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HMRC Closures — [Philip Davies in the Chair]

Part of Backbench Business – in Westminster Hall at 2:54 pm on 2nd November 2017.

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Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Financial Secretary to the Treasury and Paymaster General 2:54 pm, 2nd November 2017

The hon. Gentleman makes two points. One is a general point about the economic sense, or otherwise, of locating the services in larger hubs. The arguments on that are, broadly, extremely strong. They are that we can have larger groups of people and more collaborative working and can ensure that the infrastructure and technology are there. HRMC operates very differently today from how it operated some decades ago. We take a risk-based approach to chasing down tax that should be paid and is not being paid. That involves a lot of data and analysis. Frankly, the idea—if anyone here is entertaining it—that for the last few years people have been able to walk into their local tax office or have appointments there is just not correct. We need centres of excellence that can work in the manner that I have described.

Grahame Morris raises the issue of long-term leases, and he is right to say that in some cases there are no break clauses. I make three points on that. First, we get a much more competitive rate if that is the basis on which we enter into a lease. Secondly, that of course does not mean that leases cannot be broken at some future point by way of negotiation. That is quite typical in the commercial property market. Thirdly, we have flexibility within those leases, such that other Government Departments and employees would be able to use the buildings as well. There are therefore at least three very good reasons why that approach has been taken.

Let me now make some progress. We need a tax system that offers digital services in an age in which people increasingly expect and rely on them, that makes use of technological developments to deliver as efficient a service as possible, and that is suited to the dynamic and fast economy of today.

[Graham Stringer in the Chair]

I hope that the hon. Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East would agree that just dispersing employees across a wide area is not an efficient way to run any organisation, let alone one with responsibility to the taxpayer.