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Departmental Performance

Volume 470: debated on Thursday 24 January 2008

4. If he will make a statement on the findings of the Cabinet Office report on the performance of his Department and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. (181413)

The findings of the reviews of Her Majesty’s Treasury and HMRC were accepted in full by the Treasury’s permanent secretary and by HMRC’s acting chairman. Both Departments have responded in detail to the findings of the reviews in their respective reports, which were published by the Cabinet Office on 17 December 2007.

I thank the Minister for her enthusiastic answer. Does she recall that in 1998 the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, now our Prime Minister, said:

Money will be released only if Departments keep to their plans.”—[Official Report, 14 July 1998; Vol. 316, c. 188.]?

He said that in respect of public service agreements. Is she aware that the HMRC capability review says that only three out of 10 targets are likely to be reached? If that is the case, how much money will now be withheld from HMRC?

The capability reviews are a new, honest, robust and open way of focusing on delivery. They are published, as are the responses to them, and I am glad that the hon. Gentleman is so interested in them. We want this public focus on capability so that we can ensure that the civil service can deliver much more effective and efficient government to make the best use of the money that this House allocates.

Tax credits introduced by this Government have helped millions of families around the country, but the administration of them has, on occasions, been poor. Tax credits involve a Kafkaesque situation, because if one gets on to them, one cannot voluntarily withdraw from them. I understand that the only way to get out of tax credits is by dying or by having a substantial increase in one’s income. One cannot simply say, as one of my constituents tried to do, “I want no more to do with this.” Will my hon. Friend please examine the issue?

My hon. Friend knows about Kafka and I can tell him that HMRC has found a way out of the Kafkaesque situation as part of its transformation project. His constituent should therefore be able to withdraw from tax credits if that is what he or she wishes to do.

How can cutting 600 HMRC jobs through Capgemini in Shropshire help the performance of the Minister’s Department?

The capability review had no criticism of the changes in staffing that have gone on in HMRC. On the contrary, it praised HMRC for delivering in core business and making efficiency savings at the same time. I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman seems to think that the Government should not be working to improve the productivity of public service.

In its report on HMRC data security, the Cabinet Office urged that in the longer term electronic data transfer should be expanded significantly to reduce the use of removable media. Will the Minister tell us what preparations have been made for that? What training might be provided for HMRC staff in the light of the fact that ICT experience in the Treasury and its broader agencies has been reduced over many years by the continued adherence to outsourcing computer products?

My hon. Friend should be assured that the interim Poynter review has already identified some of those issues. The management of HMRC are working to establish data security while the review is ongoing. We await the final findings, which will deal with those issues in more detail. I can assure my hon. Friend that I shall take on board all his points, which are fair, and that we will make changes to structures and systems in order to ensure that the highest standards can be guaranteed in future.

The capability review of HM Treasury at the end of the Prime Minister’s decade in control of it noted, among other things, that there is

“a pressing need for greater inclusiveness and humility in its dealings with others.”

Who does the Minister think is responsible for that deficiency?

We have seen an extraordinary period of success with a stable economy, strong growth, increased employment, record investment in public services and one of the strongest economic records in the G7. In 2007 we had the highest growth rate in the G7. We are determined to maintain that economic stability and success.