The revelation that two CDs were lost in the post is the latest example of packages been sent by HMRC and them not arriving and procedures been flouted. Below is a timeline of other incidents in the lead up to the chancellor’s statement.
September: Records of around 15,000 people’s details are lost after being sent by HMRC to Standard Life. In the same month, an HMRC laptop containing around 400 ISA customers’ details is stolen.
October 18: A junior official again sends child benefit data to the NAO via the courier TNT, which operates the HMRC’s post system. The package, containing two CDs with details relating to 25 million individuals, is not recorded or registered and fails to arrive.
October: A second copy of the data is sent by HMRC to the NAO, again in breach of procedures. This time the package is sent by registered post and arrives safely.
November 8: Senior management at HMRC is informed that the October 18 package is missing.
November 10: Mr Darling is told about the missing data and immediately informs Gordon Brown, the prime minister. The chancellor orders an immediate investigation, searches of all premises where the package might be found and action to prevent a repeat of the incident.
November 12: HMRC report that evidence has been found which might lead to the retrieval of the missing package.
November 14: Mr Darling instructs Paul Gray, Revenue and Customs chairman, to call in the Metropolitan Police, having decided that the HMRC searches have failed. Police searches of HMRC and NAO premises, along with interviews of staff, continue.
November 15: Mr Darling discusses the incident with Information Commissioner Richard Thomas, who agrees that remedial action must be taken before a public statement is made.
Week of November 12-18: Mr Gray informs Mr Darling “on his own initiative” that he feels he should resign.