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MP: Monster ministry to blame for personal records loss

MICHAEL FALLON: described the loss of the records as "catastrophic"
MICHAEL FALLON: described the loss of the records as "catastrophic"
GWYN PROSSER: rejects the suggestion that the Government should now reconsider plans for identity cards
GWYN PROSSER: rejects the suggestion that the Government should now reconsider plans for identity cards

A KENT MP says the Government must shoulder the blame for the loss of personal data of 25 million families because of its decision to create a "monster ministry" through the merger of HM Customs and Excise and the Inland Revenue.

Sevenoaks MP Michael Fallon, a senior member of the cross-party Treasury select committee, said the merger had resulted in a "monster department" that had handed responsibility for managing benefits to officials who had previously had no experience.

Mr Fallon said: "Gordon Brown [as Chancellor] set this up. This monster of a department that pushed together two separate agencies was a Labour creation. It gave the job of administering benefits to people who had never had that responsibility before."

He confirmed that senior managers from HMRC, which has the job of collecting £400billion of taxes as well as administering benefits and tackling smuggling, had been summoned to appear before the Treasury committee in a fortnight.

"Our committee is responsible for overseeing HMRC and senior managers will be appearing before MPs in a fortnight. We will want to find out why staff did not follow procedures; why there have been two or three breaches like this and what role the Government had."

He described the loss of the records as "catastrophic" and said the Government could no longer be relied upon to look after personal data.

Meanwhile, Kent Labour MP Gwyn Prosser, has revealed that he raised concerns about the merger and the loss of civil service jobs but said both the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats had supported it.

"I did have some concerns about the merger, especially about the number of officers they were laying off."

The Dover MP, who is on an all-party group of MPs examining identity fraud, rejected the suggestion that the Government should, in the light of the data loss, now reconsider plans for identity cards.

"The safeguards within the identity card system are going to be the most robust in the world and there’s almost a counter-argument that an incident like this will mean identity fraud will become even more difficult and the our systems will be even more secure," he said.

He conceded that the crisis, along with a row over Northern Rock, was damaging for the party. "We have taken a hit but so long as the Chancellor has been open and transparent, we will come out of it and there will be better and more secure systems in place."

Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs has set up a Child Benefit Helpline on 0845 302 1444 for customers who want more details.

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