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"Revenue and Customs says it does not believe the records - names, addresses and bank accounts - have fallen into the wrong hands."

Well - what a relief! (Not)

This is farcical and is further evidence of a real malaise in government. Our chances of winning seem to improve on a daily basis - its one crisis after another under Brown.

This on top of the fiasco over tax credits. Sometimes I wonder whether they do this on purpose for some unknown reason? This surely has to be the most dis-jointed and incompetent government in history. Do they really expect us to trust them with a national ID card scheme?

"Do they really expect us to trust them with a national ID card scheme?"

McStalin will probably try to use this farce to strengthen his case for ID cards

Can we expect to see a ministerial resignation soon?
I thought not.

Could this theft(?)have more to do with covering up fraudulent claimants.Leave awile and we'll probably learn that HMRC is stuffed with illegals running scams from inside.

I'd just like to point out that child benefit is paid to the mother - these will be details of women and children

Anyone remember the last good day Labour had. This is further shocking incompetence. The sooner they are out of office the better.

Just seen the post from "Sub-Prime Minister" That is a brilliant tag line for Gordon Brown and we should keep repeating it to make it stick.

Great title for this thread!
It stands out really well on the "recent comments" summary

Apparently McBroon is going AWOL to Uganda to avoid this afternoon's statement AND tomorrow's PMQ's - is it true?

Not the first time that such computer discs have been lost with confidential information.

They are apparantly sent out by courier!!!.

Why the information cannot be sent over secure data-link beggars belief. Indeed it also raises serious doubts about all governmental IT and data projects.

Is anyone saying if this data is encrypted or not? If they HAVE to do something as potentially insecure as transferring this sort of data onto CD, surely their IT procedures insist on it being encrypted....?

On the other hand this is a Labour government, so perhaps not.

If Brown is popping off to Uganda in order to avoid the heat, can someone can arrange for him to stay there permanently? I'm sure the Ugandan economy could do with a bit of his 'prudence' and careful money management.

If Macavity's off to Uganda, who's doing PMQs? Harriet Harman?

Perhaps the current government's ministers could be nominated for one of your awards, in respect of advancing the Conservative Cause?

Is anyone saying if this data is encrypted or not? If they HAVE to do something as potentially insecure as transferring this sort of data onto CD, surely their IT procedures insist on it being encrypted....?

On the other hand this is a Labour government, so perhaps not.

If Brown is popping off to Uganda in order to avoid the heat, can someone can arrange for him to stay there permanently? I'm sure the Ugandan economy could do with a bit of his 'prudence' and careful money management.

He certainly isn't going for Ugandan discussions.

I note from Accountancy Age that HMRC Chairman is resigning in a shock move

Rather than trying to make Darling look worse (difficult enough), shouldn't tomorrow's PMQs focus on the contrast between Paul Gray resigning immediately and the entire New Labour culture of clinging on to office (that means you Jacqui)? This would resonate with the public more than trying to pick off AD.

If Broon does bottle tomorrow's PMQs, Cameron should _not_ put up Hague: he should go along himself and ask whichever stooge is put up against him why Broon is not there. Six times.

If Gordon is going to Uganda then he will probably be at CHOGM, as the Head of Government of the leading Commonwealth country it would be strange if he wasn't there.

So Brown's missing PMQ's for a trip to Uganda? Is he hoping to pick up some tips to complete Britains transformation into a Banana Republic?

I hope the media tear Brown apart over this - remember the grief David Cameron got for visiting Rwanda in the summer?

"Honourable Members, I come here today to speak of a major operational problem. That major operational problem is me. I would, of course, resign if I could, but my right honourable friend the Sub-Prime Minister aka Clunky the Control Freak will not let me."

This is what I know from a professional viewpoint.

For a start, sending data out by courier can be quite a common occurrence, disaster recovery policies dictate the use of fire safes not co-located with the computers in the case of catastrophic failure. Tapes of data are put there for safekeeping. This is perfectly acceptable within the confines of the Data Protection Act (DPA).

