Did Darling mislead the House?
Some wag on the Today programme used the joke featured in the headline this morning – and after this evening’s release of emails from the National Audit Office it appears to be even more apt.
For documents have just been released (you can download them here) which shed further light on the circumstances leading to the dispatch by HMRC of the missing data discs.
Most importantly they cast doubt on the statement by Alistair Darling to MPs on Tuesday that the blame can be solely attributed to a “junior” official. For a senior official was copied in on the correspondence and that the National Audit Office had made it clear that they “did not need address, bank or parent details” in the download.
But the full data was sent because as the correspondence notes “I must stress we must make use of data we hold and not over-burden the business by asking them to run additional data scans/filters that my incur a cost to the department”.
As the Guardian web-site notes “The documents appear to contradict Alistair Darling’s assertion that the loss of the two CDs was down to a “junior official” who acted alone in breaching procedures, a version of events backed by Gordon Brown during prime minister’s questions yesterday.”
We are entering into serious territory here and it will be hard for the government to resist making a further commons statement.
The worse thing for Brown-Darling is that this will keep the affair in the news.