Clause 4 - Claims: supplementary

Part of Tax Credits Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:30 pm on 15th January 2002.

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Photo of Mr Howard Flight Mr Howard Flight Conservative, Arundel and South Downs 4:30 pm, 15th January 2002

I warmly welcome you to the Chair, Mr. O'Hara.

I made the point this morning that the system of requiring interviews for those taking the fast track in winding up estates—a considerable number of people—has worked well in helping those involved and in helping the Inland Revenue to keep an eye on matters. The Minister's main objection to our amendments, which would require a meeting with the relevant Revenue officer, was that too many people would be involved for it to be practicable. That may be a fair point, but both the working families and children's tax credits are complex. It is not easy to work out what people qualify for or the average number of hours worked. I anticipate that the majority of people will want interviews to help with their forms. In many ways our amendments are more important for that reason than for the avoidance of fraud.

Just before lunch, I received, as other hon. Members may have done, a note from the citizens advice bureaux expressing concern that it would be difficult to advise, for example, a lone parent wanting to move off benefit and into work. It is difficult to forecast income over a year. The tax credit inquiry centres run by the Inland Revenue to advise people on their applications may be inadequate.

Compulsion may be over the top, but if the Bill is to help people, particularly people entering work for the first time, with a sophisticated and complicated matter and prevent a high level of wrong claims—some 75 per cent. of claims for the children's tax credit were found to be wrong—substantial resources will be necessary so that Revenue officers can meet people to go through their circumstances and advise them. The matter is not simple and it is mistaken to think that inquiries through the internet and modern communications in such complicated territory will work satisfactorily. I hope that the Government accept that.

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.