Friday, August 22, 2008

Press Release From the Campaign for Public Ownership on the Latest Loss of Confidential Government Data by a Private Contractor


Data including the names, addresses and dates of birth of around 33,000 offenders in England and Wales with six or more recordable convictions in the past 12 months on the Police National Computer have been lost by the private company PA Consulting, contractors for the Home Office. Also lost were the names and dates of birth of 10,000 prolific and other priority offenders, and the names, dates of birth and, in some cases, the expected prison release dates of all 84,000 prisoners held in England and Wales.

Sounds familiar?

Back in December it was announced that US firm Pearson Driving Assessments, a contractor to the Driving Standards Agency, had lost the details of three million candidates for the driving theory test. Pearson reported that a hard drive was missing from a “secure facility” in Iowa.

And of course earlier this summer we had the news that thousands of British schoolchildren would have to wait until the autumn for key test results after the US-owned company brought in to administer the tests 'ETS Europe' failed to deliver on time.

Shadow Chancellor Dominic Grieve says, a propos of the latest loss of data by a private company: "What is more scandalous is that it is not the first time that the government has been shown to be completely incapable of protecting the integrity of highly sensitive data, rendering them unfit to be charged with protecting our safety."

Of course, Grieve doesn't mention that it's a private company, not the government, which has lost the data. He doesn't because he and his party are fanatical supporters of privatisation- and the process of sub-contracting government tasks to private, often foreign owned companies. In fact, it was the Conservatives who started this process when they were last in power. The biggest charge that can be made against the present Labour government is that they have continued with such a disastrous policy. Back in the 1960s and 1970s, before the days of privatisation and sub-contracting government work to private companies, such loss of data never occurred.

Once again, the British people are losing out due to adherence to neo-liberal dogma.

It’s time for the government to end the sub-contracting of government work to private companies and to keep all such work ‘in-house’. Not only would this reduce the chance of confidential data going missing, it would also save the taxpayer a small fortune in paying for inefficient private companies.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Press Release From The Campaign for Public Ownership on the Competition Commission's Report on the Future of BAA


Across the political spectrum there is widespread agreement that BAA-owned airports, with their long queues, lack of seats and tacky, shopping mall atmosphere, are a national disgrace.

But the solution is not to break up BAA's monopoly and introduce 'more competition' as The Competition Commission recommends. The answer is to take BAA back into public ownership, and for the company to be run as a not-for-profit enterprise.

Britain is the only country in Europe that has been foolish enough to privatise its major international airports. It is no coincidence that Manchester Airport, which has not been privatised, regularly comes out highest in surveys of customer satisfaction was voted Britain’s Best Regional Airport in 2007.

Sir Terence Conran, who designed Terminal One at Heathrow and the North Terminal in the 1960s, has contrasted the brief he received from the owners of the airports back then - the British state - with the instructions Lord (Richard) Rogers, the architect of Terminal 5, got from BAA.

Conran was told to put in as many seats as possible, with the priority being to make passengers 'relax and feel at ease'. At Terminal One there were only three shops.
The privatised BAA told Rogers to put in as few seats as possible: there are only 700 seats for a terminal handling an average of 80,000 passengers. BAA wants people to pay to sit down at the terminal's expensive cafes and restaurants - not sit down for free, eating their own sandwiches.

The approach perfectly illustrates the difference in ethos between a publicly-owned company, for whom profit is not the be all and end all, and a privatised one.

We can't blame BAA for treating every square foot at Heathrow as a profit centre: it's a private company which wants to maximise returns for its shareholders. But we can blame the politicians foolish enough to sell off BAA in the first place. Allowing other profit-hungry plcs to compete to run our airports would only mean more of the same. Even the Competition Commission acknowledge that the basic problem lies in BAA's 'ownership structure'.

It’s time to restore BAA to public ownership.