HMRC’s data loss: what the papers say

The quality papers have focused on the future of chancellor Alistair Darling,
and Brown’s role in merging the two tax departments while shedding jobs, as the
focus of their ire following HMRC’s loss of 25 million individuals’ details

This morning’s editorial columns in the British national press said the
chancellor was hanging onto his job by a thread, after residing over the data
loss disaster and the near-collapse of Northern Rock.

‘We don’t doubt he will hang onto his job while this mess is cleared up – but
his days must surely be numbered,’ said The Daily Telegraph.

If he wants to remain chancellor, he will need to show some initiative, said
The Guardian.

They also highlighted prime minister Gordon Brown’s role in pushing together
the Inland Revenue with HM Customs & Excise, and described the ensuing
efficiency drive that will see the super-department 25,000 jobs lighter by 2012
as a ‘costly distraction’.

‘It was Mr Brown who ordered the amalgamation… in a cost-cutting operation
that has created a culture in which an official can pop ultra-sensitive personal
data on half the population into the post without even recording or registering
the package,’ said The Daily Telegraph.

‘A report by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales
paints a damning picture of a floundering agency whose disorganisation, lack of
clarity and poor accountability would inflict “irreparable damage” on any normal
commercial body. It says the dual targets of cutting costs and increasing
efficiency are incompatible, with large job cuts leaving the HMRC reliant on
untrained staff. It is little wonder that security breaches occurred,’ said
The Times.

‘It its not Mr Darling who stretched Revenue & Customs to breaking point:
it was Gordon Brown… He began the swingeing cutbacks for this new
super-department,’ said The Guardian.

‘A clash of cultures had been feared,’ said the FT.

The papers spoke of HMRC chairman Paul Gray taking the honourable decision to
step down, and that the data loss would likely prove to be a major setback
against the government’s proposed identity card scheme.

Perhaps the most damning was The Independent, which said: ‘To mislay
half the population’s personal details – even if the information is never
misused – speaks of the grossest mismanagement. Even if it is not directly the
Government’s fault, this is an episode that will be immortalised in our
political folklore, entertaining a generation in the retelling.’

Further reading:

Hartnett takes top job at

Chancellor admits HMRC lost 25
million people’s data

Paul Gray’s resignation letter to HMRC staff in

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