Afghanistan: Defence Secretary Ben Wallace 'pretty angry' over MoD's data breaches

23 September 2021, 16:52 | Updated: 23 September 2021, 19:29

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has branded the handling of data in his department "not good enough" and revealed he is "pretty angry" about breaches relating to Afghans resettling in the UK.

Two email data breaches have recently been uncovered at the Ministry of Defence in the team responsible for handling the Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy (ARAP).

The scheme allows any Afghans who assisted British efforts in Afghanistan, such as interpreters, to apply to come to the UK due to their risk of persecution at the hands of the Taliban.

There are fears that they may be put further at risk by the government data breaches if the information falls into the wrong hands.

In both cases, the email addresses of ARAP applicants were visible to all recipients of emails, rather than the applicants having been blind-copied into the emails to protect their identity.

On a visit to Rosyth, Scotland, on Thursday, Mr Wallace said the second breach actually predated the first one that was revealed and for which he apologised in the House of Commons this week.

"That's an older breach from the one I originally came to parliament to announce," the cabinet minister told the PA news agency.

"Subsequently I've kicked off an investigation, I was unaware of this earlier, smaller breach, it's not good enough, I've said that not only was I pretty angry at the time, but also we've got to have an investigation and fix it.

"At the same time, I've committed even more resource and people to make sure this doesn't happen again and look after those people in Afghanistan we've brought back - over 8,000 people on the ARAP scheme.

"That's a significant number of people including their families dispersed around the United Kingdom, but there are 260 people left behind that we have to do our very best to get out.

"Those are the people, some of them, are concerned by the leak quite rightly, we will do everything we can to make sure they are protected and then work with neighbouring states to get them out."

On Tuesday, Mr Wallace told MPs he "immediately directed investigations" to take place after a data breach involving more than 250 people.

Admiral Sir Ben Key, the commander of joint operations who led the planning and evacuation from Kabul, is leading the investigation and one person had been suspended.

The BBC reported later in the week that a second breach involved the details of 55 people.