§ Mr. Soley
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) if he intends to pay off the lease on the VAT and Excise office at Griffin house, 161 Hammersmith road; 
(2) what considerations led to the decision to close the VAT and Excise office in Hammersmith road; and what consideration has been given to the future of the lease on the property; 
(3) what is the nearest alternative office to the VAT office at 161 Hammersmith road at which people can get advice on VAT and excise; 
(4) what is the cost of closing the VAT and Excise office at 161 Hammersmith road; and what is the cost of buying the lease; 
(5) if his plans for staff at the VAT and Excise office in Hammersmith road include compulsory redundancy; 
(6) what is the annual rental on his Department's VAT and Excise office at Griffin house, 161 Hammersmith road; 501W
(7) what consultation exercise his Department has initiated with customers of the VAT and Excise office at 161 Hammersmith road about its proposed closure. 
§ Mr. Heathcoat-Amory
Her Majesty's Customs and Excise recently completed a fundamental expenditure review which has resulted in planned changes in working practices, with reductions in staff numbers and the need for accommodation. The regional collection responsible for the Hammersmith office, Thames Valley, decided to close the office as part of the consequential rationalisation of its operations, based on a detailed business case which took account of value for money for the taxpayer.
There are no plans to "buy out" of the existing lease. When the property is vacated it will be in the first instance offered to other Government Departments in the locality. If they do not take up the additional accommodation it will be let on the open market. The annual rent is £511,988 with rates of £134,534 and landlord's service charge of £110,580.
The cost of closing Griffin house will be some £400,000, which covers alterations to two nearby offices to house the additional staff who will be located there.
Set against this are the reductions in running costs, a significant portion of which will start to accrue from the moment the building is vacated.
There are no plans to make any of the existing staff at Griffin house compulsorily redundant.
It is not departmental policy to conduct formal consultation exercises about the location of offices. However, the needs of traders and the public are always taken into account before a decision about the closure of an office is taken. In the case of Hammersmith, as it covers a small geographical area coupled with satisfactory transport links, it was felt that the public and the trading community would not be unduly inconvenienced by visiting another local office. In addition, at our adjacent offices vehicle access is generally easier and there are better parking facilities.
The nearest offices are as follows:
- To the north:
- Wembley LVO
- Valiant house
- 356 High road
- MIDDLESEX HP9 6AY
- To the west:
- Uxbridge business centre
- 1 Park road
- MIDDLESEX UB8 1RW
- Staines business centre
- 14 Thames street
- MIDDLESEX TW18 UD
- To the east:
- Westminster and west end
- Dorset house
- Stamford street
- London SE1 9PY