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Throughout the programme, senior management in Revenue and Customs have been committed to being open with staff, explaining the options available to individuals and exploring how their expectations can be matched with the need to make its operations more efficient and effective. As I have indicated, HMRC is keen to retain the skills and experience of staff in the Cardiff urban centre and to match these with its aims of achieving improved customer service and more efficient operations. I can reassure both my hon. Friends that
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meetings have been arranged between HMRC and Welsh Assembly Government officials at the end of this month to discuss the consultation process in advance of its next stage. Officials have been made aware of the policy of the Welsh Assembly in this regard. I expect the review of the remainder of HMRC locations in Wales—cluster and individual locations—to begin in June. HMRC will engage with the Welsh Assembly and with other Government Departments, where appropriate, during the course of consultation.

I welcome this debate as part of our commitment to the process of consultation and openness in moving forwards. It is a long-term programme that will deliver a more responsive and efficient service for taxpayers and claimants.

Although I cannot respond to my hon. Friend the Member for Newport, East in the way that she would wish, by committing to review the decision, I acknowledge the continuing concerns that she expressed. I believe that the process of change will be broadly for the long-term benefit of her constituents in Newport. I acknowledge that such public sector jobs are of particular value in a place like Newport, but none the less, the changes that HMRC is making will be for the long-term benefit of the customers that it serves. It would not be right if taxpayers’ money were used to support public sector jobs in a way that would be unjustifiable if it were closely scrutinised with regard to efficiency. Notwithstanding the disappointment that my hon. Friend will feel on the decision on Newport, I hope that she will support the organisation in the future and encourage staff to be committed to the overall change, which will be for the benefit of the customers whom they serve.

Question put and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at four minutes to Eleven o’clock.

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