What recent discussions he has had with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) on the provision of customer services by private sector companies in HMRC contact centres; and if he will make a statement.
I am happy to meet the hon. Gentleman, but HMRC is exploring ways in which it can improve the service in contact centres so that when taxpayers and tax credit claimants phone up they can get through more easily and more reliably. I would have thought that that was something that hon. Members on all sides of the House would welcome.
May I ask my hon. Friend to recognise that the service provided by HMRC contact centres is not good enough and that many of our companies have great difficulty with continuity of service? Anything that can be done to improve the service is wholly to be welcomed.
I am grateful for those comments. It is worth noting that about 70% of calls now get through to HMRC contact centres on the first attempt, whereas last year the proportion was about 40%. Progress has been made, therefore, but we want to make further progress and it is sensible that HMRC explores what possibilities exist.
The overall trend in HMRC employment has been downwards since 2005, when the organisation was formed, and that will continue, but we are redeploying staff, for example in enforcement and compliance, which means that additional staff are being taken on to deal with tax evasion and tax avoidance.