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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The 8 bits of good news about integration buried in the Casey Review

It's not all Trojan Horses.

The government-commissioned Casey Review on integration tackles serious subjects, from honour crimes to discrimination and hate crime.

It outlines how deprivation, discrimination, segregated schools and unenlightened traditions can drag certain British-Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities into isolation. 

It shines a light on nepotistic local politics, which only entrench religious and gender segregation. It also charts the hurdles faced by ethnic minorities from school, to university and the workplace. There is no doubt it makes uncomfortable reading. 

But at a time when the negative consequences of immigration are dominating headlines, it’s easy to miss some of the more optimistic trends the Casey Report uncovered:

1. You can always have more friends

For all the talk of segregation, 82 per cent of us socialise at least once a month with people from a different ethnic and religious background, according to the Citizenship Survey 2010-11.

More than half of first generation migrants had friends of a different ethnicity. As for their children, nearly three quarters were friends with people from other ethnic backgrounds. Younger people with higher levels of education and better wages are most likely to have close inter-ethnic friendships. 

Brits from Black African and Mixed ethnic backgrounds are the most sociable it seems, as they are most likely to have friends from outside their neighbourhood. White British and Irish ethnic groups, on the other hand, are least likely to have ethnically-mixed social networks. 

Moving away from home seemed to be a key factor in diversifying your friendship group –18 to 34s were the most ethnically integrated age group. 

2. Integrated schools help

The Casey Review tells the story of how schools can distort a community’s view of the world, such as the mostly Asian high school where pupils thought 90 per cent of Brits were Asian (the actual figure is 7 per cent), and the Trojan Horse affair, where hardline Muslims were accused of dominating the curriculum of a state school (the exact facts have never come to light). 

But on the other hand, schools that are integrated, can change a whole community’s perspective. A study in Oldham found that when two schools were merged to create a more balanced pupil population between White Brits and British Asians, the level of anxiety both groups felt diminished. 

3. And kids are doing better at school

The Casey Report notes: “In recent years there has been a general improvement in educational attainment in schools, with a narrowing in the gap between White pupils and pupils from Pakistani, Bangladeshi and African/Caribbean/Black ethnic backgrounds.”

A number of ethnic minority groups, including pupils of Chinese, Indian, Irish and Bangladeshi ethnicity, outperformed White British pupils (but not White Gypsy and Roma pupils, who had the lowest attainment levels of all). 

4. Most people feel part of a community

Despite the talk of a divided society, in 2015-16, 89 per cent of people thought their community was cohesive, according to the Community Life Survey, and agreed their local area is a place where people from different backgrounds get on well together. This feeling of cohesiveness is actually higher than in 2003, at the height of New Labour multiculturalism, when the figure stood at 80 per cent. 

5. Muslims are sticklers for the law

Much of the Casey Report dealt with the divisions between British Muslims and other communities, on matters of culture, religious extremism and equality. It also looked at the Islamophobia and discrimination Muslims face in the UK. 

However, while the cultural and ideological clashes may be real, a ComRes/BBC poll in 2015 found that 95 per cent of British Muslims felt loyal to Britain and 93 per cent believed Muslims in Britain should always obey British laws. 

6. Employment prospects are improving

The Casey Review rightly notes the discrimination faced by jobseekers, such as study which found CVs with white-sounding names had a better rate of reply. Brits from Black, Pakistani or Bangladeshi backgrounds are more likely to be unemployed than Whites. 

However, the employment gap between ethnic minorities and White Brits has narrowed over the last decade, from 15.6 per cent in 2004 to 12.8 per cent in 2015. 

In October 2015, public and private sector employers responsible for employing 1.8m people signed a pledge to operate recruitment on a “name blind” basis. 

7. Pretty much everyone understand this

According to the 2011 census, 91.6 per cent of adults in England and Wales had English as their main language. And 98.2 per cent of them could speak English. 

Since 2008-2009, most non-European migrants coming to the UK have to meet English requirements as part of the immigration process. 

8. Oh, and there’s a British Muslim Mayor ready to tackle integration head on

The Casey Review criticised British Asian community leaders in northern towns for preventing proper discussion of equality and in some cases preventing women from launching rival bids for a council seat.

But it also quoted Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, and a British Muslim. Khan criticised religious families that force children to adopt a certain lifestyle, and he concluded:

"There is no other city in the world where I would want to raise my daughters than London.

"They have rights, they have protection, the right to wear what they like, think what they like, to meet who they like, to study what they like, more than they would in any other country.”

 

Julia Rampen is the editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog. She was previously deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.