British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has apologised for the loss of millions of people’s personal details and has ordered a review into the massive security lapse.
Two computer discs containing information on everyone in Britain who receives child benefit have been lost after being sent by courier from tax authority HM Revenue and Customs in Tyne and Wear to the audit office in London.
Brown said: “Everybody who is a recipient of child benefits should know that we will take every proper procedure now to improve the working of HMRC, and to improve the working of every govenment department and agency.
“And I have announced the inquiry not simply into HMRC but that the Secretary to the Cabinet will look at every government department and agency.”
Finance Minister Alistair Darling has stressed that there is no evidence to suggest the information has fallen into criminal hands. However that is scant comfort to those affected, worried their child benefit payments may now be delayed.
One mother said: “I just think it is disgusting, especially at this time of year, as well. I mean, any other time it is bad but especially near Christmas you are worrying anyway about money.”
The lost information includes the full names and addresses of parents and children and bank account numbers. People are being urged to keep an eye on their statements, especially as many use their child’s name as a password.