All 12 contributions to the Finance (No.2) Act 2017

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Wed 6th Sep 2017
Ways and Means
Commons Chamber

Ways and Means resolution: House of Commons
Tue 12th Sep 2017
Finance Bill
Commons Chamber

2nd reading: House of Commons
Wed 11th Oct 2017
Finance Bill
Commons Chamber

Committee: 1st sitting: House of Commons
Tue 17th Oct 2017
Finance Bill (First sitting)
Public Bill Committees

Committee Debate: 1st Sitting: House of Commons
Tue 17th Oct 2017
Finance Bill (Second sitting)
Public Bill Committees

Committee Debate: 2nd Sitting: House of Commons
Thu 19th Oct 2017
Finance Bill (Third sitting)
Public Bill Committees

Committee Debate: 3rd sitting: House of Commons
Thu 19th Oct 2017
Finance Bill (Fourth sitting)
Public Bill Committees

Committee Debate: 4th sitting: House of Commons
Tue 24th Oct 2017
Finance Bill (Fifth sitting)
Public Bill Committees

Committee Debate: 5th sitting: House of Commons
Tue 24th Oct 2017
Finance Bill (Sixth sitting)
Public Bill Committees

Committee Debate: 6th sitting: House of Commons
Wed 1st Nov 2017
Finance Bill
Lords Chamber

1st reading (Hansard): House of Lords
Wed 15th Nov 2017
Finance Bill
Lords Chamber

3rd reading (Hansard): House of Lords & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard): House of Lords & Report stage (Hansard): House of Lords
Thu 16th Nov 2017
Royal Assent
Lords Chamber

Royal Assent (Hansard) & Royal Assent (Hansard) & Royal Assent (Hansard)

Ways and Means

Ways and Means resolution: House of Commons
Wednesday 6th September 2017

(6 years, 8 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Finance (No.2) Act 2017 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Taxable Benefits
Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle)
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Before I call the Financial Secretary to the Treasury to move the first Ways and Means motion, I make it clear to the House that motions 1 to 48 will be debated together.

14:51
Mel Stride Portrait The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mel Stride)
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I beg to move,

That—

(a) provision (including provision having retrospective effect) may be made amending Part 3 of the Income Tax (Earnings and Pensions) Act 2003, and

(b) (notwithstanding anything to the contrary in the practice of the House relating to the matters that may be included in Finance Bills) provision may be made taking effect in a future year amending Chapter 6 of that Part (taxable benefits: cars etc).

The motions on the Order Paper provide the basis for the second Finance Bill of 2017. They will define the scope of the Bill and allow the Government to introduce it for further debate and consideration in the normal way. The motions ultimately represent a number of measures that will refine our tax system to make it fairer and more sustainable.

As the House will be aware, Finance Bill resolutions are typically the formal subject of the Budget debate and are considered at that point. That was the case earlier this year, when the Government introduced the first Finance Bill of 2017 after the spring Budget. The general election, however, meant that time to consider that Bill was curtailed. We proceeded on the basis of consensus, taking a number of important provisions, including the soft drinks industry levy, through to Royal Assent before Parliament was dissolved, but a large volume of legislation on other announcements at the spring Budget and earlier fiscal events was withdrawn. At that point, my predecessor clarified to the House that there was no change of policy and that the Government intended to legislate for the withdrawn measures at the first opportunity. The written statement I provided on 13 July again confirmed that intention.

These motions now pick up where we left off and legislate for the provisions that were introduced and withdrawn due to time constraints. The areas of tax legislation that they provide for will not be a surprise to right hon. and hon. Members, who passed resolutions corresponding to these tax changes after the spring Budget and debated them on Second Reading of the earlier Act.

In fact, Members who are aficionados of tax legislation—I note that a few usual suspects are here today—will find a lot of the Bill to be even older news. Before they were introduced after the spring Budget, many of the clauses had been published in draft and the policy design had been consulted on with tax professionals, businesses and the public. Such an open and consultative approach is an important part of the tax policy making process; it helps to ensure that legislation achieves its intended effect and means that those who will be affected know in advance what to expect.

Lady Hermon Portrait Lady Hermon (North Down) (Ind)
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I am grateful to the Minister for allowing me to make an early intervention. So that the House can understand the voting patterns later tonight, will he clarify whether the motions before us are covered by the deal done between the Democratic Unionist party and the Conservative party? That answer will be very informative to the House and, indeed, to our constituents.

Mel Stride Portrait Mel Stride
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I assure the hon. Lady that the process at the conclusion of this debate will be exactly the same as the one we go through on any consideration of Ways and Means measures in respect of such fiscal matters.

An open and consultative approach is important to our tax policy making process, and our commitment to a single major fiscal event each year is a further valuable step to improving the process for making fiscal policy. Just as with most other major economies, people will no longer face a host of tax changes twice a year.

The transition to the new Budget timetable will, of course, mean that a further Finance Bill will be introduced following this autumn’s Budget. In line with our past practice, the Government will next week publish drafts of some clauses that we plan to introduce in the next Finance Bill. The transition means there are fewer clauses than in recent years, but pre-legislative scrutiny will again help consideration of the Bill.

On that subject, Members may notice that there has been a slight change to the motions on today’s Order Paper. The Government have withdrawn a motion covering changes to the definition of a taxable disposal within landfill tax. That motion and the corresponding clause will no longer be taken forward in the current Bill.

Mel Stride Portrait Mel Stride
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The hon. Gentleman has brilliantly pre-empted my next comments. If only he were a little more patient, all would be revealed. Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs has been consulting on related changes to the taxation of illegal waste disposals over the summer, and we will set out our proposals in this area on 13 September when draft clauses for the winter Bill are published.

Kevan Jones Portrait Mr Jones
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Is the Minister saying that those proposals will actually come forward? I will address this in my speech, but I have been in discussion with HMRC’s policy department, which has given certain commitments to making some serious changes in order to collect more landfill tax and stop avoidance.

Mel Stride Portrait Mel Stride
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The hon. Gentleman is right about the importance of those measures, and they will go forward. The policy has not changed; it will just come forward at a different time with other measures in this area.

Jim Cunningham Portrait Mr Jim Cunningham (Coventry South) (Lab)
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Does the Minister have the staff to do the job on addressing tax avoidance?

Mel Stride Portrait Mel Stride
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Our record on addressing tax avoidance speaks for itself. HMRC has raised £160 billion from clamping down on avoidance, evasion and non-compliance since 2010, which is a vast improvement. Given that our current deficit is running at about a third of the 2010 level, this Government have brought in a huge amount of money. In terms of having the resources, we have invested £1.8 billion in HMRC since 2010 to focus exactly on tax avoidance.

Kevan Jones Portrait Mr Kevan Jones
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As the Minister knows, HMRC’s landfill tax figures show a £150 million tax gap. Will the future proposals be published for further reaction and consultation? What I hear from the industry is that some of the proposals it wants are being ignored by HMRC.

Mel Stride Portrait Mel Stride
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All the measures relating to the motions we are debating will be out there and will be clear. They will be brought forward along with other measures later in this Session.

Moving back to the Bill at hand, the motions on the Order Paper give little mystery as to the provisions that we will be introducing. I look forward to debating them in more detail as the Bill progresses, and I will say more about the overall aims of the Bill on Second Reading. For the moment, I will provide a brief outline of some of the main measures.

The Bill that the motions provide the basis for will make significant changes to the corporation tax regime for large companies. Building on work that this Government have championed internationally and the recommendations of the OECD, the Bill will limit the extent to which big multinational corporations can reduce the tax they pay in the UK through excessive deductions for interest expense. That measure will address a significant area of corporate tax avoidance, and is forecast to raise £5.3 billion over the next five years by ensuring those corporations pay a fair contribution.

The Bill will also change the treatment of losses within corporation tax; it restricts the extent to which past losses can be set against taxable profits, ensuring that companies with profits over £5 million in a year must pay some corporation tax. At the same time, the Bill will provide for allowances recognising donations to grassroots sport and to museum and gallery exhibitions, and for new £1,000 allowances so that those earning small amounts from trading or property will not have to pay tax on this income. The changes to tackle avoidance of corporation tax by multinationals are part of a number of changes that take further steps in tackling tax avoidance and tax evasion.

Rachel Maclean Portrait Rachel Maclean (Redditch) (Con)
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Does my right hon. Friend agree that Labour’s plans to raise corporate and personal taxation will damage real incomes and investment in the UK?

Mel Stride Portrait Mel Stride
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My hon. Friend is relatively new to this House but she makes an important and insightful point, which is that, as we know, we should be under no illusions that under Labour’s plans corporation tax will rise. We have seen it fall from 28% to 19%, and it will continue down to 17%—

Kevan Jones Portrait Mr Kevan Jones
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On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I thought this debate was about the Government’s proposals. The Minister, following a set-up question from a Back Bencher, is now talking about what proposals Labour might have. Is that in order? Should we not be sticking to the—

Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs Eleanor Laing)
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Order. I thank the hon. Gentleman for his point of order. It is right that we must keep a careful eye on these matters, which of course I am doing. I am sure the Minister is, in the remarks he is making, using as an illustration other policies that may not be his policies. Of course, if he is replying to points raised in the debate, I will always encourage that, because it is important that every Member in this House has a say in the debate. [Interruption.]

Kevan Jones Portrait Mr Jones
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It is a set-up—

Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker
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The hon. Gentleman must not add more from a sedentary position to his point of order, so I will not take up that point, which in any case I cannot answer. The Minister has barely begun, and I am sure that in his wide-ranging speech he will cover everything he ought to cover and everything the House requires him to cover.

Mel Stride Portrait Mel Stride
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Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. I could not have put that better myself. [Interruption.] And I will get on with it, too. I am not surprised that Labour Members are slightly shy about our discussing their tax plans, because they are not good for our country. Having a plan to raise corporation tax to 26%, with an increase for small companies as well, and to change the tax threshold to bring many, many more people into the higher rate of tax is not a way of incentivising jobs, wealth and economic growth, as the hon. Gentleman well knows.

Our changes to tackle avoidance of corporation tax by multinationals are part of a number of changes that take further steps in tackling tax avoidance and tax evasion. Others covered by these resolutions will introduce a penalty for those who enable tax avoidance, a penalty for transactions connected with VAT fraud and measures to tackle disguised remuneration tax-avoidance schemes.

The Government’s aim to make the tax system fairer is further supported by the Bill’s provisions on the taxation of those with non-domiciled status. A number of changes will be made, and these are forecast to raise £1.6 billion over the next five years. Most importantly, permanent non-dom status for people resident in the UK will be ended, so that they pay tax in the same way as everybody else. That major reform makes the tax system—

Kevan Jones Portrait Mr Kevan Jones
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I wish to make a point about tax avoidance and fraud. When it comes to landfill tax, will that extend to companies or public organisations which know that the price they are paying for the collection of their waste cannot possibly include the disposal rates of landfill tax? Or will it cover those accountants and others who are involved in a landfill tax company and know what is actually going on? Will that be covered by the definition of fraud and avoidance?

Mel Stride Portrait Mel Stride
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I will ask the relevant Minister in the relevant Department to get back to the hon. Gentleman on that very specific point.

I was discussing a major reform that makes the tax system fairer and supports the public finances, increasing, but not jeopardising, the contribution that non-doms make to tax revenues. Other clauses will legislate for the changes—

Steve McCabe Portrait Steve McCabe (Birmingham, Selly Oak) (Lab)
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Will the Minister explain how long the Government have been working on this major concession and when he anticipates that there will actually be some change that means non-doms experience the same arrangements as ordinary taxpayers in this country?

Mel Stride Portrait Mel Stride
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The answer to the hon. Gentleman’s question is that that is precisely what this Bill will be achieving. We will be putting an end to permanent non-dom status, so that those who are “deemed domicile” are treated on the same basis for taxation purposes as other residents in our country. Let me gently remind him that his party was in government for 13 years and very little happened then on the issues to which he now professes objection. So we should not be taking too many lessons from Labour on the issue of non-doms.

Charlie Elphicke Portrait Charlie Elphicke (Dover) (Con)
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Does my right hon. Friend recall, as I do, that for the best part of a decade the Labour party kept saying every year that it would do something about non-doms and then did nothing whatsoever because it was so into the prawn cocktail circuit and pandering to big business, and that Labour only ever took any action when it was humiliated by our previous Chancellor, George Osborne, when he was in opposition? Does my right hon. Friend also agree that this Government have been leading the way consistently on making sure that a fair share of tax is paid by non-doms and others?

Mel Stride Portrait Mel Stride
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My hon. Friend is entirely right about that. We currently raise £7 billion a year from non-domiciled individuals, which is £1 billion more than was the case a decade ago. The provisions in this Bill will ensure that we raise a further £1.6 billion over the next five years, so this Government are serious about this issue and are acting on it.

Other clauses will legislate for the changes we have announced to the dividend allowance, reducing the differential between taxation of different individuals, and to the money purchase annual allowance for those who have accessed their pensions under the flexibilities that this Government have provided.

Finally, these resolutions provide for the Finance Bill to legislate for the Making Tax Digital programme.

Lady Hermon Portrait Lady Hermon
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I was provoked to my feet by the word “finally”. I am very concerned that a number of the resolutions before us include the words

“including provision having retrospective effect”.

I have waited patiently for the Minister, guided by Madam Deputy Speaker in his extensive contribution on this crucial piece of legislation—we are discussing the Budget and the Finance Bill, for goodness’ sake—to tell us why on earth so many provisions are having retrospective effect.

Mel Stride Portrait Mel Stride
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The answer to the hon. Lady’s question is that many of these things relate to the fact that this Bill has been, in effect, interrupted; we now have a second Finance Bill because we had a general election some time ago, as a consequence of which not all of the measures that were going through Parliament at that time were proceeded with. The second point I would make to her is that the fact that some measures are retrospective does not mean that they have not been fully consulted on or that draft legislation has not been out there to inform the public and stakeholders.

Lady Hermon Portrait Lady Hermon
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I raise this point because where there is late payment of tax, for whatever reason, be it carelessness or inattention to a particular detail, penalties and fines will be imposed. When we are considering things having retrospective effect, we may well find that such provisions will not comply with our commitments under the European convention on human rights about the retrospective creation of fines and penalties. The Government will not want to hear that, but I just bring it to the Minister’s attention when we talk about the retrospective effect of any provisions in a Bill such as this, which involves fines and penalties.

Mel Stride Portrait Mel Stride
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I thank the hon. Lady for her further thoughtful point, but I just return to my comments, which are that those who will be affected by the retrospective measures in this Bill will have had an opportunity to be fully apprised of them prior to their coming into force under an Act of Parliament.

In conclusion, the resolutions provide for the Finance Bill to legislate for Making Tax Digital. The Government are committed to creating a tax system fit for the digital age. Businesses increasingly interact with customers, manage their purchasing, organise their payroll and undertake a host of other functions online. It is the future for keeping their accounts and reporting their tax affairs. Moving to a digital system will help us to address the £9 billion annual cost of taxpayer errors. It is right that we act.

Kit Malthouse Portrait Kit Malthouse (North West Hampshire) (Con)
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As one of the Conservative Members who was gently trying to persuade the Government to take a more staged approach to Making Tax Digital, may I take this opportunity to thank the Minister for his announcement in July of the changes to the scheme? Those changes have been greeted in particular by the small business community with some relief and gratitude, and I speak as a small business owner myself. The prolonged nature of introducing the full-throated Making Tax Digital programme means that business has time to adapt. Will he confirm that that means the Government have plenty of time to tweak the system for some of the perhaps unforeseen burdens that may still arise?

Mel Stride Portrait Mel Stride
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I thank my hon. Friend for his kind remarks. By way of mutual appreciation, I thank him for his input around the discussions I held immediately prior to taking the decisions to which he alludes. He is right that we now have the time to ensure that the measures are sufficiently piloted, are robust and are not overly onerous on the businesses and individuals to whom they will apply, and that they work to make businesses more efficient and effective in themselves while reducing the tax gap further and raising much needed revenues.

I have heard the representations from businesses and from members of the House about the speed of the transition to Making Tax Digital. To ensure that businesses are ready, I announced a new timetable for the programme before the summer recess. In the first instance, from April 2019 participation will be required only for businesses that have to register for VAT and they will be required to provide only updates on their VAT liabilities, which they already report quarterly. We will extend mandatory participation further only once the programme has been shown to work well, and at the very earliest in April 2020. As my hon. Friend the Member for North West Hampshire (Kit Malthouse) suggested, I know that will be welcomed by Members from all parts of the House who have raised such concerns with me.

As I have outlined, the purpose of the resolutions we have tabled is to enable the introduction of a Finance Bill that will legislate for a number of tax changes announced before the general election. The changes the Bill will make are important. They will make a major contribution to the public finances, tackle tax avoidance and evasion and address areas of unfairness in the tax system. We will doubtless debate the principles of the changes fully on Second Reading and consider them in detail in Committee. Today is an opportunity to begin that process and take forward again the tax legislation curtailed at the end of the last Parliament. I commend the resolutions to the House.

15:13
Peter Dowd Portrait Peter Dowd (Bootle) (Lab)
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I noted the Minister’s comment that there is no change in policy. From that statement it is clear that the Government have learned absolutely nothing from the result of the general election, which is a terrible shame. The Opposition welcome the Government finally laying before the House the Ways and Means resolutions, which will comprise the so-called “summer” Finance Bill, but the clue is supposed to be in the name. I find it rather odd, as I am sure many of my parliamentary colleagues do, that we stand here in early September debating a summer Finance Bill that was expected to be introduced and passed before the summer recess. Alas, it was not.

I recall the Minister’s predecessor standing at the Dispatch Box only four and a half months ago assuring the House that if the Government were returned, they would immediately bring forward measures dropped from the previous Finance Bill due to lack of parliamentary time. However, they have an excuse for the procrastination: it is called chaos. We have a chaotic Government, chaotically stumbling from crisis to crisis, not knowing one part of their anatomy from another. After the election, we returned to a zombie Parliament where little in the way of business was put forward to be debated in the House. Mr Speaker referred today to the whole question of the scrutiny that we are supposed to be doing, but the Government are not putting anything forward for us to scrutinise.

