Clause 26 - Power to obtain information or documents

Childcare Payments Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:00 pm on 23 October 2014.

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

Photo of Catherine McKinnell Catherine McKinnell Shadow Minister (Treasury)

I want to probe the Minister on one issue. Account holders, who will usually be parents, probably require some reassurance about the information that will be held about them and their child care situation. We have talked about a number of factors relating to that, such as potential disputes in which HMRC might be required to intervene to decide who should hold a child care account and in what circumstances.

Will the Minister provide some examples of the information notices referred to in the clause and how HMRC might use them? That would be helpful. There  is a lot of public anxiety about information and data being held and how they will be used. There needs to be an assurance that that information will be used only in relation to the child care accounts; if it is to be used more widely, we need transparency about that. Will she outline the sort of information that will be held and how it might be used, to provide the necessary reassurance?

Photo of Priti Patel Priti Patel The Exchequer Secretary

Clauses 26 to 28 deal with the information and documents that HMRC needs to obtain to ensure that the scheme operates effectively. Clause 26 specifically gives HMRC the power to request information or documents relevant to the administration of the scheme.

In the vast majority of cases, HMRC will not need to request additional information from parents to verify their eligibility. The online process, as we have discussed, is straightforward and allows parents to register for the scheme and reconfirm their eligibility. It has been designed with that objective in mind. The information parents provide will in almost all cases be sufficient to allow HMRC to confirm their entitlement to support.

On occasion, however, HMRC could require additional information or documents in order to make accurate and informed decisions regarding a person’s eligibility to receive support under the scheme. In most cases, the information or documents that HMRC needs will be held by the parents themselves. However, in other cases they will be held by a third party, such as the parent’s partner, employer or child care provider. For example, if HMRC suspects that a person is deliberately abusing the scheme by claiming while continuing to benefit from employer-supported child care, they could seek information from the employer to determine the person’s eligibility. The clause therefore allows HMRC to request information or documents from a range of individuals and organisations, solely for the purpose of determining eligibility.

Members of the Committee have had the opportunity to look at the draft regulations, which set out from whom HMRC can request information and what information it must provide when it does so. That will include a statement of the reasons why it is requesting the information.

The clause also makes it clear that HMRC can require a person to provide information or a document only if it is in their possession or power. It provides a simple and pragmatic way for HMRC to obtain the information or documents necessary to verify a parent’s eligibility for the scheme.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 26 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.