15/09/2016 BBC Parliament on BBC Two


15/09/2016

An Urgent Question on Concentrix's activities in relation to tax credit investigations, and Charlie Elphicke introduces his European Union (Withdrawal from Membership) Bill.


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Transcript


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Urgent question, Rebecca Long Bailey.

:00:22.:00:28.

I asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make

:00:29.:00:36.

a statement on the abilities and activities in relation to tax

:00:37.:00:39.

credit investigations made on behalf of HMRC into Concentrix.

:00:40.:00:44.

The government recognises the importance of tax credits

:00:45.:00:48.

We all recognise that it is important that this support reaches

:00:49.:00:54.

That is why HMRC work hard to check that they are making the correct

:00:55.:01:09.

payments and to tackle any fraudulent claims.

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We must acknowledge that fraud exists in the system and should

:01:12.:01:17.

be investigated to ensure that taxpayers' money is spent directly.

:01:18.:01:20.

As part of this, Concentrix Ltd was engaged to help

:01:21.:01:23.

As a result, ?300 million worth of incorrect payments

:01:24.:01:26.

I do want to reassure the House on two key points.

:01:27.:01:32.

Firstly, Concentrix were only paid for making the right decisions.

:01:33.:01:34.

They would not receive payment for taking someone's

:01:35.:01:37.

And secondly, that Concentrix were not allowed to engage

:01:38.:01:40.

in fishing expeditions or pick on vulnerable claimants at random.

:01:41.:01:44.

But where there was evidence to suggest a claim might not be

:01:45.:01:49.

correct, Concentrix wrote to claimants

:01:50.:01:58.

to see information to confirm their eligibility.

:01:59.:02:00.

I realise, and I know this as a constituency member myself,

:02:01.:02:03.

that it can be stressful for someone to receive such a letter,

:02:04.:02:06.

but it is right that we investigate the full picture with claimants

:02:07.:02:09.

themselves to make the right payments.

:02:10.:02:11.

That is why both Concentrix and HMRC, where it does the same

:02:12.:02:15.

work, always sends a letter giving claimants 30 days to provide

:02:16.:02:18.

information before taking any further action and it is important

:02:19.:02:20.

that people do indeed respond and get in touch

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if they are struggling to respond to any other questions.

:02:24.:02:26.

Despite the best efforts of the staff manning the phones,

:02:27.:02:28.

with a high volume of calls in recent weeks, Concentrix have not

:02:29.:02:32.

been providing the high levels of customer service that the public

:02:33.:02:35.

expect, and which are required in their contract.

:02:36.:02:38.

HMRC has given notice that this contract will not be renewed

:02:39.:02:41.

HMRC is also no longer passing new cases to Concentrix but working

:02:42.:02:47.

with them, as a matter of urgency, to improve the service they provide

:02:48.:02:51.

to claimants and to resolve outstanding cases.

:02:52.:02:54.

I can confirm to the House that 150 HMRC staff have been redeployed

:02:55.:02:57.

with immediate effect to help them resolve any issues people

:02:58.:03:03.

are having with their claims, as quickly as possible,

:03:04.:03:08.

and Mr Speaker, I realise that colleagues on all sides of the House

:03:09.:03:11.

are concerned to get difficult cases resolved and assist vulnerable

:03:12.:03:14.

In addition to the additional resources I have already referred

:03:15.:03:30.

to, I have arranged a members' drop in in at 1 Parliament Street

:03:31.:03:34.

between 9:30am and 11am tomorrow at which we can

:03:35.:03:36.

offer guidance to colleagues, should that be helpful.

:03:37.:03:38.

Many members across the House have been contacted by distressed

:03:39.:03:43.

and anxious constituents, often hard-working individuals

:03:44.:03:45.

who have had their tax credits cut unfairly,

:03:46.:03:47.

pushing them, in many cases, into extreme hardship.

:03:48.:03:50.

Whilst we on this side certainly welcome that HMRC is finally taking

:03:51.:03:54.

action in announcing that the Concentrix contract

:03:55.:03:59.

will not be renewed, it's most regrettable

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that the government has only done this when events have been

:04:02.:04:09.

dramatically exposed by the media, and indeed My Honourable Friends,

:04:10.:04:12.

the member for Sheffield Healy and Birkenhead.

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Whilst Concentrix will be carrying out the services for another

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eight months, there's a risk that without radical amendment

:04:21.:04:24.

to the contract itself, service failures will continue.

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Most concerning is that the payment model creates a conflict of interest

:04:27.:04:30.

as noted by the Social Security Advisory Committee.

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Can the Minister confirm what arrangement she will make

:04:34.:04:35.

to urgently revise the contract to preserve justice

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Furthermore, as she stated, I understand HMRC will redeploy 150

:04:38.:04:43.

staff so that claimants can get through to advisers

:04:44.:04:46.

Can the Minister confirm how the government will monitor

:04:47.:04:55.

this going forward, and will the government commit

:04:56.:04:57.

to an official investigation into Concentrix's conduct

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since being awarded a contract in 2014, so that we can determine

:05:01.:05:08.

how this situation was allowed to arise?

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And one final point, Mr Speaker.

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Has the minister given any consideration to the real prospect

:05:16.:05:17.

of bringing this service back in-house?

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Mr Speaker, it is worth making the comment I think,

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that this is a very complicated system

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that this government, the previous government,

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indeed inherited, and it is the case that long-term, the right answer

:05:35.:05:37.

is to replace tax credits, as is our intention,

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because it is an unnecessarily complex system that

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But we must make it work whilst it is in operation and that is now

:05:47.:05:52.

With regard to the contract and the decision that HMRC have

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taken, I want to reassure the House that

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monitoring has been taking place on a regular basis throughout

:05:59.:06:01.

the contract, and HMRC have worked closely with Concentrix,

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but it is the case that as is documented in recent weeks

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that performance has not been right, and clearly, that has been something

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that we have noted and which we are now taking action on.

