A committee of MPs has proposed that "repeated or reckless" data breaches be considered as a criminal offence which means that culprits could go to jail or pay heavy fines.
The Common Justice committee delivered a report to the information commissioner and called for tighter rules in the light of data loss cases that wrecked the public trust in the government's handling of private information.
“There is evidence of a widespread problem within government relating to establishing systems for data protection and operating them adequately,” the report says.
The Committee's chairman, Lib-Dem Alan Beith, added "The scale of the data loss by government bodies and contractors is truly shocking but the evidence we have had points to further hidden problems. It is frankly incredible, for example, that the measures HMRC has put in place were not already standard procedure."
The report also highlighted that major flaws and weaknesses existed in the data protection process within public departments; one example given is that the discs containing the child benefit data was unencrypted which made it easier for criminals to use.