Sunday Times leaked emails - National Identity Register / ID Card scheme progressing disastrously, just as predicted

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The Sunday Times publishes some leaked emails between senior civil servants in the Treasury and the Home Office's Identity and Passport Service, which show how the controversial multi-billion pound National Identity Register and ID Card scheme, has all the hallmarks of previous major Government IT project disasters - no proper business plan or agreed detailed technical design, and lots of political meddling.

These emails, assuming that they are genuine, show that there is still no business case, even after over £30 million of consultancy fees and over 4 years of Home Office work on the project. This business case is not even set to be submitted for approval until March 2007.

This business case should have been available and made public before to inform the debate on the Draft Identity Cards Bill, back in 2004.

There seems to be some sort of plan to bodge together a Temporary National Identity Register so as to be able to pretend to have met the ludicrous time-scale promises made by Tony Blair and his NuLabour Ministers.

However, this means two sets of overlapping procurement processes, as the Temporary NIR will almost certainly be a very different beast from the full system.

This is not the same as a properly planned and costed series of large scale Pilot Schemes, as part of a properly defined project.

This is not the way in which to conduct a successful major IT project !

The NO2ID campaign are, rightly, calling for the Identity cards Act to be repealed:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

NO2ID: Axe “fraud” ID scheme NOW

Following devastating revelations in the Sunday Times today [1], civil liberties campaigners demanded an immediate and permanent halt to the government’s ID cards programme, and repeal of the ID legislation.

A series of e-mails [2] leaked by a senior official “close to the Treasury” confirm that the project is in melt-down, blame Tony Blair personally for the fiasco, and predict a botched introduction that “could put back the introduction of ID cards for a generation”.

Phil Booth, NO2ID [3] National Coordinator said:

“This whole scheme has been built on deception. The government has systematically misled the public, bullied Parliament and anyone who dared to speak against them, and wasted tens of millions already on a scheme that officials now admit is unworkable.

“Now we discover that the whole thing has been rushed, just to fit Tony Blair’s political agenda. The government’s much-hailed ‘gold standard’ of ID is a complete sham.

“NO2ID said all along that the goal was not the cards, but the database at the heart of the system. The Identity Cards Act is still far too dangerous to leave on the statute books, because it still empowers a control-freak fantasy of running our lives by database. Now the fraud is revealed, it must be repealed.”

- ENDS –

Notes for editors

1) ‘ID cards doomed, say officials’ by David Leppard in The Sunday Times:
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2087-2262437_1,00.html

2) E-mail exchange between Peter Smith, acting commercial director at the Identity and Passport Service and David Foord, ID card project director at the Office of Government Commerce:
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2087-2261631,00.html

3) NO2ID is the UK-wide, non-partisan campaign against compulsory ID cards and the National Identity Register, see http://www.no2id.net


For further information, or for immediate or future interview, please contact Phil Booth (National Coordinator, national.coordinator@no2id.net) on 07974 230 839, or Guy Herbert (General Secretary, general.secretary@no2id.net) on 07956 544 308.


Some of the acronyms used in the emails:

  • IPS = Identity and Passport Service, the successor to the Passport Service, an Executive Agency of the Home Office which is charged with implementing the National Identity Register. Presumably Home Office Ministers hope that if this Executive Agency fails to deliver the project properly, they can somehow blame the Chief Executive and more junior Civil Servants, rather than the core Home Office Ministers.

  • OGC = Office of Government Commerce - the part of the Treasury which is supposed to audit the project management of major Government projects, especially Information Technology ones , especially those involving public and private finance.

  • Gate 0 and Gate 2 = formal stages and Reports in the OGC Gateway Process evaluation of such projects, by independent consultants and project managers. These reports are, controversially, being kept secret from the public and even from Parliamentary Select Committees, even the out of date ones which contain no commercially sensitive price information. We are still hoping for a postive result to our Freedom of Information Act Request for the earliest of these Gateway Reviews, but the Information Commissioner has been dithering over our complaint for over 15 months so far.

  • HO = Home Office

  • HMT = Her Majesty's Treasury

  • PM = Prime Minister

  • APSS= Approved Suppliers Scheme (the acronym ASS might be misconstrued).

  • TNIR = presumably the "temporary" or "face saving" or "early variant" version of the National Identity Register. According to the emails, this is Tony Blair's idea.

  • OJEU =Official Journal of the European Union. All major Government projects tenders are published (electronically) in this, so that all EU companies can try to submit tenders for the work (certain "national security" aspects of such contracts can be withheld from EU wide competition).


According to another Sunday Times article:

"The correspondence has been leaked by a senior official close to the Treasury. He acknowledges that the documents will infuriate ministers because they contradict the government’s public statements on ID cards."