For very important data, diverse network connections exists, strongly encrypted and the data is sent electronically to the remote location and written to tape that way and NOT sent by courier.


The resignation has been triggered by violation of the DPA.

This suggests that this was not remotely connected to any normal operations. To violate DPA it is either:

a) the data is unencrypted
b) was destined for someone other than a source within the definition of acceptable use of the data under DPA rules.
c) both of the above!

Bearing in mind the Standard Life, the allegation is that data was unencrypted as when questioned on the level of security on the disk it was not given for 'security reasons'. Draw from that what you will.

The potential is that if this is a fully specified dataset, if fraudsters have got hold of the information, they practically have everything bar a driving license number, it'll be NI numbers, parent full names, addresses, child's full name, date of birth, bank details plus internal HMRC information.

Whilst bank accounts are safe, the potential for benefit fraud cannot be discounted. Especially with the supporting HMRC data which could be used to determine their processes.

Very, very bad indeed.

Darling would be very lucky to keep his job. As a senior IT person with many years database specialist experience, this is total and utter breathtaking incompetence.

It should be very, very, very difficult indeed to get hold of the entire dataset, the fact it was extracted, written to a disk (many government computers do not have a DVD/CD drive for this reason alone) and then allowed to sent by courier is a total failure of almost every single security policy HMRC would have defined.

Alarm bells should have ran as soon as someone started an extract.


And they want to run a national ID card system?

Absolutely no way.

It seems it is worse, the Chancellor says 25 million records have been lost.

Is this the natural outcome of merging Customs & Exercise and Inland Revenue, and attempting to sack 25% of the staff to achieve those all important efficiencies? Both decisions came straight from Brown.

James Burdett, the CHOGM is from 23-25 November.

They knew this information was going to come out eventually. Is it possible they left it until today to knock our Education Green Paper off the top of the headlines.

Brown's government does seem to be imploding - which is fine - and we are looking more and more like a government in waiting - which is even better.

However, it is not government ministers who are leaking and losing the confidential information etc; that is people working for the government whom we will inherit once we win the next election.

How are we then going to be able to restore confidence, morale and efficiency in those same government departments and agencies?

It is now going to be a mammoth task.

Piss up and brewery??? AGAIN!

Just lifted this from the Guardian - Tim plse delete this if it's already here and I've missed it - but it seems relevent to this thread - a truly staggering level of incompetence:

""Tories increase pressure on Darling with data claims Deborah Summers, politics editor
Tuesday November 20, 2007
Guardian Unlimited

The Tories today sought to step up pressure on the chancellor, Alistair Darling, ahead of his Commons statement on the "operational" problems at HM Revenue and Customs.
The party circulated a briefing note documenting what they said were recent data security breaches at the department. A spokesman for Revenue & Customs said he would respond shortly.

The document read as follows:

1. November 2007, HMRC loses 15,000 records en route to Standard Life
HMRC lost the confidential data of over 15,000 people on a computer disc that went missing on its way to Standard Life's pensions department. The data included names, National Insurance Contribution (NIC) numbers, dates of birth and pension policy details.

2. August 2007, 41 HMRC laptops stolen in 12 months

In August 2007, a laptop was stolen after being left overnight in the car of an an HMRC official. The BBC reported that this held data on around 400 customers with ISAs with five companies (BBC Moneybox, 6 October 2007). The government refused to state what data was held.

In parliamentary answers ministers have revealed that 41 laptops were stolen from HMRC over the last 12 months:

Hansard, 25 Oct 2007, Column 583W:

Mr. Hoban [Mark Hoban, the shadow Treasury minister]: To ask the chancellor of the exchequer (1) how many laptops have been stolen from HM Revenue and Customs in the last 12 months; [159919]

(2) what disciplinary action has been taken further to the theft of a laptop computer from HM Revenue and Customs in September; and if he will make a statement on the rules concerning keeping laptop computers in cars by HM Revenue and Customs; [160237]

(3) what type of data was held on the laptop stolen from HM Revenue and Customs in September 2007; how many records were stored on the laptop; to which financial institutions the records applied; and to how many individuals the records applied. [160248]

Jane Kennedy [the financial secretary to the Treasury]: 41 laptops were stolen between October 2006 and September 2007, 16 of them during a break in at one of HMRC's offices.

