(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 John Pugh John Pugh Shadow Spokesperson (Education) 5:30 pm, 25th June 2002

I am not presenting the same argument, Mr. Gale. I want to point out that in e-filing in the past, or the use of e-government, the Government's record is not one of undifferentiated success. The e-government portal that they set up, which was designed by Microsoft, excluded non-Windows browsers. More importantly, as far as taxation is concerned, there was a serious problem with digital certification which ruled out lots of equipment that was not the appropriate brand designed by the firm concerned. In this case, it happened to be Microsoft, coincidentally.

There are important issues regarding e-filing that I want to press home, at the pain of being tedious—[Hon. Members: ''Yes.''] I will be tedious, if necessary. If we commit ourselves to a system that runs the risk of a particular brand of software and a particular brand of computers having pre-eminence in every business enterprise in the country, that has enormous significance for the software accountancy industry and so on. I am simply pleading with the Minister: there will be concerns that this will be an anti-enterprise measure and a drift to technological conformity.

This morning, the general line of the Minister suggested that good practice was in place. I agree with that; there is good practice in place, but there is nothing in the Bill to ensure that it stays in place and nothing in what has been said compromises the need for strenuous monitoring. I point to a specific item: if people check the Inland Revenue site at present, and simply look for details of their tax return, they find other things, too, for example, a little notice with ''spin of the day'' from the Government and completely unnecessary details of what is the Government's flavour-of-the-month policy. Why should that be there? It is an issue for us later on; it is the kind of thing that will intrude if things are not constantly monitored. What we ask for is serious and constant monitoring.