Examination of Witnesses (Questions 120-139)|
MONTAGU KCB, MR
MONDAY 18 MARCH 2002
120. Can we now please look at the last one
of those four "Make time to monitor subsequent developments
closely." In particular the last sentence "If an unacceptably
high percentage of users have difficulties using the new service,
it might be better to withdraw the product". Do you agree
with that recommendation?
(Sir Nicholas Montagu) If it was an unacceptably high
percentage, yes, I would.
121. What is an "unacceptably high percentage"?
(Sir Nicholas Montagu) I think it would depend very
much on the nature of the system and the complaint. You cannot
say X per cent is acceptable, Y per cent is unacceptable.
122. What percentage in this case would have
made you think you ought to withdraw the system?
(Sir Nicholas Montagu) I think it would have to be
an exceptionally high percentage of people finding that the system
simply was incapable of doing what it set out to do.
123. What it says here is "If an unacceptably
high percentage of users have difficulties using the new service
. . .".
(Sir Nicholas Montagu) Yes.
124. What percentage of people having difficulties
using the new service would you have said meant that you ought
to withdraw the product?
(Sir Nicholas Montagu) If, Mr Rendel, this is a round
about way of coming back to the number of faulty submissions or
of unsuccessful submissions, that is a good example of what I
do not think would have been a good reason to withdraw the whole
self assessment service. Indeed the fact that now we have totally
reversed this is, I think, indicative that my view is right.
125. What you are saying is in this case there
was no unacceptably high percentage of users having difficulties
that would have caused you to withdraw the service?
(Sir Nicholas Montagu) What I am saying is that I
do not consider
126. You have accepted this paragraph but now
you seem to be saying in this case it is not relevant.
(Sir Nicholas Montagu) But remember what we are talking
about hereand I suspect that I was right in thinking that
was what you had in mindis submissions, Mr Rendel, we are
not talking about users. Sir John's report makes very clear that
a lot of people tried a lot of times. I do not know, do you use
(Sir Nicholas Montagu) You must, as I have done many
times, have typed an extra letter, missed out a dot or whatever,
tried to send it and back it comes "undeliverable",
that is an example of an unsuccessful submission. There was nothing
fundamentally wrong with the system that would I think have justified
our withdrawing the facility. What, of course, we tried to do
and have succeeded in doing is to improve the rate of successful
submissions, so that now four out of five are successful.
128. This does not actually say "an unacceptably
high percentage of users cannot use the new service" it says
"If an unacceptably high percentage of users have difficulties
using the new service . . .". You seem to be now saying that
you would only have withdrawn the service if an unacceptably high
percentage could not use the service.
(Sir Nicholas Montagu) I think that is probably right.
129. That seems to be changing things.
(Sir Nicholas Montagu) What I am saying is that if
so many people have difficulties using the service that it is
unfit for purposebecause that is what "unacceptably"
means to methen I would consider withdrawing it. That was
not the case with self assessment.
130. My next question is to the C&AG for
a moment, if I may. Figure eight on page 15 has a light blue line
for initial estimated take up, a slightly darker blue line for
revised estimated take up and a very hard blue for actual take
up. I was wondering, C&AG, if you could tell us what you meant
by "initial estimated take up". I think it answers an
earlier question to Mr Davies. Sir Nicholas indicated that those
figures were not actually initially estimated take up but possible
maximum take up. Was that what you meant by that or did you really
mean that was an estimate of how many people would take it up?
(Mr Gibby) We understood that figure to be a projection
of the estimated likely take up in the first year.
131. Do you have any comments on that, Sir Nicholas?
That did not seem to be what you were saying to Mr Davies.
(Sir Nicholas Montagu) I think that is common ground
in the sense that the first figure certainly represents our projection
of taxpayers who might want to use the system. I think if there
is a difference it may be only over that. That was based on specific
research with customers, general internet surveys and trends at
the time. If there is a difference it is a very fine one. The
second column represents the profile that we would need to hit
our targets if growth is in a straight line. I have indicated
already that what I share with Sir John is a view that the target
is unrealistic for self assessment.
132. I understand there is a significant difference
between those who might want to take it up and those who it is
estimated will take it up. It may be that you have a different
understanding of what this chart shows. It seems from what you
are now saying that there was a different understanding of what
(Sir Nicholas Montagu) I note Sir John uses the words
"projection" which is also the word that I use. Neither
of us has pretended for one moment that this was a prediction.
It could not be a scientific prediction and it was never intended
133. Can I ask this. When somebody obtained
a CD-Rom and then found they could not use it, if then they submitted
late as a result because they went back to using the form, would
they still have been fined?
(Mr Hawes) If somebody obtained the CD-Rom say in
August or September, chose not to use it, went back to paper and
filed late, my understanding would be that would not be grounds
for not imposing a fine.
134. Was anybody let off their fine because
they said "I had the CD-Rom. I got it two or three weeks
in advance. I understood that would be plenty of time to file.
I tried it out. Actually I could not get it to work and then I
had to get the forms and was not able to submit on time after
all". Was anybody let off their penalty because of that?
(Mr Hawes) I do not have that information. I can assure
that we did look at a number of individual cases around the deadline
date as we always would.
(Sir Nicholas Montagu) I can give you an example which
might help, Mr Rendel. We do not, as Terry says, have that answer,
but there was a famous problem with software produced not by us
but by another organisation. The difficulty with it was not of
our making but people who used it thought that they had filed
when they had not done so. Where people were able to show that
they were late as a result of that we did not take penalties.
135. Do you have the information, not now but
(Sir Nicholas Montagu) No, we do not have that information
I am afraid.
136. So you do not know if there was anybody
who did not file who you did not fine or impose a penalty on because
they said they were late because they had to get a form?
(Sir Nicholas Montagu) No, we do not have. I have
to say that given the volume of my post bag and indeed the volume
coming in to the electronic business unit, had it been a significant
issue we would have known, I think.
137. The incentive is currently £10 I think
(Sir Nicholas Montagu) No, there is no incentive now.
It was a pump priming one.
138. Right. There was an incentive in the first
year and now there is no incentive at all for doing it?
(Sir Nicholas Montagu) No.
139. I will go on to another question about
that incentive in the first year. Did you get the £10 if
you had overpaid and were due a repayment?
(Sir Nicholas Montagu) Yes.