Is that an "official" Treasury spin doctor leak, given that it is the Prime Minister and Home Office Ministers, rather than the Chancellor Gordon Brown whose public statements the emails contradict ?

Is it an unofficial whistleblower leak ? Have all reasonable precautions been taken to protect such whistleblowers ?

Are David Cracknell and other Sunday Times journalists under surveillance and having their phones and emails intercepted in order to track down their Government whistleblower sources ?

Previous Sunday Times leaks in 2004, about the Identity Card scheme, which revealed Cabinet Committee memos between the Foreign Office and the Home Office, were traced to a Sunday Times trainee reporter working as an agency temporary secretary in John Prescott's Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, after stints in the Cabinet Office. Presumably, in this case, no further action was taken, and she appears to have written articles for the Sunday Times this year.

12 Comments

*DO NOT USE CONSULTANTS*

Let me say that again in case you missed it:

*DO NOT USE CONSULTANTS*

Go out and spend some money on a qualified team of professionals. Have them specify, design and build the system in-house and then maintain it from then on.

Consultants are like a black hole for money... Although you get lots of advice and pretty reports (that look great in the political internals of the government) they actually only work to guarantee more consultancy fees in the future.

In effect consultants have NOTHING to loose by feeding you complete bull.

I have nothing against consultants, really, they do have their uses, but if you are hiring one that often then clearly it would be more cost effective to hire an equally qualified individual.

You are missing the point entirely. Even if they did exactly as you describe, the whole project is immoral and should be abandoned on principle. Its like saying that the planning of the Final Solution should have not been done by consultants - no matter who planned it, it was an idea that is fundamentally wrong. We must be careful not to be distracted by the details of how they are planning to excute this diabolical nonsense, and how those plans are botched. Stay focused on the central idea that it is undoable, unbritish and must be refused by everyone.

Having had experiences with consultants in the past the first commentor is right. Using consultants is the most expensive way to run an IT project.

You're right that consultants have nothing to lose if the project isn't successful. They're like vultures following the financial thermals.

"Even if they did exactly as you describe, the whole project is immoral and should be abandoned on principle'

This is correct, it's something I've brought up before too. If people fight this too much on the basis of cost, logistics and who the consultants are then we've already lost. You can't fight it just like that at the end of the day. You have to stand up and say it is an intolerable and humiliating burden our lives.

that should be:

'..burden on our lives'.

Consultants - Oh how I laughed when I heard who the Home Office had engaged to provide them with initial advice, or whatever, on the ID card scheme: PA Consulting! Yes, the very same PA Consulting that was hired by my company to advice on an ERP s/w upgrade. The upgrade had already been approved by the Board, but for some reason the IT dept. felt obliged to get some "impartial" advice. So how did PA Consulting perform? Well, amongst other things they had the project team attend sessions where we all had to wear different coloured hats, so that we felt like different people; you know, red hat - customer, blue hat - supplier, white hat -management (dunce's hat - consultant!). Then they had us drawing something called "Rich Pictures". Sessions were conducted by snotty-nosed nappy-wearing 21 year-olds straight out of university with largely irrelevant degrees. The upshot of it all was a 500 page "report" of absolutely diabolical quality, and a £1.5 million bill! In fact they didn't tell us anything that we didn't already know. PA Consulting - as incompetent as it's possible to get! Then low and behold, they get a £30 million contract with the HO. No wonder the ID card scheme is going down the pan. With PA Consulting on your side you've not got a chance. Bloody Brilliant - Long live the relationship betwen PA Consulting and the Home Office.

Once they have well and truly mangled the project they will outsource it somewhere else i.e EDS - and sweep it under the rug as "not our problem".

It may be worth investigating what exactly the contracted consultancies actually did for the (vast amounts of) money. Did they engage all the stakeholders? No privacy aware group has been asked to assists (evidence: the severe trashing the project got from the LSE). Did they structure their project appropriately, thus enabling good progress monitoring? Was everyone appropriately tasked and kept 100% busy (if they're that expensive this would not be an unreasonable expectation). I have a very strong feeling that true answers to those questions should have been flagged up by the National Audit Office, but I have heard nothing from them on this.

Oh, I know why. Taking a hint from the published emails it's not unreasonable to assume that they may be busy finding "face saving" excuses..

Surely a consultancy doesn't gain by not delivering? Well, not so fast. Let's look at what any consultancy gains by being less than diligent. They get more fees as the project takes longer. That's not just profit in direct receivables, it also lowers the costs as no sale is required and staff (if low loaded) could potentially also work on other projects, or spend their time selling themselves into more Government projects (it's easier once you're 'inside'). Quite an incentive, wouldn't you say?