Some 9,500 laptops are issued to HMRC staff who work away from their offices. The department takes all thefts very seriously and acts appropriately in accordance with its security procedures.

I cannot comment on staff disciplinary matters or disclose information relating to the data held on stolen laptops.

3. May 2007, 42,000 families may have had their bank details revealed

Due to a faulty printer, 42,000 families receiving tax credits had their bank details revealed to other people.

18 May 2007: Column 952W

John Robertson [Lab, Glasgow North West]: To ask the chancellor of the exchequer how many individuals claiming tax credits have been notified that details of their bank account and sort code have been sent to another client. [136901]

Mr. Timms [Stephen Timms, the junior business minister]: HMRC are aware that a number of incorrect tax credit award notices have been sent out, including some containing partial information about another claimant's tax credit claim.

This was caused by an isolated problem with one of the printers.

HMRC take confidentiality very seriously and have robust procedures in place to protect information provided by claimants.

As soon as they became aware of the incident, they corrected the problem with the printer and have taken steps to ensure there can be no recurrence.

HMRC established that the incident affected around 42,000 families.

In particular, 8,000 notices were sent out which contained some bank account details for a claimant other than the recipient.

This makes me so angry - how much longer do we have to put up with this incompetence!

It is right to blame the Government ministers but what about the actual civil servants on the ground who are in charge of this incompetence.

They sit around with their large salaries, gold plated pension and lack of responsibility. The Chairman goes but what about those in his departement directly responsible. They get away scot free.

I've heard that the data should never have left the HMRC building and the NAO should have visited the HMRC office to see the data.

So the government is responsible for three violations of DPA one of which was on Gordon Brown's watch.

Violation of DPA isn't highly likely Mr. Dalring it's happened three times.

Also don't be fooled by the 'password protected' file. The access to the file is password protected by something as flimsy as PKZIP, the actual data in that case would be unencrypted.

This is the biggest violation of DPA in its history. Heads will have to roll and I'm not talking about a 'junior official'.

This should have sent alarm bells ringing on the first violation for a number of reasons. Attempted benefit fraud and also counter terrorism purposes are two that spring to mind.

The fact it was allowed to happen twice without a minister being notified is impossible to believe.

It's not as if the legal framework is complex for data protection, it's one law and it's taught at A-level to Computer Studies students as it's fairly easy to understand.

Darling and to an extent Brown do not have a leg to stand on here.

Just to add...

..there is early anecdotal evidence that identity fraud has already been successful using child benefit data...

If there are more cases in the next few days...

Darling's gone.

What Mike Thomas 215(cu) and other posters have said above is mind-bogglingly awful - 25million!, that is horrendous.

Our party, our activists, need to ensure,somehow, that the people who would most likely be on this disk, are informed, because it might encourage them to vote (if they don't usually), and vote to get rid of the government that is so casual with their data. Unless the TV really talks this up they may not become aware of it, as many of them are probably not interested in politics!

As for ID cards after this, well it is just what we all predicted months ago when there was a thread on the subject, and I agree with Tony Makara on the subject. Although I have to say that Sub-Prime Monister Brown has a point when talking about MacStalin!!

"How are we then going to be able to restore confidence, morale and efficiency in those same government departments and agencies?"

This Government has presided over a disastrous culture change. In so many areas, including local government, "fake-it" is the order of the day. It doesn't matter whether or not you're properly qualified as long as you act as though you know what you're doing.
Those officers who try to maintain proper procedures are sidelined whilst the "modernisers" bodge their way through, oblivious to the controls they are dismantling.
It will be a long hard job to restore the civil service values which until recently we took for granted.

Is it just me that is wondering why 25 million people (i.e. nearly half the entire UK population) are on benefits in the first place?