:06:16.:06:18.

With regard to the contract going forward, as I think

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I mentioned in my statement, Concentrix will be focusing

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on resolving outstanding claims, not opening new ones.

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In other words, the ones that they are already open,

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we'll be looking to deal with in an orderly and appropriate

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manner, and HMRC is putting in additional resources,

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focusing on those difficult cases where we have heard some

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high-profile examples in recent days, and to make sure that we get

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those resolved in the quickest possible time, to ensure that

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vulnerable constituents of all of ours are helped and supported.

:06:54.:06:56.

I don't think there is any need to go into inquiries etc.

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It is monitored on a regular basis, it is not going to be renewed

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when it ends in May next year, and the focus, I think,

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for all of us, and for me and for HMRC in the coming days

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and weeks, is in making sure that we get the outstanding

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cases and resolve them, particularly those involving

:07:22.:07:23.

the most vulnerable, and we make sure that people

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have the money to which they are correctly entitled.

:07:27.:07:45.

Cases women who have had their benefits withdrawn because the of

:07:46.:07:56.

men they are living with. What we need to know is how quickly these

:07:57.:08:15.

cases can be reviewed. I understand the point my right honourable friend

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makes. The courage people to call the HMRC it number they have

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received. We are putting people with immediate effect on to that hotline

:08:28.:08:31.

to ensure that we can resolve that. I had been talking consistently on

:08:32.:08:40.

this fact, that as soon as we can resolve the facts of the case, we

:08:41.:08:44.

will get money into people 's accounts in a matter of days.

:08:45.:08:56.

Whilst we on this side certainly welcome that HMRC is finally taking

:08:57.:08:59.

action in announcing that the Concentrix contract

:09:00.:09:01.

will not be renewed, it's most regrettable

:09:02.:09:05.

that the government has only done this when events have been

:09:06.:09:20.

How much of the savings were as a result of incorrectly cutting

:09:21.:09:30.

payments? How much does the government intend to claw back to

:09:31.:09:34.

directly compensate those who have been affected? The minister tells us

:09:35.:09:41.

and I am pleased, that civil servants have now been drafted in to

:09:42.:09:46.

clear up the mess. How much will that cost the taxpayer and will the

:09:47.:09:49.

government be seeking additional payment from Concentrix to fund that

:09:50.:09:58.

action? Mr Speaker, one or two of the points that the member raises

:09:59.:10:08.

there, I am not able to respond to. It is important that we are able to

:10:09.:10:14.

resolve the outstanding cases. We are not renewing the contract but we

:10:15.:10:23.

do intend to go down on fraud. It is important. There is a lot of fraud

:10:24.:10:28.

in the system. It has been a success, to be able to reduce that.

:10:29.:10:38.

We need to continue to bear down on that because money that is

:10:39.:10:41.

fraudulently obtained is not available to taxpayers. It remains a

:10:42.:10:46.

vital matter that we do address that. For the moment, my primary

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consideration is addressing the matter to ensure that we take care

:10:54.:10:58.

of our most vulnerable constituents. Mr Speaker, I am a big fan of

:10:59.:11:02.

helping those people who are trying very hard to get on with life. Are

:11:03.:11:10.

those people still going to be dealt with by Concentrix? Are they going

:11:11.:11:15.

to have the fear of being prosecuted as they go forwards as the what

:11:16.:11:20.

assurance can the Minister give that those people are going to be looked

:11:21.:11:32.

after? I have laid out the arrangements that are going to be

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taking place. We will be looking at cases where Concentrix has already

:11:46.:11:59.

focused on, open cases. Concentrix have assisted the government and

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indeed the taxpayer in identifying those. I think it is important to

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keep this in perspective. HMRC has made it clear its intention to not

:12:10.:12:17.

continue its contract. Can I thank the Minister and the HMRC for

:12:18.:12:23.

reacting so quickly to the issues? What estimation has been made of the

:12:24.:12:27.

current backlog that needs to be dealt with by Concentrix and the

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HMRC? How should those people who are currently being dealt with

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contact Concentrix? Should they contact the HMRC directly? Why were

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these appalling errors not acted on before they were revealed in

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Parliamentary questions? Will they be bringing the country back

:12:47.:12:53.

in-house in May next year? Will they commit to a review of all payments

:12:54.:12:58.

by result contracts that are completely inappropriate in our

:12:59.:13:05.

system? I am aware that the honourable lady has obviously been

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very active in this and has asked a number of questions. I think with

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regard to performance it is important to note, and performance

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does support this, that actually it is in the recent weeks in particular

:13:24.:13:27.

that performance has been not acceptable. It is not a case that

:13:28.:13:33.

this has been something that has been an acute problem for a

:13:34.:13:38.

considerable length of time. It is the case that performance has not

:13:39.:13:42.

been acceptable in recent weeks so I just want to make that point. With

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regard to who people should contact, the number is on the letters that

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they have received. I am aware of the problems of getting through to

:13:53.:13:55.

the phones in recent weeks. Indeed, I have had some myself. We are

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putting forth additional resources to allow Concentrix to focus on

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entering the phones, while additional staff deal with back

:14:07.:14:12.

cases and some of the complexities so that people can fake as a focus

:14:13.:14:18.

on the additional issue. Some are coming in. We think there are around

:14:19.:14:26.

2500 in the system left to deal with, because it is that time of

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year. Can my honourable friend clarify who

:14:29.:14:55.

from HMRC or wherever is going to deal with claims of errors, fraud

:14:56.:15:02.

and others problems. We has had a strong signal that it is not

:15:03.:15:06.

acceptable but we want to see genuine claimants compensated. I can

:15:07.:15:16.

reassure my honourable friend that both can is an HR NCR has three

:15:17.:15:24.

matters of fraud. Obviously HMRC will continue to pursue cases of

:15:25.:15:28.

fraud but indeed the government has put in additional resources into

:15:29.:15:33.

supporting the general tax avoidance and of evasion complains --

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compliance aspects. Mapping the Minister for statement and attention

:15:44.:15:50.

to the difference to the previous government response. I don't believe

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we would have this statement if not for the leadership election. I think

:15:56.:16:00.

of that and likewise I hope she would pass on our thanks for the

:16:01.:16:05.

immediate action she took on the action she took on the report I

:16:06.:16:11.

submitted. She was asked investigate the unlawful use of self-employment.