Not only is the Prime Minister one of the walking dead, but she wants Parliament to join her. On a number of occasions, my colleagues and I wrote to the Treasury to ascertain the date for the Finance Bill. In addition, the issue was raised twice in business questions and the Chancellor was asked about it in Treasury questions, all to no avail and no answer. It was the fifth amendment approach to answering questions. It was only in the waning hours, as Members packed up before the House rose for summer recess, that the Government were forced to publish the date for the Bill’s return.

I know the Treasury lost two Ministers in the election—to rework Oscar Wilde’s observation, losing one Minister is a misfortune, but to lose both looks like carelessness—but surely the country cannot simply hang around because the Government are in meltdown. The Government are making an art form out of uncertainty. We have uncertainty about Brexit, uncertainty about the country’s finances, as the resolutions indicate, and now uncertainty about the Prime Minister’s job prospects. The only certainty we have is the inability of this vacuous, hapless Government to govern with any scintilla of competence or compassion.

The Government had five weeks after the general election to introduce measures dropped from the previous Finance Bill and bring certainty to taxpayers and businesses. Many of those businesses have already undertaken the administrative and financial burden of ensuring that they meet the stipulations of the measures included in the Ways and Means resolutions being debated today. The Minister could have brought forward the resolutions and published the Bill before the House rose for summer recess. That would have allowed Members and the businesses and taxpayers affected time to read through the proposals and examine them thoroughly. Instead, the Government have cynically restricted the debate by scheduling the Second Reading of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill for tomorrow.

Next week, the Minister intends to push ahead with the Second Reading of the Finance Bill only four days after its publication, with the explanatory notes being published on the day of Second Reading. Once again, the Chancellor and the Treasury are deliberately shying away from the parliamentary scrutiny that we should be having on these resolutions. This is a time of great political and economic uncertainty, and the measures included in the resolutions do little to address the problems at hand. The global economy is on the move, while Britain under the Tories is being left behind. The resolutions are defined more by what is not in them than what is. There is nothing about investment, nothing about productivity and nothing about public services—much ado about nothing.

Charlie Elphicke Portrait Charlie Elphicke
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Will the shadow Minister give the House his view on the points made by his Back-Bench colleague the hon. Member for North Durham (Mr Jones) on the landfill tax question?

Peter Dowd Portrait Peter Dowd
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I would not proffer advice to my hon. Friend the Member for North Durham, because he is an expert on that issue, but I will listen clearly to what he says. Unlike the Government, I listen to my colleagues on the Back Benches.

We need only look across the channel to see that every European economy outgrew Britain in the GDP figures for the first quarter. Our productivity rate remains one of the worst in the G7 and is lower than it was 10 years ago. Real wages continue to fall behind inflation. More than ever, we need bold and radical solutions to stimulate growth, raise productivity and encourage investment in our economy. None of the resolutions before us will do that. Even the Archbishop of Canterbury has made that point. Rather than focusing on balancing the budget or tackling our growing debt to GDP ratio, we have a Chancellor who spent the summer in the witness protection programme, rearing his head only to brief against his boss when the coast was clear and the Prime Minister was abroad.

The measures before the House represent the Government’s failure to take the opportunity to begin seriously to tackle the challenges that our economy and country face. For example, it is clear that the Tories have no answers on how to raise productivity and no answers on how to tackle the growing inequality in pay. We are now experiencing the longest period of wage stagnation for 150 years, with nurses having to demonstrate in Parliament Square to make their point. The Tories have no answers when it comes to creating an economy that works for the many and not just for a privileged few.

Simon Hoare Portrait Simon Hoare (North Dorset) (Con)
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The hon. Gentleman’s former noble friend Lord Sugar, who knows a little about productivity and running a business, poured a huge amount of cold water on the prospectus that the Labour party put before the electorate a few months ago, which was clearly rejected by the largest number of businesses and business owners. Rather than the vaudeville that the hon. Gentleman seems to be going on about—it is like the Labour party conference speech that he might give, if he is given a platform—why does he not address the issues before the House?

Peter Dowd Portrait Peter Dowd
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I remind the hon. Gentleman that businesses are coming to Labour because of the mess that the Conservative party is making of Brexit.

Peter Dowd Portrait Peter Dowd
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I can name them.

None of the measures before the House address the growing black hole in the public finances, which is the direct result of the Government’s mismanagement and economic incompetence. As things stand, there is a £3 billion black hole in the public finances, made up of the Chancellor’s U-turn on the proposed increases to class 4 national insurance contributions for the self-employed on low and middle incomes; the unlawful employment tribunal fees the Government have been forced to repay; and, yes, the £1 billion bung to the Democratic Unionist party to buy its silence and compliance. Nor do the Government acknowledge the added cost to the taxpayer of delaying the implementation date for “Making Tax Digital”, which they were warned was problematic by all and sundry.

Make no mistake: this is no ordinary Finance Bill we are talking about. If passed, a number of its measures will create a charter championing tax avoidance and leaving billions of pounds of tax uncollected. Using smokescreens and false titles, the Treasury has hidden to the unsuspecting eye giant loopholes for offshore trusts in complicated tax measures. While claiming to end non-domicile status, the Chancellor is at the same time encouraging people to bend the rules and siphon off money overseas into tax haven trusts. He has excluded from one of the Bill’s key deeming measures non-doms who have inherited their status. The Government are on the side of tax dodgers, not taxpayers.

There is nothing in the measures before the House that will address the resource crisis that HMRC is facing as the Government plan to cut £83 million from its budget, along with the debacle that is its 10-year modernisation programme.

Rachel Maclean Portrait Rachel Maclean
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Contrary to what the hon. Gentleman just said, the Government have raised more than £9 billion from non-doms. Those funds contribute to the Exchequer, enable us to fund public services and raise the country’s productivity rate.

Peter Dowd Portrait Peter Dowd
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The reality is that the Tories support tax dodgers. Full stop.

Several of the measures before the House will create even more work for the falling number of people employed by HMRC and put further strain on them. The Government’s actions will ensure that many of the so-called anti-avoidance measures trumpeted by the Minister will fail before they even begin.

Jim Cunningham Portrait Mr Jim Cunningham
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My hon. Friend has just touched on how the Minister is going to implement these measures, which is what I asked about earlier. He will probably know that the Government are closing tax offices throughout the country, with a reduction in staff as a result. How can they honestly say they are going to implement legislation to go after tax dodgers?

Peter Dowd Portrait Peter Dowd
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My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The proposals for reorganisation will do nothing to help that—they are in a chaotic state.

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins (Louth and Horncastle) (Con)
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I urge caution on the hon. Gentleman before he throws around wild accusations about the Government supporting tax dodgers. For what it is worth, in my previous life I used to prosecute massive tax fraudsters. I am very happy with the fact that I have helped fraud prosecutors to put a lot of nasty people into prison, so I take great offence at the hon. Gentleman’s attempt to cast all Conservative MPs in that way. The best way to deal with tax evasion and tax dodging is not to throw empty words across the Chamber but to work with the Government to reduce and stop something that we all want to see the end of: tax dodgers not paying their dues.

Peter Dowd Portrait Peter Dowd
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I hope the hon. Lady will be busier in her job.

I find it baffling that, at a time when the Government are introducing some of the most complex plans to make tax digital, and while there is so much uncertainty about how taxation and customs will work post-Brexit, they are choosing to fire HMRC staff rather than hire them. To put it simply, were the Government truly serious about wanting to close the tax gap, which costs the UK taxpayer a minimum of £36 billion every year, they would give it the resources it so desperately needs. Given the thousands of accountants and lawyers across the world whose sole occupation is to advise and enable tax avoidance, it will never be a fair fight.

The sieve-like measures on non-doms which I have mentioned are perforated even further by the plan to loosen the rules on business investment relief. That measure will allow non-doms to remit funds into the UK without paying the usual taxes. There is little evidence that such relief has been effective in encouraging greater investment in business, so expanding it is only a giveaway to non-doms. If any of us wish to invest, we have to pay the appropriate taxes. There should not be different rules for a privileged few, which maintains the Government’s view that the UK can only ever be attractive as a tax haven. The Government’s race to the bottom begins in earnest and enthusiastically.

Steve McCabe Portrait Steve McCabe
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On business investment relief, it was suggested a moment ago that we should work with the Government. Does my hon. Friend agree that they should publish details of which companies and businesses benefit from such investment, and what part of the country they are located in? That way, we will be able to see whether there is anything to work with.

Peter Dowd Portrait Peter Dowd
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My hon. Friend makes a good point; I hope the Government will listen carefully to what he says and, more importantly, act on it.

The devolution of corporation tax rates to Northern Ireland has been debated in the Chamber many times, and we do not seek to reopen the debate. Nevertheless, we have not debated and will not welcome the clear attempts by the Government to loosen the definition of a Northern Irish employer and water down the requirements for claiming the lower corporation tax rate in Northern Ireland. Under the measure before us, corporations would effectively use Northern Ireland as an onshore tax haven. They would set up small offices with a brass plate on the door, but bring in little of the real investment and jobs that Northern Ireland needs.

We see special treatment for corporations and non-doms, but the news is less good for workers at risk of losing their jobs. The proposed measures on termination payments, if they reflect what was before the House before the election, will target sacked workers as a source of revenue. If there is genuine evidence of the abuse of payments in lieu of notice, that needs to be acted on, but the Government have tacked on a power for the Treasury to reduce the tax exemption on termination payments without primary legislation. That would be a U-turn on their previous statements about dropping such plans. If there is no intention to use the power to reduce the exemption, then the measures should be amended so that it can only be uprated, not reduced. The Government also heartlessly want to enshrine the taxable status of “injury to feelings” compensation. Even when that reflects HMRC’s practice, why is it seen as a priority for legislation?

So there we have it: these motions will introduce a summer Finance Bill that stretches the meaning of summer and will leave taxpayers and businesses with months of uncertainty. It is a Bill that will do nothing seriously to tackle tax avoidance, with the Government claiming to take on non-doms while in the same breath legislating to protect the offshore trusts; a Bill that fails to address the growing black hole and the Conservatives’ mismanagement of our public finances; and a Bill that will protect the privileged few while doing nothing for the many.

This is a dark, miserable, barren winter Finance Bill with a wrathful nipping cold. We have waited a whole season for these resolutions, and they only reaffirm what we already knew: that the country can wait no longer for this disastrous and divided Conservative Government to step aside and make way for a Labour Government who will invest to grow our economy, balance our public finances and take on the tax dodgers—which the Conservatives won’t do.

15:30
Baroness Morgan of Cotes Portrait Nicky Morgan (Loughborough) (Con)
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This is the first time that I have spoken in a debate in which you have been in the Chair, Madam Deputy Speaker, so may I welcome you to your role? It is a real pleasure to see you in the Chair, and I thank you for calling me in this important debate.

First, let me welcome my right hon. Friend the Member for Central Devon (Mel Stride) to his new role as Financial Secretary to the Treasury. I know that he has already spoken at Question Time, but I think that this is his first formal debate. It is just about right to say that he has already been in that post for longer than I was before I was moved on to the Department for Education. As I shall explain shortly, and as we have already heard this afternoon, my right hon. Friend has already made a positive impact through his decision on the Making Tax Digital work. I look forward to working constructively with him and other Treasury Ministers over the next few months and years.

This is my first speech in the Chamber as the incoming Chair of the Treasury Committee, so it is right that I should pay tribute to my predecessor, the former Member for Chichester, the indefatigable Andrew Tyrie. During his seven years as Chairman, he took Select Committee scrutiny into new territory, successfully pressing for new powers over appointment hearings, securing fundamental reform of the Bank of England’s governance and accountability to Parliament, and conducting forensic cross-examination of Ministers, officials and senior figures in the financial services industry. His work on the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards led directly to vital reforms to restore public trust and personal accountability in our banking industry. I know that he will be a hard act to follow, but I will try my best to maintain his rigorous standards of scrutiny and to increase further the reputation and influence of the Treasury Committee.

It is unfortunate that we are having the debate before the Treasury Committee has been formally constituted. After a four-month hiatus, many of the incoming Select Committee Chairs are impatient for the normal business of Select Committee scrutiny to resume. I should note that until the other members of the Treasury Committee have formally been appointed, my remarks are made in a personal capacity.

The economic context for the resolutions is complex and uncertain, and some of it has already been highlighted. Employment is at record levels, but productivity is in the doldrums. Consumer spending and confidence seem resilient, but unsecured borrowing is rising rapidly. The deficit continues to fall, thanks to the efforts of the Chancellor and his predecessor, but the fiscal rules have had to be relaxed to insure against rising economic uncertainty. I am sure that over the coming months the Treasury Committee will consider this complex picture in detail, and we will want to hear from the Governor of the Bank of England and the Chancellor as part of that process. However, with the terms on which the UK will leave the EU as uncertain as they are, nobody can predict with confidence the path for our economy and public finances.

There is one thing that we can be certain about: the country’s economic success and fiscal credibility depend on the Government sustaining their commitment to economic openness—openness to trade, openness to investment and openness to migration. Leaving the European Union must not become a retreat into economic nationalism and isolationism. Global Britain must not just be a slogan.

Let me turn to the resolutions. In 2011, the Treasury Committee set out some principles of tax policy, and I expect that the new Committee will want to hold the Treasury to account for its adherence to them. In fact, I hope that we will be very interested in how future tax policy is made and the Treasury’s work on the overall tax base, given the changing nature of our economy and employment patterns.

Two of the principles identified in 2011 were that tax should provide certainty and stability, as was highlighted in an intervention by the hon. Member for North Down (Lady Hermon), who is not in the Chamber at the moment. It is alarming to see that 27 of the 48 Ways and Means resolutions are marked as

“including provision having retrospective effect”

because the principle of retrospective taxation undermines the certainty and stability of our tax system, so it should be deployed sparingly and only with good reason.

I acknowledge that in this case—the Minister has highlighted this—the Government have been quick to confirm their intentions. The previous Finance Bill was originally published in March, before the start of the tax year but, because many of its provisions were not passed before the June general election, they are coming back before the House in September. The shadow Minister complained that what is promised to be published in the summer comes forward in September. Well, it has always seemed rather strange to me that an autumn statement happens in December. There are always rather odd vagaries regarding when Government announcements are made, but perhaps that will be solved by our having just one major fiscal event in any one year.

The Financial Secretary stated in July that a number of the provisions from the original Bill would apply retrospectively to the start of this tax year when they were reintroduced in

“a Finance Bill as soon as possible after the summer recess”—[Official Report, 13 July 2017; Vol. 627, c. 11WS.]

It is therefore true to say that the retrospection in this case is not as bad as it might appear. The provisions were outlined before the start of the tax year and have been reiterated as soon as possible after the election.

As we heard from one of the former members of the Treasury Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for North West Hampshire (Kit Malthouse)—I am delighted to say that he has been re-elected—the Committee also had a strong interest in Making Tax Digital, to which resolutions 38 and 39 apply. It produced a valuable report on the subject in January, shortly before the Government announced their plans following a consultation. No one I have spoken to objects in principle to the idea of digital interaction with HMRC over tax, but widespread concerns were raised about the speed with which Making Tax Digital was being implemented and the fact that it would be mandatory for even the smallest businesses.

Kevan Jones Portrait Mr Kevan Jones
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Like the right hon. Lady, I think that the digital movement is an improvement, but has she come across examples—I have one in my constituency—of when there is a problem and small businesses particularly need to speak to somebody? Following the closure of tax offices, it takes a long time before one is actually able to speak to someone on the phone. Although the digital movement is welcome for many businesses, does she think we also need an element of personal interaction?

Baroness Morgan of Cotes Portrait Nicky Morgan
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The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. We have agreed that people want more digital interactions. They are now much more used to them, and that is how people do their banking and lots of ordering. However, when there is a problem—we have seen this with the introduction of free childcare, which was the subject of the urgent question earlier today—people do need to speak to someone. That is particularly true for the smallest businesses, for which dealing with HMRC can be stressful and something they want resolved as quickly as possible. HMRC will want to consider whether that is done through face-to-face contact at offices, or by ensuring that there is a really good phone helpline system or another way of speaking online to people who are able to respond rapidly. I do not want to pre-empt what the Committee will look at, but as constituency Members of Parliament, we have all heard about cases when people have found getting hold of HMRC frustrating. HMRC is aware of that, and it has done a lot of work to improve customer service, but that is something that Members of Parliament could certainly look at further.

I welcome the deferral that the Financial Secretary announced on 13 July. It means that digital record-keeping and reporting for income tax and national insurance will not become mandatory until at least 2020. Although his statement kept open the possibility that Making Tax Digital would never be made mandatory for income tax and national insurance, resolution 38 suggests that that remains the Government’s medium to long-term ambition. His statement confirmed that the process will start with VAT in 2019. Most businesses already file their VAT returns quarterly and online, so it is sensible to start with a tax for which Making Tax Digital will not require such a significant change in businesses’ practice. Smaller businesses in particular will have breathed a huge sigh of relief when the concession was announced in July, so I thank the Minister for that.

Kit Malthouse Portrait Kit Malthouse
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on her election as the Chair of the Treasury Committee. Does she think it would be sensible for the Government—notwithstanding the fact that they are not planning at the moment to include income tax for sole traders in Making Tax Digital—to make provision for voluntary participation, so that they would see the popularity of the scheme if people did volunteer in numbers, as they did with the introduction of online self-assessment? The Government might find that 60% or 70% of businesses participate anyway within the timeframe they are proposing, so making participation mandatory would become relatively painless.

Baroness Morgan of Cotes Portrait Nicky Morgan
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I thank my hon. Friend very much for that suggestion. What he says has much merit, and it may well be something we want to explore in Committee. It would be fair to say that a common view among Conservative Members, and the reason why we are on this side of the House, is that we believe in encouraging, not compelling, people to do something that the Government and the state want them to do. If there are ways of encouraging and incentivising people to get online and to use this system, and if it becomes clear at some stage in the future that that is the way forward, many businesses and sole traders will already be online and used to using the system.

