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Personal details of 25m people have gone missing, Darling tells Parliament

The chairman of HM Revenue & Customs Paul Gray has quit after the confidential details of 25 million people were lost by the Government department.

Chancellor Alistair Darling told Parliament this afternoon that this was an “extremely serious failure” on the part of the HMRC but stressed that there is no suggestion any identity theft had taken place.

Darling said the UK Payments Association, the British Bankers’ Association and the Build Societies Association had all been informed at an early stage and passed on this information to members.

He said accounts affected had been flagged up and no unusual activity reported. He said the Government would provide compensation in the event of any money being lost through identity theft as a result of the episode.

Darling also promised a review into HMRC procedures which would produce an interim report next month and full report in the Spring. This will be conducted in consultation with the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

Shadow chancellor George Osborne suggested this was the final straw for the Government’s ID scheme as it proved it was not competent to manage people’s personal information.

Osborne said: “The Chancellor has serious questions to answer, and faces the huge task of restoring the public’s confidence in his department. He will have to demonstrate over the next few weeks that he is capable of doing this.”

LibDem acting leader Vince Cable suggested it was now the Treasury, rather than the Home Office, that was unfit for purpose.

Gray offered to resign last week after two discs containing the personal details- including names, dates of birth, child benefit numbers and bank account numbers- of 25 million people in 7.5 million families went missing.

The discs had been transported by unrecorded delivery- in breach of rules governing data protection- to the National Audit Office but never reached their destination.

Earlier this month Standard Life confirmed that a disk containing the confidential information of 15,000 clients had been lost in a package sent by HMRC to Standard Life’s pensions department. In a recent Parliamentary answer HMRC revealed 41 staff laptops had been stolen in the last 12 months.

Informed Choice managing director Nick Bamford says: “The FSA is regularly pointing to the financial services industry saying how careful we have to be with financial data because it can be used to commit crimes. Then we have the Government making available sensitive personal and financial information. One person resigning doesn’t seem proportionate enough.”

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