:16:12.:16:19.

The two questions I would like to ask, the worries about this contract

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is that they appear for some people to be cutting benefits and asking

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questions. And there is no mechanism

:16:26.:16:28.

by which MPs have got a hotline to try and sort

:16:29.:16:31.

out those issues out. Well very much work King --

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working to bring the work in House, might she acknowledge that

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this is a contract in place where a private company is able to make

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a decision on benefit money for It could be deemed as quite cheeky

:16:41.:16:44.

tasks many questions. Mr Speaker, I thank

:16:45.:17:09.

the right macro -- to honourable member around fact

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that it is priority to resolve I do think it is again be it

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a rating that through this contract we have secured

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to ?280 million of identified savings in terms of error and fraud

:17:27.:17:29.

and that it continues to be considerable

:17:30.:17:33.

fraud and regard to where people are I do not think it is important to

:17:34.:17:36.

recognise this contract has brought This contract does

:17:37.:17:46.

have its place but it work appropriately and it must do

:17:47.:17:51.

what it is set out to do and it should work for taxpayers and should

:17:52.:17:55.

work for the vulnerable. I will reflect on as

:17:56.:17:57.

wide a point if I may. I want to give him reassurance

:17:58.:18:00.

on that Gerald Bull point. All members of the House will have

:18:01.:18:07.

received a deluge of harrowing cases of people

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who have had cause to have The first of all

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they were even unsure this company existed,

:18:19.:18:31.

they thought it was a scam letter, There has been for delay

:18:32.:18:34.

in post-opening and try to get through on the telephone has

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been next to impossible. This has been a service level that

:18:40.:18:41.

has an acceptable Can she assured us that

:18:42.:18:44.

her statement shows this government is committed to

:18:45.:18:48.

helping the vulnerable immediately I thank my honourable

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friend for those These contracts, right

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across government we have important contracts with people

:18:58.:19:01.

to provide a server, but they need to be provided to an

:19:02.:19:02.

acceptable standard. HMRC have taken into account

:19:03.:19:05.

operational performance I think the focus for all of us,

:19:06.:19:08.

for ministers, for HMRC and individual members working

:19:09.:19:21.

in their constituency capacities as to make sure our most vulnerable

:19:22.:19:25.

constituents are supported as soon as possible to make sure that money

:19:26.:19:28.

they are entitled to hits their bank accounts and they do not have the

:19:29.:19:32.

stress of wondering where that money All of us as constituency

:19:33.:19:35.

members of Parliament can relay stories of how the service

:19:36.:19:42.

contract has worked and has been But on the issue of the jobs that

:19:43.:19:46.

will be lost, some of them in Belfast, can she tell us

:19:47.:19:51.

what contact she has had with the Northern Ireland executive or

:19:52.:19:55.

the HMRC has had with the relevant devolved administrations regions are

:19:56.:19:58.

about the effect on jobs and what will be done to give support

:19:59.:20:01.

to those who will lose jobs? I think it is important to note

:20:02.:20:12.

that the decision has been taken by HMRC not

:20:13.:20:15.

to renew the contract, so to that extent the decision for a private

:20:16.:20:19.

company like Concentrix as to what they do beyond that point

:20:20.:20:22.

is a matter for them. But I am sure that in the normal

:20:23.:20:25.

way, if the right honourable gentleman has

:20:26.:20:28.

concerns that nature, This is not a decision to end

:20:29.:20:30.

the contract here and no, it is a decision not to renew

:20:31.:20:35.

it in the spring. What other steps being taken

:20:36.:20:49.

by the government to protect the Can my honourable

:20:50.:20:52.

friend assure them a House that the lessons

:20:53.:20:55.

learned in this case will not be applied

:20:56.:20:57.

to the hat contract in May,

:20:58.:20:59.

but across more contracts I hope I can give that reassurance

:21:00.:21:01.

that not just in the future but obviously in the past and to date,

:21:02.:21:09.

it has always been the case that when the government contracts

:21:10.:21:13.

with the supplier to provide a service, that it should be

:21:14.:21:15.

provided to the right standard, that contract

:21:16.:21:17.

will be monitored and we make sure that service levels are except 22

:21:18.:21:20.

members Despite what the Minister

:21:21.:21:22.

has said earlier, I have constituents who have had

:21:23.:21:35.

their tax credits cut off without receiving any prior

:21:36.:21:39.

notification and has spent up to 70 minutes

:21:40.:21:40.

on the Which is a huge drain

:21:41.:21:42.

on the resources. Can she tell us whether the contract

:21:43.:21:52.

included penalties for concentric 's not providing an acceptable service

:21:53.:21:55.

level or answering call is within a set time, if not, who will

:21:56.:21:59.

take the responsibility or negotiating such

:22:00.:22:02.

Waiting 70 minutes to have a collards and is not acceptable.

:22:03.:22:12.

I would understand the distress caused.

:22:13.:22:14.

I am going to write to the

:22:15.:22:16.

honourable lady about that, I do not have the detail at hand.

:22:17.:22:24.

I need to assess what we can say in terms of

:22:25.:22:27.

She was expected to deliver at is half the original says -- savings

:22:28.:23:07.

plan on a contract. What more can the government do to improve the

:23:08.:23:20.

tendering process. This is a payment by results contract and as I said in

:23:21.:23:29.

the response to the Honourable Lady, concentric swell not be paid when

:23:30.:23:36.

they have not acted appropriately, it is important to get this right.

:23:37.:23:42.

