Page last updated at 15:58 GMT, Thursday, 29 October 2009

Whitehall warns of new data leaks

Files
Blunders involving sensitive official information have hit the headlines

Sensitive official information with potential implications for national security has leaked from Whitehall, the head of the civil service has warned.

Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell said there were "one or two" leaks from areas dealing with national security.

However he said the leaks themselves did not concern national security.

There have been a series of breaches in recent years, including of the entire child benefit records, with the personal details of 25 million people.

Giving evidence to the Commons Public Administration Committee, Sir Gus said he was considering whether the breaches were serious enough to call in the police or the security services.

"There are other areas where there is still information going missing," he said.

National security

"I am trying to work out precisely whether it is serious enough. Certainly it is not perfect at the minute.

"There are one or two [leaks] that I am worried about that have come from sensitive places that, in themselves, haven't been national security issues but they have come from areas that deal with national security issues."

Sir Gus was responding to criticisms of the Home Office for calling in the police to investigate the leak of information to Conservative MP Damian Green.

It was not clear, however, whether the latest leaks also came from within the Home Office or from elsewhere in Whitehall.

Sir Gus acknowledged that his decision on whether to call in the police had been affected by the controversy over the Damian Green affair.

"Certainly, I think for all of us, the threshold at which we go to the police has gone up," he said.

As well as the lost child benefit data, among the other high-profile leaks that have come to light in recent years, was the loss of the details of three million candidates for the UK driving theory test that went missing in the US in 2007.



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