UK data protection minister did not know about breach

Chancellor's Commons speech broke the news

The UK government's data protection minister did not know about the huge data breach at HM Revenue and Customs until he heard the chancellor's statement in the Commons on November 20, he has admitted.

Chancellor Alistair Darling said he had been told of the data breach -- in which CDs containing the details of 25 million people were lost in transit between HMRC and the National Audit Office -- on 10 November.

But data protection minister Michael Wills was forced to admit to parliament's joint committee on human rights that Darling's Commons speech was the first he had heard of Britain's biggest ever data breach.

"I'm afraid I learned about it when I heard the statement in the House of Commons," Wills told the mixed committee of MPs and peers.

Wills was mocked by committee members, who asked whether he did not find it "rather surprising" that as data protection minister he had not been notified earlier about the breach.

The data protection minister -- who was interrupted and barracked as he spoke -- answered: "I think it's perfectly reasonable for me not to be informed the moment something like this happened. I would expect the responsible officials and the responsible ministers first of all to discover the extent of the problem and then do whatever they could to put the problem right immediately.

"At that point comes the task of actually looking to see what can be done systemically to make sure something like this doesn't happen again. At that point I would expect this department [the Ministry of Justice] to get involved."

Under repeated pressure from the committee, Wills said: "My responsibility is not for actually stopping any breaches of data protection personally, individually or even corporately within the department where and whenever they occur." Instead the Ministry of Justice was responsible for setting out a "proper legislative apparatus" for data protection.

A review of data sharing and data protection has been ordered by prime minister Gordon Brown, Wills added.

Wills was also quizzed by sceptical committee members about what the HMRC fiasco meant for the security of data to be held on the national identity register that will underpin the government's ID card program.

"You obviously are going to have to look at the national identity register again in the light of this," he conceded. "Everything will have to be scrutinized."

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Tash Shifrin

Computerworld UK
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?