Clause 1 - The commissioners

Commissioners for Revenue and Customs Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:25 am on 11th January 2005.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Andrew Tyrie Andrew Tyrie Shadow Paymaster General

I want to use clause 1 to make only three points. You can rule me out of order on each one, Sir John, but I will be so brief that by the time you have got up I will have finished.

First, I want to commend the minimalism of the Bill and thank the Minister for delivering pretty much what she said she would deliver when we met to discuss it. We will not oppose the principle of the merger, as we made clear on Second Reading. Secondly, we have specific concerns about powers, confidentiality in particular, and the assessment of the overall benefits of the merger. We will need to discuss those points as the Bill goes along. Finally, we are blessed with an excellent report by the Treasury Committee. The Deputy Chairman is sitting behind me, and I commend him and that Committee for having produced a document that will enable us to scrutinise this Bill much better than would otherwise have been the case.

Photo of David Laws David Laws Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury

The clause deals with the responsibilities of the commissioners in the new combined department. One issue that came out of Second Reading, which the Paymaster General may wish to comment on, was the question of their responsibilities to Ministers in the Treasury and whether the existing structure, where the new combined department will report to a number of different Ministers, is sensible in the long term. That issue was raised by the Chairman of the Treasury Sub-Committee in the debate on 8 December. The Paymaster General appeared to indicate that her mind was not entirely closed to developments in the Treasury and to consolidation of the accountability of the commissioners to one Minister, rather than two or three, which I understand to be the present situation. Will she comment on that?

Photo of Dawn Primarolo Dawn Primarolo Paymaster General (HM Treasury)

The hon. Member for Chichester (Mr. Tyrie) has laid out the parts of the Bill that he wishes to concentrate on. I will respond to those points when we reach the relevant clauses.

For clarity, we also provided the policy areas that the Economic Secretary and the Financial Secretary work on within that remit. If the hon. Member for Yeovil wishes to explore that further, I will be more than happy to do so when we come to clause 10—or to other clauses, if that is appropriate. There are amendments tabled to clause 10 about Treasury independence of direction, and how to meet the requirements for confidentiality while protecting taxpayers and discharging statutory responsibilities—I was going to say in a quasi-legal fashion, but actually to enforce the law. Other matters are also involved, such as what the relationship is with the Ministers on policy, and what the routes are for Parliament in ensuring that there is a Minister and a chairman who will be accountable to it, so that Parliament is properly involved.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 1 ordered to stand part of the Bill.