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Lord Phillips of Sudbury: My Lords, given that the report shows a cut-back in training facilities at Norwich over the period concerned and that any prospect of rehabilitation and reform depends almost exclusively on effective education and training, when will the Government seek to have prisons give the same quantity and quality of education, particularly to young offenders, as the intensive surveillance and supervision programmes now give to young people in an out-of-prison context?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I hoped the noble Lord had listened carefully to what I said about our increased investment in education provision over the next two to three years. I am sure he will accept that it is very significant and a welcome change from policies adopted by previous governments. Let me repeat what I said. We recognise the value and importance of education. We are developing a programme to deliver further and higher standards of education. It will concentrate particularly on education with a work-related value because that will be of tremendous benefit. I hope that the noble Lord will support us in that programme.

Inland Revenue

3.4 p.m.

Lord Glentoran: My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question on the Order Paper standing in the name of my noble friend Lady Wilcox.

The Question was as follows:

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, until his retirement from the Inland Revenue in 1995, Mr Back worked in one of the department's regions. In the eight years since, there have been profound changes in the Inland Revenue's responsibilities and how it does its work.

Lord Glentoran: My Lords, I can assure the House that I have the permission of my noble friend to ask the Question.

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I thank the noble Lord for that reply. The Chancellor is currently increasing government borrowing while the main tax collecting agency is allegedly losing the fight against tax evasion. Is the Minister aware that the Revenue's business division brought in 600 million less in 2002 than in 2001, and that the total tax secured from all of the Revenue's non-compliance investigations in 2002 was 1.7 billion less than in 2000? Why is that?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I, too, have read the article in the Guardian which no doubt prompted the Question. My response is given in the context that the Inland Revenue collects well over 200 billion in one year. The article and the Question concern the regulation and enforcement of tax obligations. The thrust of the Inland Revenue in recent years has been to encourage compliance—in other words, that people should pay the right tax and receive the right benefits the first time, rather than requiring enforcement action. It has been generally agreed that that is a successful policy—but, of course, it does not show up in the enforcement statistics. The chairman of the Inland Revenue has made clear that where taxpayers—including large business taxpayers—are not willing to co-operate with the compliance procedures, the Revenue will be aggressive and ruthless in following up. That will certainly be the case.

Lord Tebbit: My Lords, does the Minister agree that, if things are as they should be within the Inland Revenue, his Answer to the Question initially should have been a simple short "No"? Why could he not give that Answer? Why did he have to go into what one might describe as "hyper-flannel mode"?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I thought I was pointing out the difficulty for Mr Back in being up to date with the current situation in the Inland Revenue. In my response to the supplementary question of the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, I sought to explain to the House the way in which the Inland Revenue approaches these matters. I had thought there was general agreement on the proposition that assuring compliance is a more effective way of preserving tax revenues than subsequently looking to enforcement procedures and even prosecution.

Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe: My Lords, does my noble friend the Minister agree that one does not necessarily have to work for the Inland Revenue to keep abreast of what that department is doing? Is it not also true that this is the self-same Mr Back who, when self-assessment was being introduced into the Inland Revenue, forecast that substantial numbers of people would not submit their returns by the due date and that, as a consequence, the Revenue would send a substantial yield to the Exchequer for interest on late payments? The Revenue denied that situation would arise. In the event, Mr Back was proved right, and it is now a major money spinner for the Inland Revenue. Is

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it not possible that he may be right this time round—as he was on the previous occasion—and the Revenue wrong?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, everything is possible, but that does not follow.

Lord Christopher: My Lords, I declare a past interest as a former general-secretary of the Inland Revenue Staff Federation. My colleague and noble friend Lord Brooke prompts me to rise. Like my noble friend, I know Mr Back. While I do not necessarily endorse what he said, his hyperbole is unusual. Ordinarily, I would listen carefully to what he had to say. I should also like to say—

Noble Lords: Question!

Lord Christopher: My Lords, I have a question—but it is futile not to preface a question with an explanation. The noble Lord, Lord Brooke, referred to self-assessment. I was one of four people who went to America with the then chairman of the board to look at the self-assessment system in America. We returned with a unanimous report that it was not suitable for the United Kingdom for many reasons.

Noble Lords: Order! Question!

Lord Christopher: Thank you, my Lords. You are very patient! My two questions—

Noble Lords: Feel free!

Lord Christopher: My Lords, my two questions are: first, to what extent do the problems in the Inland Revenue relate to the burden of self-assessment; and, secondly, to what extent have the extra burdens referred to by the Minister created a management problem in the Inland Revenue which should be examined?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, we have discussed self-assessment in great detail on a Question relating to that subject. I acknowledge that the noble Lord has particular expertise in this area and is entitled to ask whether self-assessment is an additional burden which causes deficiencies in other parts of the work of the Inland Revenue. I have no evidence that it does, but I should be glad to discuss the matter with him and to discuss it in front of the House.

Lord Elton: My Lords, in reply to my noble friend Lord Tebbit, the Minister said that securing compliance with the regulations is infinitely preferable to detecting and punishing infringement. Will he kindly pass on that view to the Home Office—as it is precisely what I was attempting to say about that department's handling of crime?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I seem to be doomed today to take questions that bear no relation to the Question on the Order Paper. The Home Office

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is represented on the Government Front Bench. I did not say that compliance with regulations was more important than enforcement; I said that compliance—in other words, people paying the right tax the first time—is more important.

Lord Newby: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the revenue achieved from the Large Business Office in respect of corporation tax fell by some 30 per cent in 2002 compared to the figure for 2001? Does he accept that, while there may be a greater degree of compliance and virtue, that degree of increasing virtue over a single year looks implausible? Therefore, should he not be taking Mr Back's criticisms more seriously than he appears to be?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord's figures. However, there is a further consideration in the make-up of those figures; namely, very large under-payments and very large receipts by the Large Business Office. The top 10 receipts in the year 2001–02 were 232 million; whereas in the year 2000–01, they were 663 million, which accounts for more than 400 million of the difference. Those very large cases take years to build up. The year in which they happen to fall is a matter of chance.

Traffic Lights in London

3.13 p.m.

Lord Higgins asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What percentage of the cost of installing extra traffic lights in London in the last 12 months has been met from central government funds; and what percentage has been met from local government funds.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, Transport for London is responsible for new traffic lights on both borough and TfL roads in London. New traffic lights on borough roads are funded from a central fund held by Transport for London to which the boroughs contribute on a per capita basis. Transport for London receives a block grant—GLA transport grant—of over 1 billion a year in support of its functions, but the Government do not provide any specific funding for traffic lights.

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