-- Concentrix. I give him the reassurance that HCMR and indeed

:23:43.:23:47.

government ministers will always seek to get the right contracts but

:23:48.:23:52.

where there are lessons to be learnt we must reflect on them and make

:23:53.:23:56.

sure that they are then reflected in future arrangements. Last week in

:23:57.:24:03.

evidence to the Institute of government the former Secretary of

:24:04.:24:11.

State admitted that outsourcing to the private sector was not a panacea

:24:12.:24:23.

. Is it not time for a full review of outsourcing in the welfare system

:24:24.:24:27.

and looking at whether it is appropriate at all or if there is

:24:28.:24:33.

better provision to be done by civil service to oversee that this never

:24:34.:24:42.

happens again. Again, I would urge members to keep a degree of

:24:43.:24:47.

perspective. There are lots of contracts that deliver what we want

:24:48.:24:51.

and it is worth noting again that this contract delivered ?280 million

:24:52.:24:57.

of savings which is a sensible return on investment. Service levels

:24:58.:25:03.

must be acceptable and to the standard we have contracted. There

:25:04.:25:07.

are circumstances when the company used allows governments are

:25:08.:25:12.

cost-effective way of doing something they may not have the

:25:13.:25:20.

flexible capacity seed to do or it is easier in an unsure period than

:25:21.:25:24.

doing it in-house. I think the point is made and I will reflect on them

:25:25.:25:28.

but I do not draw the same general conclusion that he has. I concur

:25:29.:25:39.

with the excellent point made by the member and the Minister will note

:25:40.:25:42.

that genuine errors will occur by constituents and HMRC. Sometimes

:25:43.:25:51.

that for compassion is not shown by HMRC were looking at the

:25:52.:25:55.

circumstances, can we ensure that those are done in those difficult

:25:56.:26:02.

circumstances for those in need. Of course I have had the same

:26:03.:26:05.

experience as my honourable friend, only last week I sat with a

:26:06.:26:12.

constituent who had a very complex case and was in a very difficult

:26:13.:26:17.

situation. It is the case that if we take it upon the heart of

:26:18.:26:30.

constituents but when they are in HMRC, it is important to soar people

:26:31.:26:36.

out and get money into the bank accounts of constituents as soon as

:26:37.:26:43.

possible. It is clearly an interest in the urgent question the points

:26:44.:26:48.

are being made on all sides of the house will be heard when they need

:26:49.:26:55.

to be heard. There are a significant number of my constituents who have

:26:56.:27:03.

been left disadvantaged by the antics of the government. Canny

:27:04.:27:07.

ministers say that she will look seriously into finding this company

:27:08.:27:11.

and using those resources to compensate my constituents for the

:27:12.:27:14.

financial distress they have suffered. To reiterate what I said

:27:15.:27:24.

previously, I will ask HMRC to clarify the contractual obligations.

:27:25.:27:33.

As a constituency MP who has dealt with a number of cases I am pleased

:27:34.:27:37.

to note the action the government has taken. As a member of the Public

:27:38.:27:40.

Accounts Committee I have sat through numerous reports on the

:27:41.:27:43.

quality of service that HMRC provides, which is hardly call

:27:44.:27:49.

service, what assurance that the minister have to say that we will

:27:50.:27:52.

not see our drop-off in terms of service, standards and future

:27:53.:27:57.

arrangements? I don't believe that will be the case as I say HMRC has

:27:58.:28:04.

been dealing with cases of the same time as Concentrix throughout the

:28:05.:28:08.

contract, and I have been assured that when 100 and 50 of the

:28:09.:28:17.

additional staff deployed, and I have no reason to believe that the

:28:18.:28:20.

services are suffering. The point is been made and will be investigated.

:28:21.:28:26.

I am glad to hear that he Concentrix contract is ending but as the

:28:27.:28:31.

minister mentioned they will still be dealing with ongoing casework.

:28:32.:28:39.

Can she deal with a constituent of mind's situation who has been

:28:40.:28:43.

plunged into 13 thousand pounds of debt due to concentric. --

:28:44.:28:49.

Concentrix. Will she take up this case lease? If any member wishes to

:28:50.:28:59.

write me a look at it as a matter of priority. If she wanted to come or

:29:00.:29:06.

ring a complex case tomorrow to the drop in HMRC, if she liked to write

:29:07.:29:09.

me I will respond. Or the thank you, Mr Speaker. I

:29:10.:29:23.

first raised this issue in late January. That was about a family

:29:24.:29:29.

that did not have any income and it had been going on for wheat. Why

:29:30.:29:33.

does it take the BBC's programme to bring ministers to this dispatch box

:29:34.:29:45.

is the on Monday, HMRC and Concentrix, on the basis that no one

:29:46.:29:52.

will take responsibility. I think that involving the private sector in

:29:53.:29:56.

a sensitive, the main issue like this does not work. I am sorry to

:29:57.:30:00.

hear that the honourable gentleman had that difficult experience. I

:30:01.:30:05.

cannot agree with his general point that there is no role for the

:30:06.:30:08.

private sector in this regard. I refer again to the amount of money

:30:09.:30:13.

that has been saved to the taxpayer. There is a amount of fraud in the

:30:14.:30:17.

system and it is important that we bear down on this because clearly,

:30:18.:30:22.

that money should, we do not want to go into people for whom it is not

:30:23.:30:30.

appropriate. Most of the fraud, much of the fraud, does rest in that

:30:31.:30:36.

area. As he highlighted, it is a particularly difficult and sensitive

:30:37.:30:40.

issue to investigate but we do need to continue to investigate because

:30:41.:30:43.

the amount of fraud involved is considerable. We can all share the

:30:44.:30:54.

stories of anguish to our constituents and frustration for in

:30:55.:31:01.

dealing with this issue. We should also remember that the HMRC itself

:31:02.:31:06.

is not an innocent agent in this. It designed this contract. Its port

:31:07.:31:12.

customer hostility and suspicion into the contract, into the very

:31:13.:31:17.

practices that are in the contract and of course, it was HMRC that were

:31:18.:31:21.

providing the names that were targeted by Concentrix. Well some of

:31:22.:31:30.

those bigger policy miss guidance is being looked at as well as the

:31:31.:31:35.

enjoyment we are all having today in scapegoating Concentrix themselves?

