Apart from the utterly disgraceful deportation of foreign convicts scandal, which emerged last week, Home Secretary Charles Clarke also demonstrated his lack of a grip on the Home Office's internet publishing empire.
How can people who do not appear to know the state of their own "corporate", public facing websites, ever be trusted to securely deliver far more complicated IT systems like the National Identity Register scheme ?
Apparently, according to Charles Clarke's Parliamentary Written Answer, the Home Office "operates 40 websites" - except, of course, it does not !
Norman Baker (Lewes, Liberal Democrat) :
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will list (a) the websites operated by his Department and (b) the reports placed on the internet in March 2006, indicating in each case whether paper copies were also made available.
Charles Clarke (Home Secretary):
As of 21 April 2006, the Home Office operates 40 websites.
The core Home Office website also has a number of sub-domains, such as police.homeoffice.gov.uk, which act as portal sites for practitioners around policy issues.
After a major redevelopment in September 2005, which brought nine separate websites under the main Home Office domain, a plan is under way to consolidate all of our sites by March 2007.
The Home Office does not keep a central record of all of the reports published on its websites. The information requested about numbers of reports published on the internet in March 2006—and also made available in paper copy—can therefore not be collected without incurring disproportionate cost.
So much for a coherent Web Document Publishing system with version control, which would have given the answer within a few seconds.
The Written Answer then lists the URLs of the websites . However several of them refer to non-existant website URLs , some with non-existant sub-domains and some with entirely non-existant domain names. There are even Extranet websites to which the public has no access, which should not have been listed in this Written Answer at all.l
Is it really too much to expect, in the 21st Century, that whoever compiled this list, and Charles Clarke, who signed his name to the Written Answer, should at least have attempted to click on each of the URLs and visited each website listed ?
N.B. we have annoted this raw list of website URLs published in the above Parliamentary Written Answer.
A short description of each website should have been included in the Answer, but it was not.
The inept handling of domains and sub-domains is apparent:
- www.homeoffice.gov.uk - the main Home Office website.
- www.commercial.homeoffice.gov.uk - There is no such sub-domain.
Presumably they mean commercial.homeoffice.gov.uk - Home Office Commercial Directorate - "We deliver value for money to the Home Office by providing central commercial and procurement expertise. We strive to ensure consistent application of procurement policy, procedures, legislation and best practice."
But not when it comes to sorting out proper sub-domains for their public facing website - this is nowhere near "best commercial practice" !
- www.communities.homeoffice.gov.uk - links to other myterious Home Office "Communities" webpages
- Active Communities Directorate
- Civil Renewal
- Race, Equality, Faith & Cohesion
What exactly do these people achieve, and at what expense in terms of public money and bureaucratic red tape ?
- Active Communities Directorate
- www.drugs.homeoffice.gov.uk - Another non-existant sub-domain.
"Welcome to drugs.gov.uk
This website provides drugs professionals with the latest news and guidance from government about the Drugs Strategy."
- www.police.homeoffice.gov.uk - "This site combines all of the police-related information, support and guidance published by the Home Office into one website"
- www.press.homeoffice.gov.uk - "Press Office handles enquiries from media only." Even then, this website always lags well behind in publishing the actual flurry of media spin and press releases which the Home Office propaganda machine disgorges.
- www.scienceandresearch.homeoffice.gov.uk - under the leadership of junior Home Office Minister Andy Burnham, this is where Crime Statistics etc. are eventually published, usually well after they have been leaked to the press , and before they have been announced in Parliament.
- Research Development Statistics
- Home Office Scientific Development Branch
- Animals Scientific Procedures Division - why is this under the Home Office at all ?
- Research Development Statistics
- www.security.homeoffice.gov.uk -"provides unclassified information about the work of the Counter-Terrorism and Intelligence Directorate, including: guidance on planning, background to legislation, and information about how partners and stakeholders work together to respond to terrorist attacks." i.e. it is of no practical use to the General Public
- www.snen.homeoffice.gov.uk - another non-existant sub-domain.
Presumably they mean snen.homeoffice.gov.uk - "This website has been developed specifically for those involved in the design, development and implemention of the Single Non-Emergency Number Programme. This site is not intended for use by the general public."
We fear that this will be as useless as the current Non-Emergency Crime and Hate Crime/Incident Reporting Service website developed by the Police.
- www.inspectorates.homeoffice.gov.uk - "This is the portal to the websites of the three independent, Home Office-sponsored inspectorates - of Constabulary, Prisons and Probation."
