HC Deb 23 February 1978 vol 944 cc1689-90
14. Mr. George Rodgers

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he is satisfied that adequate Inland Revenue staff is available to administer and implement any budgetary proposals relating to taxation.

Mr. Joel Barnett

Yes. The staffing of the Inland Revenue is kept under con-stand review to ensure that it is adequate to cope with Budget proposals and other tasks which the Department has to undertake.

Mr. Rodgers

Does my hon. Friend accept that the Inland Revenue staff, by definition, is probably the least popular section of the work force? None the less, does he agree that he should undertake a recruitment campaign because of the overwork and lack of manpower in the Department? This could well be financed by devoting some of the extra personnel to the detection of fraud and evasion, which are apparently still rampant in the country?

Mr. Barnett

My hon. Friend says that the Inland Revenue Staff Federation members are unpopular. Those who know them know that they do a first-class job. There is no reason why they should be unpopular. That being said, I understand that nobody is happy to have his tax taken from him. We are aware that there is a need for increased staffs and we are doing everything to ensure that we find suitably qualified people.

Mr. Cope

Does the Chief Secretary agree that a large part of the reason for the vast increase that has already taken place in the Inland Revenue staff is the tremendous increase in the complexities of income tax that have taken place, to such an extent that the income tax law books are now larger than the London telephone directories? Will he therefore give plenty of attention between now and the Budget to the desirability of bringing forward proposals then to simplify the income tax Acts?

Mr. Barnett

I am aware of the need for some simplification, but most of the representations that I receive would, if acted upon, tend to make the tax system even more complicated.

Mr. R. C. Mitchell

Does my right hon. Friend remember that in 1969 the then Chancellor, Mr. Roy Jenkins, told the House that it would take 10 years for the Inland Revenue to be sufficiently computerised to introduce a proper tax credits and negative income tax system and to do away with the multiplicity of social benefits that we now have? Is the Inland Revenue keeping up to that date, and will all that be ready in 1979?

Mr. Barnett

My hon. Friend should be aware that the tax credits system that was being discussed between 1970 and 1974 would not have done away with the great majority of means-tested benefits. Computerisation is proceeding, and I hope that it will be ready before too long.

Mr. Peter Rees

If the right hon. Gentleman is not moved by any other argument, will he undertake that no wealth tax will be introduced, so as not to put any additional strain on the Inland Revenue machine?

Mr. Barnett

No, Sir.