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Personal Data

Volume 468: debated on Thursday 29 November 2007

11. What recent assessment he has made of the implications of the loss by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs of personal data. (169073)

We have heard a lot about what advice has been given to banks regarding the loss of personal details. Given the sort of information that has been lost by the Government, one thing that could be dangerous is its use to apply for credit cards. What action have the Government taken in that regard?

We have been in consultation with organisations such as Experian to discuss what could be done to protect people from identity fraud and to prevent the use of that information by criminal elements. As things stand, both the police and the banks are advising us that there is no evidence of fraudulent use of the information, which we believe could still be found. That is why the police inquiry and the searches are ongoing.

The Minister will know that I have apologised to the Chancellor for yesterday. I do not hold Ministers accountable for the random actions of individuals, but Ministers do have to answer for the fact that individuals can access data, even after so many security reviews, without a relatively simple management system overlay to provide an audit trail and to ring alarm bells.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for the apology that he has offered for yesterday, although it was a very entertaining intervention. In response to his question, I would say that he is right. That is why we have invited Kieran Poynter to conduct a review. That will not take a long time; we need swift action on this in order to be satisfied that all the necessary protection and security is in place. My right hon. Friend and I look forward to receiving the interim report on 14 December.