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HMRC: Office Closures

Volume 644: debated on Tuesday 3 July 2018

12. What steps he is taking with HMRC to ensure that staff at its offices that are due to close are able to secure employment at HMRC regional hubs. (906201)

HMRC’s analysis shows that 90% of those personnel in place as at 2015 will be able to move to a new HMRC location or see out their career in their current workplace. We will support those who have the skills necessary for the new workplaces, or, indeed, those who can aspire to those skills, to achieve that and provide jobs accordingly.

I thank the Financial Secretary for his answer, but although those employed in the soon-to-be-closed centres will still have a job, which we welcome, the relocation of the HMRC offices will leave a large gap in future employment opportunities in Bradford. What opportunities, particularly civil service opportunities, are being offered to the people of Bradford, bearing in mind the over-saturation of public sector jobs in Leeds?

As Departments right across Government do, we look at the opportunities available in various towns and cities up and down the country, including Bradford. The hon. Gentleman mentions the employment impact of this particular measure; I remind him that the employment rate in Bradford is up 6.4% since 2010. That is above the national average and is a direct consequence of this Government’s policies.

21. The Financial Secretary to the Treasury, the Chancellor and the Prime Minister all gave commitments from the Dispatch Box that a meeting between senior HMRC officials and members of the Roadchef Employees Benefit Trust would bring a resolution to that dispute, but that did not happen, because HMRC stonewalled the EBT members. Will the Chancellor or the Financial Secretary commit to becoming a mediator in this dispute and bring a resolution that will see a pay-out finally being made for those beneficiaries? (906211)

I slightly detected from the hon. Gentleman’s question the suggestion that that meeting between HMRC and the EBT did not take place, and it most certainly did. He and I have discussed this matter, both formally in a meeting and informally, and we have debated it in the House. I have always stressed that there is a dividing line between HMRC and Treasury Ministers: we cannot intervene in the tax affairs of individuals or organisations. I am confident that HMRC is progressing in an appropriate manner.

Eight years of economic failure from this Government have been exacerbated—[Interruption.] I suggest that it is economic failure, with productivity growth down, GDP growth down and investment growth down, and in comparison with our comparators. Economic failure: if it smells like it and looks like it, that is what it is. Let me finish my question. That failure has been exacerbated by the Government’s reorganisation of HMRC, with cuts in our country deeper than in any other, outside Greece. Will they abandon this failing reorganisation, which also means that there will not be a single customs hub anywhere along the south coast or north of the central belt?

The simple fact is that we need an HMRC that is fit for the 21st century, for the new digital ways in which we are working, and for our targeted approach on clamping down on avoidance, evasion and non-compliance, for example. That requires these sophisticated hubs that have the right skills to do that job, so I defend our reorganisation entirely.

On the portrayal of the economy that the hon. Lady has just given, we have the highest level of employment in our history, more women in work than at almost any time in our history and unemployment lower than at any time in the past 45 years. We are bearing down on the deficit and have debt falling as a percentage of GDP.