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Visas: VFS

Volume 694: debated on Thursday 26 July 2007

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (David Miliband) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The report of the independent investigation into the breach of data security in the VFS online UK visa application facility, operated through VFS websites in India, Nigeria and Russia, has been laid before Parliament today, together with the Government’s response. It is also available on the UKvisas website at www.ukvisas.gov.uk.

I record my appreciation for the independent investigator’s prompt, full and thorough investigation. I am satisfied that the facts have been correctly established and that the conclusions are sound. Our priority has been to understand what happened in this case so that UKvisas and its partners can learn important lessons. The report enables them to do so. I can accept all the recommendations.

I note the independent investigator’s finding that, despite vulnerabilities in the commercial partner’s online application facilities from its launch in 2005 until it was closed in May 2007, there is no evidence that data from VFS websites in India, Nigeria and Russia have been misused or visas wrongly issued. The websites in question will remain closed.

I am publishing with the report my response to the investigator's recommendations. The investigator has found that since May 2007, VFS and UKvisas have taken the issue seriously and applied significant resources to identifying weaknesses and putting into place improved skills and oversight. I shall ensure a continuation of this joint effort in line with the investigator’s findings.

I welcome the investigator’s finding that the global contracts recently concluded with two commercial partners have improved consistency in the partnership programme and are more detailed in their scope. They provide a sound basis for full implementation of the investigator's recommendations. UKvisas will take all necessary steps to ensure the new contracts are implemented rigorously in partnership with VFS and CSC, to the benefit of the effectiveness and efficiency of the visa process.