back to article Darling plays wait and see on HMRC disc loss

The chancellor Alistair Darling today batted away MPs questions on how his department handled the loss of 25 million child benefit records by repeatedly deferring to a report not due for several months. In a statement to Parliament, he approved urgent measures designed to prevent more humiliating government data losses, which …


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  1. Mo

    Wait and see…

    Well, what we know is that the data may be in criminal hands, and it may not be.

    “No evidence” that the data has been used fraudulently doesn't mean it hasn't necessarily, just that we don't know one way or the other!

    Is (Captain) Darling so clueless that he doesn't understand this, or is he banking on most of the British public not understanding it?

  2. Marty
    Paris Hilton


    how pathetic.... the report has made recomendations, and the gov. will not imploment them untill the full report is published... at least 6 months away... 6 months until our data is safe....

    if i descovered a hole in the integrity of my computer would i wait six months or so before i fixed it... I dont think so....


  3. Tom Chiverton

    horse... door... bolted... stable...

    "ban all bulk data transfers via removable media without encryption"

    That's not enough - the muppets will just writ e the password on a post-it note inside the case...

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Storm in a tea cup?

    No one even knows that the CDs even left the office.

    But the next time your son/daughter misplaces one of your games or audio CDs, no doubt you can call up Inspector Knacker of The Yard to sent a posse of constables to search your house for you. [Just as they did for HMRC]

  5. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    Need to know basis

    The serfs don't need to know.

    And the police wouldn't know what to do about it even if they did know, which as we all know, they don't know! As Sir Humphrey might say.

  6. Simon Dummett

    Shurely shome mishtake?

    "the Treasury found out HMRC had lost 25 child benefit records"

    Looks like Chris Williams lost 6 zeros there...

    Let's hope he doesn't work for HMG - or it'll be business as usual...

  7. Simon Connolly
    Dead Vulture

    Ahh how ironic

    "Straight after Darling's grilling, the transport secretary Ruth Kelly stood up to tell MPs that the DVLA had lost the personal details of three million driving theory test candidates."

    Why does this not surprise me? I'm lucky that i passed it 2 years ago - if they lost my infomation i'd sue them for incompotence! Should do that anyway - useless gov can forget about those 'ID' card things.

  8. fred base

    ref Storm in a tea cup

    @Ron Hughes - I'm glad you're not responsible for the protection of my personal data. You really don't appear to have any understanding of how serious the loss of the information is. Or how valuable it is.

    People's lives and reputations can be ruined through identity theft. If you ended up being arrested under terrorist legislation because of some crime committed by someone calling themselves Ron Hughes, you might think twice before saying "its no big deal".

    Some people (including governments and criminals) are rubbing their hands with glee at the easy availability of private information they could only previously dream about.

  9. kain preacher

    The royals

    I wounder how things would be different if the data that was lost had the Royals data on it. would they actually care then ?

  10. dek

    Numbskulls one and all

    Who's this Poynter and why did it take him three weeks to state the bleedin' obvious? And why, like others have asked, will nothing be apparently done for maybe six months... oh I know why: it is now an established Poo Labour tactic to stall anything and everything for at least six months (indefinitely if they can) because that's well beyond the length of the general public memory. At least that scam has a modicum of sophistication about it unlike Browns tactic of picking a statement for the day and using it to answer any question regardless of it being appropriate or not. Worse yet is he gets away with it!

  11. Bruce Leyden


    'Echelons', surely? Unless you're referring to the HMRC command heirarchy as some sort of Escher/echelonment hybrid which, now it comes to mind, is probably not very far from the truth.

  12. Sceptical Bastard

    No shit, Sherlock!

    Quote: "...ban all bulk data transfers via removable media without encryption. Transferring data to removable media from personal computers and laptops will be made impossible... When removable media are sent, secure couriers should be used."

    Mr Poynter! You are a genius! You've had an Einstein moment - you are the new Archimedes, a Newton or Gallileo pour nos jours.

    No El Reg reader could've thought up such a cunning scheme so quickly! And no IT pro could've given this 'department of the bleedin obvious' advice at the bargain-basement price that PricewaterhouseCooper doubtless charged. My tax is being spent well.

    Anyway, as Tom Chiverton notes above, whatever security policies are implemented the sheer bloody muppetiness of the civil service lusers will subvert it.

  13. Andy Worth

    Another thought.....

    Of course it could be that the said lackey who was supposed to send the CD's forgot to do so, and when repeatedly chased about them, said that he had sent them but would send them again, to avoid getting a knackering from his boss for not doing his job.

    Backfire of the year that isn't it? :)

  14. Andy ORourke

    Missing the point?

    Once the government has successfully 'lost' the personal details of every man, woman and child in the country there will be no need to worry about identity theft and personal details being open to abuse when they introduce ID cards since everyone’s details will already be in the public domain!

  15. Michael

    no information or intelligence that the data has fallen into wrong hands

    I beg to differ. The data is in the wrong hands. It is being handled by HMRC.

  16. TeeCee Gold badge

    Urgent recommendations?

    So, that'll just take a year or so to decide which department's remit this falls under, form a task force, hire consultants, scope, rescope, document, BullShit 5750, review, review in comittee, redraft, security classify, publish, downgrade security classification, approve, hand to comms 'n pr, redesign as a glossy pamphlet with a smiling employee at a computer on the front, print and distribute to each desk to be shoved in the bin on Monday morning before it's actually implemented then.

  17. yeah, right.