Deferring the change for some taxes for a couple of years or more will give everybody welcome time to prepare, but it will not solve all the problems. I therefore suspect that the new Committee will want to explore the costs and benefits fully, as its predecessor had started to do. There is definitely scope to scrutinise the Government’s published estimates for the administrative costs to business and for the supposed reduction in the tax gap as a consequence of businesses making fewer mistakes because they are reporting digitally and quarterly. But that, you will be pleased to hear, Madam Deputy Speaker, is for another day.

Meanwhile, the forthcoming Finance Bill, which the House will consider shortly, will pave the way for the implementation of Making Tax Digital. The Bill that was introduced before the election was called did little more than pave the way; nearly every paragraph in the relevant schedule contained a regulation-making power. This meant that the Bill would have delegated nearly all the key details to secondary legislation under the negative procedure. Compounded by the fact that the draft statutory instruments were not published for consultation, that does not make for good parliamentary scrutiny, and the House will return to the overall principle of the scrutiny of secondary legislation when we consider the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill tomorrow, before we even get to the Finance Bill.

At a more general level, I suspect that the new Committee will also want to scrutinise Budgets, Finance Bills and possibly even spring statements in a similar way to its predecessor. It is important that tax policy gets adequate parliamentary scrutiny, and I hope that the new Treasury Committee and Public Bill Committees will get more chance to scrutinise the Treasury’s proposals at autumn Budgets than the Select Committee did with the last spring Budget, given the circumstances of the general election.

Kirsty Blackman Portrait Kirsty Blackman (Aberdeen North) (SNP)
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Organisations have suggested that Finance Public Bill Committees should be able to hear evidence, which has not happened in the past. What is the right hon. Lady’s view on that? Will she consider looking at it?

Baroness Morgan of Cotes Portrait Nicky Morgan
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I might be guided by you on this, Madam Deputy Speaker, but I suspect that that is actually a matter for the House authorities, the usual channels and the Front Benches, although the House and Ministers will have heard the hon. Lady. Obviously, the more constructive evidence that can be given on legislation, the better legislation we have.

I will finish by saying that I look forward to seeing the Minister before the Treasury Committee. He might not be looking forward to it so much, but I promise that we will be firm but fair in our questioning of him. I wish him all the very best as he embarks on his first Finance Bill.

15:43
Kirsty Blackman Portrait Kirsty Blackman (Aberdeen North) (SNP)
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I appreciate the chance to take part in this Ways and Mean debate, which is one of the few not to follow a Budget—somebody told me it is the first since 1987, when I was 1.

From the shadow Front Bench, the hon. Member for Bootle (Peter Dowd) talked about some of the process issues and timelines involved in how we got to where we are now, and I want to briefly mention them. The spring Budget was presented to the House on 8 March. We are looking at introducing the Finance Bill, which takes up some of the measures from that spring Budget, now, which is a pretty long time from 8 March. We have seen some changes from what we expected to happen, and what the Office for Budget Responsibility suggested might happen is not necessarily what has happened in the intervening period, so it is a bit strange that, in the main, the measures we are looking at are almost exactly the same as the ones introduced in the Finance Bill back in March. I understand that there needs to be a consultation, but I am concerned about the length of this process and about whether the changes to legislation in this Finance Bill are wholly appropriate.

In my intervention on the Chair of the Treasury Committee, I mentioned the Public Bill Committee taking evidence. I have raised the issue before and I will not stop raising it. The Finance Bill Committee should take evidence from external organisations so that it is in the best possible position to make the best decisions. I have been on a Finance Bill Committee and found it a useful experience whereby Members on both sides of the House had an in-depth debate about the matters raised. Enabling the Committee to take evidence would only add value to the scrutiny provided both by the Opposition and by Back Benchers, particularly those from the Conservative party.

The Minister will probably be surprised to hear that I welcome some of the Government’s proposed Ways and Means resolutions, including the changes to the treatment of corporation tax with regard to museum and gallery exhibitions. However, I wish to raise the issue of the Value Added Tax (Refund of Tax to Museums and Galleries) (Amendment) Order 2017. The intention was that it be laid before the House in advance of the summer recess, but then the general election happened. The order has not been mentioned and I am concerned that some museums and galleries may lose out on the VAT that they had expected to get back. They expected it to be paid to them, but the amendment has not yet been laid before the House. I know that that is a slightly different matter from that in the Ways and Means resolutions, but it is related to it. I would appreciate it if the Minister or his team could look into the order.

I also welcome the changes to grassroots sports and to pensions and legal advice. It is particularly important that people have better access to legal advice, especially when they are not the accused and are entering legal situations. That is a scary prospect for a number of people, so it is incredibly positive that they will get easier access to appropriate legal advice.

The Scottish Government’s programme for government was announced yesterday and they are incredibly positive about changes to enable electric vehicles to become more prevalent on our roads and petrol and diesel vehicles to be phased out. I am therefore pleased that there are likely to be changes to electric vehicle charging points. I hope that this Government will continue to make changes to allow electric vehicles and their associated infrastructure to become more affordable.

I support the Government on a couple of other things. If the proposed changes in the Ways and Means resolutions on petroleum revenue tax are the same as those proposed in the previous Finance Bill, they are positive because the oil industry has asked for them. I am pleased that the Government have acted on that. I am also pleased that the Government will take action against people who have been found to be enabling tax avoidance schemes, not just those who participate in such schemes. That is really positive and I hope that it will achieve the Government’s intention and discourage people from being clever and coming up with tax avoidance schemes. My fingers are crossed and we will wait to see what happens.

Members would not expect me to be positive about all of the Government’s proposals. I am concerned that there is a lack of evidence for the Government’s desired outcome regarding some of the proposals. Resolution 13, on business investment relief, sends a mixed message. Whereas the Government’s changes under resolutions 24 and 26 intend to make it more difficult for non-doms to benefit from their tax status, resolution 13 will make it easier for them to do so in a way that their next-door neighbour may not. Now, I would be less concerned about that if the Government had provided appropriate evidence to show why the scheme is a good thing. They have made it clear that they want to increase the use of the scheme, but I have not seen any evidence to explain why. They have not shown me that the scheme is working as it was intended to work, nor that it is having a particularly positive impact on the businesses that are receiving funding from it. I understand that 200 to 400 people take part in the scheme every year, which means that a pretty significant amount of legislative effort and time is being put into making a change that enables a very small number of people to make this investment. I would be interested to see more of the Government’s figures.

I am concerned about resolution 41, which deals with errors in taxpayers’ documents. It specifically includes changes that may result in people who seek tax advice getting into trouble for having errors in their documents. The onus is now on an individual to ensure that the person from whom they seek tax advice is suitably qualified, which is rather difficult for people to understand. I have had people come into my surgeries and tell me that they have sought immigration advice from somebody they thought was a solicitor, but who turned out not to be a solicitor. I am concerned that some people who have tried their very best to stay on the right side of the law, to pay the amount of tax that they should pay and to fill in the forms appropriately with the help of an adviser will be caught by the measure accidentally. I would appreciate it if the Government could look at that.

I am interested to see how the Government will play another couple of issues, if they look exactly as they did in the Finance Bill. One is the changes to gaming duty. I understand that the Government are trying not to penalise casinos with the changes to the duty that casinos pay, and that they are trying to change the rules around remote gaming to make it clear how much tax the companies should pay. That is welcome. But when the Government are doing things such as increasing alcohol duty to discourage negative behaviour, it seems strange to me to allow casinos to pay less tax—or not to increase the amount of tax that they pay—because it will achieve the opposite of what the Government are trying to do in encouraging positive behaviour. I will be interested to see how that looks, and we will continue to scrutinise it.

We will also continue to look at the dividend nil rate. The Ways and Means resolution allows the Government to change things in either direction. If the dividend nil rate allowed people to have more dividends before they paid tax, I would be particularly concerned about it; but if it allowed people to have less in dividends before they paid tax, as was the situation in the previous Finance Bill, I would be much more positive about it.

Those are the main proposals that I have concerns about, but I would like to see the detail that the Government will produce. I am pleased that the Minister has made changes to digital reporting, which was in our manifesto. We have particular concerns about the smallest companies, especially those in particularly rural areas, who struggle to get access to the right digital infrastructure. Both Governments have made commitments about digitisation and access to superfast broadband, so having this slightly further down the line makes more sense. I am pleased that the Government listened and made changes, but we will be scrutinising the proposal and making sure that the business community is as happy with it as it can be.

Moving to digital reporting will make the process easier for people, but I reiterate that, as the hon. Member for Coventry South (Mr Cunningham) has said, the closure of tax offices is a concern, even when it comes to Making Tax Digital. Computer systems can be quite black and white, and they often give yes/no answers when the answer should actually be “maybe”. Especially in the initial period, people who are trying to fill in the forms may need to phone the tax office to ask for assistance about what to put in each box. I am not convinced that businesses can access enough support to find out about that.

The Government will expect me to raise the issue of VAT on police and fire services, because such a debate would not be complete without my raising it. We would very much like the Government to bring forward VAT changes for police and fire services in Scotland. They have done so for organisations such as the London Legacy Development Corporation—the legacy body from the Olympic Games—and for Highways England, both of which are national organisations in the same boat as the Scottish police and fire services.

Luke Graham Portrait Luke Graham (Ochil and South Perthshire) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

On the point about VAT on Police Scotland, does the hon. Lady recognise that the SNP Administration in Edinburgh knew that they would incur VAT charges by centralising the police forces? They knew that would be one of the repercussions before that action was taken.

Kirsty Blackman Portrait Kirsty Blackman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Such a policy was in the Conservative party manifesto for the Scottish Parliament election that year, so the centralisation of Scottish police and fire services was also supported by the Scottish Conservatives. Yes, we knew that that would be the case, but we do not think it is fair, and we have made the case that it is not fair on numerous occasions. Organisations such as Highways England and London Legacy do not have the same VAT treatment as the Scottish police and fire services, and that is why we are asking for such a change.

I know that this legislation has been cobbled together—it is just the bits that did not get through last time—but none of the changes the Government are making will combat the current increases in inflation, and the Government are not increasing wages so that ordinary people can afford such increases in the cost of living. In Scotland, we are lifting the 1% public sector pay cap, and I very much hope that the UK Government will take the same decision to lift the public sector pay cap in England and that when they do so—if they do so—they will ensure that that is fully funded.

I have one last thing to mention, particularly in relation to tax raising and tax avoidance, which is about customs officers and customs checks. I am slightly concerned that the UK Government are losing out on some of the revenue they could receive because they no longer use customs officers in the way they used to, but instead make them dedicate most of their time at borders to making sure that people are travelling legally rather than to ensuring that goods are being transported legally. I know that some stuff is in place—but not enough. I want the Government to be scrutinised more effectively on this, and for the Government to monitor what happens at ports more effectively to ensure that the appropriate tax is paid on things coming into and going out of the country. Making a change to ensure that they are checked appropriately and are therefore taxed appropriately can only bring in more revenue.

In summary, there are a number of good things in the Ways and Means resolutions, but I have concerns about several of them. I have significant concerns about some resolutions, such as resolution 13 on business investment relief, and I am also pretty concerned about resolution 4 on termination payments, because I have not seen any evidence to show that the issue is as significant as the Government are suggesting. The likelihood is that the SNP will vote against those resolutions if there is a vote. I appreciate that I have used up my time, and I am grateful to hon. Members for listening.

15:58
Luke Graham Portrait Luke Graham (Ochil and South Perthshire) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I want to build on what my right hon. Friend the Member for Loughborough (Nicky Morgan) said about resolutions 39 and 40 on Making Tax Digital. As the co-founder of a small accounting firm and as MP for Ochil and South Perthshire, it is clear to me that many small businesses had concerns about the initial proposals made before the recess. Although I certainly welcome some of the concessions that have been made, I hope that the Financial Secretary recognises some of the additional cost burdens that the reporting requirements will place on small businesses. The Federation of Small Businesses estimates that they amount to about £2,770.

As I have said, I welcome the Government’s concessions —especially excluding companies with revenues below £85,000, and pushing out the timeline for companies to have to enrol in a digital reporting scheme in future—but may I ask the Government to continue to consult widely with Members of the House and business bodies across the United Kingdom, including in Scotland? In addition, will they look to work with some of the new technology providers and cloud accountancy services providers, which could provide the Government with more efficient and effective ways of getting the information they seek without necessarily requiring a manual reporting submission quarterly?

My second point is about VAT and Police Scotland. In my intervention, I pointed out that it was a result of the actions of the SNP Administration in Edinburgh, but we may have some cross-party agreement on the fact that the outcome for Scotland is less beneficial, so colleagues and I will ask the Government to review the matter as part of the forthcoming Budget process.

15:59
Kevan Jones Portrait Mr Kevan Jones (North Durham) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I begin by welcoming you to the Chair, Madam Deputy Speaker. I know that you were in the Chair before the recess, but it is the first time that I have had the honour of speaking when you are in the Chair and I wish you all the best in the coming years.

I would like to speak rubbish—[Interruption.] Somebody asks, “What’s new?” I could not possibly comment on my contributions in the Chamber. I actually want to talk about landfill tax and why it has not been included in the resolutions. It is a serious matter, and the Financial Secretary alluded to the reason for its omission. I want to put some of my concerns on record.

In the 2016 Budget and after consultation last summer, provisions were earmarked to be included in the 2017 Finance Bill through secondary legislation to amend taxable disposal for landfill tax purposes. The Financial Secretary explained that many things had been disrupted because of the general election. We cannot change that and I accept that certain matters were taken out of the Budget in the wash-up, which is standard practice. However, the measure on landfill tax was not. It was included until last week. The Financial Secretary said that the consultation on landfill tax will be included, but will now be published in September.

I will explain why landfill tax is so important in the context of the tax avoidance and fraud agenda that the Government say they wish to progress. I am not making party political points: the position is not all the fault of the current Conservative Government; it is as a result of the way in which successive Governments have implemented landfill tax. However, there are things that we can and must do, because the problem is not just that people do not pay the tax that they should to the Exchequer; it is that, in some areas, avoidance funds organised crime and leads to huge costs for local authorities and the taxpayer in cleaning up some of the issues.

The Government estimate in a 2014-15 report that some £150 million a year is not being paid in landfill tax. The Environmental Services Association reckons that the figure is nearly £1 billion a year. From my work in looking at the sector, £150 million seems a conservative figure. If we take HMRC’s figure, that represents 12% of lost revenue, which is on a par with tobacco and alcohol tax avoidance. One would think that it was easier to track landfill tax avoidance than alcohol and tobacco tax avoidance—so it should be. I accept that issues affect tobacco and alcohol sales that sometimes make it difficult to claim tax. However, with landfill tax, we are talking about large consignments of domestic and commercial waste, and its destination should not be hard to track.

The system was introduced as an environmental measure. The policy that Labour and Conservative Governments have pursued to try to reduce the amount of rubbish going to landfill and increase recycling is right. I will come on to the policy in Scotland, which creates a problem in England. The Scots are now dumping their rubbish in England to avoid the SNP Government’s so-called PR stunt in introducing 100% recycling, which we all know is impossible.

At present there are two rates of landfill tax: the standard rate of £84.40, which is due to rise to £88.95 in the 2018 Budget, and the lower rate of £2.65, which is due to rise to £2.80 in 2018. Successive Governments have, I think rightly, increased landfill tax over time—to generate revenue, obviously, but also to try to encourage people to recycle more. There is nothing wrong with that, and I do not criticise it at all; the problem lies in how the tax is avoided. It is paid by those who collect and dispose of waste. Some operators own not just the collection system, but the hole in the ground where the waste will go. That leads to clear cases of fraud, in which what actually goes into the ground is not declared to HMRC or to anyone.

Another issue is the type of tax that landfill operators pay. Some claim that tax on inert waste should be paid at the lower rate and pay that rate, although the tax should, in fact, be paid at the higher rate. What has made the situation worse is the mistake that was made in 2015, when the Government basically gave the industry a licence to print money by making it responsible for determining what type of waste was involved by means of something called the loss on ignition test. If a pile of rubbish, or a sample of rubbish, has a loss on ignition of 10% or less, it is classified as being subject to the £2.65 rate; otherwise, it will be subject to the full standard rate. There is thus a clear incentive for operators to declare waste to be subject to the lower rate, which means that the tax avoidance amounts to a little over £80 per tonne.

I am told that, in most areas where that is going on, if inspectors are looking around, operators will have a sample box of rubbish. In the majority of cases, what actually goes into the landfill site could be anything, and the higher rate of tax that the operator should be paying is being completely avoided because HMRC has extracted itself from the process and left the decision to the industry. It may be said that the aim is to attack red tape, which would be fine if the people concerned were responsible and law-abiding.

Let me put it on record that I am not accusing everyone in the industry of this practice. Some are clearly behaving correctly. However, there are a great many rogues, and, in some cases, not rogues but criminals, who have become involved in the practice because they see it as a good way of doing two things: making easy cash, and laundering money through what is a very high-volume business, given the amount of cash that goes through it. I shall say more about that shortly, but giving the responsibility to landfill operators, with no checks, is basically saying, “You decide what tax you pay.”

Another aspect that concerns me, and should concern everyone, is the issue of what is going into landfill sites. What is being classed as inert waste, or as waste that will not catch fire or is not dangerous, is paid for at a certain tax rate. That is declared as going into landfill sites, but what is in fact going in could be very different. I have a simple question: what records do people check? Again, it is very much a matter of self-regulation: the operators fill them in, and a toothless tiger of an organisation called the Environment Agency does spot checks on them. I have been told that one operator deliberately sent in the previous year’s returns and they were just accepted. That is what this comes down to: a lack of co-ordination in the way the HMRC and other Government agencies are tackling the problem.

