Page last updated at 00:01 GMT, Friday, 21 November 2008

Government 'loses one PC a week'

Laptop
The Department of Health had lost the most computers

One government computer a week has been going missing on average in recent months, ministers have admitted.

Figures gained by the Conservatives showed 53 had disappeared in a year, along with 36 BlackBerries, 30 mobile phones and four memory sticks.

Tory frontbencher Grant Shapps said Whitehall security had to be reviewed.

The demand comes a year after Gordon Brown apologised for the loss of data discs containing the details of 25 million people.

Department by department

Mr Shapps, the shadow housing minister, wrote recently to ministers asking what equipment and data had been lost by their departments in the previous 12 months.

The Department of Health lost the most computers, with 14 disappearing.

A spokesman said all the incidents had been investigated and that all portable equipment was marked with an invisible dye to help deter or detect theft.

There had only been one incident involving the loss of personal data, when some junior doctors' details were made available by an outside contractor in breach of their guidelines, he added.

The Department for Children, Schools and Families lost the next highest number of computers - 13.

The Department for International Development, which lost nine, said all the data had been encrypted and was secure.

The Department for Transport lost five computers and the Department of Justice four.

Mr Shapps said the Ministry of Defence and the Home Office had not replied to his question.

He added: "They need to come clean and the departments that did show exceptional computer losses have to give more detail.

"We need an urgent review of the government's data policies, especially with large projects in the pipeline.

"It shows ministers are not capable of handling this sort of thing."

A year ago it was revealed that HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) had lost two computer discs containing the entire child benefit records, including the personal details of 25 million people - covering 7.25 million families overall.

The discs contained the names, addresses, dates of birth and bank account details of people who received child benefit. They also included National Insurance numbers.

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