HC Deb 03 June 1954 vol 528 cc1446-7
37. Mr. Houghton

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is aware that Income Tax work is still being done in the homes of Inland Revenue officials by their wives and families; how much of this work, at what rate per hour, and at what total cost, is contemplated in the present financial year; and when this war-time expedient will be brought to an end.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Yes, Sir. In 1953–54 there were 925,000 hours of work at home at an average cost of about 2s. 8d. an hour. The total cost was £123,000. It is expected that there will be less work at home in 1954–55. This kind of duty is being progressively reduced as circumstances permit, but I cannot say when it will cease altogether.

Mr. Houghton

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the administrative inertia which lies behind this problem? What other Government Department is still using the purely war-time expedient of doing work at home? Will he really apply his mind to this matter, which gives rise to considerable staff discontent and is not conducive to the efficiency of the Department?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

As I am sure the hon. Member knows, the amount of this work has been steadily reduced in recent years, but up to a point it still does what the late Sir Stafford Cripps attributed to it—make a worthwhile contribution to manpower saving.

Mr. Renton

The hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) asserts in his Question that our Income Tax returns may be checked by the wives and families of Inland Revenue officials. Is that really correct?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Most of the work consists of addressing blank forms and envelopes.

Mr. W. R. Williams

Why is it necessary to take work home from any Government Department? Should not the work be done in the offices and adequate appropriate staff, properly supervised, be provided for the work to be done properly in the offices?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

This is an expedient made necessary by shortages of manpower. As the shortages have diminished so has the use of the expedient. We have not yet reached the point where we can dispense with it, but it may not be very long now.