It is a shame that the Home Office so consistently ignores the warnings from these independent inspectorates, and this has led directly to the current Non-deportation of Foreign Convicts scandal.
- www.careers.homeoffice.gov.uk - "
Careers information and current job vacancies within the Home Office and its empire of Quangos and Non-Departmental Public Bodies (NDPBs),
- www.homeoffice.gov.uk/ - why does this duplicate number 1 in the list ?
- www.rdsnoms.homeoffice.gov.uk - yet another non-existant sub-domain name.
Presumably they mean to point ot the www.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/noms.html - "RDS NOMS is the part of the Research Development and Statistics Directorate (RDS) in the Home Office which leads on research and analysis for the National Offender Management Service (NOMS). The National Offender Management Service brings together the prison and probation services as one service"
- www.crimereduction.gov.uk - "providing information and resources for people working to reduce crime in their local area"
- www.crimestatistics.org.uk - "Crime Statistics for England and Wales" - what about Scotland and Northern Ireland ?
- www.probation.homeoffice.gov.uk - "is designed to provide access to information about the [National Probation] service, its work and its effectiveness and to act as a reference point for further information."
- www.treatmenttheworks.comtogether.gov.uk - a Non-existant Domain Name
This would be far too long a domain name for advertising or marketing purposes, even if it existed !
- www.respect.gov.uk - the political slogans "give respect - get respect" and "respect cannot be learned, purchased or aquired it can only be earned" also apply to the breakdown of trust and respect for the Home Office and the Labour government.
"Respect" appears to be a political codeword for "Anti-Social Behavior Order"
Why is this a publicly funded Home Office website rather than a Labour Party one ?
- www.ind.homeoffice.gov.uk - Immigration and Nationality Directorate - "As part of the Home Office we are responsible for Immigration control. We also consider applications for permission to stay, citizenship and asylum. This website will help you understand UK Immigration control and what your rights and responsibilities are when you make an application."
- www.indmps.co.uk - Immigration and Nationaility Directorate Extranet for Members of Parliament ?? Given the number of immigration cases which Members of Parliament get involved in, this may well, be a Good Idea, however not like this !
Apart from the obvious fact that the website is not protected by SSL/TLS encrypted sessions, so that the Basic Authentication credentials and the identifiable Personal Data of the Immigration cases, are at risk of being intercepted by third parties, we have to wonder what sort of a "backdoor" there is from the commercial shared webspace which this Extranet front end resides on, and the core Immigration and Nationality Directorate IT infrastructure.
Why was this private website included in the Written Answer to a question abou public documents and websites ?
- www.employingmigrantworkers.org.uk - "If you currently employ staff from outside the UK or are planning to, you're legally required to make checks on their right to work here."
- www.lifeintheuktest.gov.uk - "This site helps you to prepare for the Life in the UK Test. It does not give you the knowledge you need to take the test. You can find this information in the 'Life in the United Kingdom: A Journey to Citizenship' handbook"
- www.nirf.org.uk - What is this ? There does not seem to be a valid Domain Name registered, let alone a website.
- www.uknationality.gov.uk - " Welcome to the Home Office Ceremonies web site. Becoming a British citizen is a significant event in your life. As a British citizen, you are joining a community made up of many different backgrounds, cultures and faiths. To celebrate the occasion of becoming a British citizen, the Government is introducing new Citizenship ceremonies."
- www.workingintheuk.gov.uk - "This site aims to provide you with clear information about the various routes open to Foreign Nationals who want to come and work in the United Kingdom."
- www.bicester-centre.co.uk - the official saga of the Home Office's attempt to constructi" "an accommodation centre for asylum seekers at the former MOD site outside Bicester in Oxfordshire."
- www.hmprisonservice.gov.uk - "On this site you can find out about the work carried out in prisons throughout England and Wales."
- www.identitycards.gov.uk - actually now points to the Identity and Passport Service portal page www.ips.gov.uk (N.B. not listed in the Written Answer list of websites as at the 21st April, even though this went live on 1st April) linking to the http://www.identitycards.gov.uk/index.asp and the UK Passport Service http://www.passport.gov.uk/index.asp
- www.hmpenterprises.co.uk - Prison Enterprises website under re-design
- www.passport.gov.uk - actually now points to the Identity and Passport Service portal page www.ips.gov.uk (see numnber 28 above) linking to the the UK Passport Service http://www.passport.gov.uk/index.asp and to the
- www.crb.gov.uk - The Written Answer should also have listed www.disclosure.gov.uk which is another widely published alias pointing to the relevant part of the Criminal Records Bureau website.