:31:36.:31:43.

Mr Speaker, I returned to the answer I gave just a moment ago that we do

:31:44.:31:48.

need to continue to bear down on fraud in the system. There is a

:31:49.:31:52.

considerable amount of fraud. I am afraid it would be naive to think

:31:53.:31:58.

that all of this is error. There is fraud in the system but there is a

:31:59.:32:03.

lot of error which the original tax credits makes it easier. It is the

:32:04.:32:07.

case that we do need to continue to bear down on fraud but clearly, we

:32:08.:32:12.

need to do it in a way that does not make it difficult to assist the most

:32:13.:32:17.

vulnerable. Thank you, Mr Speaker. The minister has mentioned fraud and

:32:18.:32:21.

number of times. While obviously there is fraud in the system, I

:32:22.:32:27.

really do not see that as an excuse for constituents such as mine like

:32:28.:32:31.

Sarah Hodgson, with three young children, struggling to putting on

:32:32.:32:35.

the table. It is no excuse for incompetent contract is. I am glad

:32:36.:32:46.

that we have employed extra HMRC staff to assist people. The others

:32:47.:32:50.

in my area is due for closure. Our nearest regional office is more than

:32:51.:32:56.

200 Miles Drive away. Will you please review the closure of our

:32:57.:33:00.

local offices so that people can keep support in this situation is

:33:01.:33:08.

that they so much need like this? I am sorry to hear about the case that

:33:09.:33:14.

she mentions. She raises a wider issue about the modernisation issue

:33:15.:33:21.

that HMRC is going to. Perhaps it would be more appropriate if she

:33:22.:33:26.

wrote to me. It is important in terms of the modernisation of HMRC

:33:27.:33:31.

as they go forwards. Although, it does mean that some HMRC offices are

:33:32.:33:38.

being closed. It is about delivering a better and more modern service

:33:39.:33:46.

into the future for all of our constituents. I trust that there

:33:47.:33:52.

will be some compensation paid to the company, first of all for the

:33:53.:33:58.

way that the contracts were handled but also for the extra cost

:33:59.:34:06.

incurred. It was not so long ago that this house was condemning the

:34:07.:34:10.

HMRC for not answering more than half of telephone calls that were

:34:11.:34:14.

made by constituents about tax matters. What steps have the

:34:15.:34:20.

minister taken to ensure that new cases will be brought in-house, that

:34:21.:34:27.

there will not be that same problems with the HMRC that there had been

:34:28.:34:33.

with concentric? I think it is obviously documented that at times

:34:34.:34:37.

in the past, the HMRC have had problems with the phones. I think

:34:38.:34:42.

some of the information in the public domain lately has been rather

:34:43.:34:49.

outdated. The HMRC phone performance is considerably better in recent

:34:50.:34:54.

weeks. I think it is important in all of these things that we do reach

:34:55.:34:59.

some balance, with regard to the point bounce Concentrix. It is worth

:35:00.:35:08.

noting that they have amended around 5500 claims. I reiterate that this

:35:09.:35:12.

is an important exercise but really needs to be done in the right way.

:35:13.:35:18.

Thank you, Mr Speaker. I work in the news from the minister that

:35:19.:35:21.

Concentrix will not have their contract renewed. In the meantime,

:35:22.:35:28.

there has been a lot of talk about what is unacceptable. I think there

:35:29.:35:33.

has been a lot of focus on fraud. What we are talking about today is

:35:34.:35:40.

tremendous suffering. We're not talking about exceptions, we are

:35:41.:35:46.

talking about the widespread norm, causing exceptional misery to some

:35:47.:35:52.

families. Let me just yet with you a story of one of my constituents. A

:35:53.:36:01.

single mother of four, whose tax benefits were cut. As a result of

:36:02.:36:09.

that, she cannot get benefits for the baby. She has been told more

:36:10.:36:14.

importantly, that she cannot have her claim reopened for 44 days. Will

:36:15.:36:20.

the minister reassure me that she will intervene as a matter of

:36:21.:36:22.

urgency? I am sorry to hear her constituents

:36:23.:36:28.

has had such a difficult time. I would urge her to

:36:29.:36:32.

use the resource I have referred to throughout

:36:33.:36:42.

this to take that up. I hope that can be resolved

:36:43.:36:44.

and as soon as possible. I have emphasised, and HMRC

:36:45.:36:48.

are aware of this, speed is of the essence, where people have

:36:49.:36:50.

had their tax credits erroneously She is right, there is

:36:51.:36:54.

error in the system. I reiterate this is a too complex

:36:55.:37:01.

system and that is why the government is looking to make

:37:02.:37:05.

a major long-term reform to the way we do this,

:37:06.:37:07.

because even the honest taxpayer can easily fall

:37:08.:37:10.

into error in a system that was so complex in

:37:11.:37:13.

its design from the start. As we sit here,

:37:14.:37:16.

families up and down the country have had to rely on charity

:37:17.:37:18.

and food banks to make ends meet due to ridiculous decisions

:37:19.:37:22.

made by Concentrix. Given that so many

:37:23.:37:25.

are living a day to day existence,

:37:26.:37:32.

can the Minister confirm just how quickly people can expect to receive

:37:33.:37:35.

the money they are rightly The HMRC, at the point

:37:36.:37:38.

at which the facts are resolved, it is important we do that quickly,

:37:39.:37:57.

at the point when we have done and that may be in the course of one

:37:58.:38:02.

phone call, I am assured and this

:38:03.:38:05.

is what I expect to see, within a matter of around four

:38:06.:38:08.

working days, no longer, we would get money

:38:09.:38:11.

into people's accounts. But we need to establish

:38:12.:38:13.

the facts in each instance. It is worth saying,

:38:14.:38:26.

for the sake of the House, having some sense of

:38:27.:38:32.

the 6% of customers asked

:38:33.:38:33.

for a review of a decision

:38:34.:38:36.

following a cheque. That is a large number

:38:37.:38:39.

of people being checked, but nevertheless it

:38:40.:38:42.

would be wrong to think that this was a huge

:38:43.:38:44.

proportion of the cases. It is important we get

:38:45.:38:46.

those ones right and we look to pay people

:38:47.:38:49.

within days, as soon as we have The Minister says that

:38:50.:38:52.

