US arms company helps with the census

In 2008 a US arms company won the contract to support the government on this year’s census, but ther

Though the 2011 census has been sent to every household across the UK, few people know that it was the UK subsidiary of an American arms company that won the £150m contract to support with its administration.

The company concerned is called Lockheed Martin, which, according to its website, is "principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture, integration and sustainment of advanced technology systems, products and services".

Innocuous though this jargon might seem, in reality the company's remit includes F-35 jets, Trident nuclear missiles and cluster bombs – deemed illegal in the 53 ratifications and by the 55 signatories of the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

Lockheed reportedly made sales of $45.8bn, with a backlog of $78.2bn in 2010, and is one of the largest and most successful arms companies in the world. Though the £150m the UK government has awarded the firm for the administration contract may seem minuscule in comparison, there is little doubt that the principle of legitimising a massive arms manufacturer by allowing them it engage in mainstream political activities is ridiculous. What's more, Lockheed also oversaw the 2001 UK census.

Concerns about the security of our information in the hands of a US company have been raised, especially with regard to the Patriot Act 2001, which gives US intelligence services vast freedoms to get access to data held by US companies. Such worries have largely been debunked, though, with the Office for National Statistics providing a statement saying:

All Census data is owned by ONS and both Census employees and contractors working on the Census sign a declaration of confidentiality to guarantee their understanding and compliance with the law; contractual arrangements with Lockheed Martin UK Ltd ensure that only sub-contractors registered and based in the UK and either UK- or EU-owned will have access to any personal Census data; no Lockheed Martin staff (from either the US parent or UK company) will have access to any personal Census data; and all data will be processed in the UK and remain in the UK.

For conscientious objectors, there is a way to make it as difficult and expensive as possible for Lockheed to process the census forms without damaging your area's funding prospects, and without getting lumbered with the £1,000 fine for those who fail to fill it in.

A guide has been released, provided courtesy of Peace News, which advises on how to go about losing the company time and money in an innocent fashion. This includes suggestions such as not filling out the form online, not providing convenient contact details, and defacing barcodes. The guide also provides an in-depth look at how the forms themselves will be processed.

With this in mind, the British people can now truly help Lockheed in the job of "delivering data capture and processing support services" to the government.

Liam McLaughlin is a freelance journalist who has also written for Prospect and the Huffington Post. He tweets irregularly @LiamMc108.

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John McDonnell's seminars are restoring Labour's economic credibility

The Shadow Chancellor's embrace of new economics backed by clear plans will see Labour profit at the polls, argues Liam Young.

It’s the economy, stupid. Perhaps ‘it’s the economy that lost Labour the last two elections, stupid’ is more accurate. But I don’t see Bill Clinton winning an election on that one.

Campaign slogan theft aside it is a phrase Labour supporters are all too familiar with. Whatever part of the ‘broad church’ you belong to it is something we are faced with on a regular basis. How can Labour be trusted with the economy after they crashed it into the ground? It is still unpopular to try and reason with people. ‘It was a global crisis’ you say as eyes roll. ‘Gordon Brown actually made things better’ you say as they laugh. It’s not an easy life.

On Saturday, the Labour party took serious steps towards regaining its economic credibility. In January a member of John McDonnell’s economic advisory committee argued that “opposing austerity is not enough”. Writing for the New Statesman, David Blanchflower stated that he would assist the leadership alongside others in putting together “credible economic policies.” We have started to see this plan emerge. Those who accuse the Labour leadership of simply shouting anti-austerity rhetoric have been forced to listen to the economic alternative.

It seems like a good time to have done so. Recent polls suggest that the economy has emerged as the most important issue for the EU referendum with a double-digit lead. Public confidence in the government’s handling of the economy continues to fall. Faith in Cameron and Osborne is heading in the same direction. As public confidence continues to plummet many have questioned whether another crash is close. It is wise of the Labour leadership to offer an alternative vision of the economy at a time in which people are eager to listen to a way by which things may be done better.

Far from rhetoric we were offered clear plans. McDonnell announced on Saturday that he wants councils to offer cheap, local-authority backed mortgages so that first-time buyers may actually have a chance of stepping on the housing ladder. We also heard of a real plan to introduce rent regulations in major cities to ease excessive charges and to offer support to those putting the rent on the overdraft. The plans go much further than the Tory right-to-buy scheme and rather than forcing local authorities to sell off their council housing stock, it will be protected and increased.

It is of course important that the new economics rhetoric is matched with actual policy. But let’s not forget how important the rhetoric actually is. The Tory handling of the economy over the last six years has been dismal. But at the last election they were seen as the safer bet. Ed Miliband failed to convince the British public that his economic plan could lead to growth. The branding of the new economics is simple but effective. It does the job of distancing from the past while also putting a positive spin on what is to come. As long as actual policy continues to flow from this initiative the Labour leadership can be confident of people paying attention. And as economic concerns continue to grow ever more pessimistic the British public will be more likely to hear the Labour party’s alternative plan.

Liam Young is a commentator for the IndependentNew Statesman, Mirror and others.