The other way of avoiding tax entirely is for someone to buy a hole in the ground, to set themselves up as a landfill tax operator and to go around advertising their wares by asking for tenders from organisations, and when the process gets to the weighbridge to determine the amount, to bypass it and just put the waste straight in—paying no tax at all, not even the lower rate. There are quite a few examples of that happening, but again there are no HMRC checks. I will come on to some proposals that I hope the Minister will consider.

Robert Jenrick Portrait Robert Jenrick (Newark) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The hon. Gentleman is making a valuable contribution. I want to emphasise a point he made at the beginning of his remarks: the rise of serious organised crime from this tax. In Nottinghamshire—which I know he knows very well, as a son of Worksop—there have been large-scale frauds where huge rubbish dumps have been put on private property, often with the agreement of the owner, who of course denies it to the police, and the Environment Agency provides absolutely no prosecutions. A number have fallen down; multimillion pound prosecutions have collapsed. It is becoming one of the easiest ways to conduct serious organised crime in this country.

Kevan Jones Portrait Mr Jones
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The problem is not only that the hon. Gentleman’s constituents have to live next door to those illegal dumps, but that there is the expense of clearing them up, which falls back on the taxpayer.

There is another widespread scam. This morning I tried to find the figure for the number of fires at waste transfer stations, but I could not. For the uninitiated, I will explain. Having been a chair of public health in Newcastle, I could bore on about waste: when waste is being transferred, it usually does not go straight to the actual site, but goes first to a waste transfer station where it is either sorted or graded into different things. The number of fires that occur at waste transfer stations is out of all proportion to the probability of that happening. The reason for that is that once there is just a pile of ash, there is nothing to dispose of. That is the problem, and, again, organised crime is involved in that.

We have had some instances in County Durham of the point raised by the hon. Member for Newark (Robert Jenrick). There are frauds such as those he describes—to be fair to Durham police, they have cracked down on some of the individuals concerned—but there are some people who have bought into this business. If we look back at what they did or how they got their money, we find serious questions about whether they should be allowed anywhere near the waste industry.

We all know why, for example, in the 1970s the mafia got control of waste in New York: because there is money to be made in it. It is the same in this country, but unfortunately we are not taking the robust approach needed to address that.

One of the issues is about who is responsible for that. The hon. Gentleman mentioned the Environment Agency. It is a good organisation in one respect; it is full of some very good and committed people, but they do not have the killer instinct to be enforcers. The agency needs to have a certain mindset and to take robust action, rather than just looking at the odd illegal site. It needs to closely monitor some of the existing organisations. Without that mindset and enforcement, this will never succeed.

This is also a matter that falls between the Environment Agency and HMRC. I give credit to Durham police for taking a lead in trying to get people together and for saying, “Look, wait a minute. We know that the people behind this are involved in x, y and z, which has mostly nothing to do with rubbish. It is to do with other serious organised crime.” The police have worked with HMRC and others and tried to concentrate on these issues.

I have a concern about HMRC’s approach to this problem, and the Minister might want to reflect on it. I shall not go into details because the case is ongoing, but when I raised one particular matter with HMRC, I was told that no enforcement action would be taken because the fraud was not worth more than £20 million a year. That seems like a lot of money to me. Another case that is ongoing at the moment involves fraud totalling £78 million a year. I wonder whether these decisions are the result of a lack of resources. I have spoken to a lot of the investigators in HMRC and I pay tribute to them for the work they do. Some of the people they are dealing with are very dangerous, and it is a complex matter to put these cases together. What we need in this country is a joined-up approach by HMRC, the Environment Agency and the police. I had a meeting earlier this year with the Minister for Security, the right hon. Member for Wyre and Preston North (Mr Wallace), to discuss where all this money goes. The amounts being generated are huge, and I have seen evidence that it is going into the drugs trade or other illicit organisations. That has an impact on society.

There are some things that could be done. As I have said, we need to adopt a joined-up approach—dare I say the Eliot Ness approach—and take a robust line on this. As the hon. Member for Newark has just said, the people who have to pay for the clear-up are the taxpayers. In many cases, that involves local authorities that are already under a lot of pressure. We need to adopt a hard-headed approach, and the Minister needs to look at the figure of £150 million. I think that the figure is way more than that.

Self-certification and the loss on ignition test just need to be binned. I know that there are pressures, and people have talked about cuts in HMRC—[Interruption.] Oh, there is more yet, don’t worry! The hon. Member for Chelmsford (Vicky Ford) is looking exasperated. What is needed is one single rate for landfill, whatever it is. That test is not enforceable; every shipment going into a landfill site would have to be tested. People have talked about leaving this up to the industry, and I am not besmirching the reputation or integrity of any particular party, but it is open to anyone who wants to do so to abuse the system. I therefore think that those tests need binning, and that we need one single rate.

People ask whether landfill sites could be monitored. Yes, we have the technology. I have raised the matter with the Minister’s policy people and asked whether we could have a system similar to those at weighbridges and slaughterhouses in which cameras can record how many vehicles are going into a site. In one case that I have examined, the owner was clearly not paying the landfill tax despite the fact that a ridiculous number of vehicles were going into the site. If we had people in Revenue and Customs checking these things, I think it would pay back very quickly.

The other thing is the checking of sites. The Environment Agency has responsibility for most of the checks, but I do not get the sense from HMRC that there is robust enforcement even when questions are asked. The right hon. Member for Loughborough (Nicky Morgan) raised the issue of retrospection. Can I suggest to the Minister, if he wants to get some back tax in, how he might do it? Once a landfill operator has finished with a site, it puts a cap on it, and that is the end of it. I have been told of an operator in the north-east that has done that, and I know from evidence I have seen that it did not pay the right tax. The question was raised with the Environment Agency and HMRC of how to make sure the right tax is paid. The easiest thing is to put a borehole through and check what is actually in there. If we did that on a few sites, I think we would find that what incurs the lower rates is not what is there. That is an important point.

In policy terms, as I have said to the Minister’s policy officer, we need to make the producers of the waste responsible for where it goes. At the rates that some waste collection organisations advertise, they could not possibly make a profit if they were paying landfill tax. The problem is that because local government and others are being squeezed, many local government organisations have got into bed with these operators because they charge the lowest rates, but they can do that only because they are either not paying landfill tax or paying it at the incorrect rate. The onus should be on large organisations to take responsibility for what happens to their waste; their responsibility should not end once the waste operator has taken it away. The rates being paid by quite a few public bodies in the north-east of England make one wonder how these organisations can be making any money, if they are paying landfill tax.

Operators are also making claims that are completely unachievable, such as 100% or 98% recycling of commercial waste, which is not possible. If that is the case and they are collecting at a certain price, what is happening to the 10% or 15% they cannot recycle? Its collection would be completely uneconomic if they were paying landfill tax. If HMRC had its eyes open and looked at some adverts, it would be thinking, “Wait a minute. There’s something wrong here.”

Bambos Charalambous Portrait Bambos Charalambous (Enfield, Southgate) (Lab)
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Does my hon. Friend agree that local authorities and the Local Government Association could play a greater role in monitoring the amount of waste going to landfill?

Kevan Jones Portrait Mr Jones
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Yes, I do, but the problem is that local authority budgets are under tremendous pressure, so they are going for the cheapest price. If somebody goes to them and says, “I can get rid of your waste for less”, what are they going to do? One council in Wales was trucking its waste up to the north-east. Can someone tell me, if the operator was paying the proper amount of landfill tax, how that could be economically viable? It cannot be. The onus is on local authorities to start asking questions about who they are contracting with.

There is also an issue with the individuals who can now operate licences. It does not take a genius to look at some operators who get involved in the industry and ask, “What is their experience? Where is the money suddenly coming from to set up a business?” This is fraud, but it is also an environmental concern.

Scotland has huge great policies about zero landfill waste and things like that, but the reason for that is very simple: the waste is coming over the border. Operators in Scotland are avoiding the cost of having to dispose of waste and of separating it at source, which the Scottish Government pride themselves on, by taking it to the north-east of England or anywhere else where things are cheaper. Parts of the UK are becoming Scotland’s rubbish tip because the Scottish Government have no control over where Scotland’s waste is going. There is some evidence that we may be making money through the landfill tax that is paid when it comes over the border, but I suggest that quite a lot of landfill tax is not being paid. That is the problem, and there are things that need to be done.

What the Minister would find if he spoke to the industry is that, behind closed doors, everyone knows that this is going on. It is no great secret. If he is going to come back with regulations later in September, I want them to be robust, because I have a niggling feeling that the policy people at HMRC see the problem as one that will go away of its own accord. In 15 or 20 years’ time, when we are no longer using landfill, we may not have large-scale problems, but we will have lost millions if not billions of pounds in the meantime and, as the hon. Member for Newark said earlier, many communities will have been blighted by unscrupulous operators. I ask the Minister to talk to the Minister for Security, because this is not just about waste, but about the cost to society as a whole.

When I asked the Minister whether the regulations would be published, I was not being provocative; I just want to see what they are and know what the process will be. The industry and others who have been involved should be able to react to them before they come into force. One simple thing that could stop a lot of fraud would be the ignition test, for example, so if the Minister lets me know when the regulations are coming up, I would be happy to meet him or even make some suggestions about the proposals.

I now want to change the subject entirely and talk about air travel. The resolutions include a commitment to look at air passenger duty. We have been promised reform for a long time—I looked it up this morning, and this matter has been raised at least since 2011. I do not want to be accused of raising problems relating to Scotland this afternoon, but air passenger duty is of great concern to the north-east due to the Scottish Government’s new air departure tax. That decision is entirely up to them as part of the devolution settlement, but the new tax will reduce air passenger duty in 2018, which will have an impact on regional airports such as Newcastle. As I say, that is no criticism of the Scottish Government, because they have the devolved responsibilities and can do that, but if they abolish air passenger duty altogether, that could have a devastating impact on those airports. Members from Northern Ireland have also made representations because the same situation applies there to Belfast International, Dublin City and City of Derry airports due to differential rates in the Republic of Ireland.

Why does that matter? The north-east of England is the poorest region in the UK with, sadly, the highest unemployment. Newcastle airport has been a success, for which I give credit to the local authorities that own it and their private sector partners. It sustains some 7,800 jobs, 3,200 of which are directly at the airport, but the knock-on effect throughout the region is also important. The airport brings some £57 million of tourism a year to the north-east, sustaining some 1,750 jobs.

London has four airports, so the economic impact of each is possibly not as great as the impact of an airport in a region such as mine. Regional airports provide connectivity for people who want to travel not only for leisure but for business—some £173 million of exports go through Newcastle airport each year, nearly £150 million of which go through just one airline. The Emirates flight from Newcastle to Dubai moves goods not just into the middle east but into the far east and Asia. The airport is important not only in carrying people but in supporting the region’s businesses.

At the 2015 general election the then Prime Minister, David Cameron, said that he would not allow regional airports such as Newcastle to be at a disadvantage if Scotland were to reduce the rate of APD. We all know what happened to a lot of David Cameron’s promises, so I will not hold the present Minister to that one, but it is important that the issue is addressed.

The Government could use APD more imaginatively. Obviously it was introduced for environmental reasons, but we all know that it is now a big cash cow for the Exchequer. If we had differential rates to try to encourage airlines to relocate to regional airports, it might help to reduce the overcapacity at airports in London and the south-east. It would also be a cheap way of regenerating regions such as the north-east.

The present rate of APD puts Newcastle airport at a disadvantage because, unlike London Heathrow, we have a relatively small number of business travellers. If we wanted to think creatively, we could introduce an incentive. I understand from the media that the new metro Mayor of Tees Valley made an election pledge to nationalise, reopen or somehow expand Teesside airport, which is a little ambitious. He may find that that election promise is difficult to translate into action. Again, if the APD rate goes down in Scotland and Newcastle airport is affected, trying to get any new flights to a place like Teesside will be virtually impossible. The issue is important to the north-east, and it is not just about passenger travel and tourism flights; it is about the broader economy. Our regional universities need access to international students, and a region where jobs have not boomed would be severely affected if the airport’s passengers leaked to Scotland.

Let me turn to small business and some of the issues raised earlier. I am not opposed to the use of new technology or to recognising that we have to change the way we do things. My party made mistakes when it was in Government by closing a lot of DWP offices and going directly to doing things by phone, which made it difficult for people to have interaction, and we are in danger of making the same mistake on tax offices.

A constituent who came to see me last year runs a one-person business. If she had a problem with her tax, she would drive to Durham tax office and meet somebody she knew, and they would explain the situation to her. I am not saying we should keep tax offices open just for that one person, but if we are going to go into the digital age—I have no problem with that, as it might be easier for some businesses—we need to ensure that we have either telephone access or dedicated processes whereby people can at least get assistance. I believe it was the right hon. Member for Loughborough who mentioned webchats, which are a way of doing this and are used by a lot of service providers. That needs to happen before any roll-out of the changes, because there is nothing more frustrating than not being able to get through. My constituent told me that when she eventually did get through, she got through to three different people. I do not know whether this could be done, but perhaps we could use a case-management approach, with individuals taking control of certain areas. People might think personal relationships between small businesses and their tax inspectors would be hostile, but in my experience they are not. If the relationship works well, it helps the business in terms of how it operates and it helps how HMRC can collect.

I now wish to discuss HMRC’s priorities. HMRC comes in for a lot of criticism, but it has a huge task to do. Even so, I sometimes wonder whether it gets its priorities wrong and I wish to give an example from my constituency. I have just spoken about the lack of enthusiasm for cracking down on landfill tax fraud, but an overzealous approach is taken to some small businesses. I have written to the Chancellor about a constituent of mine, Mr Marshall, who runs a bathroom business in Chester-le-Street. I have not yet received a reply, even though I have written twice—obviously, the Chancellor has been very busy. This is an example of where HMRC uses a sledgehammer to crack a nut. Mr Marshall and his family—it is a family business—have a showroom, where people can order and pay for a bathroom, and then they will organise everything that needs to be done. They do not employ anyone—they fit bathrooms, but they do not employ the plumbers, electricians and so on. Mr Marshall subcontracts the work to plumbers and electricians, and the client then pays them, as is common in the industry.

Last year, Mr Marshall had a visit from HMRC, which said that he is now responsible for the VAT payable by those individuals, even though he does not directly employ them, because they are small businesspeople. He freely admits to me that he does not use the same person every time; it depends on who is available. He is now being hit with a tax bill for some £24,000, which to a small, well-respected business is a little harsh. As I say, I have written to the Chancellor twice without receiving a reply. HMRC will not discuss this because it is under its veil of secrecy, as it always is, but I want to know why one person has taken it upon himself to deem that the VAT liability of these individuals—if there is one—should fall on someone who is procuring a service. If that is the case, and if I was regularly employing someone to do some work on my behalf and they went above the VAT threshold, would HMRC suggest that I, as the person employing them, should pay their VAT?

I would like the Minister to look at that case. As I said, I have tried writing to the Chancellor, without success. I am happy to email him the details and copies of the letters I have. I was going to say that such cases give HMRC a bad name, but that is not hard to do. No one likes to pay taxes, but the point is the disproportionality between a family business—this is not a multinational corporation—and the Googles of this world and the landfill operators that completely ignore the actual tax situation without any grievance falling upon them from HMRC. It is about proportionality in some of the enforcement. The new Chair of the Treasury Committee might want to look at how HMRC deals with small businesses. It is not only about the forms, but about what is facing my constituent. The process is time-consuming, but it can cause anxiety if someone suddenly has to find such an amount of money.

There is another issue I want to raise—I have moved on from rubbish; I am going to speak about cosmetic surgery. I tabled a parliamentary question a couple of weeks ago about the Government’s proposals for collecting VAT for cosmetic surgery. I have looked at the issue and got into the subject. I will not hasten to go through the whole issue of the regulation of cosmetic surgery, but it is another area I am pursuing.

Kevan Jones Portrait Mr Jones
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I think even the best plastic surgeon would struggle with me.

The question is whether VAT is payable on cosmetic procedures. The problem is that such procedures vary from facelifts and tummy tucks to boob jobs, fillers and that side of the industry. I came to the issue through a constituent. I will not talk about the regulation, because that does not apply to the taxation of cosmetic surgery, but I want some clarity from the Government on the rules about whether cosmetic surgery should be VAT-registered.

There is an organisation called the Hospital Group. In a previous life, it went into administration owing the taxman nearly £9 million in VAT because there was an argument about whether VAT should be levied on the surgical procedures. The bill started at £17 million and went down to £9 million before, lo and behold, the director folded the company. HMRC is left with £9 million that it has not recovered. That company owes money and tax to quite a few other organisations, including councils.

This is an interesting issue, because while people would not pay VAT on a medical procedure, these are not medical procedures. I am not for one minute suggesting that women who have had mastectomies should pay VAT if they need reconstructive surgery, but if a procedure is purely for cosmetic reasons, it should be VAT-chargeable, as I read the regulations, but HMRC does not seem to be enforcing that. There is an argument, which I have heard from the new owners of the Hospital Group, that these are medical procedures, as people are having them because of mental health issues. If that is the case, evidence needs to be provided.

Given the amount of money that the industry generates, I wonder whether the Government are losing revenue. In the one case that I know of, the Revenue is owed £9 million, although it is never going to get that because the company has gone into liquidation. How many similar cases are there? We should consider whether VAT is chargeable on not just surgery but other aspects of the cosmetic surgery industry—things such as fillers and other products that enhance one’s aesthetic beauty, on which I am sure my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford North (Wes Streeting) will be able to enlighten me. If VAT is not being charged, we must consider that, because this is a huge industry in this country. As I said, there are regulation issues for some organisations that need to be addressed, but my parliamentary question was whether there were any proposals to look at the tax aspects of this issue, and the answer was that there were not. Will the Minister let me know what the regulations are and how they are being enforced? It could be that the Revenue is losing out on quite a large amount of money.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bootle (Peter Dowd) talked about the general treatment of tax avoidance, and he obviously hit a raw nerve with some Conservative Members with his accusation that they were the party of tax avoiders. It is in all our interests to ensure that people pay their tax. We all moan about the level of tax that we pay, but ordinary people have no way of influencing what tax they pay—the money comes off their salaries or wages through pay-as-you-earn. What grates with and hurts them is that they see hard-working people paying their tax—there are no clever schemes for them to lower their tax bill—while large corporations and others use mechanisms to generate huge profits but not pay tax. They see sporting individuals and others using mechanisms such as the film schemes that were deliberately set up so that people could avoid their tax liabilities. To be fair to the Government, they have cracked down on some schemes, but that is what irks a lot of people. They have also had austerity and the wage freeze for the past seven years, and they see the injustice of that. We need fairness and to ensure that people pay the tax that others are entitled to expect. Look at the earnings of some of the BBC’s stars, which were published a few weeks ago. The idea that some people want to reduce their tax bill when their initial wages are paid for by taxation is just amazing.

