Sack the Chancellor


If you lose 15 million records of child benefit claimants and keep it secret for ten days, it is not good enough to force out the civil servant at the head of the department responsible.

The head of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs has left his £170,000 a year job. It is time for his boss to go too. The Chancellor should resign over this scandal.

It is unbelievable that data should be lost in transit from HMRC to the government's National Audit Office. This is much more serious than the US veterans data breach scandal in the US last year.

Last week the Information Commissioner Richard Thomas and his deputy, David Smith, told the House of Lords they had called on the Ministry of Justice to make it a criminal offence “for those who knowingly and recklessly flout data protection principles” where there are serious consequences.

Will they call for the prosecution of Paul Gray? Will they call for the resignation of the Chancellor Alistair Darling? I’d like to think so.

Will the government enact the criminal sanctions that the Information Commissioner has so belatedly called for? I’d like to think so.

The trouble is, we know they won’t. An investigation will be launched. If anyone is found to responsible it will be the most junior person who is named and shamed.

Those whose cavalier policies with regard to IT systems and data control, those who refused to listen to IT and security staff, and who belittle professionals and professionalism as “special interest groups” indulging in “special pleading”, will be left untroubled.

Meanwhile the government will push ahead with staff cuts at HMRC and its calls for more efficiency savings. There will be more IT staff jobs lost as a result, more expertise walking out of the door, and more failures in the future.

It is pitiful. Meanwhile, the Lib Dem's acting leader asked in the Commons this afternoon, How many CDs of data are routinely passing around government?

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