HL Deb 12 November 1992 vol 540 cc319-20

3.11 p.m.

Lord Mackie of Benshie asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the pay of staff of the Inland Revenue is now dependent on the amounts they extract from the taxpayer.

The Minister of State, Department of Transport (The Earl of Caithness)

My Lords, no.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

My Lords, is the Minister aware that I am relieved to hear that Answer, because his right honourable friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury in a speech on 2nd October said that the performance of every member of staff of the Inland Revenue would be measured against clear objectives and that they would have their pay adjusted to reflect that? Further, Mr. Lamont, the Chancellor, decided in July to delegate responsibility for Inland Revenue pay to its management, reducing the Treasury's role to setting standards of service. Is the Minister aware that that looks like the start of a move towards the privatisation of the collection of taxes? When we have a government who can introduce a medieval tax such as the poll tax—admittedly they repealed it—that raises the great terror in the minds of thinking people that the Inland Revenue will be encouraged to harry this country's valuable businessmen and other individuals more than it, of necessity, does now. I should like a categorical denial from the Minister that there is any intention so to privatise.

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I am grateful that the noble Lord is relieved. I wonder whether his anxiety was generated by the remarks he read out or by speculation in the press, which, as usual, was erroneous. Yes, there will be a link of pay to individual performance, but that does not involve targets of tax yield.

Lord Peston

My Lords, I am a trifle puzzled by the Minister's Answer. I had assumed that he was going to say, "Yes, in part". Am I to understand that in determining the performance of the Inland Revenue collecting tax will not be defined as part of that performance? I should have thought that at the very least one of its tasks would be to collect Her Majesty's revenue. The answer "No" just seems a little strong to me. Will he clarify that Answer?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, the noble Lord missed out the vital words, "tax yield".

Lord Peston

My Lords, I do not want to pursue the matter, but will the Minister confirm that getting in the taxes will remain one of the Inland Revenue's tasks?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, the correct amount due: no more and no less.

Lord Barnett

My Lords, will the Minister concede that his original Answer was incorrect in the sense that many of us are dependent upon the Inland Revenue collecting taxes?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I must say that on this occasion the noble Lord has fooled me.

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