I do, and I think it has been driven by cost. One other area is that while I and my hon. Friends were campaigning in our constituencies to get re-elected, HMRC, during purdah, was signing contracts, and it did not wait until after the election to inform the Government of those changes. I sympathise with the point that the hon. Gentleman made. Of course, during the process, we had the Concentrix disaster. HMRC had to terminate its contract early because Members of Parliament from right across the House had major complaints about how Concentrix was dealing with its business.
In the National Audit Office’s report, the key findings stated that:
“it will be longer until HMRC starts to realise savings. In the long term, it still expects its new estate to reduce its running costs. It now estimates cumulative efficiency savings by 2025-26 of £212 million, reduced from the £499 million estimated in its strategic outline case in November 2015. By 2025-26, HMRC expects its annual running costs to be £83 million lower than they are now”.
Whether it is £83 million, £212 million or even £499 million, those are drops in the ocean compared with the Government’s own accepted figure for the tax gap of £36 billion. The figure researched by the Tax Justice Network and PCS puts the tax gap at £119 billion. A major reorganisation and rationalisation of the most vital Government department, putting at risk the very ability to carry out the tax collecting function for savings that are not properly costed, is irresponsible management and governance.
The Scottish Government are consulting today on the Scottish approach to taxation, to accompany gradual increases in its taxation powers. HMRC’s plans could well result in the severe limiting of HMRC expertise based in Scotland, which will become even more important as the Scottish Parliament debates increases in taxation.