Finally, I just want to—[Interruption.] If the Minister wants more, I can give him more. I am trying to be helpful. I have been very helpful to him and tried to work with his Department, because there are occasions on which we can co-operate to get things done. Making sure that everyone pays their tax and that the system is fair is in the public interest. The Minister was right when he said that we cannot have public services or anything else if people do not pay the right levels of taxation. The system has to be fair.

There is another issue that I think HMRC is already on to, but on which it might want to take a more proactive stance because it relates to organised crime. You might think I am strange, Madam Deputy Speaker, going from rubbish to airports to cosmetic surgery, but I am now going to talk about puppy farming. I met the Dogs Trust yesterday, which has produced a very good report—I do not know whether the Minister’s Department has seen it, but it should read it, as this is another area in which organised crime is getting involved in cruel practices—and it concerns not only breeding dogs in this country but importing them. Now the importations are from Poland and Lithuania, and the Dogs Trust study is of both cases.

There are some horrendous cases, and not just as concerns the cruelty of the trade. If honourable colleagues or the Minister would like to look at it, the report is called “Puppy Smuggling: A Tragedy Ignored”, and it is an investigation into the pet travel scheme. It is quite clear from talking to the trust and the local police that this is another new way of making lots of money without paying any tax. It is a cash business, Madam Deputy Speaker. A lot of these pups are advertised on the internet and the process involves cash transactions. It has been described by one HMRC official as the new cocaine or drugs angle for some types of organised crime, as large amounts of money can be made.

Again, this is a question of co-operation between HMRC and other agencies, for example when local authorities are in charge of enforcement. I give credit to the Government for making changes to the puppy farming regulations, but we are now seeing the importation of these animals from abroad, and we need action at the port and to ensure that when sales take place, the correct amount of tax is paid. If we want to stop the trade, one way of doing so would be to use the tax system, because large amounts are being produced in cash, and if HMRC can use the system to ask where the cash is coming from, the focus is suddenly on that question.

This example demonstrates the innovative way in which organised crime works. It will look for the easiest way of making untraceable cash—landfill tax was one, and now, tragically, as some of the stories in this report are terrible, so is the trade in pups, which should not be bred in such a way or kept in such conditions. As the Bill goes through the House, the Government might want to consider this matter.

Again, this comes back to enforcement and attitudes. I am not criticising individuals at HMRC, as I say, because they have a difficult job, but we need an attitude in favour of enforcement and, on occasion, we must consider how that happens through HMRC and how it is linked with the police and other enforcement agencies. One thing that is quite clear in the examples that the Dogs Trust has highlighted concerning the scandal of puppy farming and importation, as well as what has happened with landfill tax, is that these things are not just HMRC’s responsibility. There are other agencies. Durham police have very effectively come together with others to limit and crack down on these individuals, so I ask the Minister to consider taking a cross-government approach to some of these issues, if we can. On that point, I shall conclude my remarks.

11:30
Wes Streeting Portrait Wes Streeting (Ilford North) (Lab)
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It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for North Durham (Mr Jones), who gave a very comprehensive speech. I personally felt that there were some areas of the Ways and Means resolutions to which he did not do justice, but I am sure we will get a chance to return to those on another occasion.

“A revolutionary moment in the world’s history is a time for revolutions, not for patching”—

those were the words of William Beveridge 75 years ago in his landmark report that paved the way for the modern welfare state. There is no doubt that we live in a similarly revolutionary moment. We are still in the long tail of the biggest economic crash since the great depression and the consequences that follow. We are on the brink of leaving the most sophisticated political and economic alliance in the history of the world, with consequences for our economy, a wide breadth of public policy and our citizens. We are also at the beginnings of an industrial revolution of a pace and scale that the world has never seen. Against that backdrop, the resolutions we are debating and the summer Finance Bill firmly fall into the category of patching.

In the time I have today, I will: specifically address the patching provisions in the Ways and Means resolutions; talk about the issues that are not addressed by the summer Budget and the Ways and Means resolutions; and touch on areas of Government policy that run completely contrary to our national economic interest. Ultimately, the patching measures in the Ways and Means resolutions are pretty small and fairly inconsequential given the wider economic impact of Government policy if that policy continues on the course that the Government have set out.

I turn first to the issue of patching. We heard from the new Chair of the Treasury Committee, who I am absolutely delighted has been elected. I have no doubt that she will fill the enormous shoes of her predecessor. As I have been re-elected to the Committee from this side of the House, I very much look forward to working with her and other cross-party colleagues. As both she and the Minister set out today, the Treasury Committee raised a number of concerns following our evidence gathering. We listened to a wide range of evidence from tax specialists, representatives of small and medium-sized businesses and, indeed, those businesses themselves on the consequences for them of pursuing the Making Tax Digital policy as it was originally conceived.

As other hon. and right hon. Members have said, there is no doubt that there are many benefits for the Revenue and potentially for businesses against the wider backdrop and the move to digitalisation. But there was a serious concern for small and medium-sized businesses in particular about the impact, which—granted—could be unintended. None the less, it would be red tape and bureaucracy for small and medium-sized enterprises that cannot really afford the extra burden. It should be the intention of the Government in any case when pursuing policy to try to implement it in a way that is not burdensome for SMEs or large corporations. We should seek to legislate and regulate effectively, which does not necessarily always mean heavily.

There was a concern that the timing of Making Tax Digital, as it was originally conceived, would have created an unnecessary and unwarranted burden on SMEs. There are more than 5,000 SMEs in my constituency alone. Since being elected to the House two years ago, I have made it my mission to speak up in their interests. I was therefore pleased, during the summer Budget and when listening to the Minister this afternoon, to see that the concerns expressed by the Treasury Committee have been taken on board, that the deadline has been moved back and that there is still some degree of flexibility about when mandatory provisions will kick in. None the less, Ministers ought to take into account some further cautionary notes, particularly following the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bootle (Peter Dowd), the shadow Chief Secretary.

As the implementation timeline stands, we will be looking to implement Making Tax Digital for SMEs in spring 2019—an auspicious year because it happens to coincide with our departure from the European Union. If that departure is smooth, perhaps the Making Tax Digital process can be equally smooth, but I have yet to see any evidence that it will be, be that in Government position papers, the reaction in the Cabinet to different Government position papers, the reaction of colleagues on both sides of the House to the Government’s position, the reaction of all 27 EU member states to what the Government have put forward or the reaction of the European Commission. As far as I can see, there is currently no hope of a smooth exit from the European Union; in fact, we are in danger of crashing out of the European Union. If that is the case, and we are not able to provide stability and certainty to businesses at least over a transitional period while we exit the European Union, we will be adding Making Tax Digital on top of the new customs and border checks and the new compliance and regulatory regimes that businesses will be wresting with—if those are, indeed, in place by that time. Ministers need to keep an eye on wider events and to think about Making Tax Digital in that context. I hope that is something the Minister will reflect on.

There was an interesting exchange between my hon. Friend on the Labour Front Bench and Government Back Benchers over tax avoidance and non-doms. No one pretends the issue is easy. There is a booming business in tax avoidance; indeed, individuals and corporations pay huge sums to very clever accountants to minimise their tax liability. Of course, much of that is perfectly legal, but that does not make it right or ethical. What is often missed in the debate about tax avoidance, particularly when we listen to the protests of people who face a larger tax liability, is that, in the aftermath of the financial crash, with everything we have seen in terms of the impact of austerity on public service provision, the burden of taxation and wage stagnation—I will come to those wider, structural economic problems shortly—there is sometimes a real sense of detachment among those who have benefited enormously from the current economic order and those who have been at the sharp end.

Kevan Jones Portrait Mr Kevan Jones
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Does my hon. Friend also think that there is a mindset in some parts of the Government—perhaps not on the Treasury Bench today—that the trickle-down effect of encouraging wealthy individuals from abroad to come to settle in London will boost the economy? In fact, it sometimes fosters corruption in those people’s countries, and it also takes away flats and other valuable assets in the capital, which local people can then never hope to gain access to.

Wes Streeting Portrait Wes Streeting
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I strongly agree with my hon. Friend. This idea of trickle-down economics must surely be discredited now: it does not work. People are rather ill aware of the extent to which the benefits of economic growth have been unevenly distributed and disproportionately enjoyed by those at the very top. I do not have a great deal of time for special pleading by wealthy individuals and corporations about being asked to pay their fair share of tax, because not everyone is feeling the pinch, and it is entirely reasonable to look at what we can do to tighten loopholes in terms of tax avoidance.

That brings me to the specifics of Government policy. We have had some remarkable rhetoric from those on the Treasury Bench, even over the two years I have been a Member of Parliament. The former Prime Minister, David Cameron, lauded his global leadership on tax avoidance, but the rhetoric is rather divorced from the reality. Even with the measures set out today, there are still means available to non-doms that enable them to enjoy tax exemptions and concessions for many years that are not available to the average UK citizen. Let me give one example: non-doms are able to keep their assets out of the scope of tax if they are held in an overseas trust that was created before they were deemed as domicile. That strikes me as rather unfair and as fairly easy to solve. That is just one example, but there are lots on which Government could clamp down further. The political rhetoric is there, but I do not think the political will is being delivered by policy.

Ruth George Portrait Ruth George (High Peak) (Lab)
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Will my hon. Friend contrast that clamp-down on non-doms and the tax reduction policies with the clamp-down on people with disabilities? Work capability assessments of their employment and support allowance and personal independence payments are reducing their benefits from day one.

Wes Streeting Portrait Wes Streeting
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My hon. Friend makes a powerful point. She will already have seen in her casework as a new Member the impact of changes to Government welfare policy on some of the most disadvantaged people in our society.

If politics in this country and across the western world tells us anything at the moment, it is that large numbers of people feel completely left behind by the economic order and are expressing their frustration through the ballot box in a variety of ways, whether that be by voting to leave the European Union because they see it as central to a global economic order that has left them behind, or by electing Donald Trump because of his promises to the central rust belt of America, which I think he will struggle to deliver. I will talk in my concluding remarks about what the current economic order means for politics and why Government really do need to listen to the voice of the people.

It is interesting to note the enormous complacency among Government Members. Sure, they occupy the Treasury Bench and Downing Street, and Government Departments are staffed by Conservative Ministers enacting, by and large, Government policies, with the very expensive assistance of the Democratic Unionist party. However, the Conservatives lost their majority at the election, and the tragedy for Conservative colleagues who lost their seats is that the Government have not actually listened to the message of the people.

Of course, our side has some humility about the fact that we did not win the election either. Lots of new hon. Members who have been elected to this House rightly celebrate their achievements and those of their party activists, but we know that we have further to go to earn the trust of the British people. Looking at the Government’s policies, we know that we have a responsibility to earn that trust to deal with the economic malaise and entrenched economic inequality that is affecting our citizens and those in many other economies. I welcome the Government’s rhetoric on tax avoidance and taking on non-doms, but I just do not see it reflected substantially enough in Government policy. I strongly support the criticism set out by the shadow Chief Secretary, my hon. Friend the Member for Bootle.

There is a sad irony in the point that a number of right hon. and hon. Members have made about the provisions for retrospective changes to tax arrangements. It seems that the provisions for non-dom arrangements in particular rule out retrospective changes. The Government are saying clearly, “If you have a trust overseas before the rules kick in, don’t worry: we’re not going to touch that money.” Of course, the nature of so many of those trusts is that they are family trusts that are passed down and inherited. In effect, the Government are acknowledging that those trusts exist and that there is an unfairness, and they are setting out to do something about it hereafter, but they are not applying retrospective changes to non-doms in the same way that other measures will affect many others retrospectively.

Kevan Jones Portrait Mr Kevan Jones
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Does my hon. Friend share my concern that wealthy individuals are found wanting when, as usually happens, a secret deal is done with HMRC to pay a certain amount to cover the liability? That is not open to many of my constituents, who are not able to argue when they have a pay-as-you-earn problem. Does he think it is fair that such deals are agreed by HMRC? They should be published if we are going to get fairness into the system.

Wes Streeting Portrait Wes Streeting
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I wholeheartedly agree with my hon. Friend. We should be putting an end to sweetheart deals. We certainly should not, as he says, allow them to take place behind closed doors without the appropriate levels of transparency; such transparency means that we at least know what is being done. What makes me angry, and what makes the individual taxpayers and the businesses that I represent angry, is the fact that we know—particularly if we have been self-employed or run a business—that if we are late with our tax return or our payment of tax due, we will be subject to fines and penalties, which will continue to accrue as long as we delay payment. However, not only can wealthy individuals and corporations pay long after they are supposed to, but they get to determine their own rate of tax. That is outrageous.

The Government have, even during the short time for which I have been a Member of this place, introduced measures to try to deal with tax avoidance by individuals and corporations, but those measures always fall short. Let us take the diverted profits tax—the so-called Google tax. Google barely paid a penny. That illustrates the gulf between the rhetoric we hear from those on the Treasury Bench and the reality of the impact of policy on the tax liability of wealthy individuals and corporations, who can effectively determine their own tax rate. People see that hypocrisy at the heart of the system, and I do not think that the measures proposed by the Government today or previously do enough to allay the concerns that people are expressing.

Kevan Jones Portrait Mr Jones
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I agree with my hon. Friend. Does he think that part of the problem is the operation of HMRC and its arm’s-length relationship with the Treasury? He speaks eloquently about people’s disillusionment with politicians and their ability to affect things. Does he agree that it is perhaps now time for Treasury Ministers to have more direct control over the operational decisions of HMRC?

Wes Streeting Portrait Wes Streeting
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I certainly feel that HMRC is insufficiently accountable to taxpayers and citizens, and I think there are two routes to redressing the problem. One is, as my hon. Friend suggests, for Ministers to take a far tighter grip on what is going on at HMRC, to rein the Department in and make sure that its conduct is in line with the expectations of the people we are sent here to represent. The other, as my hon. Friend the shadow Chief Secretary suggested, is to make sure that HMRC is resourced effectively so that it can implement public policy as intended.

Hon. and right hon. Members who have tax offices in their constituencies complain all the time about the loss of jobs in their constituency. They are fighting for their constituents, as they should do and as we all do. However, the closure of HMRC tax offices and the loss of HMRC jobs should be a concern not just for them, but for all of us. If we do not have the tax inspectors out there in the field clamping down on tax evasion, which is illegal, identifying areas of tax avoidance and, ideally, making recommendations to Government about improvements to the system, we will continue to have repeated debates in this place about how we clamp down on illegal tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance.

Another way in which we can improve the scrutiny of HMRC is through the Treasury Committee. There is provision for a sub-committee of the Treasury Committee to look in detail at HMRC’s work, and when the Committee meets we ought to consider that. The question is always about time and resources. We are lucky to have on the Committee a hard-working and dedicated team of Clerks, who produce reports and briefing packs at a rate of knots on some of the most complicated areas of public policy. Of course, we have a heavy agenda because of the issues facing our financial system, in particular, which have preoccupied the Committee in its work. I think it is fair to say that our new Chair and Members have ambitions to look across the breadth of economic policy and Government spending policy. From our constituents’ experiences on the phone to HMRC—if they are able to get through—right through to our issues about the resourcing of HMRC, there is a serious and significant piece of work to be done on HMRC’s performance, the adequacy of its resourcing, the scope of its powers and its focus as a public body acting in the interest of all taxpayers.

Kevan Jones Portrait Mr Jones
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My hon. Friend raises a good point about staff. The problem we have had in all Departments during the years of austerity is that the easy target is to get rid of so-called civil servant pen pushers. The actual effect of that is starkly focused in the case of HMRC, because when we start to get rid of staff whose job is to collect tax, not only do we lose those individuals’ expertise and their years of experience, but it costs the taxpayer, in that staff are no longer available to enforce the tax regulations. I have highlighted the issue of landfill tax fraud, for example. Does my hon. Friend agree that the Government should look at this as a case of “invest to save”? In other words, if they invested in civil servants to do something, the Government would be able to prove that they were getting more in revenue than it was costing to employ those civil servants.

Wes Streeting Portrait Wes Streeting
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I wholeheartedly agree with my hon. Friend. The irony of some of the swingeing cuts of the past seven years is that although on a scorecard the cuts to civil service jobs represent significant savings, when we look at the roles and responsibilities of some of those civil servants, it does not take a rocket scientist to work out that cutting the number of tax inspectors may well mean that the Government will lose on tax yields and will lose revenue. There is a cost saving on the one hand, but on the other hand there is a direct cost to the Government in lost income.

I had the same experience in local government. Before I was elected to the House, I was the deputy leader of the London Borough of Redbridge. There is a continuing debate in local authorities about, for example, enforcement officers. There are huge pressures on local government budgets, and staff job losses can represent some of the biggest savings because staff are the biggest cost. If a council cuts its pool of parking enforcement officers, that will certainly help it to balance the budget when it comes to the budget council meeting, but it can end up losing revenue if enforcement officers are not out slapping penalties on cars. In addition to the loss of revenue, there are also worse outcomes for citizens, because such a policy encourages the bad practices that make our communities in the case of parking, or our society in terms of effective tax revenues, a lot worse off.

