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Weapons maker to run tests for Census.

Byline: By Martin Shipton Western Mail

People in Wales are being urged to boycott a Census test this weekend because of the involvement of the American arms firm Lockheed Martin in collecting the data.

Thousands of households in Carmarthenshire are due to participate in the test, which is part of the preparation for the next UK-wide Census in 2011.

The Green Party has raised concerns about the involvement of Lockheed Martin in the test and potentially in the full Census in four years' time.

The company, which makes weapons and military planes, will have responsibility for the printing of forms, delivery and data collection.

Keith Ross, press officer for Swansea Green Party, said, "With more sensitive information than ever being collected in the next national census, do we really want data about everyone in the UK being given to a foreign arms company?

"Why is the Census being contracted out anyway? The Government should take proper care of information about us. The majority of Lockheed Martin's business is with the US Department of Defense and US federal government agencies. They provide missiles and fire control, naval systems, and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance services. This kind of firm should not be gathering sensitive data on the British public. The only responsible and prudent thing to do in this situation is to boycott the test Census. Unlike the eventual Census, taking part in the test is voluntary and non-participation sends a signal to the Government that we want more controls on who processes information about us."

A spokesman for the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said, "Lockheed Martin is a large international company which carries out many operations. They supported the 2001 UK Census and have international Census experience. The Census Offices safeguard the confidentiality of personal data provided by respondents to the census and to the census tests. The ONS precludes any UK Census data being taken overseas.

"The suggestion by the Green Party that people should boycott the Census test is shortsighted and irresponsible. The Census test will help ONS determine the content of the 2011 census, to understand whether new questions work in practice, and to try out new operational procedures.

"If the Census test is not replied to properly then this may affect the questions in the full Census in 2011, may lead to ONS taking the wrong decisions in preparing for the 2011 Census, and may ultimately affect the results of the Census in 2011, reducing its value to the public and other users of this important information."

Lockheed Martin issued a statement saying, "Our customers know us to be entirely dependable and trustworthy.

"Indeed, our work for the UK Armed Forces means British lives often depend on our ability to handle data securely and appropriately.

"We successfully ran the last UK Census and recent censuses in the USA and Canada."
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:May 11, 2007
Words:474
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