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3 May 2006 : Column 1716W—continued

Council Tax

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on the basis of the estimates for council tax receipts in (a) the 2006 Budget for 2006–07 and (b) the 2005 pre-Budget statement. [66660]

Dawn Primarolo: Local authorities, not the Government, determine council tax increases. The 2006–07 council tax figures in Table B14 of the 2005 pre-Budget report, column 6701W are projections based on stylised assumptions of average council tax growth since its introduction. The 2006–07 figures in Table C8 of Budget 2006 (HC 968) are based on latest available CIPFA forecasts of increases in that year.


Mr. Pickles: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what changes HM Revenue and Customs have made to the tax status and liability for councillors' incomes and pensions since 2001. [66693]

Dawn Primarolo: Guidance to local councils on the expenses and allowances payable to councillors and civic dignitaries is published by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM). The ODPM guidance includes advice provided by HM Revenue and Customs on tax and National Insurance issues. There have been no changes to the tax rules that affect this guidance.

Drugs Seizures

Mr. Streeter: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what (a) weight and (b) estimated street value of illegal drugs was seized by HM Revenue and Customs in Devon and Cornwall in each of the past five years, broken down by type of drug. [65141]

Dawn Primarolo: The following table gives details of HM Revenue and Customs' national seizures of illegal drugs over the last five years for which figures are available.
Other class AEcstasyCannabis
Financial yearKilogramsStreet value
(£ million)
KilogramsStreet value
(£ million)

More detailed information is not available as disclosure of results at specific locations would provide information of value to those seeking to circumvent HM Revenue and Customs' controls, thereby prejudicing the prevention and detection of crime.

EU Institutions (Personnel)

Michael Gove: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will ensure the continuation of low rates of income tax for personnel working in the EU institutions. [66916]

Dawn Primarolo: The taxation of personnel employed by the EU institutions is governed by the Protocol on the Privileges and Immunities of the European Union. There are no current plans to amend this Protocol.

HM Revenue and Customs

Philip Davies: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment has been made of the likely effect of putting out to private tender certain functions of HM Revenue and Customs. [64819]

Dawn Primarolo: HMRC regularly reviews its use of allocated public funds, including its current tendered services but there are no current plans to extend these. Taxpayer confidentiality is of paramount concern in all considerations.

John Barrett: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what job opportunities are available with HM Revenue and Customs in Scotland for staff highly skilled in human resources. [66375]

3 May 2006 : Column 1717W

Dawn Primarolo: HM Revenue and Customs is in the process of streamlining its HR organisation to meet its business needs. The Department is creating an HR Service Centre at Cumbernauld where there is a range of jobs available for skilled HR staff. The Department is also exploring what other job opportunities may be available in other Revenue and Customs business streams in the Edinburgh area that can utilise the skills of HR staff. A database of job opportunities in other Government Departments is also available to staff to help them secure suitable alternative employment.

John Barrett: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the cost to the public purse has been of (a) the integration of human resources services within the Inland Revenue and (b) their subsequent integration with HM Customs and Excise. [66376]

Dawn Primarolo: The restructuring of the Inland Revenue HR service was to deliver a broad ranging reform of the HR function. Phase 1 was partially complete when announcements were made regarding the merger of Inland Revenue with Customs and Excise. The project has been subsumed within phase 2. The changes started in phase 1 made use of existing resources, in terms of both people and accommodation and was broadly cost-neutral.

The integration of the HR functions in Inland Revenue and Customs and Excise is only partially complete. The first phase of change was to implement a virtual service centre in three locations. These locations were selected as existing technology platforms could be utilised. The costs to date are related to the set up of a contact centre in two of the locations (the third already operated in this way) and are in the region of £100,000. The project, when completed in 2008, will lead to savings of 702 staff and an HR to total departmental staff ratio in line with Gershon proposals.

John Barrett: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer why the decision was taken to restructure the human resources services of HM Revenue and Customs; and if he will make a statement. [66377]

Dawn Primarolo: Before HM Revenue and Customs was created, both the Inland Revenue and Customs andExcise were in the process of transforming their HRservice delivery models. Both Departments were committed to changes with attendant improvements in both service delivery and efficiency. As the two legacy Departments had different supporting technology, processes and working practices a simple merger of the two HR functions would not provide the service required to support the business during a time of considerable change.

John Barrett: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer why the decision was made to close the Edinburgh office of the human resources service of HM Revenue and Customs. [66379]

Dawn Primarolo: The closure of the Edinburgh office is part of a programme of wider change in HR in Revenue and Customs. The programme brings together HR from the two former Departments into a single HRstructure that supports the new Department in delivering its challenging business objectives and
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commitments to efficiency savings as a result of the Gershon review and integration of the two former Departments.

John Barrett: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer for what reasons a directorate of HM Revenue and Customs has not been located in Scotland. [66380]

Dawn Primarolo: In June last year HM Revenue and Customs moved to a new organisational structure based on functions rather than geography. The changes were made to improve quality and consistency and help HMRC deliver good service to customers.

Many of HMRC's 36 business unit directorates have a presence in Scotland, but where each director's office is based will depend on the needs of that part of the business. HMRC is continuing to develop its plans for restructuring and relocation to meet its efficiency targets.

John Barrett: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer why HM Revenue and Customs has no human resources and learning managers in Scotland. [66381]

Dawn Primarolo: HM Revenue and Customs will have an HR Service Centre based in Cumbernauld in Scotland. There will be a 136 HR staff based in this officeand there will be 26 management posts in the organisational structure at officer, higher officer and senior officer level.

John Barrett: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what steps are being taken to retrain human resources staff within HM Revenue and Customs in Scotland following the recent reorganisation. [66385]

Dawn Primarolo: During the current transition period to a new structure of HR work in Revenue and Customs, both HR teams in Scotland are still actively employed on HR work. This situation is expected to continue until at least December 2006. Over the coming months, the Department will be working with staff in Edinburgh to secure new work for them that best utilises their skills. People will then receive training appropriate for their new work.

John McDonnell: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the total expenditure by HM Revenue and Customs has been on the use of consultants employed on introducing the lean processing model into the Department. [58391]

Dawn Primarolo: LEAN processing techniques are designed to drive out waste and increase productivity in those areas that process large volumes of routine transactions, and is a key element in HMRC's plans to provide improved service to customers, and meet its efficiency targets.

The total expenditure by HM Revenue and Customs on the use of consultants introducing Lean Processing over the last two financial years from 2004–05 is £7.4 million.

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