Government loses 25m records – would you trust them with ID cards?

Is there a Richter scale for cock-ups? If so, the Government has just been hit by at least a Factor 9:

Alistair Darling has blamed mistakes by junior officials at HM Revenue and Customs after details of 25 million child benefit recipients were lost. The Chancellor said information, including bank details of 7m families, had been sent on discs to the National Audit office by unrecorded delivery. Mr Darling said it was “an extremely serious failure”.

Of course mistakes happen: you cannot eliminate error, either human or machine. All you can do is minimize it. The Lib Dems have long attacked Labour’s ID card scheme not simply for the personal intrusion of having to carry a bit of plastic if you want to step outside – but because of the huge national database future governments will be building up on all citizens.

Today’s Treasury debacle is another reminder why Labour’s determination to create a database surveillance society in the UK is a privacy disaster waiting to happen.

Read more by .
This entry was posted in News.


  • Peter Bancroft 20th Nov '07 - 5:08pm

    In my company people would get fired for (putting on and then) losing just details of a few sensible client details.

    It is indeed the processes which are broken here – millions of private details are being dumped on portable formats, not being properly managed and then presumably taken off the premises. It’s wrong on just so many levels.

    There can’t be anyone who honestly would trust the Home office to look after anything important. And that’s quite worrying, when you think about it.

  • Hywel Morgan 20th Nov '07 - 5:46pm

    Trust them with ID cards. I wouldn’t trust them with my hamster 🙂

    More seriously what this does show is that “strong legal safeguards against misuse” are only any good if they are followed.

    Incidents like this do strengthen the arguments for a law to inform people when their personal data is misplaced.

  • Hywel Morgan 20th Nov '07 - 6:18pm

    “I’ll have to go have a look at the Data Protection Act in detail.”

    Well in theory HMRC’s registration to process data could be revoked which might have some interesting consequences 🙂

  • Martin Land 20th Nov '07 - 6:51pm

    You really couldn’t make it up could you? If you read this in a novel by Jeffrey Archer, you would piss yourself laughing at his naive assumption that any government could make such a stupid mistake. Well, at least we won’t have any problem persuading people that Labour can’t be trusted – this is Labour’s ‘IT Iraq’.

  • Steve Comer 20th Nov '07 - 9:44pm

    Terry at (10) you are absolutely right. The General Secretary of PCS said: Mark Serwotka, general secretary of PCS said today:

    “The extremely serious loss of confidential data should be set in the context of the enormous pressure being placed on HMRC by government imposed job cuts totalling 25,000 by 2011, the recent merger and massive ongoing restructuring, which will see large scale office closures. With additional security checks expected to be put in place for people claiming and making enquiries about Child Benefit we urge the government to put extra resources into HMRC rather than continuing with cutting jobs.

    “The union and its members are co-operating with the department and the authorities in their enquiries into the missing Child Benefit data.”

    I work for HMRC and serve on the PCS National Executive. I feel this was an accident waiting to happen given the job cuts and low morale in the Department

  • ianshephard 20th Nov '07 - 9:50pm

    A question of honour.
    The head of HMRC resigns over the loss of some data by one of his juniors but the head of the Metropolitan Police remains in post after one of his officers kills an innocent man.
    Just an observation.

  • Alun Griffiths 20th Nov '07 - 10:55pm

    And can I just put in a word of caution about centrally held medical records as well.

  • Iain Roberts 21st Nov '07 - 12:00pm

    The reality is that the Government has systematically and deliberately handed over not only the IT systems but also IT strategy to a handful of very big companies.

    Where many other countries have kept a reasonable amount of IT skill in-house within Govt. departments, has not.

    Economically, this has resulted in the big companies taking us for a ride to the tune of billions of pounds, whilst smaller UK companies rarely get a chance to go for lucrative government contracts.

    From the technical side, government departments genuinely lack the expertise and skills to argue effectively with the suppliers and get what they’re given (or what the consultants tell them to get).

    Needless to say, the commercial interests of a big multi-national IT company are not always aligned with the interests of British citizens; especially when companies that mess up are welcomed back the next day to bid for more business (e.g. Fujitsu, EDS).

  • Watch out for an increased amount of Press stories from the Govt regarding; increased Terrorist threats, hoardes of illegal foreigners, immigrant benefit cheats etc.
    I think the majority of Labour members know ID cards wont work & would curtail liberty, but just cant stop trying to be seen as tough for the right wing press.
    The climate of fear is going to increase.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?


Recent Comments

  • James Baillie
    I of course largely agree with Sandy's comment above. Re what Tristan said - I don't disagree with you that we need to shift Tory voters, as someone who grew...
  • Tom
    Yue He - I echo what others have said. It would be a crying shame if someone thought that they couldn’t be involved in our party or our parliament because of ...
  • Bob Hale
    Keep going Yue He. Your obvious enthusiasm will get you there!...
  • Cassie
    @Jenny, 'the government has spent...' Indeed. But that doesn't answer the question: 'what have repeated strikes achieved for rail workers?' Which so far is 'n...
  • Joe Bourke
    The Conservatives have already raised income taxes by freezing personal allowances and increasing corporation tax from 19% to 25%. Neither the Conservatives or ...