Commissioners for Revenue and Customs Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:38 pm on 5th April 2005.

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Photo of Lord Goldsmith Lord Goldsmith Attorney General, Law Officers' Department, Attorney General (Law Officers) 8:38 pm, 5th April 2005

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Newby, for his contribution to the debate. We entirely understand that he was unable to be present earlier; I understand that it was nothing to do with the events of this morning.

I want briefly to respond to the noble Baroness, who I think knows my principal objection to what has been described at one stage as a risk of "reportitis". I want to put on record a further elaboration of what I said on Report about the commitment to cover aspects of the performance of the new department in the annual and spring reports. I am happy to confirm that there will be continuing reports on HMRC's performance on the key areas of yield, on reducing the compliance gap and the impact on taxpayers. These are the very items which are covered in HMRC's public service agreement targets.

In addition, a special chapter in the annual and spring reports will report on specific post-implementation issues. I said previously that this would cover 2005–06. I can commit to it being carried forward at least into 2007 as well, which is an increase on what was first said. However, I emphasise again the words, "and, where appropriate, subsequently". This will provide for progress made in the medium term as well as more immediate early progress following the creation of the new department.

I remain in a different place from the noble Baroness when it comes to considering at what point it will no longer be productive to try to separate out particular aspects of performance from the overall performance of the department, but we do not need to determine that debate now. It will be for the Commissioners as they go forward, bearing in mind what has been said in this debate, and what will be said no doubt in this House, in another place or in Select Committees as they look at the early reports, to consider the need for continuing reports to be brought forward. The Commissioners will decide how best to organise and set out their annual and spring reports, and I believe that a point will come when the concept of special chapters is no longer relevant. But perhaps we cannot predict precisely when that will be.

I conclude by congratulating the noble Baroness and the noble Lord, Lord Newby, on the determination with which they have pursued this point, which resulted in a very careful consideration by the department of an appropriate reporting mechanism and the development of ideas for the reports. They will improve on the overall structure for what we have in mind. I think that we can all be satisfied that this now represents a full scheme of reporting to Parliament over the next few years, and perhaps beyond, of this extremely important department on its very important work for the British economy and the British public.

On that basis, I hope that this final amendment will not be pressed.