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Departmental Inquiries

Volume 479: debated on Thursday 17 July 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what independent inquiries have been commissioned by his Department in the last five years; what the (a) purpose and (b) cost was of each; and what steps were taken following each. (211118)

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has, in the last five years, commissioned one independent inquiry.

In May 2007 UKvisas, a joint Directorate of the Home Office and the FCO, was made aware of security vulnerabilities in on-line visa application websites operated on their behalf by a commercial partner, VFS Global, in India, Nigeria and Russia. This meant that other internet users could potentially see applicants' personal data, in breach of the Data Protection Act.

On 17 May 2007 my noble Friend Lord Triesman appointed Linda Costelloe Baker, the Independent Monitor for Entry Clearance Refusals, to carry out an independent investigation of this breach. She was not paid an additional fee on top of her remuneration as independent monitor for entry clearance refusals. Expenses, and the provision of legal and consultancy services to support the inquiry, are determined to have totalled £15,213.90.

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary laid this report, and UKvisas' responses to the independent investigator's recommendations, before Parliament on 26 July 2007. I refer the right hon. Member to my hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary's written ministerial statement of 26 July 2007, Official Report, column 101WS.