LIKE A NAUGHTY SCHOOLKID, the taxman appeared before the Treasury select committee. Chairman Mike Clasper knew his role well, taking heed of headmaster George Mudie’s words that HM Revenue & Customs must do better. As such, Mudie welcomed his tactic of agreeing with everything the committee said and he was spared the cane.
Not so lucky was HMRC chief executive Dame Leslie Strathie. After batting away many of headmaster Mudie’s questions fairly successful, he finally pulled her up in the middle of her analysis of HMRC’s performance for her use of “I think…”.
“You keep saying that,” he told her. “I’m asking you whether HMRC’s performance is improving, yet you are only telling me what you think is the case. You should know these things. You are the chief executive. You should know whether it is getting better, getting worse, or staying the same. If you do not know, then you are not doing your job properly.”
Thoroughly scolded, Dame Leslie took his words on board. Shunning the phrase she had been told off for, she adopted a change of tack. “I believe…”, she started. Needless to say, the headmaster did not take kindly to this.
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