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24 March 2011

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

By Liam McLaughlin

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.

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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.