholesale improvements in how we store, protect and manage the use of personal data. We are also clear that we need to effect a significant behavioural change among our people at all levels. We are currently engaged in a comprehensive programme to do all of this. The MOD is a large Department operating many complex data systems world wide, often at very short notice and under extreme conditions. This presents additional challenges and risks in the implementation of rapid change—however we are determined to ensure that we effect that change.

We have pursued the task with urgency and commitment and in the process we have identified further opportunities for improvement. The progress that the Department has made to date is consistent with that required by the DHR timetable and the commitments we have made to the Information Commissioner. Some of the greatest challenges that we have had to overcome relate to incorporating stricter data handling standards into existing contracts and their related systems retrospectively.

We have undertaken a series of comprehensive reviews into our personal data holdings, looking wider than our personnel systems, and assess that we hold in excess of 200 million records. By the end of October, as agreed, all personal data held by MOD will be under the new governance regime required by DHR. This work relies heavily on reciprocal commitment from our key suppliers. Central to it is our continuing detailed census of storage as part of our commitment to good data management. In line with this, it is intended to reveal whether any storage devices cannot be accounted for. Such cases are treated very seriously with immediate action to investigate the loss, engage individuals who might be at risk of compromise and alert the Information Commissioner. This process led to the discovery of the missing hard drive at the EDS site in Hook.

The fact that this event, and another involving a suspected theft at Innsworth, has occurred on a high security site manned by cleared personnel illustrates the need continually to review and enhance our arrangements for personal data. This work relies heavily on reciprocal commitment from our partners.

The Information Commissioner's Office recognises that we may uncover further issues as we implement our assurance regime. This is a direct result of emplacing an
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effective approach to data security. The implementation of our action plan remains on track to be compliant with the requirements of the Burton review by the end of March 2009 and likewise the requirements of DHR by October 2009. We will update the House as required.

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Government Decontamination Service

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Hilary Benn): I have set the Government Decontamination Service (GDS) the following remit. This updates and replaces the remit originally set for the GDS when the agency was established in 2005. It provides a clearer and more focused statement of purpose for the service. It does not change the functions of the service but seeks to explain them better through setting the functions in the context of the service’s dual role of:

Remit for the Government Decontamination Service

1. Role in preparing for a crisis—core functions:

1.1 Establish and maintain a framework of contractors (specialist suppliers) which, in the event of a CBRN(1) or major HAZMAT(2 )incident, and using a call-off contract mechanism, can offer appropriate remediation or decontamination-related services (including sampling and monitoring, and waste management services to facilitate decontamination) for the built and open environment and transport assets, including critical national infrastructure.

1.2 To establish and maintain a programme of work to test, exercise and evaluate GDS and GDS framework capability against likely service requirement based on the appropriate Government policies and materials, using national and international technical information as appropriate.

1.3 To capture information on known framework capability and capacity; identify gaps in known capability and capacity, and explore mitigations and possible solutions as appropriate.

1.4 Provision of advice and briefing on framework capability and capacity(3), and written guidance on associated remediation/decontamination issues to Departments, devolved Administrations, and responsible authorities.

1.5 To participate in the work of the Home Office CBRN strategic programme in identifying, prioritising, and, as necessary, managing decontamination-related research projects.

1.6 To build up a library of the relevant knowledge (including reference material) and experience available to GDS, drawing on national and international information, which can be used by its officers, and others, to support the development of the framework and wider remediation work.

1.7 Maintaining a duty officer role.

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2. Role supporting the crisis recovery phase:

In the event of a CBRN or major HAZMAT incident:

2.1 Act as expert advisors on the capability and capacity of the GDS framework contractors, their services and, where relevant, the different remediation or decontamination methodologies and technologies available through the framework;

2.2 To provide expert/scientific advice as necessary to relevant groups, including the STAC and recovery co-ordination group, on the consequences of the decontamination techniques used by the framework contractors, and on their capability/capacity and operating procedures to inform the consequence management strategy.

2.3 Help the lead responsible authority (or “Agent”) access the most appropriate framework services in order to ensure the efficient, effective and timely decontamination/remediation work is carried out. And to assist them in being an intelligent customer when setting up the appropriate contract or contracts;

2.4 Facilitate the liaison between the responsible authority and the contractor(s) throughout the duration of the contract.

2.5 Signposting alternative options where framework services have reached capacity, or where the decontamination service necessary does not require the level of capability available through the framework.

2.6 Providing, where required, appropriate briefing and assistance to central Government (including direct to the relevant Minister through the lead Government Department) on decontamination-related matters including capability and capacity of framework contractors and other known remediation or decontamination capability.

Performance Targets, 2008-09

I have also set the GDS the following performance targets for 2008-09:

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Further details are given in the GDS business plan for 2008-09, copies of which have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Prime Minister

Ministerial Resposibilities

The Prime Minister (Mr. Gordon Brown): I recently announced a series of changes to ministerial responsibilities. I have today placed in the Library of the House the Cabinet Office paper “Machinery of Government: economy, business, climate change, energy and environment”, which sets out these changes in more detail.

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