Friday 26 November 2004

26-Nov-04 - U.K. government hit with another large computer failure

U.K. government hit with another large computer failure
The computer crash is being called the biggest in U.K. government history
News Story by Laura Rohde


IT system failures continued to plague the U.K. government this week, when as many as 80,000 civil servants working for the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) had to deal with what is being described in the local press as the biggest computer crash in government history.

The DWP was carrying out a "routine software upgrade" on Monday when the system crashed, leaving around 80% of the department's 100,000 desk machines disrupted or completely shut down, a DWP spokeswoman said today. The problems lasted through most of yesterday, but the "majority of our system is up and running now," she said.

Microsoft Corp. and Electronic Data Systems Corp. (EDS) run the DWP's network as part of a $3.8 billion information technology contract.

Microsoft issued a short statement today saying that it worked closely with its partners to help rectify the situation and support the DWP, but declined any further comment. Representatives from EDS could not immediately be reached for comment.

The head of the DWP, government secretary Alan Johnson, has promised an internal inquiry into the systems failure and the role Microsoft and EDS, of Plano, Texas, played in the crisis.

The DWP, which is responsible for providing a variety of state benefits to about 24 million people, attempted to downplay the effect the computer problems will have on its customers, saying that the department's mainframe computers were not affected. "There will be delays with new and amended benefit claims, but we have been dealing with the problems though our contingency plans and the disruptions will be minimal," the DWP spokeswoman said.

It is believed that the crash was caused when an incompatible system was downloaded on to the entire network, forcing employees to send faxes because they couldn't access their e-mail accounts and to fill out some payment checks by hand.

The IT failure was only the latest in a string of serious computer system problems experienced by the department. The DWP's Child Support Agency (CSA) has been struggling with a $863 million system from EDS that has made payments to only one in eight single parents awaiting them. Last week, Johnson told a House of Commons Parliamentary Select Committee that he is considering shutting down the child-support case management and telephony system, and Doug Smith, the head of the CSA, resigned from his job.

Today the general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union, Mark Serwotka, called on the government to hold off on its plans to cut 30,000 jobs in the DWP on the basis of IT improvements, in light of the computer crisis. Earlier this year, the government announced plans to eliminate 104,000 civil servant jobs across the government based in part on increased efficiencies gained though new IT systems.

Since 2001, the DWP has spent around $8.04 billion on various IT projects, including the CSA system. According to a report it submitted to a Parliament Select Committee, the department has spent $579 million on management and IT consultancy, $97.4 million on staff substitutions and contractors and $102.7 million on professional services.

The U.K.'s public sector IT projects in 2003 and 2004 are expected to cost more than $23.4 billion, but U.K. government IT projects have often been accused of being over-ambitious and prone to disastrous delays and cost overruns.

Beyond the DWP, further examples include the benefit-payment card program from the Post Office, the Department of Social Security and International Computers Ltd. (ICL), which fell apart after three years and $567 million; software problems that delayed the Swanwick air traffic control center and have since been blamed for a near collision between two airplanes; the disruption wrought on thousands of people with travel plans in 1999 by the Passport Office's new computer system, and the National Probation Service's case-record and management system which was abandoned in 2001 after it was revealed the project was expected to be two years late and 70% over budget.

Thursday 11 November 2004

11-Nov-04 - Home Office blames IT trouble for register delays

Home Office blames IT trouble for register delays

Government admits problems revealed by Computing
Parliamentary Correspondent, Computing 11 Nov 2004

The Home Office has admitted 'technical difficulties' are to blame for the latest setback to the much delayed computerised firearms register, as revealed in Computing (Computing 28 October).

The Home Office was criticised heavily last week during a House of Lords debate last week after admitting that the National Firearms Licensing Management System (NFLMS) will not go live until the New Year, some seven-years after it was recommended.

Computing reported two weeks ago that the system - a searchable register on the Police National Computer - had suffered further problems at the pilot stage.

Home Office minister Lord Rooker admitted in the House of Lords last week that 'unacceptable delays' had plagued the system developed by Anite Public Services. He said they were partly caused by restrictions on resources but claimed this had since been resolved.

