Select Committee on Public Accounts Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 180-199)



  180. And you have to this Committee. Part of the regional structure is about customer focus, you have that very clear in the description you have given of the two area directors. I do not want to make an issue of something which is not genuinely an issue, however I would say, would not a more natural record of what you have said then read, "The Inland Revenue has made progress in introducing business streams . . . customer service champion . . . and has decided a strong regional structure . . .." and so on.
  (Sir John Bourn) Yes, it would, if I may say so. That is the meaning it has.

  181. So I am trying to explore a difference without a difference here.
  (Sir John Bourn) That is right. There was no difference between us on that matter. The word "and" might well have been a more appropriate word.

  182. Thank you. Can I ask you then, Mr Hawes, as the e-delivery manager, is there a differential take-up across the regional structure of e-delivery, e-lodgment and so on?
  (Mr Hawes) There are regional variations but those regional variations largely reflect normal demographics, so the internet usage profile tends to be loaded towards the South East, white males of a certain age, so it reflects that, and it is not specifically anything to do with our regions that that exists. It is the normal demographic pattern we would expect to see.

  183. So you have actually examined the differential across the regions of the take-up of your services?
  (Mr Hawes) Yes.

  184. So you can compare one region with another?
  (Mr Hawes) We do not compare one region with another in the sense—

  185. I did not say that you did, I said so you could.
  (Mr Hawes) We could, yes.

  186. Was that information which the C&AG looked at?
  (Mr Gibby) No, we did not, we looked at the figures across the UK as a whole not regionally.

  187. As things stand, you have no idea whether there may be other reasons, apart from the normal demographic ones Mr Hawes has talked about, why take-up in some regions is lower than in others?
  (Mr Gibby) We have no information on what the barriers to take up were in each individual region, we looked at it as a whole.

  188. I think it would be interesting for this Committee to have some of the information made available to us about the differential take-up in the regions, and perhaps that is something you could provide us in a note?
  (Mr Hawes) Yes, if I could have the opportunity to think about whether we have those figures to hand or whether we would have to do a special exercise to collect them.[2]

  189. Sorry, Mr Hawes, you told me you had monitored the differential take-up across regions.
  (Mr Hawes) No, we have monitored where offices are impacted by numbers. Not all of our offices are local in that sense. I do not want to give the impression that we have to hand a list which matches exactly to our regions. We know which offices were affected by what numbers and I will certainly try to get that information.

  190. I do want to be clear about this. A few moments ago I understood you to tell me, in response to my question what differential take up of e-services has there been across the regions. I said have you done any investigation into that and you said you had and that you could compare and contrast, although you had not actually done it. Now you are saying to me that you have certain numbers but they do not actually map with the regions?
  (Mr Hawes) Yes. We have numbers per office. Mr Gardiner, I think the difficulty I have got, sorry, is that when somebody registers with us we know which office is dealing with that person who registers to use the service.

  191. Indeed.
  (Mr Hawes) At various times we have used that information to look at what the pattern looks like. I do not know the last time we did that exercise but I will find out what information we have currently.

  192. And make it available to us.
  (Mr Hawes) Yes.

  193. What percentage of the 80 per cent of unsuccessful submissions initially recorded in paragraph 1.11 were of the minor and technical nature that paragraph 1.11 refers to?
  (Sir Nicholas Montagu) I do not think we have ways of knowing that, Mr Gardiner. We have anecdotal evidence of people having something like eight or nine unsuccessful submissions but these were—

  194. This is quite clear. This says "On average nearly four out of five attempts by the public to submit tax forms electronically were unsuccessful".
  (Sir Nicholas Montagu) Yes.

  195. You know there were 80 per cent unsuccessful submissions?
  (Sir Nicholas Montagu) Just as there are now 80 per cent successful, yes.

  196. Are you now saying that you do not know what percentage of that 80 per cent were due to the reasons given here which are of a minor and technical nature?
  (Sir Nicholas Montagu) Yes.

  197. In response to my colleague, Mr Trickett, earlier the implication was that the bulk of these were and the measures that you had taken to rectify things had resolved that problem.
  (Sir Nicholas Montagu) No, I do not think anything I said to Mr Trickett implied that. Certainly the things that I said earlier implied that we have largely resolved the problem to the extent that we have reversed the situation, but I do not think we have any way of knowing, if I might, which of them resulted from somebody putting a pound sign in, which of them resulted in somebody going—I am not exaggerating Mr Gardiner—like that. That would have been four unsuccessful submissions, we do not have that breakdown.

  198. I do understand that you cannot break it down by forward slash as opposed to backwards slash.
  (Sir Nicholas Montagu) Yes.

  199. What I am saying to you is this, in response to Mr Trickett earlier, in the questions that he had put to you about—Perhaps it was Mr Rendel.
  (Sir Nicholas Montagu) Yes.

2   Ev 22, Appendix 1, and Annex A. Back

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