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What's good enough for MI5..

Anyone who has dealt with officialdom knows how carefully sensitive information is guarded. As Sir Arnold Robinson put it in Yes, Minister: "It's a contradiction in terms: you can be open or you can have government."

So it is always gratifying to find an organisation committed to sharing information at every opportunity. Congratulations, then, to the Learning and Skills Council.

Some may raise an eyebrow at their unorthodox methods, revealed in the funding body's annual report. Some may question whether losing five laptops with unencrypted data is really the best way to keep the public informed about how the Government is spending billions of pounds on post- 16 education.

Ferret has no time for such cynics. If it is good enough for MI5 and MI6, it is good enough for further education. The intelligence agencies, if you remember, pioneered this approach to freedom of information when they lost three laptops packed with state secrets, one of them left behind by an officer in a south London tapas bar.

Since then, the principles of open government have been enthusiastically adopted by officials, who have taken to scattering CDs of personal data behind them as they go. It was surely only a matter of time before the world of further education followed suit.

Incidentally, if anyone does find a stray laptop in the hostelries of Coventry, simply send it to 26 Red Lion Square, London WC1R 4HQ and we will make sure it gets back to its rightful owner. Eventually.

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