- www.forensic.gov.uk - Forensic Science Service - "is a trading name of Forensic Science Service Ltd., which is a UK Government owned company (GovCo)." and which is also heavily involved with the National DNA Database etc.
- www.secureyourmotor.gov.uk - "This site exists to support the Home Office Vehicle Crime Reduction Campaign."
- www.citizensday.org.uk - Orwellian newspeak / NuLabour / Gordon Brown style slogan without verbs: "improving opportunity, strengthening society"
"Being a citizen means showing that you care and that you belong: in this country, in your community, in your neighbourhood. Citizens' day is an opportunity for people of all backgrounds to come together to break down barriers, tackle prejudice and hate, value our differences and celebrate what we have in common."
Is the Home Office capable of organising such a "piss up in a brewery" ?
- www.connected.gov.uk - "The Connected programme is part of the Home Office strategy to tackle gun crime and gun culture, aimed at working with community groups"
Why is the word (and the top level .gov.uk domain name) "connected" more appropriate for an gun crime campaign, rather than, say, an internet awareness or training campaign ?
- www.good2besecure.co.uk - it may very well be, however "This domain name has not been registered"
- www.identity-theft.org.uk - "This website has been produced by the Home Office Identity Fraud Steering Committee, a collaboration between UK financial bodies, government and the police to combat the threat of identity theft."
This website promulgates the spin and disinformation about the level of so called "identity theft" see Andy Burnham's "£1.7 billon identity fraud" figure is as false as the previous £1.3 billion one
- www.thinkuknow.co.uk - "This website is brought to you by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre and contains loads of information on how to stay safe online. All hot topics are covered – including mobiles, blogging and gaming sites – and you can tell us if you feel uncomfortable or worried about someone you’re chatting to online."
- www.policecouldyou.co.uk - "This website contains information on becoming a police officer and how to apply.
It also has information on Specials, Community Support Officers, other police staff, cadets and volunteers, but its main focus is on police officers."
- www.policehighpotential.org.uk - "On the High Potential Development (HPD) scheme, you’ll get the training, support and opportunities you need to take your police career to the top.
The HPD scheme has been designed to develop the future leaders of the police service"
- www.sharpendmag.com - the Home Office do seem to have registered the domain name back in December 2004, but there is currently no website: - "Bad Request (Invalid Hostname)"
- www.imb.gov.uk - " The Independent Monitoring Boards
Few people realise that inside every prison and immigration removal centre there is an Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) – a group of ordinary members of the public doing an extraordinary job. IMB members are independent and unpaid, appointed by Home Office Ministers to monitor the day-to-day life in their local prison or removal centre and ensure that proper standards of care and decency are maintained."
- www.ipcc.gov.uk - "Independent Police Complaints Commission
The IPCC's job is to make sure that complaints against the police are dealt with effectively. "
- www.ipt-uk.com - "Welcome to the Investigatory Powers Tribunal website. The IPT exists to investigate complaints about conduct by various public bodies, in relation to you, your property or communications."
Surely the other website of the other Public Body appointed and funded by the Home Secretary, under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, namely that of the Office of the Chief Surveillance Commissioner,
should also be listed in the Parliamentary Written Answer ?
- www.ppo.gov.uk - the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman for England and Wales
- www.bichard-inquiry.org.uk - Non-existant Domain Name - the real Bichard Inquiry website is at www.bichardinquiry.org.uk
- www.russellcommission.org - "The Russell Commission was established in May 2004 by the Home Secretary, David Blunkett, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, to develop a new national framework for youth action and engagement. The Commission was headed by Ian Russell, Chief Executive of Scottish Power, and reflects the Government’s commitment to increase youth volunteering and civic service"
- www.zahidmubarekinquiry.org.uk - "The Zahid Mubarek Inquiry
On Thursday 29 April 2004 the Rt Hon David Blunkett MP announced the establishment of a non-statutory public inquiry into the murder of Zahid Mubarek at Feltham Young Offender Institution on Tuesday 21 March 2000."
Why do some Home Office websites still use the deprecated and sneaky technique of "web bugs" ? These are hidden 1 x 1 graphical images which allow, in this case a foreign owned third party commercial company Sitestat / Nedstat to track visitors to these UK Government websites.
US Government websites are forbidden from using such a privacy insensitive technique.