Select Committee on Treasury Written Evidence

Supplementary memorandum from the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury

  When I gave evidence to the Committee's Counting the Population inquiry I offered to write on the matter of Census data security, in response to question 335 from Philip Dunne MP.

  Data security and confidentiality of personal information carries the highest priority for the Census. It is central to the design of robust systems, processes and legal arrangements with contractors. All employees of both ONS and any appointed contractors working with Census data are bound by the 1920 Census Act and the confidentiality provisions of the 2007 Statistics and Registration Service Act (SRSA). Any breach of the SRSA confidentiality provisions is a criminal offence, subject to possible imprisonment and fines. All staff working with Census data sign a confidentiality declaration to confirm their understanding and commitment to the legal confidentiality undertakings. Individual Census data is used for statistical purposes only and is protected from disclosure for 100 years.

  The procurement process for the support service for the 2011 Census is currently ongoing, so I am not in a position to comment on the detail of the bids. However, I can assure you that the eventual contract that ONS places with the successful bidder will have sufficient provisions to ensure that the service provider will, at no stage, allow the removal from the United Kingdom of any completed paper questionnaire, or any electronic data or images that could in any way identify an individual. Both the warehouse and the processing centre will be located within the United Kingdom.

  The contract will be written specifically to warrant that the service provider protects the confidentiality, integrity and availability of confidential information, personal data and Census data. By providing this they must install security measures that comply with UK HMG specifications for RESTRICTED (Baseline) level operations.

  There will be further indemnities to cover any loss of data, changes to any location of supplier premises, the ability to undertake full audits of systems and processes (including an independent security audit) and for all staff to be compliant with the ONS Census 2011 Corporate Confidentiality Agreement.

  I hope this reassures you that the security of the Census data is taken extremely seriously by ONS and by myself, and everything possible is being done to ensure data confidentiality.

14 February 2008

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