HMRC is supporting Concentrix in performing

:38:53.:38:56.

their contract ending next year. What is the cost to the public purse

:38:57.:38:59.

of that support that is being

:39:00.:39:02.

provided and is that It has always been the case that

:39:03.:39:04.

as you would expect managers within HMRC have been working with

:39:05.:39:14.

Concentrix throughout, so I don't anticipate that that will be

:39:15.:39:16.

an enormous additional cost because there has always

:39:17.:39:20.

been a relationship because there has been some

:39:21.:39:25.

overlap in the work to be done and I would expect

:39:26.:39:29.

that to continue as we work towards the end

:39:30.:39:32.

of the contract. The Minister is engaged

:39:33.:39:37.

in crisis management, crisis management

:39:38.:39:38.

itself is not good enough. In the opening

:39:39.:39:43.

statement, she said In the opening statement,

:39:44.:39:46.

she said that Concentrix are not One of my constituents

:39:47.:39:49.

got a letter wanting Investigation is needed soon and it

:39:50.:39:53.

needs to look at the contract terms, order process and Concentrix

:39:54.:40:05.

behaviour and needs to look at what is the true

:40:06.:40:09.

resource requirements. Unless she announces this,

:40:10.:40:11.

we will be back here HMRC has data analytics

:40:12.:40:13.

and operational experience to deliver the kind of

:40:14.:40:23.

savings we are looking for in terms Practical measures going forward

:40:24.:40:27.

in simplifying the system, and improved detection

:40:28.:40:35.

of fraud are important parts of making sure we improve

:40:36.:40:42.

performance going forward. It is worth noting

:40:43.:40:44.

again that we have saved hundreds of millions of pounds

:40:45.:40:46.

to the taxpayer by reducing error and fraud but we want to make it

:40:47.:40:49.

harder in the future for people to As long as I have been one

:40:50.:40:53.

of their MPs, HMRC has treated people in the Wirral

:40:54.:41:02.

with disrespect, with indignity and this

:41:03.:41:03.

is just the worst in a long

:41:04.:41:05.

series of cases. Can I ask the minister one question,

:41:06.:41:08.

when did she first meet Concentrix to raise our

:41:09.:41:11.

concerns with them for? I have been a minister

:41:12.:41:13.

since mid-July, I have not met Concentrix because I have not

:41:14.:41:20.

been a minister for that long. Clearly colleagues,

:41:21.:41:25.

previous colleagues, But I have been working with HMRC

:41:26.:41:27.

to look at the regular monitoring and given the interest

:41:28.:41:32.

from colleagues across the House in recent weeks, I have been getting

:41:33.:41:41.

daily updates from HMRC But in the relatively short time,

:41:42.:41:43.

given that we have had summer recess, being in my post,

:41:44.:41:47.

I have not met them. I am sure HMRC will be disappointed

:41:48.:41:50.

to hear what she says but I think

:41:51.:41:54.

they would want to reflect One of the issues reported by my

:41:55.:41:57.

constituents is the requirement to send all the documentation

:41:58.:42:08.

by registered post, which costs over This is money that they can ill

:42:09.:42:11.

afford when they're living on the Will the Secretary of State

:42:12.:42:15.

look urgently at alternative methods of sending

:42:16.:42:23.

documentation in the remaining time I will ask that question,

:42:24.:42:26.

but I cannot give any assurance as to whether it is

:42:27.:42:36.

possible to alter that She highlights an important point

:42:37.:42:43.

about where we go in the future with The more that we can

:42:44.:42:49.

make these things digital and make them really easy

:42:50.:42:52.

for people to get right, the more likely we are to avoid

:42:53.:42:55.

these unhappy situations. The Financial Secretary must know

:42:56.:42:58.

I tabled five questions on this With 1800 people in

:42:59.:43:03.

Belfast employed by Concentrix, with Concentrix

:43:04.:43:19.

redeveloping onto one location in the city of Belfast,

:43:20.:43:27.

could I ask her to reflect how appalling that was

:43:28.:43:31.

that members of staff, how appalling that was that members

:43:32.:43:33.

of staff, many of my constituents, last night from a tweet by the BBC,

:43:34.:43:37.

as by any information from Concentrix and any

:43:38.:43:41.

information from this House. As I have said a number of times,

:43:42.:43:43.

the contract is not being The consideration of whether any

:43:44.:43:47.

contract is renewed is something that takes place in

:43:48.:43:51.

the normal course of events. The honourable gentleman does

:43:52.:43:54.

give me an opportunity to place on record my

:43:55.:43:56.

thanks to the many, many Concentrix It is as the same time

:43:57.:44:00.

as we shine a light on where Adam -- form is as

:44:01.:44:05.

unacceptable, there are many people who are doing a good job and

:44:06.:44:08.

providing a good level of service. Many people are succeeding

:44:09.:44:12.

in that regard. I know the Minister says she sees no

:44:13.:44:22.

need for an enquiry but I and I know many colleagues in the chamber

:44:23.:44:26.

today and certainly constituents of ours would disagree

:44:27.:44:30.

with that position. My question would be how

:44:31.:44:32.

can we learn lessons to ensure these practices employed

:44:33.:44:35.

by Concentrix don't ever come to light again,

:44:36.:44:38.