But surely such a company has an ethics policy to comply with?

OK, you're a senior shareholder or partner in such a company. You have the choice between a good slice of, say, 1 to 2 million a week or substantially less for a private sector client who will closely scrutinize what they get for the money. What would you choose?

To quote someone very senior, overheard at a Xmas party: "for that much money, screw the ethics policy".

Another trick is to be less diligent in your first line review. Say, for instance, you're designing a procurement system. This means joining up various payment mechanisms. What if you came across a payment system that was simply not suitable to be scaled up to such a volume? Two choices: you either report it as deficient (thus embarrassing the department who deploys it, and forcing them to either change over or be against the project) or you 'ignore' it. Why would you ignore it? Well, there's the fun concept of 'change control'. It means that anything not in the current scope will require a change of the project. Naturally, as that means changing a lot of things this is very expensive (read: very profitable to the consultancy or supplier), so the trick is to ensure as much as possible gets missed in the original scope. This is the same process exploitation that allows companies to underbid for a project and -amazingly- still end up costing more than the competition to complete. And all of it is blameless: after all, the Government did sign up to the original scope (3rd party reviews are not common).

Knowing all that, why would you still go ahead and use Consultants? Well, for the same reason you outsource and/or privatise everything you can lay your hands on if you're a politician: blame transfer. It doesn't matter if it works or not, you can blame someone else if it goes wrong. It's a personal risk transfer mechanism of the first order.

Can you blame the Consultancy for doing this? Well, only from an ethical point of view. Commercially, they just fit in with the theme of promising lots and delivering nothing, and as long as nobody holds them to account it's easy money. for the shareholders and/or owners. Why work if you don't have to? And, as soon as you're asked about delivery, promise something new.

After all, it worked for Blair..

consultants have nothing to lose if the project isn't successful.

Actually, this isn't true. As a consultant for Pearson a couple of years ago, I was contractually obliged to take out employer's liability insurance. If my screw up cost the business, I'd have been held accountable.

But as Manip rightly says, this is like arguing over the supplier for the Final Solution. (IBM won that contract by the way)

Following the comments, here's a fun question for you: how likely is it that ANY consultancy or other commercial organisation is likely to deliver an objective assessment IF THEY STAND TO GAIN THE WORK THEMSELVES?

Do you really, honestly think for one moment that an organisation is capabe of maintaining proper objectivity if nobody's really watching?

Even better, any sensible organisation will simply jump at the chance to do a really controversial project because 'they just do the work'. Any turbulence is likely to prolong the agony for the tax payer because, once committed, there's no politician in the world who's got the balls to admit that they got it wrong (that's why it's so important to get a group of people to commit to these things - partners in crime).

I think you could accuse the government at a minimum of breathtaking naivity if it wasn't for the niggling feeling that it was rather deliberate. It may be worth checking just how much 'advice' the Government is receiving, and from who.

@ Anon - PA Consulting, as the "Development Partner" are forbidden from bidding on any of the multi-billion pound implementation projects to do with the National Identity Register and ID cards.

However, there is nothing to stop them providing expensive consultancy advice to any consortia who do actually dare to take on such contracts.

Will any of the PA consultants who have worked or are working on the scheme be forbidden , contractually, from joining any such consortia for a year or two after leaving PA Consulting ?

Will their places be filled by Home Office civil servants associated with the project, who will claim not be breaking the Civil Service Code, because a) they will probably have been given permission from on high and b) the "Development partner" is not going to be bidding for the implementation contracts ?

N.B. Given the stupid Identity Cards Act 2005 Clause 29 Tampering with the Register etc. any commercial company or sub-contractor would be insane to put themselves at risk of criminal penalties of up to 10 years in prison and / or unlimited fines, for circumstances beyond their control, which cannot be excluded in the fine print of a commercial contract.

It does sometimes get boring always being right. All of us who have looked into this legislation foresaw this.

Of course only doing half the job will completely defy the point of having the new system which was actually intended to be more secure.

Lets end this now before Blair wastes any more of our money.

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Between Both Worlds - "Thoughts & Ideas that Reflect the Concerns of Our Conscious Evolution" - Kingsley Dennis

Bloggerheads: The Alisher Usmanov Affair - the rich Uzbek businessman and his shyster lawyers Schillings really made a huge counterproductive error in trying to censor the blogs of Tim Ireland, of all people.

Matt Wardman political blog analysis

Henry Porter on Liberty - a leading mainstream media commentator and opinion former who is doing more than most to help preserve our freedom and liberty.