I hope that Ministers will turn to some of these issues when the Budget is next before us, because as well as being pretty thin on substance, the summer Budget did not deliver against the challenges of the time. At the opening of my speech, I quoted William Beveridge’s words about this being “a time for revolutions”. I have been struck by the interim report of the IPPR commission on economic justice, which has been launched today. In a succinct and effective way, the IPPR has summed up a number of the issues involving the great central planks of Government economic policy that have caused me great frustration, but it has also captured the sense of injustice felt by many of our constituents.

We could go on about this ad nauseam: I have sat in the Chamber many times listening to Conservative Members talking about their economic record, but I could spend much of the time available to me this afternoon cataloguing the broken promises of Conservative Chancellors. In fact, we could spend quite a lot of time talking about the broken promises of just one Conservative Chancellor. Our SNP colleague, the hon. Member for Glasgow East (David Linden), is new to the House and was not here to listen to George Osborne’s commitments, so I had better tell him about them. We were told in 2010 that the Conservatives would eliminate the structural deficit in one term, and they attacked the Labour party for lacking ambition and for not having a serious economic policy when we promised merely to halve the deficit over the course of a Parliament.

Kevan Jones Portrait Mr Jones
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Does my hon. Friend also remember that not only did George Osborne’s first Budget in 2010 help crash the economy, but the economically incompetent and hamfisted way in which the cuts were made—for example, cutting budgets in-year meant that it cost councils and others more to lay people off than it saved through redundancies—sucked demand out of the economy just at the time it was turning round?

Wes Streeting Portrait Wes Streeting
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That was one of my greatest frustrations as a Labour party member, looking in on debates in the House during the 2010-15 Parliament. We could be proud of Labour’s record in government from 1997 to the financial crash. There was unprecedented growth; we ran a budget surplus for four years—that has happened in only seven of the past 58 years; we lifted half a million children and more than 900,000 pensioners out of poverty, and we rebuilt public services. Yet we were told after the 2010 general election that Labour presided over reckless spending, but George Osborne was the shadow Chancellor who, up to the crash, committed to match Labour spending pound for pound.

How on earth in 2010 to 2015 we allowed revisionist history to take hold of Labour’s economic record will continue to confound me, but we must take that on. As my hon. Friend the Member for North Durham said, when we left office, the economy was growing and the initial impact of the early Osborne Budgets was to choke growth, scare away investment and suck money out of the economy through the cuts that were imposed. That did not make economic sense or even enable the then Chancellor to deliver his promises.

Kevan Jones Portrait Mr Jones
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Does my hon. Friend also agree that not only did what he describe happen, but if we had followed the Conservative party’s policy of deregulation of the banking and financial sector—the Conservatives never called for more regulation; they wanted less—and if we had accepted the suggestion of David Cameron and George Osborne at the time of the Northern Rock crisis to let it crash, we would have been in a much worse situation than we were?

Wes Streeting Portrait Wes Streeting
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I wholeheartedly agree. I am proud of the contribution that UK financial services make—not just the City of London, but other economic centres, for example, in Edinburgh and Leeds.

Wes Streeting Portrait Wes Streeting
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And Manchester, as my hon. Friend says.

Wes Streeting Portrait Wes Streeting
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Of course, we cannot forget Glasgow. We have several powerful financial centres in the UK. They can contribute enormously to our revenues as well as creating jobs and making the UK an attractive place to do business. However, we should never forget that the crash was a banking crisis, and the thought of politicians—not just the UK Government of the day, but Governments throughout the world—was not that they had spent too much or invested too much in schools, hospitals, teachers, dinner ladies, nurses and doctors, but that the regulatory regime that oversaw financial services was inadequate for the practices of the time. A corrosive greed took hold on Wall Street and in the City and the vast majority of people paid the price.

David Linden Portrait David Linden (Glasgow East) (SNP)
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The hon. Gentleman is being generous with his time. He mentioned powerful financial centres, including Glasgow and Edinburgh. Does he agree with my colleagues and me that the Government’s reckless approach to Brexit is deeply damaging and will cause grave effects in cities such as Glasgow and Edinburgh?

Wes Streeting Portrait Wes Streeting
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I certainly agree with the hon. Gentleman. I shall come to his point, in the context of the motions and the extent to which they are insufficient to deal with the structural economic problems and the economic outlook faced by the country.

Wes Streeting Portrait Wes Streeting
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I give way to my hon. Friend.

Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs Eleanor Laing)
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Order. Before the hon. Gentleman gives way again, I must tell him that I have been paying careful attention to what he is saying, and while I accept his explanation that he is about to discuss the motions, there are 48 of them on the Order Paper, so a fairly wide field of matters is under discussion. The hon. Gentleman has been dealing with subjects that are not relevant to the motions. He has been on his feet for 31 minutes, and I have given him quite a lot of leeway, but I am sure he will appreciate that, while it is interesting to consider the economic history of the last decade or so—and we are all fascinated —he really ought to speak to some of the motions, of which there are many before us this afternoon.

Wes Streeting Portrait Wes Streeting
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Of course, Madam Deputy Speaker, my entire speech relates directly to the Ways and Means motions, but what I will do with the time that I have left is be careful to ensure that my critique is centrally about the extent to which the motions fail to address the structural challenges facing our economy. I will now give way to my hon. Friend the Member for High Peak (Ruth George).

Ruth George Portrait Ruth George
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The Finance Bill proposes to extend the reliefs available to people with non-domiciled tax status, who are some of the wealthiest people in the country. [Interruption.] Motion 13 does that. It contrasts with the actions taken in 2012, when the then Chancellor set up the business investment relief scheme, which itself contrasted with a VAT increase that not only dampened down the economy but caused the tax burden to fall disproportionately on the shoulders of those with lower incomes while reliefs were given to the very wealthy.

Wes Streeting Portrait Wes Streeting
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I wholeheartedly agree with my hon. Friend. Let me make two points about what she has said. In the Budget and the Ways and Means motions, and in previous Budgets and resolutions, the Government have chosen to pursue particular regressive forms of taxation. There is no doubt that VAT is a regressive form of taxation, in that it is paid by everyone, both individuals and businesses, regardless of income. If I went into a shop and bought an item that was subject to VAT, I would pay the same rate as someone with a much lower income buying the same item.

If a Government’s objective is to increase their tax revenues—and, of course, we understand why that would be an objective, given the context of the Budget and the revenue-generation measures in the Ways and Means motions—they should pursue revenue generators that are based on progressive taxation, and ensure that those with the broadest shoulders bear the greatest burden. We have heard those words, or a variation of those words, many times from the Treasury Bench, from successive Chancellors and in successive Budgets, but, as I have said previously, the rhetoric fails to match the reality.

As my hon. Friend has referred again to the issue of non-doms, let me again highlight the extent to which the motions fall short of what is required. Of course we welcome the Government’s measures on non-doms, but I have already criticised them for not addressing, in the Ways and Means motions, the ability of non-doms to keep their assets out of scope if they are held in an overseas trust that was created before they were deemed to be domiciled. We may also want to consider the issue of definition, because the definition of who can be deemed to be in that category seems misleading. It does give the impression that a UK-born non-dom will be deemed if they are now UK-resident, but, inexplicably, it only covers those whose parents were not non-doms, letting non-doms off the hook if their parents were also non-doms. That is very common.

Kevan Jones Portrait Mr Kevan Jones
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Does my hon. Friend agree that there is something archaic in people being able to pass down their tax advantages to their children in that way? The average taxpayer on pay-as-you-earn has no chance of having access to such measures, and they certainly cannot pass on their status to their children or get any advantage for their children in the tax system.

Wes Streeting Portrait Wes Streeting
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I wholeheartedly agree with my hon. Friend, and I am proud to be a member of the Labour party, because it is inherent in the founding principles of our party that we are here to represent the interests of labour. It should be a principle in the approach to taxation and funding our public services that a hard day’s work should result in a fair day’s pay and that the wealth people earn through hard work should be rewarded. There are many people covered under the Ways and Means resolutions we are discussing—particularly those on inheritance and people who enjoy non-dom status—who through chance or luck or birth have found themselves wealthy. It was not through hard work; they have just been lucky.

I understand the parental instinct that means parents or grandparents want to hand on assets of value, both financial and sentimental, to their successors. I understand that even more as someone who might benefit in the future—although, given my family background and the rising cost of social care, probably not in the way that many high-profile politicians have experienced in recent years. However, there is a problem in that people feel that the link between hard work and the rewards of hard work, and prosperity, have been loosened and weakened. Meanwhile, there are plenty of people out there who through luck, chance or circumstance have accumulated vast amounts of wealth and are seemingly untouchable by the tax collectors.

That situation is deeply regrettable, because it has a corrosive impact on the public finances and our ability to fund public services that benefit everyone, and it is also having a corrosive impact on politics itself. People feel that we gather in this place and work in the interests of a privileged few who have sharp elbows and access to Ministers and the corridors of power, while the vast majority of people, many of whom might have never even thought to email their MP, do not feel that they have a voice, and instead always feel that they are at the sharp end of things. We hear Ministers talking about the tough choices facing the Government, and of course they do face tough choices—if we had won the election we would have faced tough choices; we make no bones about that. However, tough times require fair choices: we should be operating fairly in the best of times, but when times are particularly tough we have to have social and economic justice at the heart of our programme.

Kevan Jones Portrait Mr Jones
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Does my hon. Friend agree that the privileged individuals are also the ones who will have choices come Brexit? If the Government get Brexit wrong for the economy of this country, the average person will not be able to move their wealth or savings offshore, so they will be the ones who suffer. The people my hon. Friend is referring to, however, will be able to move their capital anywhere in the world.

Wes Streeting Portrait Wes Streeting
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My hon. Friend’s critique is absolutely right once again. I hope the Minister will respond in detail to the points we are raising about the technical aspects of the Ways and Means resolutions, because I think we have given them a forensic examination and a serious and substantial critique, and the Government ought to respond to that.

I want to pick up on the issue of tax avoidance in Northern Ireland and the provisions in the Finance Bill in this area. The Government seem to be using the Bill to introduce measures that will loosen the definition of a Northern Ireland employer for SMEs, which will basically enable people to establish a business in Northern Ireland and claim the lower rate. Opposition Front Benchers have argued that this will lead to brass-plating, with companies setting up a nominal office in the Northern Ireland jurisdiction to take advantage of lower taxes. My hon. Friend the Member for Bootle, the shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, described that situation as an onshore tax haven. We should not be in the business of allowing such a practice.

Forgive my cynicism, but it seems that since the Government lost their majority, they have lost a hell of a lot of revenue in potential tax receipts and in Government expenditure going to Northern Ireland. I am sure that is merely coincidental and has nothing to do with the Democratic Unionist party deal, but in cash terms—that is, the outlay on infrastructure and public services—most UK taxpayers saw the deal between the Conservatives and the DUP as being expensive enough. By the way, I do not begrudge the people of Northern Ireland the investment in infrastructure, education and health that they need. In fact, I do not begrudge them one penny. I do, however, begrudge the unfairness of Northern Ireland being given preferential treatment over England, Wales and Scotland for no other reason than that the Prime Minister took a gamble. She has paid a heavy personal political price for that, but I am less bothered about that. I am really bothered about the fact that the taxpayers we represent in England, Wales and Scotland are paying a heavy financial price for the Government bribing the DUP into a deal.

This measure in particular really does trouble me. We have already had constituents writing to us about the cash outlay to Northern Ireland, and it seems that a lot of hidden benefits are now being given to it, including adjustments to the tax regime. That will not be good for maintaining a strong and cohesive United Kingdom—it does not play well with our constituents in England, Wales and Scotland when they see one part of the United Kingdom being given preferential treatment over the others. I am sorry to disappoint Scottish National party Members present today, but I am a strong Unionist. I strongly support the United Kingdom, but it has to be a partnership of equals. The way in which the Government are now treating Northern Ireland is particularly uneven, as we can see in the Ways and Means resolutions before us this afternoon. I am very disappointed by that.

Resolution 13 allows provisions to be made to expand the scope of business investment relief, which allows non-doms to remit funds to the UK tax-free if they are investing in certain categories of UK business. We have a serious structural problem in our economy when it comes to investment. As I have said, we have one of the world’s largest financial sectors, yet we have a lower rate of investment than most of our major competitors. Public and private investment accounts for about 5% of our GDP, which is below the average for developed economies, and that figure has been falling not only under this Government but for the past 30 years. That is a structural economic problem that we need to deal with. Corporate investment has fallen below the rate of depreciation, which means that our capital stock is falling, and investment in research and development is now lower than that of our major competitors.

There are a lot of causes of that, including the way in which the banking system is insufficiently focused on business lending. That has been picked up by the Treasury Committee and by Members throughout the House in recent years. Also, private equity markets are increasingly focusing on short-term returns, which is not leading to the kind of investment that we wish to see. If the Ways and Means resolutions had set out provisions to stimulate, support or benefit business investment in general terms, I would certainly have supported them. It seems, however, that resolution 13 is not about business investment in the broadest sense but about a special category of business investment that benefits non-doms. I do not understand how this measure sits with the rhetoric from the Minister about other Ways and Means resolutions that are meant to target non-doms.

The shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury and other colleagues on the Opposition Front Bench will well remember that during the general election, which caught everyone unawares, including Ministers, a raft of Government measures in a wide range of Bills were dropped in the wash-up process. I was closely involved in the Higher Education and Research Bill and saw the consequences for that Bill. It was interesting that the changes to the business investment scheme in the March Budget resolutions were withdrawn in the wash-up process. The Government knew that there was no way we would have allowed the measure through and that we would have been prepared to talk it out—something we never hope to do, because we want to engage constructively with the Government, but only so long as they enable time for appropriate and thorough scrutiny of policy. That measure seemed particularly unfair. If the Government are serious about stimulating business investment and attracting foreign investment, I think there are better ways to do it than with a measure that benefits a particular category of individual. I am not sure it will generate the increased business investment that Ministers want, and it seems particularly unfair.

I understand the pressures around business taxation—it is sometimes all too tempting to turn to corporation tax as the answer to every public policy spending commitment one wishes to make—but whenever we suggest modest increases in corporation taxation, the Government’s reaction is to attack Labour as anti-business. It is important to remember that under Labour we had some of the most competitive corporation tax rates in the OECD and that we have maintained that commitment in every election manifesto since in order to keep the UK competitive, but I come back to the basic issue of fairness and making sure that people pay their fair share.

Kevan Jones Portrait Mr Jones
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Does my hon. Friend agree that the Government’s fixation with corporation tax being as low as possible, and the belief that somehow that will give us a competitive advantage, is blown out of the water by the very successful economies, such as Germany and others, that have corporation tax rates a lot higher than those in the UK?

Wes Streeting Portrait Wes Streeting
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I wholeheartedly agree—again—with my hon. Friend. It is almost as if he wrote my speech. I only wish I could have written his. I have learned a great deal this afternoon about landfill taxation policy and its importance, and I look forward to studying his speech later as we prepare to grill Ministers on the Treasury Committee.

I turn to resolution 4, relating to clause 14 of the pre-election Finance Bill, which introduced amendments to tighten the income tax treatment of termination payments. I made a point early in my remarks about the sense of unfairness and injustice that people feel about the way the rules are rigged. Many people fear, particularly in the current political and economic climate, and in the context of the Brexit process, that attempts will be made to erode workers’ rights. I was particularly concerned to learn, therefore, when I studied resolution 4, that the measure narrowed the scope of tax relief on redundancy and termination payments, removed any exemption for payments in lieu of notice, enshrined it in statute that injury to feelings—a main aspect of compensation in discrimination cases—was excluded from the tax-free scope of payments for injuries, and gave the Treasury the power to vary the tax-free amount.

Lloyd Russell-Moyle Portrait Lloyd Russell-Moyle (Brighton, Kemptown) (Lab/Co-op)
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Does my hon. Friend agree that this is perhaps a return to the nasty party, in the sense that this measure will mean that people who may have suffered discrimination as a result of being LGBT or a woman may now be taxed on the compensation they received after being dismissed? That is a real indictment of what is meant to be a modern Conservative party.

Wes Streeting Portrait Wes Streeting
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Absolutely. I welcome my hon. Friend to the Chamber. I am unsure whether it is a return to the nasty party or more of a doubling down on being the nasty party. Indeed, I am unsure for how many more debates we can see the nastiness of the Conservative party reflected in public policy. On this or any other measure, if the Government’s intention is to clamp down on the abuse of a particular tax measure, provision, break or exemption, we will welcome that where the problem is genuine, but the Opposition believe that this measure targets termination payments more widely. It therefore follows that there is an obvious concern that workers who are losing their jobs are seen by the Government as a source of increased revenue.

What an outrage it is if the Government are seeking a power to reduce the £30,000 tax-free amount for termination payments without the requirement for primary legislation. That runs contrary to assurances that the Government had abandoned their plans to reduce that exemption, which was consulted on in 2015. Those of us who were in the 2015 Parliament will remember that one of the first measures with which we were confronted was the Bill that became the Trade Union Act 2016, which was an appalling attack on the rights of people at work. The Government consulted on this proposal then, but dropped their plans because they were strongly resisted both by the people and by the organisations that champion the rights of and protections for ordinary working people. Now, early on in the 2017 Parliament, the plans are back, but buried in these motions, with the Government presumably hoping that we would not notice. I bet the Government did not count on such scrutiny of their Ways and Means measures.

Ruth George Portrait Ruth George
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Many workers are obviously losing their jobs as a result of the continued austerity programme. Does my hon. Friend agree that it is ironic that those who are losing their jobs at HMRC due to the rationalisation may well be hit by this increase in taxation on their compensation when they could be helping us to increase our tax revenue from those who should be taxed?

Wes Streeting Portrait Wes Streeting
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I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who brings to the House enormous expertise and experience from her work championing the rights of working people at the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers, as part of the trade union movement. We should listen carefully to what she has to say.