if we don't look into to light again, if we don't look

:44:39.:44:41.

into the practices carried out by some form

:44:42.:44:44.

of investigation or enquiry? I think it is right

:44:45.:44:46.

that in the normal we arrange things in the future,

:44:47.:44:57.

to reflect on what we can learn from things that have already happened,

:44:58.:45:01.

and that would be something you would do through a normal process

:45:02.:45:04.

of review and consideration. We will just have to agree to differ

:45:05.:45:07.

with regard to the issue I have been contacted by so many

:45:08.:45:10.

distressed women in my constituency about how

:45:11.:45:18.

awful Concentrix is. to mums who were only trying

:45:19.:45:31.

to renew their tax credits to get payday loans to feed

:45:32.:45:37.

their children. There is a group formed

:45:38.:45:39.

with over 5000 members. On this group, mothers

:45:40.:45:47.

share their horror stories. The lady may have got

:45:48.:45:51.

the Burnley condition. One mother hadn't

:45:52.:46:05.

eaten for three days This is sickening

:46:06.:46:14.

and should be stopped. I am aware of the Facebook

:46:15.:46:25.

group she mentions and the nature of the cases

:46:26.:46:28.

documented there. To end on when I began,

:46:29.:46:30.

Mr Speaker, that is why we are deploying additional resources

:46:31.:46:34.

so we can deal with the most difficult cases where people

:46:35.:46:36.

are vulnerable in the quickest time possible

:46:37.:46:38.

and that will be my focus and that of HMRC

:46:39.:46:42.

We come to the ten minute rule motion.

:46:43.:46:58.

Ten minute rule motion, Charlie Elphicke.

:46:59.:47:02.

I beg that leave be given to bring in a bill

:47:03.:47:07.

of the United Kingdom from membership of the European

:47:08.:47:09.

Brexit means Brexit and we will make a success of it.

:47:10.:47:17.

It also means Brexit means Brexit and it means we

:47:18.:47:20.

The matter of Article 50 is a matter for

:47:21.:47:30.

The matter of Article 50 is a matter for the Prime Minister alone.

:47:31.:47:33.

She has the mandate of the masses given to her

:47:34.:47:36.

on June the 23rd and it is right that she invoke it.

:47:37.:47:39.

I hope the sooner she invokes that the better

:47:40.:47:42.

so we have the security, the stability and the certainty we need

:47:43.:47:45.

as we seek to build a post Brexit Britain.

:47:46.:47:48.

I bring this House, I bring this bill to the House today.

:47:49.:47:51.

First to give the House an opportunity to

:47:52.:47:53.

endorse and accept the decision of the British people on June the 23rd.

:47:54.:47:59.

And second, to talk about the red lines that the British people

:48:00.:48:02.

clearly have in terms of what Brexit will look like.

:48:03.:48:14.

And third, a kind of vision we can have for the post Brexit

:48:15.:48:18.

The first issue is this issue of where

:48:19.:48:21.

members of Parliament were when it came to the referendum.

:48:22.:48:26.

I myself was concerned about the border

:48:27.:48:37.

I am here today to say that is their decision.

:48:38.:48:40.

This is in particular for the Labour Party to reject it,

:48:41.:48:49.

we should have a second referendum to drive

:48:50.:48:51.

the British people back into the European Union again.

:48:52.:49:01.

It is not an opportunity for the party opposite

:49:02.:49:03.

we accept and will submit to the will of the British people and will

:49:04.:49:08.

I see the SNP as well who don't seem like

:49:09.:49:12.

to like the result of any referendum on these British Isles at all.

:49:13.:49:19.

Including accepting the decision of the Scottish people to

:49:20.:49:21.

remain part of the European union and the United Kingdom.

:49:22.:49:24.

I would say to them, they would be wrong to

:49:25.:49:32.

think that if at first you don't succeed, vote,

:49:33.:49:34.

That would be the wrong approach to take.

:49:35.:49:41.

Turning to the red lines of the British people, it is

:49:42.:49:46.

very clear that the British people are deeply concerned about the level

:49:47.:49:49.

And they have been told and pledged in

:49:50.:49:57.

manifestos, that the number would be brought down of net migration

:49:58.:50:01.

And they are very concerned, people on Dover tell me

:50:02.:50:12.

on a regular basis, about the downward pressure this

:50:13.:50:14.

makes on their wages and they have been

:50:15.:50:17.

underlined and proved right.

:50:18.:50:18.

By important research that showed wages to be ?450

:50:19.:50:21.

lower for hard-working classes of Britain.

:50:22.:50:29.

And indeed, they found that if we did indeed succeed in bringing

:50:30.:50:37.

migration down to the tens of thousands, we would have a pay rise.

:50:38.:50:45.

There is work published by the OECD in 2009 that says mass migration has

:50:46.:50:51.

not benefit at the people of written in general. It does not have an

:50:52.:50:54.

economic good for the British people in their daily lives. That red line

:50:55.:51:02.

is really crystal clear. We must and uncontrolled EU immigration. The

:51:03.:51:07.

second point was also underlined by Lord Ashcroft. It is very clear that

:51:08.:51:15.

people do not want to have billions for Brussels. That has got to end.

:51:16.:51:20.

We cannot have any deal that involves handing billions of pounds

:51:21.:51:25.

over to Brussels. That money should remain at home and be invested in

:51:26.:51:30.

Britain. We need to use that money wisely, which brings me to the final

:51:31.:51:38.

point which I want to make. A most important point, what is a post

:51:39.:51:44.

Grexit written going to look like? My constituents say to me that it

:51:45.:51:49.

has always seemed to be about investing in HS2 or runways in

:51:50.:51:58.

in oils seems to be about benefiting the Jetset elite. Why is it never

:51:59.:52:04.

about us in London? An infrastructure project that they

:52:05.:52:18.

have been waiting for for so long, which OS seems to work for the

:52:19.:52:24.

elites, not for the regional populace? The majority of the

:52:25.:52:32.