HMRC is shite - "dedicated to the taxpayers of Britain, and the employees of the HMRC, who have to endure the monumental shambles that is Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC)."

Head of Legal - Carl Gardner a former legal advisor to the Government

The Landed Underclass - Voice of the Banana Republic of Great Britain

Henrik Alexandersson - Swedish blogger threatened with censorship by the Försvarets Radioanstalt (FRA), the Swedish National Defence Radio Establishement, their equivalent of the UK GCHQ or the US NSA.

World's First Fascist Democracy - blog with link to a Google map - "This map is an attempt to take a UK wide, geographical view, of both the public and the personal effect of State sponsored fear and distrust as seen through the twisted technological lens of petty officials and would be bureaucrats nationwide."

Blogoir - Charles Crawford - former UK Ambassodor to Poland etc.

No CCTV - The Campaign against CCTV

Barcode Nation - keeping two eyes on the database state.

Lords of the Blog - group blog by half a dozen or so Peers sitting in the House of Lords.

notes from the ubiquitous surveillance society - blog by Dr. David Murakami Wood, editor of the online academic journal Surveillance and Society

Justin Wylie's political blog

Panopticon blog - by Timothy Pitt-Payne and Anya Proops. Timothy Pitt-Payne is probably the leading legal expert on the UK's Freedom of Information Act law, often appearing on behlaf of the Information Commissioner's Office at the Information Tribunal.

Armed and Dangerous - Sex, software, politics, and firearms. Life’s simple pleasures… - by Open Source Software advocate Eric S. Raymond.

Georgetown Security Law Brief - group blog by the Georgetown Law Center on National Security and the Law , at Georgtown University, Washington D.C, USA.

Big Brother Watch - well connected with the mainstream media, this is a campaign blog by the TaxPayersAlliance, which thankfully does not seem to have spawned Yet Another Campaign Organisation as many Civil Liberties groups had feared.

Spy on Moseley - "Sparkbrook, Springfield, Washwood Heath and Bordesley Green. An MI5 Intelligence-gathering operation to spy on Muslim communities in Birmingham is taking liberties in every sense" - about 150 ANPR CCTV cameras funded by Home Office via the secretive Terrorism and Allied Matters (TAM) section of ACPO.

FitWatch blog - keeps an eye on the activities of some of the controversial Police Forward Intelligence Teams, who supposedly only target "known troublemakers" for photo and video surveillance, at otherwise legal, peaceful protests and demonstrations.

Other Links

Spam Huntress - The Norwegian Spam Huntress - Ann Elisabeth

Fuel Crisis Blog - Petrol over £1 per litre ! Protest !
Mayor of London Blog
London Olympics 2012 - NO !!!!

Cool Britannia

NuLabour

Free Gary McKinnon - UK citizen facing extradition to the USA for "hacking" over 90 US Military computer systems.

Parliament Protest - information and discussion on peaceful resistance to the arbitrary curtailment of freedom of assembly and freedom of speech, in the excessive Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 Designated Area around Parliament Square in London.

Brian Burnell's British / US nuclear weapons history at http://nuclear-weapons.info

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UK Legislation

The United Kingdom suffers from tens of thousands of pages of complicated criminal laws, and thousands of new, often unenforceable criminal offences, which have been created as a "Pretend to be Seen to Be Doing Something" response to tabloid media hype and hysteria, and political social engineering dogmas. These overbroad, catch-all laws, which remove the scope for any judicial appeals process, have been rubber stamped, often without being read, let alone properly understood, by Members of Parliament.

The text of many of these Acts of Parliament are now online, but it is still too difficult for most people, including the police and criminal justice system, to work out the cumulative effect of all the amendments, even for the most serious offences involving national security or terrorism or serious crime.

Many MPs do not seem to bother to even to actually read the details of the legislation which they vote to inflict on us.

UK Legislation Links

UK Statute Law Database - is the official revised edition of the primary legislation of the United Kingdom made available online, but it is not yet up to date.

UK Commissioners

UK Commissioners some of whom are meant to protect your privacy and investigate abuses by the bureaucrats.

UK Intelligence Agencies

Intelligence and Security Committee - the supposedly independent Parliamentary watchdog which issues an annual, heavily censored Report every year or so. Currently chaired by the Conservative Sir Malcolm Rifkind. Why should either the intelligence agencies or the public trust this committee, when the untrustworthy ex-Labour Minister Hazel Blears is a member ?

