I thank the House for that welcome. Since its merger in 2005, Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs Service has been reviewing its extensive estate in the light of future business requirements. However, before a final decision is taken to close any office, including the one in the hon. Gentleman's constituency, the impact on customers, staff and the wider community has to be assessed. That includes the examination of equality issues such as gender.
I believe that the intended closure of the tax office in Kettering will be discriminatory against the largely female work force. Of 78 staff, 58 are women and 32 work part-time. They simply will not be able to relocate to the alternatives being put forward in Northampton or Leicester and I would be grateful if the Under-Secretary liaised with her colleagues in the Treasury to stop that closure.
I shall be most happy to do what the hon. Gentleman asks. I commend him on the work that he has done, in this House and outside, to represent his constituents. They must be very pleased, especially those in Cytringan house and Montagu court. HMRC is committed to ensuring that women and other groups do not suffer when tax offices are closed. I stress that no decision to close the Kettering office has yet been taken, and that consultations in the London area produced quite a large change in the closure programme. Therefore, he should persist.
May I welcome my hon. Friend to her new role, which is both well deserved and long overdue, especially given her commitment to equalities in this country and in South Africa? The possible closure of HMRC offices may affect my constituents as well. Will any change mean extra travel for the women involved, and will they be able to do the same sort of work in offices elsewhere?
One aspect of the impact assessment that is made is the effect on travel, which is quite considerable in the case of the Kettering office. All staff will have individual meetings with their managers to assess their travel requirements and to make sure that they do not affect their work-life balance. Finally, I thank my hon. Friend for her kind comments.