British people live in the regions, London has only 10%.

:52:33.:52:42.

The south-east has a difference of some 26%. My constituents couldn't

:52:43.:52:49.

do that and said the allocation of resources in this country is not

:52:50.:52:53.

bear. This is an opportunity to make that zero. Then it comes down to an

:52:54.:53:02.

issue of who does Britain work for? They feel Britain to offer and works

:53:03.:53:06.

for the Philip Green 's of this world, for the privileged few,

:53:07.:53:09.

rather than the hard-working working-class kids of Dover and

:53:10.:53:21.

Darlington. That needs to change. We all know that big companies are

:53:22.:53:25.

gaining the corporate tax system and paying hardly any tax in this

:53:26.:53:31.

country, they are about Apple. We all know that is on our too. We need

:53:32.:53:41.

to make sure that when it comes to Google, that Google pay a fair share

:53:42.:53:46.

of tax in this country. When it comes to car rental businesses, for

:53:47.:53:51.

me, that showed that we are being taken for a ride. They were imposing

:53:52.:53:59.

a Grexit tax on us, while not paying any corporate tax to Britain. It is

:54:00.:54:05.

that kind of thing that drives the people of Dover a round the bend and

:54:06.:54:10.

we need to put a stop to it. We can do that when we leave the European

:54:11.:54:14.

Union. Very simply we can do that because we will not struck by their

:54:15.:54:20.

antidiscrimination rules. We need to ensure that the nation works for the

:54:21.:54:25.

people as a whole, rather than the bloated bonuses that we have seen

:54:26.:54:29.

too much of recently and in recent years. Pay in the boardroom is 150

:54:30.:54:37.

times that of the chief executives, then it is for employees. That is

:54:38.:54:45.

not right and that has doubled in the pass 20 years. -- past 20 years.

:54:46.:54:56.

That kind of culture needs to change. We need to have a country

:54:57.:55:00.

that works for everyone, not just the few. It is very important to

:55:01.:55:06.

ensure that when we have investment, we have investment in the region is,

:55:07.:55:12.

like Bristol and Birmingham and Manchester. It is important that we

:55:13.:55:18.

have rail and roads for the regions as well. Brexit means Brexit. We are

:55:19.:55:26.

going to make a success of it. It is also an opportunity to change the

:55:27.:55:31.

way we run Britain, to change our way of life. To change who we work

:55:32.:55:37.

for, and to make sure that our country works for everyone. That is

:55:38.:55:43.

the change that we want to make. It was the towns and villages of this

:55:44.:55:47.

country that decided to take this country out of the European Union

:55:48.:55:51.

and those towns should be supported for leading the charge on the kind

:55:52.:55:57.

of future that we can have as we head out into the supermarket of the

:55:58.:56:08.

world. Two to claim the honourable member of his right to bring in the

:56:09.:56:12.

bill. He said that we in Scotland should have respect for the

:56:13.:56:17.

decision, the outcome of the referendum. I very much respect the

:56:18.:56:23.

outcome of those nations who voted to leave the EU. I would simply say

:56:24.:56:28.

to my friend from Dover, perhaps he and his colleagues should respect

:56:29.:56:31.

the wishes of those nations who voted to remain in the EU. It is

:56:32.:56:38.

always sweet I think to be chided by the honourable member for Dover, who

:56:39.:56:44.

railed against a Jetset elite, who talked about the imbalance in

:56:45.:56:54.

boardroom pay. We do not need to leave the EU to tackle that

:56:55.:57:00.

imbalance. He talked about the imbalance in public spending and he

:57:01.:57:11.

was right to do so. Such is the imbalance, Scotland get even less

:57:12.:57:15.

money than the south-east gets. We do not need to leave the EU in order

:57:16.:57:20.

to rebalance public spending throughout the English regions. If I

:57:21.:57:24.

we had an English Parliament to deal with these things, things would be

:57:25.:57:29.

so much better. The honourable gentleman spoke about corporate tax

:57:30.:57:34.

and how little was paid by some of the Goliaths of the global,

:57:35.:57:39.

corporate world. We do not need to leave the EU and we can opportunity

:57:40.:57:49.

further. In essence, the honourable gentleman made a pitch to leave now

:57:50.:57:55.

because he said Brexit means Brexit and we will make a success of it.

:57:56.:58:04.

The problem, and why no one can support this is when the Prime

:58:05.:58:09.

Minister, the leader of government, leader of the Tory party is asked if

:58:10.:58:17.

Brexit means Brexit means we will be in leaving the single market, she

:58:18.:58:27.

does not know. When she was asked today if support for financial

:58:28.:58:30.

services would be maintained, she said that I refer to the answer I

:58:31.:58:35.

gave last week, which is that I do not know. On the basis that Brexit

:58:36.:58:41.

means Brexit is no more than the meaningless, campaigning expression

:58:42.:58:45.

and none of the attributes or benefits described by the honourable

:58:46.:58:50.

gentleman in terms of tackling proper pay, tackling taxation,

:58:51.:58:55.

tackling the imbalance in public regional expenditure in England will

:58:56.:59:05.

be in any way improved by Brexit. I fear that we are going to have two

:59:06.:59:11.

call against the valiant gentleman's attempts to drag the whole of the UK

:59:12.:59:18.

out of the EU before there is even a plan to stop a

:59:19.:59:31.

As many stop a as are of that opinion.

:59:32.:59:38.

The question is that the honourable member have leave to bring

:59:39.:59:46.

This is a trailer for BBC Four's conceptual art season.

:59:47.:00:06.

You see clips of a pile of bricks causing anger in a gallery,

:00:07.:00:11.

The shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, Rebecca Long-Bailey, asks an Urgent Question on Concentrix's activities in relation to tax credit investigations, and Charlie Elphicke introduces his European Union (Withdrawal from Membership) Bill to the House of Commons. From 14 September.


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