Anti-terrorism hotline - links removed in protest at the Climate of Fear propaganda posters

MI5 Security Service
MI5 Security Service - links to encrypted reporting form removed in protest at the Climate of Fear propaganda posters

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Secure Your Fertiliser - advice on ammonium nitrate and urea fertiliser security

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Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure - "CPNI provides expert advice to the critical national infrastructure on physical, personnel and information security, to protect against terrorism and other threats."

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Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) recruitment.

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Government Communications Headquarters GCHQ

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National Crime Agency - the replacement for the Serious Organised Crime Agency

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Defence Advisory (DA) Notice system - voluntary self censorship by the established UK press and broadcast media regarding defence and intelligence topics via the Defence, Press and Broadcasting Advisory Committee.

Foreign Spies / Intelliegence Agencies in the UK

It is not just the UK government which tries to snoop on British companies, organisations and individuals, the rest of the world is constantly trying to do the same, regardless of the mixed efforts of our own UK Intelligence Agencies who are paid to supposedly protect us from them.

For no good reason, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office only keeps the current version of the London Diplomatic List of accredited Diplomats (including some Foreign Intelligence Agency operatives) online.

Presumably every mainstream media organisation, intelligence agency, serious organised crime or terrorist gang keeps historical copies, so here are some older versions of the London Diplomatic List, for the benefit of web search engine queries, for those people who do not want their visits to appear in the FCO web server logfiles or those whose censored internet feeds block access to UK Government websites.

Campaign Button Links

Watching Them, Watching Us - UK Public CCTV Surveillance Regulation Campaign
UK Public CCTV Surveillance Regulation Campaign

NO2ID Campaign - cross party opposition to the NuLabour Compulsory Biometric ID Card
NO2ID Campaign - cross party opposition to the NuLabour Compulsory Biometric ID Card and National Identity Register centralised database.

Gary McKinnon is facing extradition to the USA under the controversial Extradition Act 2003, without any prima facie evidence or charges brought against him in a UK court. Try him here in the UK, under UK law.
Gary McKinnon is facing extradition to the USA under the controversial Extradition Act 2003, without any prima facie evidence or charges brought against him in a UK court. Try him here in the UK, under UK law.

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FreeFarid.com - Kafkaesque extradition of Farid Hilali under the European Arrest Warrant to Spain

Peaceful resistance to the curtailment of our rights to Free Assembly and Free Speech in the SOCPA Designated Area around Parliament Square and beyond
Parliament Protest blog - resistance to the Designated Area restricting peaceful demonstrations or lobbying in the vicinity of Parliament.

Petition to the European Commission and European Parliament against their vague Data Retention plans
Data Retention is No Solution - Petition to the European Commission and European Parliament against their vague Data Retention plans.

Save Parliament: Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill (and other issues)
Save Parliament - Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill (and other issues)

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Open Rights Group

The Big Opt Out Campaign - opt out of having your NHS Care Record medical records and personal details stored insecurely on a massive national centralised database.

Tor - the onion routing network
Tor - the onion routing network - "Tor aims to defend against traffic analysis, a form of network surveillance that threatens personal anonymity and privacy, confidential business activities and relationships, and state security. Communications are bounced around a distributed network of servers called onion routers, protecting you from websites that build profiles of your interests, local eavesdroppers that read your data or learn what sites you visit, and even the onion routers themselves."

Tor - the onion routing network
Anonymous Blogging with Wordpress and Tor - useful Guide published by Global Voices Advocacy with step by step software configuration screenshots (updated March 10th 2009).

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Amnesty International's irrepressible.info campaign

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BlogSafer - wiki with multilingual guides to anonymous blogging

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NGO in a box - Security Edition privacy and security software tools

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Home Office Watch blog, "a single repository of all the shambolic errors and mistakes made by the British Home Office compiled from Parliamentary Questions, news reports, and tip-offs by the Liberal Democrat Home Affairs team."

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Reporters Without Borders - Reporters Sans Frontières - campaign for journalists 'and bloggers' freedom in repressive countries and war zones.

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Committee to Protect Bloggers - "devoted to the protection of bloggers worldwide with a focus on highlighting the plight of bloggers threatened and imprisoned by their government."

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Icelanders are NOT terrorists ! - despite Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling's use of anti-terrorism legislation to seize the assets of Icelandic banks.

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No CCTV - The Campaign Against CCTV

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I'm a Photographer Not a Terrorist !

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Power 2010 cross party, political reform campaign

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Cracking the Black Box - "aims to expose technology that is being used in inappropriate ways. We hope to bring together the insights of experts and whistleblowers to shine a light into the dark recesses of systems that are responsible for causing many of the privacy problems faced by millions of people."

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Open Rights Group - Petition against the renewal of the Interception Modernisation Programme

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WhistleblowersUK.org - Fighting for justice for whistleblowers