So where are the CDs?
Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs have begun sending letters to the over 7 million households affected by the child benefit fiasco. The letter seeks to reassure people by stating that the missing data "is likely to still be on Government property". (A version of it appears on their website).
How on earth does HMRC know that the missing data "is likely to still be on Government property"? When I asked their press office I was told that "this was the indication of the investigation" and that the chancellor had already said as much. A quick check of Hansard reveals that he did not say that. He did say that there was no evidence the data had fallen into the wrong hands but there is a big difference in these statements - one says "don't worry your heads", the other "so far there's no proof crooks have got their hands on your precious personal data".
Meanwhile, the National Audit Office is preparing to release to MPs the exchange of e-mails between its officials and staff at HMRC. These e-mails will, it's claimed, show that the official at the HMRC who sent the e-mail was "a junior official" and that, although the e-mail was copied to a "senior official" there is no evidence that that senior individual took the decision to release the full database in breach of HMRC procedures and, almost certainly, the law.
Note: the term "junior official" has a precise Whitehall definition. It means below Grade 7. Thus, confusingly, someone termed a "senior business manager" may still be a "junior official" in Whitehall speak
UPDATE 1430GMT: Oh dear oh dear oh dear. Apologies for my statement above that "the term 'junior official' has a precise Whitehall definition. It means below Grade 7." That is what I was told. Now I'm told that the only cross-Whitehall definition of junior is someone not in the "senior civil service" i.e. the top brass - permanent secretaries, directors general, who are Grade 5 and above.
So, is a "senior business manager" in HMRC junior or senior? Wish I knew.