Nigel C - until May 2010 seems to be a good bet

So, we've got all our personal data leaking out of government like it's a sieve, we've had General Sir Richard Dannat saying that the military were being seriously let down at the same time as part time secretary for defence Des Browne was saying the forces were safe in his hands, and today General Mike Jackson said that the Armed Forces are running out of money.

Not to worry though - Gordon's announced that he's going to ban plastic bags. Probably. Sometime.

Well, that's tomorrow's PMQ's taken care of I guess.......

Those calling for a civil service scalp will note that Paul Gray has already resigned.

Although whether Ministers who have slashed staffing by 25% can be totally without blame is very questionable.

I agree with the Editor. Michael Fallon is doing a superb job in terms of hits on the Government and profile. He should be in the Shadow Cabinet.

Consider this.

You have the full name of the parents and the child, date of birth, the full address and NI Number of a UK national.

How difficult would it be to make an application for a full UK passport? Say for someone about to approach 18 and making their application for their first adult passport?

Hmm, you need one of your "parent's" birth certificates and your "own".

Well, how hard is it to get those...

All the information bar the place the birth was registered will be on the HMRC file. And depending on the local authority that is not a mandatory requirement to obtain a copy.

Incidentally, this isn't secret information in case anyone is wondering... nothing that cannot be found on UK Government websites...

Well done Darling, well done.

Sometime in the summer I recall observing here that the same bunch of incompetents from Blair's years was still around in Government and that we should hold our nerve for the moment and they would all start fouling up once more enabling us to resume the attack.

What I had not appreciated was just how dysfunctional they would become and how quickly and frequently the cock-ups would come along but I feel vindicated in the observation.

What a shower!

The Labour Backbenches looked utterly sick and Brown himself sat there crapping himself, as well he might. After all, as I observe here (http://tinyurl.com/2m5qkq)he was the one who had responsibility and is accountable for this department for the last ten years.

So many open goalmouths are opening up at the moment that our Frontbench could be forgiven for thinking itself spoilt for choice. One hopes fervently that there will be none of the nonesense of 'not kicking a man when he is down': this is a perfect time to get in and administer a serious kicking.

Geo. Osborne got it right today: short, to the point and he walked away having drawn blood. If we build on this sort of performance we can win and win handsomely.

SG,Every mother with children is entitled to child benefit.
Whether it good to be giving taxpayers money to famillies like mine is a very good question.

phew, thank god we never had that election! this to deal with, Northern Rock, the funding problems in the armed forces...

Mike Thomas - Good grief yes of course - what a gift! What do you think the going rate is for a database of 25 million names, addresses and Birthdates?

I suppose the next question might be how many people have been granted security access to this data (who may even be in this country illegally given the recent security checking scandals) and may be part of an organisation which would be actively seeking this level of data......?

I would like to bet that Mr. Brown doesn't realise exactly what is happening both to HIS government, AND to his political career!

It seems to be a fact of life that when 'events' take on a momentum of their own, there is no stopping them OR turning back, there is one world-famous example (of many) that is part of an inquest at the moment!

This government has always been obssessed with 'doing-down' the conservatives on a daily basis, to ensure that they remain in power, it was bad enough under Blair (and gradually got more neurotic), but since Brown has achieved his ambition, the obssession with securing votes has gone into overdrive, so that 'doing-down' the conservatives has become a sort of paranoia.

How do they step back from all this mayhem?

"This government couldn't run a bath."

I love that phrase - it was the funniest thing I've read in ages.

Osborne should write out "HM Revenue & Customs" 100 times. A trivial point in itself, but getting it the wrong way around makes him sound amateurish or badly briefed imho.

The black market price for bank account and sort code details is about $40 to $300.

Compared to a credit card details which 'retail' for about $3.

Add to that full name, full address and date of birth as well. The government have shot the starting gun on organised crime to find this package. They'll have a fair idea on the postmark and destination address too now.

I work in an industry that has to fight these buggers back with increasingly sophisticated technology typically government specified to n degrees of electronic security to get even a sniff of business out of them.

Then some civil servant extracts the entire database, uses an office product to 'secure' data literally worth billions of pounds on the black market and then pops it in the post.... UNRECORDED!!!!!

