Press release

Number 10 Press Briefing - Morning From 20 December 2011

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

From the Prime Minister's spokesperson on pensions negotiations, HMRC and Peter Bone MP.

Pensions negotiations

Asked if the Chief Secretary to the Treasury would have good news on pensions negotiations today, the Prime Minister’s Spokesman (PMS) said we should wait and see, but that there would be a statement by the Chief Secretary to the Treasury at 12.30pm, with written ministerial statements from the relevant departments; and that there would be a press conference at theTreasury at 2.30pm today.

HM Revenue and Customs

Asked if big companies received preferential treatment from HM Revenue and Customs, as the Public Accounts Committee had said in its report, the PMS said that they did not get preferential treatment. The PMS said that HMRC treated all taxpayers even-handedly.  They supported the majority of taxpayers so that they could comply with the law, and that they cracked down hard on those who sought to avoid paying tax.

Asked if the Prime Minister shared the PAC Chairman’s view that the relationship between big companies and HMRC was too cosy, the PMS said that HMRC collected a record £468 billion of tax last year. The PMS added that they had been developing a new approach to dealing with large corporate taxpayers, which had led to additional revenues. The PMS said its approach had been adopted and copied by other tax authorities around the world including the United States, and had been praised by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Asked if there was concern about the relationship between Goldman Sachs and HMRC, the PMS said it would not be appropriate for him to comment on individual taxpayers. He added that HMRC treated all taxpayers in the same way. Asked if MPs had got it wrong, the PMS said that HMRC disputed the findings of the report, saying they rejected the assertion that there had been a systemic failure.

Asked if all taxpayers were treated the same, the PMS said there was a fundamental principle which was that people had to pay the tax that was due. The PMS said that administration of large corporate tax was different to administration of individuals pay, and different parts of HMRC dealt with different taxes and clients.

Asked if the NAO should investigate big taxpayers, the PMS said that was the auditor of HMRC. He said there was a fundamental principle of taxpayer confidentiality and that it was incredibly important to the integrity of the system that this was maintained. The PMS said that the NAO was able to look at any papers it wanted at any time.

Asked about the hospitality received by the HMRC Permanent Secretary, the PMS said it was a matter of public record and that we knew about this because of the Government’s commitment to transparency. The PMS said that the Government had published all details of hospitality received by the most senior civil servants. Asked if the Prime Minister would encourage further whistle-blowing, the PMS said that if people were doing things that were wrong then we would need to know about it, but stressed that HMRC did not accept the central findings of the report.

Peter Bone MP

Asked about comments made by Peter Bone MP, that there should be clarity on what would happen if the Prime Minister died, the PMS said he would not discuss hypothetical scenarios.