Data on 15m benefits claims 'lost by Customs'

Data on 15m benefits claims 'lost by Customs'
Data on 15m benefits claims 'lost by Customs' 

By Emma Henry and agencies

The head of Revenue & Customs has resigned after his department lost the 
details of as many as 15 million child benefit claimants in what is 
believed to be one of the world's biggest ID protection failures.

Paul Gray quit ahead of a Commons statement this afternoon by Chancellor 
Alistair Darling on "a major operational problem".

It is understood the information was stored on discs, which went missing 
in transit and have not yet been recovered. The Metropolitan Police are 

The data includes names, home addresses, dates of birth, National 
Insurance numbers and bank details of millions of child benefit 

It is understood that senior officials from Revenue and Customs were 
called to a meeting with Treasury officials at the weekend as the scale 
of the problem emerged.

It is not the first security breach involving HM Revenue & Customs.

Earlier this month, BBC Radio 4's Money Box programme reported that a CD 
containing the personal details of thousands of Standard Life pension 
holders had gone missing, leaving them at risk of fraud.

Nearly 15,000 customers were warned to be on high alert for potential 
scams after their data was lost in transit by an external courier. 
However, it is thought that the statement does not relate directly to 
that case.

The revelations are likely to pile more pressure on Mr Darling, who has 
already been heavily criticised for his handling of the Northern Rock 

In a statement, Mr Gray said: "This is not the way I would have planned 
to organise my departure from HMRC."

Michael Fallon, the Conservative member of the House of Commons Treasury 
Committee, said he was "stunned" by Mr Gray's departure.

He told BBC News 24: "Paul Gray is a very distinguished public servant 
who had served successive governments and we thought had a very good 
grip on the problems at Revenue and Customs."

The merger of Customs and Excise with the Inland Revenue announced by 
the then Chancellor Gordon Brown in 2004 created the biggest department 
in Whitehall.

The giant, minister-less super-ministry, was put under the control of an 
executive board, although the Chancellor remained responsible to 
parliament for its operations.

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