Rooker said the pilots highlighted two key disabling difficulties: the system was unable to print firearms certificates and it ran too slowly for police operational services, but said 'those matters are being dealt with'.

Conservative minister Lord Marlesford described the continuing delays, which span seven years, as 'a scandal bordering on an outrage'.

Liberal Democrat Lord McNally said it was totally unacceptable for Rooker to blame technical problems so long after the register was required by law, claiming the Home Office resisted it at the time and is suspected of resisting it still.

The requirement for the register was enacted in the wake of the Dunblane massacre in 1997. An enquiry revealed faults in manual police registration.

Wednesday 27 October 2004

27-Oct-04 - Firearms database delayed once again

Firearms database delayed once again

Pilot projects highlight slowness of systems and inability to print certificates
Emma Nash, Computing 27 Oct 2004

The much-delayed firearms database has been put on hold once again after problems with the system were identified in pilot tests.

The National Firearms Licensing Management System (NFLMS), a searchable gun register on the police national computer, was recommended seven years ago after the Dunblane massacre, but has suffered numerous delays ever since.

Computing has now learned that shortly after this testing began, Michael Gillespie, head of the Home Office's Public Order and Crime Issues Unit, sent a letter to Police forces throughout England and Wales detailing problems with NFLMS and delayed its general rollout once again.

Home Office Minister Lord Rooker announced the pilot in May 2002, with the full roll-out anticipated in May 2003.

By October of that year, the Police Information Technology Organisation (PITO), admitted NFLMS will be delayed until at least 2004 following an 'unsuccessful' procurement process.

And in March 2003, it said the system would be live by summer 2004, despite further delays in the procurement process.

Three months ago, Pito said most forces would be expected to migrate by January 2005. But it confirms there have been problems with the system.

'We are working with the supplier to resolve technical issues that arose during the first phase of the National Firearms Licensing Management System pilot testing,' a Pito spokesman told Computing.

'While the testing has shown that the system's functionality works well, the issues detailed in the letter to forces need to be resolved before rollout can begin,' he said.

The main problems concern the system's extremely slow operation, and its inability to print actual firearms license certificates.

PITO says the printing issue has now been resolved, but says it will not confirm new migration or rollout dates until the issues are fully resolved.

Anite Public Sector has developed the technology that will provide the searchable register of all guns on the Police National Computer in Hendon.

'The system supports a very important part of the police business and we to be confident that it is ready before handing it over to the police service to use,' the PITO spokesman said.

The news coincides with publication of Home Office figures last week that show gun crime grew three per cent last year.

Wednesday 14 July 2004

14-Jul-04 - Police forces start firearms database trial

Police forces start firearms database trial

Testing to begin in September
Emma Nash, Computing 14 Jul 2004

Two English police forces will start a pilot of the national firearms database in September - seven years since the system was first recommended.

Lancashire and Metropolitan Police will be the first to trial the National Firearms Licensing Management System (NFLMS).

Initial user acceptance testing begins in August, before the full system is tested the following month.

Some 42 police forces in England and Wales are expected to migrate to the new system by January next year, according to the Police Information Technology Organisation (PITO), which is co-ordinating the project.

One force is expected to have problems with the migration, so the final deadline is April 2005.

The NFLMS was originally recommended in the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997 but suffered numerous delays, with work finally beginning at the end of 2003 (Computing, 18 December).

A further delay has caused the pilot to be put back by a month, but a spokesman for PITO told Computing it was not technology-related but a result of 'mundane things'.

'The original target was ready for service in August,' he said. 'That has slipped into September, but as far as we know the project remains on target.'

Supplier Anite is developing the technology, which will provide a central, searchable gun register on the Police National Computer in Hendon. Forces will be able to search for all people holding firearms and related certificates, instead of using local registers.

The NFLMS is based on an Oracle database, developed with Java and reporting tools from Business Objects.

The Anite application will be used in England and Wales. A separate system has been devised for Scottish forces.

