Data loss casts doubt on ID card plan

It is “truly bizarre” the loss of 25 million people’s personal records has not made the government reconsider the practicalities of a nationwide identity database, the Conservative leader said today.

In their weekly Commons clash, David Cameron asked Gordon Brown if the revelation Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) had compromised the security of millions of people had made him stop and think about the safety of the national ID card scheme.

Mr Brown insisted ID cards would help make people feel more confident about their identity, citing the alleged benefits of biometric checks on identity.

The revelation HMRC roundly breached procedures – in a series of errors that culminated in two computer discs containing the details of every child benefit recipient going missing in the post – has been hailed as the most effective ammunition yet for the anti-ID card lobby.

Mr Cameron said: “People will find it truly bizarre, they will find it weird, that the prime minister does not want to stop and think about the dangers of a national ID database.”

Critics of the controversial ID card scheme say HMRC’s failure to properly manage data is proof the government cannot be trusted with a large volume of highly personal data.

The shadow chancellor George Osborne said yesterday that HMRC’s security breach “must mark the final blow for ambitions of this government to create a national ID card scheme – they simply cannot be trusted with people’s information.”

It has also cast doubt on the government’s ability to manage the huge NHS computer project, which will see every patients’ record uploaded on a central ‘spine’.

During today’s prime minister’s questions, Mr Cameron accused the prime minister of attempting to control everything, when actually he cannot control anything.

The prime minister retorted he would not accept any advice on competence from the opposition leader, contrasting Labour and the Tories’ differing economic records.

Mr Cameron had already attacked the prime minister for attempting to turn criticism towards the Conservatives.

He said: “On a day when the government has lost the details of 25 million people to try and blame the opposition is frankly pathetic.”

The Tory leader challenged Mr Brown to “be the big man” and admit things had gone wrong.

Mr Brown has already said he “profoundly regrets” the incident and repeatedly apologised for the inconvenience and worry caused to benefit claimants.