On behalf of their members—ordinary working people—trade unions made it clear when the Government consulted that the measure should not be pursued. I think everyone in the Opposition thought that the Government had listened and dropped the provision, but we now see motion 4 on the Order Paper, and it is not fair to workers. We might have thought that the Government would learn from the embarrassing debacle over the summer about what happens when they try to clamp down on people’s access to justice and fair treatment. The Government have form here, and I am disappointed and only too sorry that they do not seem to have learned their lesson or listened to people.

I want to begin to draw my remarks to a close by—

None Portrait Hon. Members
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More!

Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs Eleanor Laing)
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Order. We cannot have such expressions from around the Chamber. The hon. Gentleman has only spoken for one hour and five minutes. There are 48 motions, and I dare say that he still has more to say. As long as he sticks rigorously to speaking about the 48 motions, it is perfectly in order for him to go on speaking. However, now that he has surpassed the time taken by the previous speaker, I am sure that the incentive for him to speak for much longer is not great.

Wes Streeting Portrait Wes Streeting
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Madam Deputy Speaker, I can assure you and hon. Members on both sides of the House that my intention is certainly not to surpass the speaking time of my hon. Friend the Member for North Durham. My intention is merely to make sure that Government economic policy and the Ways and Means motions are given a thorough and forensic examination.

As I said at the beginning of my speech, revolutionary times call for a revolutionary response. What we see in today’s provisions is tinkering around the edges. Although the Whips’ briefings often give Conservative Members the ammunition—

Kevan Jones Portrait Mr Kevan Jones
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There aren’t any.

Wes Streeting Portrait Wes Streeting
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There is no one here—even Conservative Members have given up defending the Government’s Ways and Means motions. We have the poor Minister, his Whip and his poor Parliamentary Private Secretary in the Chamber, but there we are. I thank everyone else for paying attention this afternoon. The serious point is that the Ways and Means motions do not actually address the fundamental structural weaknesses in our economy.

I will now draw heavily from today’s report by the Institute for Public Policy Research, which I commend to the House and which I hope people will read. The fact is that the UK has the most geographically unbalanced economy in Europe. Although I am proud to be a London and Essex MP, I understand why colleagues from other regions and nations of the UK want a more balanced approach to regional economic and infrastructure investment, which is in the interests not only of their constituents but of my constituents. If we are to build a stronger, more resilient, more prosperous and fairer economy, it has to be one that is fairly balanced across the UK.

As Conservative Members tell us, we have a high employment rate and unemployment has been kept low, which I acknowledge and welcome, but Ministers and Conservative Members must have some humility about the fact that the high employment rate has been accompanied by an increasingly insecure and casualised labour market. Fifteen per cent. of the workforce are now self-employed, and many of those self-employed people will be hit by the Ways and Means motions, particularly those relating to Making Tax Digital.

We welcome self-employment. I have been self-employed, and I admire people who pluck up the courage to take the plunge and the risk of starting their own business, but there are many people who are not self-employed in the conventional sense—the sense that is to be encouraged and welcomed—but are in enforced self-employment, driven either by businesses seeking to duck their employer responsibilities or, worse still, by a punitive welfare regime in which people seek to declare themselves as self-employed so that they do not lose their tax credits while they scramble to find a real job. That is not properly understood.

Of course, there is also an unequal distribution of economic wealth. Between 1979 and 2012, only 10% of overall income growth went to the bottom half of the income distribution; almost 40% went to the richest tenth of households. Small wonder that we see this outcry from significant parts of our population, concentrated in certain parts of the country in particular, who are not just angry about the injustice they feel but are completely aware that it is a genuine injustice. It is not just a feeling of resentment—an irrational emotional response—as they are being left behind.

Let us be honest about the fact that we have, as the IPPR says,

“both world-leading businesses and world-lagging productivity.”

We have a lower rate of investment than most of our major competitors, as I have already said. Yes, we have a trade surplus in services, but our overall current account deficit as a percentage of GDP is the largest of all the G7 countries. The extent of manufacturing in our economy should make Ministers blush.

In the past seven years, the Government have been far too reliant on monetary policy levers. They have been over-reliant on quantitative easing, over-reliant on extremely low interest rates and over-reliant on growth that is fuelled by record consumer spending and consumer debt. We are building a new debt crisis in this country—it is a consumer debt crisis, and it is here. All it will take is a marginal interest rate increase for people to be unable to service their debt, and they are barely able to service that as it is. There are real questions to be answered about irresponsible lending, and the Treasury Committee needs to examine that.

These structural weaknesses in our economy ought to be at the forefront of the motions, but they are not. That would be irresponsible in the best of times, but let us look at what we face down the track. We are going to see deeper globalisation, and a shift of economic power to the south and to the east, with a requirement on us to become far more competitive, particularly in seizing opportunities in the service economy. We face enormous and fundamental technological change. The rate of such change is now vastly outstripping the rate at which regulators, government and businesses are able to respond to it. I am not someone who sees the rise of the robots as the beginning of human serfdom in the age of the machine; as with globalisation, there are huge opportunities here to deal with enormous inequality and with big issues facing the planet, such as climate change. Automation presents huge possibilities, but let us learn the lesson from globalisation. This is not something that we can slow or stop; it is happening, and it is a process. We must make sure that this new industrial revolution, the fourth one, works in the interests of everyone, rather than a select few. Otherwise, we will end up back where we are with Brexit, which is the biggest risk facing our country.

When we think about what could happen in the next couple of years as the UK leaves the EU or comes crashing out, we see that the idea that these Ways and Means motions would make any bit of difference is fanciful—it is not serious. When we look at policy coming from the Treasury and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, we see that it is insufficient to meet the challenges of the time. Worse, it seems that far from pursuing policies that will address these big challenges, the Government are pursuing an approach that would make things even worse, relegating the economy to a second-order issue. As George Osborne said from the Government Back Benches after he left office as Chancellor, in a debate about our relationship with the EU,

“the Government have chosen…not to make the economy the priority”.—[Official Report, 1 February 2017; Vol. 620, c. 1034.]

Can you imagine that? Can you imagine a Government not making the economy the priority? As I have said throughout this debate, that would be inexcusable in the best of times, but it is absolutely outrageous in the worst of times.

In conclusion, I hope that the Government not only take on board the detailed critique that has been made of their Ways and Means motions, but reflect on the structural weaknesses in our economy, the challenges that lie ahead and how they can meet them. Let us think about the biggest political event this country has seen in post-war history: the decision to leave the EU. We know that the referendum was lost because of a coalition of voters. I accept that there were a lot of committed Eurosceptics who always wanted out come what may, but the referendum was won thanks to the votes of millions of people who simply felt left behind, who felt unheard and who wanted to send a clear message. They are the people who have been at the sharp end of globalisation; they are the victims of economic inequality and social injustice. When we campaigned in areas where people turned out in droves to vote leave and we told people they may be voting to make themselves poorer, time and again we heard the same reply: “Things cannot get worse than this.” The thing I fear more than anything else about the economic outlook in this Parliament is that things can, and indeed may well, get worse. It would be a tragedy if the very people whose voices cried out to demand change, and who expect that change, were once again the ones who bore the brunt of short-term economic thinking, and of a politics and economics that works in the interests of the privileged few.

I did my democratic duty in honouring the referendum by voting to trigger article 50. What I will not do during this Parliament is pretend that I think the right decision has been made or that the warnings we gave will not come to pass. It is my responsibility, and the responsibility of us all, to protect the interests of our nation and our constituents. If we want to deal with what we are seeing across western democracies—the consequences of people abandoning their faith in mainstream politics—and we want to see off that trend and process, the only way to change course is to change our country. There is no shortcut to achieving change. It has to be meaningful, serious and a lot better than the measures the Government have presented this afternoon.

Meg Hillier Portrait Meg Hillier (Hackney South and Shoreditch) (Lab/Co-op)
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On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Following the point of order made by the right hon. Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis) earlier today about the establishment of Select Committees, it has come to my attention that every party has a list of names of members of Select Committees. Will you and Mr Speaker use your good offices to encourage the Government to table a motion tonight with those names—if there are any gaps, they can be filled at a later time—so that the Committees of this House can scrutinise this Government as swiftly as possible, hopefully starting next Monday?

Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs Eleanor Laing)
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I appreciate the point that the hon. Lady is making. In her position as the Chair of one of the senior Committees of the House, she is right to draw the matter to the House’s attention. She refers to the point of order made earlier this afternoon by the right hon. Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis), to which Mr Speaker gave a very thorough answer, making it very clear that he is of the opinion that it is in the best interests of the House that the Committees are established as soon as possible. My understanding from what he said is that the Leader of the House is in agreement with him. I take it from the general demeanour of the Chamber now, and earlier this afternoon during the point of order from the right hon. Member for New Forest, that the House agrees that it would be in the best interests of our democratic system that the Select Committees are established as soon as possible.

I have every confidence in the Leader of the House. Obviously she is not present in the Chamber at the moment, because nobody knew until a moment ago that the hon. Lady was going to raise this point of order. I am giving a rather lengthy reply in the hope that the Leader of the House will arrive in the Chamber, but I cannot enter into the long speech tradition that has been established this afternoon, as it is not my duty to speak for more than a few seconds on such a matter, and I think that this is all I can do. The point has been noted by those on the Treasury Bench, and I would expect the Leader of the House, who would have the best interests of the House at the front of her mind in all she does, to take note of what the hon. Lady said and the Chamber’s reaction to it.

18:03
Ruth George Portrait Ruth George (High Peak) (Lab)
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I pay tribute to the remarks made by the two preceding speakers, my hon. Friends the Members for North Durham (Mr Jones) and for Ilford North (Wes Streeting). I promise that having been in this House for only a short time, I cannot yet seek to match them for speaking stamina. I am sure that the rest of the House will not be too disappointed by that.

I would like to address how the Bill fits with the Government’s stated priorities. Earlier this year, the Prime Minister, writing in The Sun, promised

“to build a stronger, fairer Britain that works for everyone, not just the privileged few. A Britain…that works for ordinary working people.”

If those words are not mere rhetoric, they need to be backed up by legislation, and where better to put that legislation than in a Finance Bill? It is an opportunity for the Government to make our tax system and our society fairer. I am concerned, though, that the Bill will not only not make Britain fairer, but make our society more unequal.

I wish to concentrate on the effect of motion 4, which is on termination payments, and of motion 13, which is on business investment relief. Business investment relief applies only to non-domiciled UK taxpayers—120,000 people who are some of the wealthiest in our society. They are already able to choose whether their income is only taxed when it is brought into the UK. That gives a huge advantage to those who spend most of their lives outside our country, and whose income can be held in offshore accounts, trusts and shares.

Although, as my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford North said, I worked for the past 20 years or so for a trade union for working people, prior to that I worked as a tax accountant. On leaving school, I went to work in London for an international tax accountancy firm that specialised in advising non-domiciled individuals. These people were enormously wealthy, and included some well-known names. Even if their income was earned in the UK, if their earnings went directly into a non-UK account, they were not subject to UK taxation. In recent years, we have seen how that sort of manipulation of high incomes still goes on. It enables the very wealthiest people to pay a minimal contribution to the UK, even if they are deemed resident here. It is not the fault of this Government, but non-domiciled status was essentially created to avoid UK taxation.

For many people who travel globally, the system is not actually adaptable. For all their enormous wealth and jet-set lifestyles, I used to feel sorry for our non-domiciled clients when I was a teenager in a junior tax accountancy position. They were able to spend only a set number of days in the UK, and the enormous tax consequences of their overstaying that time limit meant that they felt they needed to adhere to it strictly, regardless of their own personal needs or wishes. Our accountancy firm used to keep a schedule in the front of each client’s file, setting out the number of days that they had set foot in the UK that tax year. The clients used to have to plan their personal and business engagements around the limits. When they got close to the limit, it was my job to write to inform them to be careful with their travel arrangements until 5 April, when the tax year came to an end and a new limit began. That is no way for people to have to live their lives or for a country to run its tax system.

The Government say they are cracking down on non-domiciled status, but, as I said to my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford North, it seems to be different from their crackdown on benefits for disabled people living on the breadline. Will the Minister confirm that non-domiciled individuals will see their status change only if they have not complied in 15 out of 20 years? Disabled people would love to have 15 years to show how their disability affects their lives and how it changes over time, but they are assessed on one day, at one particular time when they have managed to attend an assessment centre, and they are penalised immediately if they cannot do so. If there is a change in circumstance for non-domiciled residents, instead of their hugely beneficial tax status being changed immediately, the Government have given them two years in which to transfer their money to an offshore trust to again avoid paying any tax on it.

As if the tax benefits of non-domiciled status were not already generous enough, in 2012 the then Chancellor introduced business investment relief. I am sure that had nothing to do with the number of people of non-domiciled status with whom he spent his holidays on yachts, but it was certainly welcomed by their investment advisers. Firms such as Sapphire were pleased to advertise the benefits of business investment relief to their clients. The article on its website says:

“Unfortunately for the vast majority of us, when we earn money we have to pay tax…However, for those individuals who are resident in the UK but are considered non-domiciled this basic rule does not have to apply…From 6 April 2012, the government introduced the very attractive Business Investment Relief…Put simply, if you are resident in the UK but are…a “non-dom”…and you want to bring your overseas money into the UK to make an investment and NOT pay tax in the process—then Business Investment Relief is your answer…the UK Government is effectively giving non-doms a subsidy…on their investments”—

then it was 50%, now it is 45%. The company says:

“But wait—it gets better—you can also use the other reliefs when making an investment using offshore monies remitted to the UK”—

such as the enterprise investment scheme or the seed enterprise investment scheme, which will also potentially save 40% on an income tax bill. The advice that is given sets out how great the tax advantages are. An investment of £500,000 by someone with non-domiciled status would attract tax relief of £400,000.

Sapphire advertises how wide the opportunities are under business investment relief, saying:

“the rules for what makes up a qualifying company…are very wide. Quoted companies are excluded, but virtually any other company…carrying out a business may qualify…investment into property development or property with a rent is allowable.”

Do we really need more overseas investors increasing our property prices? It does not even have to be an arm’s length or transparent investment, as money

“can be invested in a company in which the investor is or associates are involved in”.

If someone wants to dispose of that investment and is worried about capital gains tax, they are advised:

“When the investment is sold, if there is a gain it will be subject to UK Capital Gains Tax—but the original funds can be taken back offshore again (within a 45 day or 90 day time period) in order to avoid being taxed”.

It is no wonder that despite all the rhetoric about cracking down on non-doms, their number has increased since 2010. The Government now want to make business investment relief even more generous through this Bill. This time, I quote the reputable KPMG, which sets out the benefits of the Government’s proposals, which have

“the objective of making the BIR scheme more attractive to non-UK domiciled investors…BIR will be extended to include investments made in a new qualifying entity, a ‘hybrid company’…not exclusively a trading company or a stakeholder company…but…a hybrid of the two”—

just in case someone could not fit their investment into one or other of them. It goes on:

“At the same time…the period during which an eligible trading company must start to trade,”

or

“an eligible stakeholder company must start to hold investments…will be increased to five years…Where a company becomes non-operational and a BIR investment ceases to qualify, the grace period during which action must be taken…will be increased to two years”

to manage the risk of a tax change more effectively. It also states:

“Another extension to BIR sees acquisitions of existing shares already in issue potentially qualifying for BIR… there will be no requirement for shares to have been newly issued…Rules which withdraw BIR will be narrowed”.

An already exceedingly generous scheme will be widened and extended in scope to enable more companies to be invested in and to enable more people to make those investments, be it in a trading company or a property. May I ask the Minister how that squares with the Prime Minister’s promise that we will create a fairer society by breaking down the barriers of privilege and making Britain a great meritocracy?

The treatment of non-domiciled taxpayers in the Bill contrasts with the treatment of ordinary working people. The Government’s huge cuts to public services have largely been on the back of those ordinary working people, none more so than the hundreds of thousands in the public sector who have lost their jobs.

Under the Government’s continued austerity programme, thousands more hard-working public servants will lose their employment. In many cases, they have given the majority of their working life to their job and will find it extremely hard to get another. As the state pension age increases, people made redundant later in their working life have to try to get by on their payment for termination of their employment for as long as possible. It is an extremely worrying time for them.

Two hospitals in my constituency are earmarked for ward closures, with dozens of experienced NHS staff worried about whether they will still have a job. To those hard-working hospital staff, who continue to give excellent care to their patients for which they are renowned, the Bill brings added uncertainty. The Government want Parliament to give them the power to vary the £30,000 tax-free limit for payments on termination of employment, but people will see less of that payment if that tax limit is reduced. The long-standing limit, which gives ordinary hard-working people the ability to make the most of the final payment from their job at a time when they need it most, is under threat. I hope the Minister can assure me that the Government will at no point seek to reduce the £30,000 tax-free limit on termination payments.

In another example of hitting hard-working people when they are down, the Bill seeks to tax the compensation for injury to feelings caused by a proven case of discrimination at work. Does the Minister realise what an employee has to go through to receive a compensation award for discrimination? Not only do they originally suffer that serious and long-lasting discrimination at work, but they also have to have made a complaint unsuccessfully through their employer’s procedures, having their claims refuted and exacerbating the hurt and distress. They then have to go through the whole process and complaint yet again, this time through an employment tribunal procedure. The process takes years of emotional distress and it is not surprising that only a handful of cases get through this arduous process.

Only 144 individuals were awarded compensation for discrimination in the past year, including 72 cases of disability discrimination, 33 cases of sex discrimination and nine cases of sexual orientation discrimination. Bearing in mind the small number of cases, this is not an effective revenue-raising measure. Until now, claimants have had to pay an employment tribunal fee of £1,250 to take a case of discrimination to an employment tribunal. Now that those fees have been ruled unlawful, does the Minister agree that victims of sustained and damaging discrimination will feel that taxation of their compensation payment will simply add financial insult to their injury? It is a worrying principle for the Government to commence taxing compensation—a measure to give redress from unfairness—which inflicts further unfairness on those who have already suffered enough.