    Meanwhile, back at the Cattlefarm, FSE has fined companies several million pounds for doing exactly the same thing as the government. I wonder if they'll be able to claim that they're just following standard government practice in losing unencrypted information?

    So, is anything actually going to happen to these departments, or are they going to continue being allowed to play cowboy with our private information?

    I'm guessing the latter.

    Bring on the revolution!

  18. regadpellagru

    Captain Darling strikes forth

    ""Let us wait and establish the facts rather than jump to conclusions," he said in response to a Conservative question."

    LOL. I really hope his home address is not in HRMC DB !

    He's really spot on for another Blackadder season.

  19. Slaine
    Thumb Up

    HM's Olympian Competition

    It probably hasn't escaped your attention that Her Majesty's many and varied departments of goverance, social support, organisational activities, data collection and information dissemination have been having a competition over the last year to see which one can "lose" the largest number of personal detail records in the most incredulously stupid and avoidable way WITHOUT getting sacked.

    I am pleased to announce that the current winner is still the Social Security (child benefit) offices with a fantastic score of 25 million. It looks like no-one will better this amazing achievement but lets see what the future holds... after all, there are still plenty of opportunities between now and 2012.

  20. Slaine
    Thumb Up

    ... just as an afterthought ...

    Now then Darling, would you kindly lie down on this here track whilst we wait and establish if the trains are still running on time. Ms Kelly, I'd like a second opinion, would you join him? etc.

  21. Dave Skinner

    @Simon Connolly

    Actually, if I heard the news right last night, the records lost pertain to 2004-2007, so you're probably one of 'em after all.

  22. Barry Mahon

    What perception!!

    "The disabling of the download function on all personal and laptop computers

    in use across HMRC to prevent their use to download data onto removable


    Wow!! What a perceptive suggestion, I must remember to use PLC in future....

    I assume it means that such a capability was not already disabled??

    Bye, Barry

  23. BoldMan

    My question:

    How do you "disable the download function" on all personal and laptop computers?

    Remove the network connection?

    Remove the CD/DVD drive?

    Remove the fuse from the plug?

    Remove the moron sitting in front of the screen?

  24. Colin Millar

    They will bravely battle on

    The problem is that sometimes there will be a legitimate need to transfer some data from one place to another and a complete ban on the use of removable media will need to be circumvented for some legitimate purpose. Once that has been done it will become a standard practice to use the circumvention.

    Information security is all about users understanding information security. Technical protections only last until someone finds a way round them.

  25. Anonymous Coward

    When will the hurting stop?

    When will the BS stop?

    When will we finally get some accounta-fuckin-bility in this "Democratic" Government?

    When will the electorate wake up to the fact that they are a bunch of power hungry liars?

    When will the electorate stop letting them get away with it?

    When will they realise that the opportunists on the oppossite bench are just as bad?

    I know, let's start a War with Iran; that will distract everyone enough...

  26. John Munyard

    Standard New Labour tactics

    Whenever this Government is caught with it's pants down it's almost stock tactic these days is to "announce a full independent inquiry". Doing this allows the Government to kick the whole issue into the long grass whilst appearing to be "doing something" about it.

    The inquiry is appointed to someone with a favourable view of the Government (or as in this case someone whose Business income is substantially dependant on Government contracts) to ensure a favourable analysis. Then in advance of publication the Government has the opportunity to edit the draft report, remove anything it disagrees with and absolve the Ministers of any responsibility. When the report is published the Government minister simply agrees with the recommendations and says most of it's been implemented already.

    Gordon Brown has personally initiated over 25 independent reports in the summer, including investigations into Northern Rock, the Dodgy Doner scandal and now this one. The Hutton report is another example that springs to mind.

    Someone must hold their feet to the fire now - not in six months time. It is absolutely disgraceful that these muppets should be able to determine the scope and timescale of inquiries into thier own alleged incompetence. If a similar accusation was levelled at a Police Officer or Doctor, those people would probably be suspended from duty pending the results, but apparently MP's are an exception to the rules.

  27. Slaine

    dum de dum dum

    @ boldman:

    the short answer is, naturally, "All of the above"

    reminds me of the netword department's running joke about an "ID-10-T" error, or - "the problem resides between the keyboard and the chair".

    @ Moron Brown PM:

    I read a few posts up, "Let us wait and establish the facts rather than jump to conclusions" and yet yesterdays news states quite clearly [1]that the government were conducting pilot studies on HIPS for 3 and 4 bedroomed properties before rollout... and then [2]that the rollout was now progressing before the results of this study could be completed. Just ONE question, Prime Minister; "Is there ANYTHING, anything at all, even just an insignificant marginal occurance, that you have FAILED to lie about?"

  28. PolicyWatcher

    "Who's this Poynter and why did it take him three weeks"


    "Who's this Poynter and why did it take him three weeks to state the bleedin' obvious?"

    He's the chairman of Price Waterhouse Coopers.

    I think that answers both your questions...

  29. Anonymous John

    "rather than jump to conclusions"

    Like Darling did when he tried to blame one rogue junior civil servant?

  30. Anonymous Coward

    Don't panic, let's ban cds

    You have to love when politicos say "don't panic, let's wait until we have facts" and then turn around and impose bans on liquid on board plains.

    Or is it just when people reacting in the heat of the moment would affect THEM in a bad way that they do that? I mean, it's not like it's the politicians fault that the data was lost and that the procedures to keep it save was secret and that incompetence is a way of life in most government (the other ones being corrupt more then incompetent, it's all about balance).... o wait.

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