My intervention during the Statement on the Police National Computer, 18 January 2021

Sir John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): I thank the Minister, the Home Secretary and the police leadership around the country for the very professional way in which they have responded to a most unfortunate error, an error that none of them wanted or made personally. Will he give us a little bit more encouragement, however, because is it not the case that there are now many good ways to retrieve data that has been wrongly deleted? Might we be looking at a remedy for this in a few weeks’ time, when the computer experts have finished their job?

The Minister for Crime and Policing (Mr Kit Malthouse): My right hon. Friend is absolutely right that the initial assessment was some optimism about the ability to recover this data, not least because it is held in a number of areas. We will not have the full picture until we get to the end of this week, once we have analysed the report and, of course, looked at the data that we should have deleted but have not because of this error. However, he is quite right that we should be optimistic about that and recognise that all is not lost. There are other ways that this data can be cross-checked, in particular as part of a police investigation. We are working with our policing partners to ensure that they make full use of that, so that they can proceed as usual with their investigations.


  1. Christine
    January 20, 2021

    I’ve worked in IT for the Government for over 25 years and there is no way that data isn’t backed up and can’t be retrieved in a matter of hours. Something very strange is going on here.

    1. Nig l
      January 20, 2021

      Yes. The statement about the loss should have been accompanied by the fact it was backed up so no problem. Why didn’t Sir JR ask the simple question ‘was it backed up’?

      As you say ‘fishy’

    2. Bryan Harris
      January 20, 2021

      I very much agree with Christine.

      Even if all the current data was deleted from online storage, I would expect at the minimum to have weekly backups to retrieve the data from, ideally daily.

      So just what went wrong?

      You don’t need an expert to come in and tell us – let’s just ask the operatives that were managing the data.

    3. jerry
      January 20, 2021

      @Christine; There is nothing strange going on here, when personal data needs to be deleted because of data protection laws any back-up copies also need to be deleted, otherwise the law is not being complied with.

      1. Know-Dice
        January 21, 2021

        That doesn’t explain how their active database, online backup, offline backup & off site backups all got deleted…

    4. Dennis
      January 20, 2021

      The govt. has no problem in refuting anything anyone says so expect to be vindicated – hope you are though.

      Good site revamp but no editing facility?

  2. MiC
    January 20, 2021

    I wonder what the Tory media would have said, if this “unfortunate error” had happened on a Labour watch?

    Or the world’s worst – as it is now – covid19 death rate?

  3. Narrow Shoulders
    January 20, 2021

    Speaking of losing things, the link to move the the previous and next article has been removed from your site Sir John. This link was helpful and now the user has to click back on the home page to navigate round your site

  4. a-tracy
    January 20, 2021

    Is someone trying to set Priti up for a fall? This is very odd. If the police don’t have specialist recovery just put a call out.

  5. formula57
    January 20, 2021

    The “Not fit for purpose” Home Office strikes again!

    Is it not past time that all its notepaper and communications carried the tag line “Not fit for purpose”? We do not need reminding of course but it would fashionably show a commitment to openness and transparency.

  6. John Gross
    January 20, 2021

    Sir John, can you please do something about that new header on your site. It takes up a full third of my tablet screen, and stays put as I scroll down . It makes it very trying to follow your arguments.

  7. Dennis
    January 20, 2021

    Correction – ‘so I hope your are vindicated..’ Too much port this morning…

  8. hefner
    January 20, 2021

    This American carnage stops right here and it stops right now.
    Welcome back America.

  9. forthurst
    January 20, 2021

    The Police National Computer system is hosted on a Fujitsu BS2000 SE700B. It was originally hosted on a Univac 1100. The sofware system is Adabas/NATURAL. One of the oddities of the Adabas database system is that the indices and data files are not integrated but are held separately and are usually located on different platters to increase performance. The consequence of this is that is possible as a result of mis-operation to present the system after taking backups with the indices and data files
    mismatched. The users will be able to carry on as normal and it is only when it is noticed that some earlier data cannot be retrieved, that it is realised that the system’s integrity is compromised. The solution is to write programmes to correct the data files from different backup versions, if necessary, and then to rebuild the indices from the corrected data files.

    1. hefner
      January 21, 2021

      Out of curiosity would you know whether the present system is a relational or a non-relational database?

      1. forthurst
        January 21, 2021

        Adabas is an old system pre-dating industry definitions of relational databases; however, it has much of the functionality of a relational database. Data is held in files, but files can hold multiple record types with different keys consisting of different selections of fields and different views (selections) of the data fields. It works equally well for master records as transaction records.

        1. hefner
          January 23, 2021

          Thanks a lot.

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