The first violation would have been a very serious breach, very, very, very serious. To have three!!! Unbelievable.

In terms of clearances, I can't comment.

Mike Thomas - what is it they say? Once is unlucky, twice is a coincidence, three times.......?

I think the Government should hand all data-processing to The Reader's Digest; they never lose ANYONE's name, address...

All going pear shaped for The Broons - What a shame!!!!!

Unless my ears deceived me, I heard Jane Kennedy MP, Financial Secretary to the Treasury and minister directly responsible for HMRC say on PM that there was no need to worry about confidentiality of ID Card data because the systems used to protect them would be more modern that those used for the Child Benefit system which are many years old. This Government talks about risk assessment all the time and uses the Audit Commission to force local councils into assessing the risk of every decision they make, however minor.

Yet its own departments are clearly failing to undertake the most basic risk assessments of all. If the Child Benefit software - one of the most critical systems within HMRC not least due to its recording of the personal details of children - is not up to scratch, by her admission, what else is not? Did the previous Chancellor, Gordon Brown, during his 10 years in the post, ever raise the question of the security of the most critical systems for which he bore ultimate responsibility?

tn1487: "They knew this information was going to come out eventually. Is it possible they left it until today to knock our Education Green Paper off the top of the headlines."

Yes, this scandal "broke" on one of the rare days that the Conservatives were the number one news story. The spinmeisters are gambling that the public will forget about it pretty quickly. Also provides an opportunity for Broon to show how his government is humble about its mistakes and he stands by his ministers.

David Belchamber: "However, it is not government ministers who are leaking and losing the confidential information etc; that is people working for the government whom we will inherit once we win the next election."

Yes, they may be gambling on the public blaming government employees rather than the government itself, and they've got two years to show us all what improvements they've made.

I can't believe how low these wretched people have got, but the media are just are bad for being manipulated by it.

Thank God for the internet. I rarely even watch the TV news nowadays.

Just thinking this through - if this is the 4th time a database like this has gone missing in the last three months there MUST be a police investigation - the government MUST conclude that there is a risk that the data is being systematically targetted by organised crime.

It's just too many times for alarm bells not to be ringing all over Whitehall....

Is it not obvious that this data was entrusted to many of the illegal immigrants working in Government security? When tasked with this duty they all realised that they could now become anyone they wished and bingo, 25 million Brits become illegal immigrants!
As for saying they "could'nt run a bath", this is an insult to those people who genuinely can't run a bath. People, who I am certain , apart form this particular skill inadequacy, are quite superior to anyone in this cretinous Govenment. A government of all the talents? Anyone with talent would be too sensible to join this lot!

Adam in London at 17.00:

"Although whether Ministers who have slashed staffing by 25% can be totally without blame is very questionable".

You are quite correct, of course, but it is hardly likely that any government minister will resign because of the incompetence in his/her ministry; they just are not the resigning types.

Actually you raise another rather interesting point that I haven't seen highlighted yet.

That is that one G Brown, when Chancellor, found every possible way to spend and waste our money and then mortgage us up to the hilt with PFIs but, now that he is PM, he is quietly trying to unspend that money by cancelling things.

Is he now seriously trying to avoid the economic mess that he has been so assiduously building up over the last 8 years or so?

This is just about the cherry on the cake. For weeks there's been the whiff of incompetence and death about the government. All that was needed was something to perfectly encapsulate and crystalise this to imprint on the public mind.

Today was it.

There's no going back now. Labour's record is gone. ID cards are dead (thank the lord). Rejoice.

Osborne was impressive in his response. Not over the top, just letting the utter incompetence speak for itself.

New Labour - your days are numbered.

I really do not know why we are all so upset by today's revelations - surely this is the "open government" Broon has been promising us for months ?

Alan Douglas

Also - Fallon is an excellent MP and knows what he's talking about when it comes to Treasury matters. It's good he's receiving a higher profile and he should keep it.

Ministers presiding over departments which foul up on the grandest scale should not just resign their ministerial position. They should stand for re-election.

"Although whether Ministers who have slashed staffing by 25% can be totally without blame is very questionable".

