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Learning English - Words in the News
21 November, 2007 - Published 12:28 GMT
Britain information blunder
British Chancellor Alistair Darling
British Chancellor Alistair Darling

In Britain, benefit claimants have been warned to check their bank accounts, after personal details of 25m people were lost. The Chancellor, Alistair Darling, said that the records disappeared on their way from the tax and customs department to the National Audit Office. This report from Jo Coburn:

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The fallout was never going to be pretty but the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Alistair Darling, has been savaged in the British press. The sheer scale of the security breach - affecting millions of families - has made it a huge public issue. Despite reassurances from Mr Darling that people's personal details are not in the hands of fraudsters and that a police investigation is underway, there are still serious questions about how this could have happened.

The personal position of the Chancellor may not be under immediate threat; the opposition parties have not called directly for his resignation. But if it emerges that the information has been used for illegal purposes, that situation could rapidly change. More worrying perhaps is the wider issue of the economic competence of the government, particularly after events at the mortgage-provider, Northern Rock, which has been kept afloat only with huge emergency loans from the Bank of England.

The fate of the missing data could also influence the debate over the introduction of identity cards in Britain. One minister said privately, 'it would almost be impossible for the scheme to survive'.

Jo Coburn, BBC, Westminster

Listen to the words

savaged in the British press
attacked or criticised very strongly by the newspapers in Britain

Despite reassurances
although words of comfort were given to try to make people feel less worried

personal details
information that's usually private, for example, where and when you were born, your address etc.

people who get money by lying to or deceiving people

his resignation
him to leave his job (here, because Darling has made a mistake and should take the blame for it by leaving his job)

ability to do the job

kept afloat
given enough money to continue as a business

what happens to someone or something, especially finally or in a negative way


identity cards
official documents with your name, date of birth, photograph or other information on them which proves who people are

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