National Insurance

Oral Answers to Questions — Social Security – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 2nd March 1992.

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Photo of Mr Hugh Dykes Mr Hugh Dykes , Harrow East 12:00 am, 2nd March 1992

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what is his estimate of the time necessary to switch from the current system for collecting national insurance to one based on annual assessment.

Photo of Ann Widdecombe Ann Widdecombe , Maidstone

It could take three years or even more, depending on the exact nature of the change and, of course, the priority given to it.

Photo of Mr Hugh Dykes Mr Hugh Dykes , Harrow East

Is my hon. Friend aware that that bizarre proposal, tucked into the back end of a newspaper on 25 January by an Opposition spokesman, would cause total chaos and huge problems for companies making such a change, particularly small companies? It would mean devastating expense in terms of new software and the reprogramming of computers. Would my hon. Friend care to comment on the chaos proposed by the Labour party?

Photo of Ann Widdecombe Ann Widdecombe , Maidstone

The proposal would cause a huge administrative burden not only on business—the necessity to give businesses good notice would take some time—but on the DSS and the Inland Revenue. It would also mean massive computer reprogramming and possibly the expense of other computer programmes which would have to be introduced.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , Linlithgow

In the absence of a member of the Scottish National party in the House, may I ask the Minister to write me a letter setting out, in terms of computer programming and related difficulties, the problems of collecting national insurance in the event of an independent Scottish Parliament?

Photo of Ann Widdecombe Ann Widdecombe , Maidstone

Where are the Members of the Scottish National party if they are so concerned about the matter? As for the unlikely event that the hon. Gentleman sketched, he may wish to test that policy with members of the SNP to find out precisely how such a system would work. Although I am always prepared to enter discussions with the hon. Gentleman about hypothetical matters, one must also balance the amount of time and expense that it would take to comment on something that is not a reality.