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HMRC Closures — [Philip Davies in the Chair]

Part of Backbench Business – in Westminster Hall at 2:20 pm on 2nd November 2017.

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Photo of Chris Stephens Chris Stephens Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Trade Unions and Workers' Rights) 2:20 pm, 2nd November 2017

I will meet the hon. Gentleman half way. I do not believe that unpaid taxes are at a new low. In fact, I think the report I referred to earlier, published by Tax Justice Network and PCS, showed a gap of £119 billion. That certainly suggests to me that one of the major focuses of HMRC should be collecting tax and going after the rogues who are registered in the Cayman Islands and other places, shuffling money. I will meet the hon. Gentleman half way on that.

HMRC faces a number of challenges requiring investment in offices and infrastructure, and no one from HMRC or from the Treasury has so far explained what changes they will make in the “Building our Future” programme to meet these challenges. I will not resist saying, “We told you so,” because we did, time after time, in this place and elsewhere. We know that UK overseas territories are used to avoid billions of pounds of tax. We know that the uncollected tax avoided by these high-rolling spivs runs into tens or even hundreds of billions of pounds. It beggars belief that, at a time when there is more focus than ever on tax dodgers and their theft from public services, HMRC are shuttering dozens of offices across the country, losing staff and skills that could otherwise be used to target the high rollers who cost our hospitals, infrastructure and schools billions each year.

It is therefore somewhat ironic that Mapeley, to which HMRC’s office estate has been outsourced, is based in Guernsey, a notorious tax avoidance hub overseen by the UK Government. Downing Street confirmed yesterday that HMRC will need up to 5,000 new staff as a direct consequence of Brexit and the UK leaving the customs union.