Revenue and Customs: Conferences

Treasury written question – answered on 7th June 2007.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mark Francois Mark Francois Shadow Paymaster General

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many conference bookings have been (a) booked and (b) cancelled by HM Revenue and Customs with Travelocity since June 2006; and what the cost was to the public purse of each.

Photo of John Healey John Healey The Financial Secretary to the Treasury

HM Revenue and Customs aim to minimise the costs of cancelled event and conference bookings by confirming the availability of attendees prior to booking.

However, since HMRC is an operational department which has been undergoing a rapid degree of reorganisation in recent years, it is an unfortunate fact: (i) that members of staff are often obliged at short notice to pull out of prior commitments to attend events or conferences because of their operational responsibilities, and (ii) that the restructuring or reorientation of staff responsibilities will also occasionally make planned events and conferences redundant.

Where this necessitates the cancellation of events or conferences, the department's contract with Travelocity requires Travelocity to negotiate down any cancellation fees to the minimum possible.

It is the view of HMRC's management that where conferences and events cease to be viable due to low attendance or become redundant due to the restructuring of unit and team responsibilities, it is the least costly option simply to cancel the event and incur any necessary cancellation fees, rather than pressing ahead with such an event, thereby incurring the higher direct costs of the event and the opportunity cost involved in wasting staff time.

In the period between 1 July 2006 to 31 March 2007, a total of 39 conferences and events were cancelled with the resulting imposition of cancellation fees, around 7 per cent. of the total number of events and conferences organised during that period.

Around a third of this total relates to cancellations in October 2006 alone, when extensive reorganisation within the department and operational pressures led to the cancellation of 14 separate events at late notice with resulting fees totalling £24,000.

Excluding the exceptional month of October, the average monthly number of cancelled events incurring cancellation fees over this period was three, and the average monthly cost was £3,400.

Does this answer the above question?

Yes1 person thinks so

No0 people think not

Would you like to ask a question like this yourself? Use our Freedom of Information site.