New personal data blunder; POLITICS: Row after stick with details of criminals lost.
PERSONAL details relating to thousands of criminals have been lost in the latest in a line of Government data blunders.
The Home Office said a computer memory stick containing information on around 10,000 prolific offenders had been lost by a contractor.
PA Consulting warned the department on Monday that the stick, which also contained data on all 84,000 prisoners in England and Wales, might be lost.
A Home Office spokeswoman said: "We have been made aware of a security breach at the offices of an external contractor involving the loss of personal information about offenders in England and Wales.
"A full investigation is being conducted."
The spokeswoman also said the stick included information from the Police National Computer of around 30,000 people with six or more convictions in the last year.
Opposition parties described the loss as a "massive failure of duty" and accused the Government of being unable to keep any information safe.
Shadow home secretary Dominic Grieve said taxpayers would be "absolutely outraged" if the loss led to big compensation payouts to the criminals involved.
Mr Grieve said: "This is a massive failure of duty."
"The British taxpayer will be absolutely outraged if they are made to pick up the bill for compensation to serious criminals."
And Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg argued the loss was evidence the Government could not be trusted to run an ID cards scheme.
Mr Clegg said: "Charlie Chaplin could do a better job running the Home Office than this Labour Government."
The Government has been hit by a series of data loss revelations over the last year.
Last November, it emerged the details of 25 million individuals had been lost when discs containing child benefit data went missing in the post and in December it emerged information relating to three million learner drivers had been lost when a hard drive was stolen in Iowa.
Later that month HM Revenue and Customs admitting losing the details of 6,500 private pension holders.
FAILURE... Dominic Grieve.