Commissioners for Revenue and Customs Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:15 am on 13th January 2005.
No. 50, in clause 23, page 11, line 42, after 'Constabulary', insert 'or the Scottish inspectors'.
No. 51, in clause 23, page 12, line 4, after 'may', insert—
(i) in relation to Her Majesty's Inspectors of Constabulary,'.
No. 52, in clause 23, page 12, line 6, at end insert—
'(ii) in relation to the Scottish inspectors, apply (with or without modification) or make provision similar to any provision of section 33 or 34 of the Police (Scotland) Act 1967 (c.77) (inspection);'.
No. 53, in clause 23, page 12, line 14, after 'Constabulary', insert 'or the Scottish inspectors'.
No. 54, in clause 23, page 12, line 17, at end insert—
'(3A) An inspection carried out by virtue of this section shall be carried out jointly by Her Majesty's Inspectors of Constabulary and the Scottish inspectors—
(a) if it is carried out wholly in Scotland, or
(b) in a case where it is carried out partly in Scotland, to the extent that it is carried out there.'.
No. 55, in clause 23, page 12, line 24, at end insert
(6) In this section ''the Scottish inspectors'' means the inspectors of constabulary appointed under section 33(1) of the Police (Scotland) Act 1967 (c.77).'.—[Dawn Primarolo.]
On a point of order, Mr. Hurst. May I make a general comment on clause 23?
Not now, but the hon. Gentleman may in a moment.
Question proposed, That the clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill.
I have had a chance to look at the draft statutory instrument. Will the Paymaster General give an outline of how the inspections will work and the interrelation between Her Majesty's inspectorate and the Independent Police Complaints Commission? Presumably, we are considering general inspections into the functions of the Revenue and Customs department, and there will be no duplication of function between the inspectorate and the IPCC. I also look forward to hearing from the Paymaster General about whether there will be an annual report—in the public domain and open to scrutiny—on the inspections. Presumably, there will be.
If wrongful practices are unearthed during the inspections, to whom in the police service or the IPCC will the inspectorate report them? I am concerned that there is duplication in this clause and the subsequent clause—possibly triplication in the subsequent clause.
Will the Economic Secretary respond to this debate?
The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (John Healey) indicated assent.
I beg his pardon. I look forward to hearing from him a general outline of how the inspections will happen and a response to the other matters that I have raised about the clause.
I should say to the hon. Gentleman that clause 23 deals with the arrangements for Her Majesty's inspectors of constabulary; clause 24 deals with those for the IPCC. I can reassure the hon. Gentleman that there will not be a duplication of the areas and activities. The remits in relation to the police are clear and separate, and they will also be so for Her Majesty's inspectors of constabulary. I hope he will take confidence from the discussion of these two clauses.
Clause 23 will allow the remit of Her Majesty's inspectorate of constabulary, the HMIC, to be extended to cover Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs. So the HMIC will scrutinise how the HMRC complies with laws, rules and procedures of the criminal justice system. It therefore establishes the HMRC with a higher level of independent external scrutiny than its predecessor departments. To this extent, it more than satisfies the recommendation of the Butterfield report, to which the hon. Gentleman referred as an excellent report earlier today, that Customs looks at ways to introduce greater external scrutiny into its criminal investigations work.
This will ensure a high level of assurance to Ministers and the public that the HMRC is using its powers properly and professionally. These external scrutiny arrangements will mirror those in place for other enforcement agencies, and those planned for the Serious and Organised Crime Agency, ensuring that all of Customs' former law enforcement work will be covered in the same way.
The clause allows for regulations to establish arrangements between the HMRC and the HMIC that are similar to arrangements between the HMIC and the police. A draft of these regulations was produced earlier this week, as the hon. Gentleman said, which I hope will help the Committee in its deliberations. It includes the ability for Ministers to require an inspection, as members of the Committee will see, and provides for reports to be made and published.
Does the Minister envisage an annual inspection? Or does he envisage an inspection every few years or so?
I do not anticipate how the HMIC will decide, in discussion with HMRC, to conduct its activities. If the hon. Gentleman looks at the draft regulations, he will see the range of potential matters that the HMIC may consider. I expect that the HMIC, where it looks at any HMRC activities, will make reference to those in its annual report.
The HMIC will not cover the full range of HMRC activities. It will be focused on those areas involved in law enforcement, where its expertise in the field of policing is most relevant. The HMIC is therefore specifically excluded by our proposals from duplicating the work of the National Audit Office. That does not preclude the HMIC and the NAO from working together where necessary and sensible, but it ensures that there will be no duplication of effort—the general concern that the hon. Gentleman was raising.
I hope all sides of the Committee will see this as a significant and valuable strengthening of the external scrutiny arrangements for the new HMRC.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause 23, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.