(Except clauses 4, 19, 23, 26 to 29, 87 to 92, 131 and 134 and schedules 1, 5 and 38) - Clause 132 - Mandatory e-filing

Part of Finance Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 5:30 pm on 25th June 2002.

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Photo of Michael Jack Michael Jack Conservative, Fylde 5:30 pm, 25th June 2002

I rise to explain my views and put on record the fact that the amendment has been proposed to make the provision work properly in practical terms. The Paymaster General suggested that her word as a Minister was not taken with the seriousness that she would like. When she winds up debate on the clause, I hope that she will acknowledge the good intentions of Opposition Members who favour modern technology and want the Government to benefit from improved and efficient ways to operate. We want to make the provision work properly.

As explained in Committee earlier, many serious practical questions surround what the regulations cover. If Parliament is to pass a mandatory requirement into law, we do not want it subjected to further debate and questions because we never had the chance to discuss it properly in the first place. The Government's willingness to consult in greater detail would be helpful. Will the Paymaster General assure us that discussions about the workings of the regulations will take place, particularly with the industry? The regulations say little about what would happen to the system if the current provider of IT services to Inland Revenue were to suffer a major financial failure and a successor company were employed to replace Electronic Data Systems and provide the specialist services necessary to drive the system. We know nothing about that. We need reassurance about consultation. How robust do the Government believe are the systems underpinning what we are asked to accept? They should put that on the record.

What we propose is important, because the affirmative resolution would, if necessary, enable a motion of amendment to the motion to agree those regulations to be tabled in such a way that any practical objections could be stated in public, on the record. The negative process would not allow the House of Commons to do that. If we are to make something an absolute requirement on the majority of our citizens, they will want to know that we have debated it properly.

I want the Government to conduct a proper consultation exercise on the matter and give the House of Commons the opportunity to review, for one last time, whether the proposal would work in practice.