Senior HMRC official briefed before data loss

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A senior HM Revenue & Customs official was fully briefed on the decision
to send the banking and NI details of 25 million child benefit recipients to the
NAO, a series of emails has revealed.

An exchange of emails between the NAO and HMRC on the child benefit data
issue, released yesterday, showed that a senior HMRC official had been copied in
on an email from the NAO asking the taxman to strip out sensitive information
from the data and send it ‘as safely as possible’.

The HMRC declined the request on the grounds that sensitising the data would
be too expensive.

‘I must stress we must make use of data we hold and not over-burden the
business by asking them to run additional data scans/filters that may incur a
cost to the department,’ the email from HMRC to the NAO revealed.

The email disclosures run contrary to the version of events put forward by
Alistair Darling. The chancellor said it was a junior official who had sent the
discs to the NAO, blatantly flouting HMRC procedure.

The emails, however, show that senior officials were fully informed and that
cost cutting, rather then procedural error, resulted in the discs containing the
data going missing.

Further reading:

the email exchange here

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