It is open to the Government to support our proposed review of spending round 2013 and the impact that that may have on tax receipts. If Mel Stride wants to support our motion today and the Government in undertaking such a review, it is open to him to do so. We have not specified exactly what should be included in that review and it is open to the Government to look at whatever avoidance opportunities they consider relevant to ensuring that we protect future tax receipts.
I know from written answers that I have received from HMRC recently that staff numbers were projected to fall from 88,875 in March 2009 to 58,464 by March 2014. Will the Minister provide an update on those figures, and in particular what HMRC’s headcount is expected to be by March 2016, following last week’s spending review and the additional resource reduction flowing from it? It is concerning that despite much-publicised announcements about increased investment in tax avoidance and evasion activity, the number of HMRC staff working in enforcement and compliance was expected to fall from 34,762 in March 2009 to 26,905 in March 2014.
I assume that given the Government’s much-stated commitment to getting tough in this area, the predicted fall in staff numbers is no longer going to happen and that we will see a rise in the number of HMRC staff dedicated to enforcement and compliance work. It would be helpful if the Minister could confirm that for the House and tell us how many HMRC staff will be working in this area between this year and 2015-16.
In conclusion, the Government had the opportunity last week to boost tax receipts by announcing measures that would provide the short and medium-term boost our economy needs while providing a long-term return for the country, yet despite the catastrophic failure of their economic plan to date, the Chancellor came to the House and announced that he would continue ploughing the same infertile furrow he has been on since 2010. He just cannot bring himself to admit that it has gone badly wrong. We believe that conducting the review set out in new clause 10 might just help the Government to take stock and note the error of their ways to date. I therefore urge all Members to support the new clause, not only for the sake of their constituents, but for that of our country’s finances.