More than 600 staff at HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) have been disciplined for accessing personal or sensitive data, it has been revealed.
In a Commons written reply, Treasury Financial Secretary Jane Kennedy said that in many cases the penalty for staff was dismissal.
There were 238 people disciplined in 2005, 180 in 2006, and 192 in 2007.
The secretary was responding to a question from shadow home affairs spokesman James Brokenshire.
Ms Kennedy said the figures showed “the strength of HMRC’s disciplinary procedures”.
The numbers represented less than 1% of HMRC staff, she added.
Ms Kennedy said HMRC has a “strict policy forbidding staff to access customer records unless they have a legitimate business need.
“Breaches of this policy are taken seriously and any breach will result in the commencement of disciplinary proceedings.
“Each case is treated on its merits but in many cases the disciplinary penalty for breach in dismissal.”
HMRC was formed in April 2005, when the Inland Revenue and HM Customs and Excise departments merged.
Gerry adds : There’s a good chance that some of these breaches were made easier by the plethora of non-production databases which had not been masked!