Select Committee on Treasury Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 135 - 139)




  135. Minister, welcome to the Committee. Perhaps you could identify yourself and your colleagues.
  (Ms Primarolo) I am Dawn Primarolo. I am the Paymaster General. With me I have Michael Hanson, who is the Director of Finance and Strategy, and Derek Hodgson, who is Head of the Analysis Division.

  136. Can I thank you for coming today, not least because, as I understand it, you do not now have responsibility for Customs and Excise, although you had at the time. That is the position, is it not?
  (Ms Primarolo) That is correct. I thought it was appropriate, given I discussed it with the Committee before and I commissioned the report, that you may want to return to this issue with me. I am sure there are many other issues you may want to return to.

  137. We understand that and appreciate it. Can we start generally with the Roques Report? Do you accept it?
  (Ms Primarolo) Yes. The recommendations in the Roques Report, 62 of them, have been accepted and I think that it provides a very thorough analysis of the issues around diversion fraud, and indeed the NAO report concurs with that, which was published alongside it.

  138. When you say that you accept the recommendations, do you accept the findings of the report as well?
  (Ms Primarolo) Yes, and indeed that is why I commissioned such an investigation to look at the issues surrounding the loss of revenue over a period of time and to address how that occurred and what changes needed to be made to respond to that disclosure. Obviously there was difficulty in some respects in that the inquiry period covered a period including the previous government, and I felt that Parliament would want to know how it happened, why it happened and how much and that it would not happen again.

  139. One of the findings, and we took evidence from Mr Roques, was that the original estimate of losses was some £670 million, but Mr Roques told us, and I quote: "The actual losses were almost certainly much, much larger than that. I estimate an order of magnitude of £500 million a year." Do you accept that?
  (Ms Primarolo) Can I be clear exactly what part of the Roques Report you are asking me to comment on there because the recommendations, and indeed endorsed by the NAO Report, were firstly to focus on the specific issue of alcohol diversion fraud and the losses that had not been accounted for by the Department in its accounts over a number of years. Mr Roques then went on to make recommendations generally about fraud estimates and the exposure to revenue loss to the Department. With regard to the figures, specifically on diversion fraud, the figure is in the region, as Mr Roques has confirmed and the NAO, I think it was of £500 million and separately there are questions of other frauds which the Department published as part of the PBR yesterday and details of those fraud estimates with the methodology of how they came to those conclusions. So there are two different sets here: for the loss as a result of diversion of fraud through those warehouses, the figure is in the region of the figures that Mr Roques identified and the NAO confirmed, yes.

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Prepared 29 January 2002