In a shock announcement yesterday, the Chancellor Alistair Darling said two computer discs holding the personal details of all families in the UK with a child under 16 have gone missing. The Child Benefit data on them includes name, address, date of birth, National Insurance number and, where relevant, bank details of 25m people. MPs gasped as Mr Darling told them: "The missing information contains details of all Child Benefit recipients: records for 25 million individuals and 7.25 million families."
The data was sent on 18 October and senior management at HMRC were told it was missing on 8 November and the chancellor on 10 November. The prime minister's official spokeswoman said Gordon Brown has "full confidence" in Mr Darling. She added that Mr Darling has not offered to resign. Why did it take so long, were they trying to cover up their mistakes?
When Tony Blair announced his full confidence that usually meant they didn’t have long to go. I heard the chief secretary of the treasury interviewed, saying that they had done everything possible. That’s not true at all, they kept this quiet for far too long. Families could have protected there bank accounts weeks ago if they had been informed in time, now if anyone has the discs will have had weeks to break the code and take money from accounts.
Labour are trying to spin the story so it doesn’t seem so bad, they imply that only families on benefit are effected, when the announcement says all families with children. They say that there is no evidence that its in the possession of a thief, but as they only just announced it few will have checked their accounts yet. They say the only people who need to act are those who use their childrens birthdays or family names for passwords, but I do not believe that. Banks are always telling us to protect personal information for a reason. Why on earth didn’t they remove the personal information, as the audit office request? Why didn’t they encrypt the disk, then the data would have been safe? They didn’t even send it registered post! Then they describe using a TNT courier as internal mail, seems much like anyone else using a courier.
The act of loosing the data is terrible, the fact that it seems merely to be the latest in a long line seems to indicate a government not fit for purpose. There have been other instances of this before, but not on such a scale. They make cutbacks in the Environment Agency before it floods costing millions. They cut the spending on the HM Revenue and Customs, merging separate organisations and giving them extra duties, we can all see what happened. Despite their rhetoric Bird Flu outbreaks are becoming more frequent. Privatising the cleaning in hospitals has lead to increased outbreaks of disease. What happened to the media image Brown had of a clever politician, now it seems instead of a ‘government of all the talents’ (GOAT) we have government of all the talentless incompetents (GOATI).
A previous ministry of all the talents existed in 1806, and included members of all parties. It lasted a little over a year, and was followed by 10 years in opposition. Any moredn parallels?
* See www.historyhome.co.uk/c-eight/ministry/ldgrenmi.htm
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