Whitehall is reportedly considering the old-school technique in preparation for potential winter blackouts
Carbon paper copying has been “stress-tested” by Whitehall staffers as Britain braces for potential blackouts this winter, the Financial Times reported on Friday, citing three officials familiar with the matter.
The old-fashioned copying technique may be used for internal government correspondence, and was already tested during recent emergency drills.
“The idea is you’d have people running up and down Whitehall handing out carbon copies of documents to colleagues at other departments or agencies, to keep people in touch,” one of the officials told the newspaper.
This is all about addressing concerns over how to keep the government communicating with each other in the event of a crisis.
Carbon paper has been one of the elements of the drills carried out across some departments to stress test how the government could keep functioning in the event of a major crisis such as a widespread energy blackout or nuclear war, the newspaper explained.
The emergency drills were carried out as part of a cross-government program called Yarrow, established back in 2021 “to improve planning and resilience by central and local government and industry for dealing with a national power outage,” according to the officials, who insisted it was not directly linked to the energy crisis stemming from the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
“This program predates those events,” one of the officials claimed.
It was not immediately clear from the reporting whether Whitehall had dusted off mechanical typewriters to use with carbon paper or opted to switch to handwritten correspondence. Invented in the early 19th century, carbon paper was the main means of multiplying documents for over a century before the emergence of photocopying technology, and the later introduction of electronic documents flow.
British leadership, so far, has sent mixed signals about the prospect of blackouts and energy rationing this winter. This week, outgoing British PM Boris Johnson urged Britons to procure new kettles to save on energy.
“If you have an old kettle that takes ages to boil, it may cost you £20 to replace it, but if you get a new one, you’ll save £10 a year every year on your electricity bill,” Johnson said in his final policy speech on Thursday.
While the frontrunner to become the next Tory leader and PM, Liz Truss, has ruled out any wintertime energy rationing, her rival, Rishi Sunak, has been less optimistic. “Many European countries are looking at how we can all optimize our energy usage, that is a sensible thing for us to be doing as a country,” he said this week.