I think it rather unwise for this site, which continually calls for tax cuts and a reduction in the number of civil servants, to follow this line of thought.........

Black Wednesday, as The Sun pointed out today, only cost 3.3 billion. Peanuts in comparison with the potential liability of Northern Rock.
But what was key was the direct effect it had on the public feeling for a few days.
We shall see how this pans out.
One things for sure - ID cards are dead.

We should focus very much on the structural malaise instigated by Gordon Brown, personally.

First, around 2000, he arranged for the National Insurance records office to move from the DHSS to Inland Revenue as it then was. Next came the brain wave of replacing the old fashioned benefits system run by DHSS by a system of tax credits run by the Inland Revenue. This was the merging of two quite differnet cultures of tax gathering and "social work". That alone was bad enough but it was compounded by IT difficulties.

Next came the merger of Revenue and Customs. Only a few synergies were on offer but against that the two main taxes are quite different and therefore the cultural problems of merger were quite difficult.Impose swinging staff cuts, undermine staff morale and you have a recipe for disaster.

The whole organisational mess can be laid at Gordon Brown's door, personally.

I am glad that Paul Gray did the honourable thing. It's a pity that people like Sir Ian Blair don't follow suit.

Finally why was data being sent by disc? Surely data should be transmitted on the Government Secure Internet (GSI)? If it was too bulky, why didn't NAO do their audit work on site rather than having sent down to London?

I really think Labour have just had their Black Wednesday. It will be utterly confirmed if there are any cases of identity theft arising from this. Even if there aren't it is a huge blow to public confidence in the Government.

This story is just about the most ludicrous crisis to have befallen this government.

Is it really beyond them for someone to walk to the NAO with the disks? Given the sensitivity of the documents and the security risks involved, bunging it in the mail is an act of mingboggling incompetence.

Fallon has been good in committee, where some MPs shine but never get recognition for it. There are others like him who work very hard indeed in Parliament but barely get noticed.

If there is someone out there who is just realising that they have had these discs misdelivered to them, may I make a suggestion?

Search the file to find the child benefit details of the children of Messrs Blair, Brown and Balls. Then post the details of the bank accounts into which their child benefit is paid, and the NI numbers of the parent(s) on the internet (don't include the details of the children, that would lose public sympathy). Leave it two hours and then ring the police to hand over the discs and own up. Plead public interest immunity.

More seriously, anyone whose name is on that list - consider whether your internet banking passwords would be easily guessable from the info on the disc. Lots of people use family dates of birth and/or family names as passwords. Change them today on all your accounts, regardless of whether they are the ones into which the benefit is paid. As pointed out above, it is a universal benefit for people with children. Some of these bank accounts will have lots of money in them. A fraudster would start with the best postcodes - SW3, SW7, NW1 and parts of Surrey.

Londoner makes a recommendation that would be very foolish to follow. Amusing as it would be, to post details of someone else's data would be exceedingly silly and the defence of 'public interest immunity' would almost certainly not work.

If you have this data, hand it in. Don't attempt to make any capital, political or otherwise, or you may find yourself up before a beak!

It apparently wasn't sent in the Royal Mail post, it was sent via the government's internal mail service.

James, I think it would be a long walk. Aren't the NAO in Newcastle.
Londoner, if by some miracle the CD falls into my grubby hands I'll follow your advice to the letter. Fifteen minutes of fame will be worth it!

Evan - don't be so po faced. The clue was in "More seriously..." But I certainly cannot agree with not making political capital out of it. Why ever not?

And actually my suggestion would not do much harm as presumably Messrs Brown, Blair and Balls would immediately get their banks to change their bank account nos and, if needs be, could probably get their NI nos changed too. Getting about 10 million NI nos changed would however be more of a problem...

But I do note that Tim seems to have turned comment "moderation" off recently. I had wondered whether my "incitement" to a criminal action might have been disallowed! For the avoidance of doubt - don't try it at home.

This Government couldn't run a bath.

Now have a look at the Recent Comments list. Looks quite good, eh?

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