Tuesday 6 January 2004

06-Jan-2004 - William BURNS to Bryan McConnachie, Public Petition Committee

06-Jan-2004 -
William BURNS to Bryan McConnachie,
Public Petition Committee

William Burns
18 Shore Road
South Queensferry
EH30 9SG
Tel: 0131 331 1855

6 January 2004
Bryan McConachie
Public Petitions Team Support
Room 5.16
Public Petitions Committee
Parliamentary Headquarters
EH99 1SP

Dear Mr McConachie


In support of evidence submitted with the Public Petitions Committee in relation to
the above petitions PE652 and PE685, please find enclosed a copy of an article of
serious significance by Marcello Mega that appeared in the News of the World on
Sunday, 28 December 2003. It further bolsters my earlier submitted News of the World
article by Marcello Mega of 9 November 2003, along with an article that appeared in
the Herald on Wednesday, 13 November 2003.

I apologise if I appear overly pushy with this supplication, but I am sure the entire
PPC will appreciate the enormity of it, especially in the light of Lord Burton's
revelations in the News of the World.

The "New of the World Investigates" article by Marcello Mega, published on 28 December
2003, is typed out verbatim below

The inquiry into the Dunblane massacre was a massive cover-up, a top Scots Freemason
has sensationally claimed. Former Grand Master Lord Burton says that Lord Cullen's
official probe suppressed crucial information to protect high-profile legal figures.

He says they may belong to a secretive "Super-Mason" group called The Speculative
Society. Some had links to the Queen Victoria School where gunman Thomas Hamilton was
allowed to roam free before the 1996 atrocity. [ DUNBLANE SCHOOL KILLINGS ]

And Lord Burton revealed that he was bullied and threatened by other peers when he
tried to raise his concerns in the House of Lords. Last night the 79 year-old
aristocrat said: "There's no escaping the fact that there's something sinister about
the whole affair." He was prompted into action after reading in the News of the World
last month that police are investigating claims that pupils at QVS were regularly
taken away and sexually abused.

The Cullen Inquiry failed to investigate why suspected paedophile Hamilton was
allowed to wander around the school whenever he liked, running camps and using the
shooting range.

Former housemaster Glenn Harrison told us how he even found Hamilton, 43, creeping
around the dormitories at night. He said Hamilton, who murdered 16 pupils and a
teacher at Dunblane Primary School in 1996, had close links to a top cop. Glenn
said he was aghast that he was never called to give evidence at the Cullen Inquiry.
He said: "I was one of the people who was making a fuss about Hamilton long before
he killed those children, but no one wanted to listen." Now Lord Burton has
contacted him at his new home in the Shetland Islands, saying he believes Glenn wasn't
called to give evidence to avoid the embarrassment of top legal names being dragged
into it.

The QVS is for schoolchildren of the military services and has long-standing links
to high office; its current patron is the Duke of Edinburgh. Whoever holds the
position of secretary of State for Scotland becomes president and Scotland's
second-most senior judge, the Lord Justice-Clerk, becomes a commissioner.

Lord Burton said: "I was Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Scotland at the time and
I'm aware that most of the conspiracy theories around Dunblane revolve around
allegations of a Masonic conspiracy. I do have some difficulty with that, but I have
learned of an apparent connection between prominent members of the legal establishment
involved in the inquiry, and the secretive Speculative Society. The society was formed
in Edinburgh University through Masonic connections so I accept that there might be a
link by that route. But Hamilton was never a Mason. His grandfather was."

[Petitioner's interjection: Thomas Hamilton enrolled as a member of Lodge Garrowhill
(Lanarkshire Middle Ward) No. 1413, Garrowhill Drive, Garrowhill, Glasgow, in 1977,
the same year he was granted a firearms certificate. Without any shadow of a doubt,
his files connecting him to Freemasonry would be destroyed after the atrocities on
13 March 1996.]

Current members of the Speculative Society include Lord Cullen and a number of other
judges, sheriffs and advocates. Lord Burton has been trying for years to get to the
bottom of the conspiracy theories, using his influence in the House of Lords until
the reforms meant he was no longer entitled to sit in Westminster. Last night he
said: "I tried repeatedly to raise concerns about the inquiry during my time in the
Lords, and I was bullied and threatened by powerful peers loyal to the Conservative
Government of the day, who warned me of dire consequences if I continued to
embarrass them."

