Friends highlight census’s arms link

Contract for processing census forms given to Leidos, one of the world’s biggest military companies.

Huddersfield Quakers have alerted Friends to the fact that a leading military company is involved in the UK 2021 Census. The contract for processing census forms has been put in the hands of Leidos, one of the world’s biggest military companies. This follows the last census ten years ago when the contract was awarded to the US arms company Lockheed Martin, leading to protest.

Yorkshire Quaker Arthur Pritchard told the Friend: ‘A number of Friends took the decision to complete their census forms on paper (as I did), rather than online, in the hope that this small gesture would make a small dent in the profits of an arms company subsidiary tasked with analysing the data. They felt it important that more people should be aware of the links with Leidos.’

The contract was revealed in Peace News which recommended that people should take this action. However, not all Quakers agreed that this would have an effect. One Skipton Friend, Peter Copestake, said: ‘The census letter of instruction says quite specifically that completing it online saves “paper and taxpayers’ money” so I doubt whether making oneself a nuisance will cost the private company anything. We may never know but I imagine they will have some clause to do with deciphering answers on the paper returns costing extra. Or they may only be employed on the online work leaving the paperwork to civil servants.’

The UK census took place on March 21, with a legal obligation to fill in the census form. According to Peace News, the part of Lockheed Martin that ran the UK census in 2011 was its ‘information systems and global solutions’ section.

‘This business arm was sold off to Leidos in 2016, and no doubt helped Leidos win the £65 million contract for “census questionnaire management” in the UK. So, it is pretty much the same people/organisation doing the census work in 2021 as did it in 2011. It’s just that they are now housed in a company specialising in government IT work, including a ton of military and intelligence IT work,’ said the report.

In 2019 Leidos was listed by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute as the nineteenth-biggest arms and military services company in the world, with military sales of $5.3 billion.

According to Campaign Against Arms Trade, Leidos does work for the Ministry of Defence, with the British military paying Leidos £276 million for various services in 2016-2017.

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