[Petitioner's interjection - Bear in mind, Malcolm Rifkind was the Foreign Secretary
at the time - and they do not come much higher in government than that - and Malcolm
Rifkind's friend and his then Chairman of his constituency party at Edinburgh Pentlands,
Robert Bell, according to the front page lead of the Edinburgh Evening News on 23 March
1996, sold guns and ammunition to Thomas Hamilton only a few weeks before the Dunblane
massacre, and it was reported he said he would sell him guns again. I sent this
information to Lord Cullen in a letter dated 27 February 2003, a copy with which the
Public Petitions Committee were all provided as additional evidence to PE652.]

But the determined peer pressed on and on and in 1999, asked a question in the Lords
which revealed that documents from the inquiry had been locked up for 100 years.
Among them was a police report revealing that Hamilton had been accused of sexually
abusing boys and had been considered by some officers unfit to hold a firearms licence.
Lord Burton added: "We still need to know why that was necessary. Who was the secrecy

Although the official reason is to protect the families of possible abuse victims,
it's unusual for documents to be locked up unless for matters of national security.
In July, Dunblane ambulance worker Sandra Uttley told the News of the World how she
and friend Doreen Hagger had drawn up a 50-point, 5,000-word dossier calling for
secrecy surrounding the tragedy to be lifted. They claimed that dozens of questions
have gone unanswered and crucial lines of enquiry were ignored. Former ambulance
worker Sandra said: "There may be other individuals who should face prosecution."

Glenn Harrison had kept dozens of files from pupils alleging bullying and abuse
while he was at the QVS and wrote to parents warning of the dangers in 1991. It led
to him being ousted from the school and just days before he left, police raided his
home and confiscated the files. When Glenn read Sandra's story, he went back to the
police - and this time they agreed to investigate.

Last night he said he in turn had been glad to receive the call from Lord Burton ...
He added: "I've been making noises for years and I sometimes despair and think it's
time to just accept we'll never get to the truth. "But I think we owe it to all the
people who were so affected by the killings to continue to demand questions that
were never asked."

Glenn told us that Hamilton had been a friend of Ben Philip, the senior housemaster
at QVS. Mr Philip died in December 1993, aged 46, when he fell from a ladder while
hanging decorations. Glenn said: "They were friends so Hamilton was a regular visitor
to the school and I was introduced to him. "Ben Philip was a decent guy who was very
trusting. I think he thought he and Hamilton shared interests in things like the
outdoors, and he couldn't see that Hamilton had another motive for wanting to be
around the school.

"Hamilton ran camps in the school grounds and he used the shooting range freely. He
came and went as he pleased, almost as if he owned the place, and no one has ever
tried to explain why he had such freedom. I am still haunted by the memory of pick up
my newspaper on March 14 1996 and reading about what had occurred at Dunblane Primary
School the day before. I just knew the killer had to be Thomas Hamilton. He should
have been stopped."

Demands have already been made to the Scottish Executive to investigate the influence
of the Speculative Society. It was formed in 1764 as an off-shoot of the Masons and
has counted Sir Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson and Hugh McDiarmid among its
most celebrated members.

The Spec, as it is known, is described by its members as a debating club. They meet
in candlelit vaults below Edinburgh University's Old College in the winter.
Prospective members are normally approached while still studying at the university.
Its membership - which was secret until a year ago - reads like a Who's Who of the
rich and powerful in Scotland.

Campaigners were determined to reveal the membership amid concerns, many expressed
by senior lawyers who are not members, of the disproportionate influence the Spec
is said to wield. One legal figure who has long been suspicious of the Spec said:
"Members laugh off the suspicions and say it's just a debating club. But, given
that the members are picked as undergrads and almost without exception go on to
reach the pinnacle of their careers, you have to think either that those making the
selection are very astute at spotting potential, or that membership gives you a big
leg up in life. I know which option I favour."

I will be much obliged if you could respond at your earliest convenience. Please also
keep me abreast of any progress with PE652, which was heard over two months ago, and
of any proposed date for the hearing of PE685.
Yours sincerely