I am relatively new to the House, but the Bill shows me and our wider electorate that, in spite of changing Ministers, the Government have not changed their spots. They are seeking to rush through these important measures with very little parliamentary scrutiny. These measures give even more to the wealthiest and take even more from hard-working people at the times they need it most. The Prime Minister has been long on rhetoric for tackling privilege and helping ordinary working people, but the Government speak a very different story in their actions in this Bill. Before the final Bill comes to the House, I urge the Minister to address the imbalance between rhetoric and action. He can either ensure that the Bill addresses the issues that his leader claims to seek to address or the Government can be straight with voters and say that their actions actually encourage privilege and knock working people when they are down.

18:19
Bambos Charalambous Portrait Bambos Charalambous (Enfield, Southgate) (Lab)
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Although any attempts to clamp down on tax avoidance schemes are welcome, I do not feel that the proposed measures go far enough or that HMRC has the capacity to go after corporations that have in the past paid less tax than their cleaners.

By 2021, HMRC is projected to have lost 34% of its staff since 2010, including those in departments dealing with the very largest corporations. That is a huge number, and with the big accountancy firms willing to take on former HMRC employees for their knowledge and expertise, is it any wonder that the tax-avoiding corporations are one step ahead of the game?

The Bill makes no reference to dealing with offshore tax havens, which, as we all know, are a popular device for avoiding tax wherever the profits have been made. That scam has been estimated to be worth £13,000 billion worldwide in avoided tax. Some of those profits will have been made in the UK, and some in other countries, including many developing countries. Oxfam has estimated that the cost of tax avoidance to developing countries is £78 billion. That money could go a long way to providing schools, healthcare and clean water, and it could actually save lives.

What is required is greater transparency and a mandatory requirement for public, country-by-country reporting on where profits have been made, so that multinational companies pay their fair share of tax along with everybody else and make a contribution to society in the countries in which they operate. It is estimated that unpaid tax could be worth as much as 16% of Government revenue in some developing countries. It cannot be right that multinational companies should be able to choose where they pay tax or whether to pay it at all.

In the UK alone, tax avoidance was estimated to be approximately £11.4 billion for the last fiscal year. It is scandalous that some of the corporations using tax avoidance measures in the UK benefit from having been granted lucrative Government contracts. At a time when public sector workers have to go to food banks to survive, it is hard to imagine a more insulting parody of fairness than greedy corporations directly profiting from the public purse, using every trick in the book to avoid paying tax.

At a time when there is massive underfunding of the NHS and schools, as well as of local authorities for the services they provide, we cannot allow half-measures to prevail. More needs to be done to secure the money for our much needed cash-strapped public services. Everyone knows that further investment in HMRC is needed to recover these large sums and that any additional staff who are brought in would, in effect, pay for themselves within weeks. More needs to be done, but action is needed right now, because these measures do not go far enough.

18:22
Steve McCabe Portrait Steve McCabe (Birmingham, Selly Oak) (Lab)
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I am grateful for the opportunity to make a brief contribution to this debate.

I cannot help but feel that the Government seem a little embarrassed by this whole Budget, this whole set of measures and the state of the economy. Presumably, that is why there were so few people on the Government side to make a contribution today. We did have a fleeting, cameo appearance from the Chancellor earlier, but he is still taking his vow of silence. I understand that, because I used to work with unemployed people and people who feared losing their jobs, and I know about that sense of needing to keep your head down sometimes.

In the time available, I want to pick up a couple of the issues that have come up in the debate and to try to understand where the Government are at the moment. To be honest, the Minister gave very little detail in his opening remarks—it was not so much broad brush as “Don’t blink or you’ll miss it.”

I particularly want to ask about the proposal that has come up again to tax people’s redundancy pay and termination payments. My understanding was that there had been a discussion on this and that the Government had conceded, so I am not quite clear why we are back looking at what looks like virtually the same proposal. I want to ask a straightforward question: if this proposal is the right thing to do—I have grave doubts about the way we are proceeding—should Parliament not decide that? Is it really right that HMRC should be given the power to make the decision? I think that that is Parliament abdicating its responsibility, but more importantly it is another grab by Government to transfer power elsewhere so that they do not have to be accountable or scrutinised. We really should look again at whether that is appropriate.

I have a very simple request on business investment relief. It behoves the Government to place in the House of Commons Library details of where that business investment is going. We need to know which businesses and companies are benefiting; how evenly it is being spread around the country; and which regions and nations are seeing benefits. Otherwise it looks like another attempt to give someone a tax cut on the side. As long as people have that suspicion and do not have the evidence or an explanation, is it any wonder that they will adopt that view?

I intervened on the Minister earlier on the issue of non-domiciles. He was quick to tell me that I had nothing to say on the subject because Labour was in power before the present Government and the coalition. It is true that past Governments have struggled on the question of non-domiciles, but my memory is that the Conservative party could not have been clearer about its position in 2010. In fact, the former Chancellor was absolutely crystal clear about what it was going to do when it came to power. The question we have to ask is, having had all this time to work it out, how come there are so many exemptions, exclusions and difficulties in tackling a problem which, according to the Conservative party, has been at the centre of its own thinking for seven years? How is it so difficult? If the object of the exercise is not to try to avoid doing it—it was quick to say that that was not the case and that it was the party that would deliver—how come there are so many exclusions, exemptions and get-out routes for the people involved?

On the wider question of tax avoidance, the Conservative party seems to wonder why people do not believe, trust or have faith in it. Is it normal that those lobby groups and people who have spent time arguing against tax provisions to limit the amount of tax paid by individuals and organisations should then be given the power to scrutinise whether what individuals are doing is right and appropriate? That does not sound right to me, and when I try to explain it to my constituents it does not sound right to them either. They have a straightforward understanding of the rules: the Government set the rules, they are laid out in black and white, and we are expected to pay. However, when it comes to other people being expected to pay, the very same lobby groups and organisations that advise and assist them and lobby against paying are given the power to scrutinise what they are doing. That is why people do not have faith in what is going on.

I want to turn to the air passenger duty measure. The Minister was quick to use his crystal ball when tackled on corporation tax earlier. He quickly moved the issue away from what the Government are doing to what he foresaw a future Labour Government doing. I wonder whether he will go back to his crystal ball and reflect on two things. First, on the air passenger duty arrangements we are being asked to approve, what are the Government doing about the changes happening elsewhere in the country? When the Scottish Government set their rate for air departure tax, that could have a phenomenal impact on the airline industry and every regional airport and regional economy in this country. What is the point of the Government setting a rate in complete isolation from what is happening about 600 miles up the road? What is the value in that? Why do they not look at that and give us a coherent response?

Secondly, I am interested to know from the Minister’s crystal ball what is going to happen with corporation tax. Once Northern Ireland has to make a decision about corporation tax—presumably in relation to the Irish Republic—it cannot but have a knock-on effect on corporation tax rates in the rest of the country. How come there has not been a single comment about that from the Government? Will it be a case of them waking up after the event, as they have done at every stage in the economic management of the country so far, and telling us that they are going to think about it?

18:30
Anneliese Dodds Portrait Anneliese Dodds (Oxford East) (Lab/Co-op)
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Sadly, today’s debate on the Ways and Means resolutions has confirmed in the field of taxation something that many of us feared about the Government’s general approach to public policy: no genuine attempt is being made to face up to the enormous challenges facing our country, from our yawning productivity and investment gaps to the haemorrhage of public funds caused by tax dodging and, as many have noted, the uncertainty caused by the Government’s shambolic approach to Brexit.

We end this debate with new revelations, hot off the press, that the Government have been pleading with businesses to publicly back their Brexit negotiating strategy—pleas that have been met with “fury” and “incredulity” from business. Against that backdrop, rather than the wide-ranging changes that are required, we have a clutch of measures that I would describe as piecemeal, although I have to say that I liked the epithets used by my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford North (Wes Streeting), who described them as thin and patchy. Many of the measures are, sadly, ill thought through, and they could have a range of negative consequences.

The process is also flawed. Despite repeated calls from tax experts for more detailed scrutiny of tax measures, the House is being rushed into Second Reading of the Bill containing these measures just next week. I accept the Minister’s comments that all these measures were published previously. However, several of them have been pulled, some at very short notice. As my hon. Friend the Member for North Durham (Mr Jones) set out—at length, I must say—some of those measures were important ones.

Such is the lack of coherence in this package of measures that some might describe the current coalition of chaos as rudderless, but I would say that is unfair, because the resolutions show that the Government’s shaky ship tends to list in one direction: towards the protection of the most privileged. As so many of my hon. Friends have mentioned, we see that first of all in the Government’s approach to non-dom status. That anomalous and old-fashioned status was created by William Pitt the younger, and it provides for some of the very richest in society privileges of which British mere mortals cannot avail themselves. Rather than fundamental abolition or reform, here we have the introduction of more and more complex rules.

We heard repeatedly today from the Government that they are closing the front door to tax avoidance from non-doms, but, as others have mentioned, that front door will close at a glacially slow pace. It will be open for another 15 years. In any case, while the Government maintain that they will—albeit very slowly—close the front door to tax avoidance, some of the measures proposed here open up new, hidden back doors through which non-doms can shift their tax responsibilities.

Many Labour Members have talked about the mechanism of business investment relief, which will be extended substantially beyond its initial remit. We have asked repeatedly for evidence of its efficacy, but evidence came there paltry little, and only very late in the day. It was only last Friday that we received a statistical commentary providing some very basic figures on the use of business investment relief, and the figures that we were initially given were rounded up to the nearest hundred. That is surely rather unusual when we are talking about fewer than 450 new individuals taking up that relief in 2014-15. In fact, according to my calculations, less than 1% of non-doms currently appear to be taking it up.

Furthermore, as many others have mentioned, the Government have provided no indication of which sectors or businesses are benefiting from this relief. Without that information, it is unclear why the Government have chosen to extend its remit. As my hon. Friend the Member for High Peak (Ruth George) mentioned, we also need to know why the Government are now enabling non-doms to buy shares traded in secondary markets, not just new shares, under the remit of the relief. How exactly will that benefit the real economy and generate the investment that we desperately need?

The new measures have been proposed in a context where, according to a statistical release we have only just received, more than 54,600 non-doms have been in the UK for seven of the past nine years, but only 5,100 seem to have admitted remitting income to the UK. Having said that, the exact number of non-doms in Britain seems to go up or down by 200 depending on which table is looked at in the statistical release, so we should perhaps take some of the figures with a pinch of salt. I must say that I struggle to understand how exactly all the remaining non-doms are surviving and living here. It is all very well trumpeting the funds obtained through the non-dom charges—we heard the same again today—but for high net worth individuals claiming non-dom status, those charges might be dwarfed by the taxes they would have paid if they were treated like ordinary Brits. Furthermore, while the Financial Secretary claimed that the proposals would end permanent non-dom status, that, as many Labour Members have mentioned, is not the case for those whose parents are non-doms.

It is difficult to avoid the conclusion of firms aiding individuals to attain non-dom status, such as the Tax Advisory Partnership, that non-dom status is, in its words, “generally advantageous to taxpayers”, although not of course to British ones. The firm also notes that

“trust planning is a valuable option for many non-doms”,

yet the Government’s new measures protect income that is already locked into trusts. As my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford North said, this is big business for the many firms engaged in enabling people to avoid tax.

I am very sorry that rather than promoting investment in our country, the non-dom system seems for many just to be a mechanism for tax avoidance. Now more than ever, we really need more business investment in Britain. Several Labour Members made the case for that today. I have looked at the figures provided by the OECD: last year, the increase in investment in Britain was half the G7 average, a third of the OECD average and a sixth of the EU average. Labour Members have heard nothing in this debate to convince us that the Government’s measures presented in the resolutions will provide the investment that our country desperately needs.

Generally, we find that while the Government may talk the talk on tax avoidance, the measures they produce are frequently watered down and insipid in practice. Just as with their measures on non-doms, we find that their commitment to crack down on those enabling aggressive tax avoidance fails to include the really strong deterrents called for by experts. Indeed, the Government initially proposed such measures, but they have now been watered down.

As several Labour Members have said, the treatment in these measures of non-doms and enablers of tax avoidance contrasts with the treatment of people who have been discriminated against in employment cases or made redundant. I must say that I share the concerns of my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Steve McCabe) about the fact that the Financial Secretary did not mention those issues in his opening speech, and I very much hope that he will cover them in his concluding remarks. They are incredibly important for many people in Britain, particularly as we see more employment cases being brought and more people being made redundant. Take the issue of injury to feelings payments becoming taxable. I have looked at the figures and seen that we are not necessarily talking about very large awards. In 2014, the median award for injury to feelings across all categories of discrimination was £6,600. Over the three years to 2014, median awards for discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation actually diminished to just £1,000, and awards on the basis of other characteristics have generally come in at about the £6,000 mark.

I must say that I find it churlish of the Government to focus on the people who, after all, as my hon. Friend the Member for High Peak detailed, have been forced to pursue their case at many different levels, often at considerable expense to themselves and causing considerable concern to themselves and their families. When they are found genuinely to have had a case—because their age, race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or pregnancy has been used against them—they then find out at that stage that any award is taxable. We find penny pinching that is focused on discriminated-against workers and those made redundant rather than an attempt to tackle large-scale tax avoidance head-on.

Colleagues have asked many other questions, to which we have not received adequate responses. One of the most important issues, which many colleagues mentioned, is the resourcing of HMRC, particularly with new cuts on the horizon through the removal of local offices. I am concerned that we find no commitment by the Government to grasp the nettle and properly resource HMRC so that it can feasibly assess whether high net worth individuals and multinational corporations will comply with the new rules.

I remind the Financial Secretary that there are still 10,000 fewer HMRC staff than in 2010—a 16% cut, despite the Government’s professed concern about tax avoidance. In that context it is no surprise that, as the hon. Member for Aberdeen North (Kirsty Blackman) said, proposed new powers for HMRC to enter premises and inspect goods, as well as to search vehicles or vessels, have not been repeated in the resolutions despite discussion of them before the election. In this matter as in others, an ideological commitment to reducing the size of HMRC can lead to a focus on punishing smaller businesses that have transgressed minor rules, while some of the biggest players escape their liabilities. As my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford North said, the principle of proportionality is already under pressure. That could become an even bigger problem with additional cuts.

The matter is also deeply concerning in the context of Making Tax Digital. We welcome the fact that the Government have ceded to pressure and that they are climbing down on making tax digital to an accelerated timetable, but I am worried that the Financial Secretary said that electronic reporting would be extended only when it had been shown to work well. I remember similar discussions on the introduction of digital reporting for services that suddenly had to pay VAT when the system changed to operating on the basis of where the buyer rather than the seller was. The Government said then that all the arrangements would be in place; businesses would know how to pay their VAT, and there would not be concerns about testing the system—the so-called VAT MOSS system. Many Opposition colleagues will remember it as the VAT mess system, because that is what we got.

Cuts to HMRC resources are incredibly important. One Conservative Member shouted, “With digitalisation, we don’t need HMRC staff.” In some cases, we need those staff precisely to help people through the digital process. Those staff were not there for VAT mess, and I am worried that they will not be there for elements of Making Tax Digital if the Government go ahead with their plans.

Ways and Means resolutions may be technical, as the Chancellor said in his brief intervention in the discussion, but they offer an opportunity to deal with some of the fundamental problems with the British economy. Fiscal matters are incredibly important—Opposition Members accept that, and that is why so many of us have been present, intervened in the debate and posed questions. Sadly, instead of the genuine engagement that we should have had with many of our concerns, they have not been dealt with seriously. Overall, the measures imply that the very best-off people are likely to be rewarded, with little left for everyone else.

18:44
Mel Stride Portrait Mel Stride
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The debate has been engaging and I thank all Members for their contributions. I will touch briefly on the points that have been raised. As I said in my opening speech, there will of course be further opportunities to debate the principles behind the Finance Bill, not least on Second Reading next week.

The measures to be included in the Finance Bill have been consulted upon widely and scrutinised by the public, key stakeholders, tax professionals and, to some extent, the House. The shadow Chief Secretary, the hon. Member for Bootle (Peter Dowd), said that the Bill was being rushed through. I remind him that we have already debated the Second Reading of a Bill which, substantially, contained nearly all the measures that we will debate in the weeks and months ahead.

The Bill will raise some £16 billion over the next five years, but, far from what the hon. Members for Bootle and for Oxford East (Anneliese Dodds) would have us believe, much of that revenue will be raised from large multinational corporations—and, yes, from non-domiciled individuals. On the issue of the taxation of non-domiciled individuals, let me make it clear that we are abolishing permanent non-dom status. It is this Government who have presented proposals, consulted on them widely, and delivered a fair and balanced package. During the debate I heard Opposition Members criticise offshore trusts. Let me be clear again: if funds are taken out of trusts, they will be taxed in the normal way. In recent years, we have reached important international agreements on the automatic exchange of information to ensure that we can effectively monitor those movements.

Overall, we have developed a balanced policy that promotes fairness in the tax system and, importantly, protects vital revenues for our public services. Those non-doms bring in about £9 billion per year in tax revenues, which is up from £8 billion about a decade ago. We expect, in addition to those revenues, to raise a further £1.5 billion over the next five years as a direct result of this Finance Bill.

The Bill introduces important changes in corporation tax, implementing rules agreed internationally and recommended by the OECD. They will ensure that big companies pay corporation tax when they make large profits, no matter what their past losses might have been, and will prevent them from using artificial borrowing to avoid the tax that they owe. I remind the House that those matters have been the subject over some years of intense international work—international work that the Government have been instrumental in driving forward. These changes represent real results, which Labour Members never seemed to get around to when they were in office.

The hon. Member for Bootle also criticised measures relating to termination payments. The £30,000 tax-free allowance will still be available and statutory redundancy will be tax-free. However, we must face the fact that, while it may be a particularly easy argument to prosecute that we are somehow beating up those who are losing their jobs, the reality is that that situation is being used as a vehicle for tax avoidance, and when the Government find tax avoidance, we will clamp down on it.

Let me now deal with the points raised by the hon. Member for Bootle about the Government’s record on tax avoidance and evasion, and the work of HMRC. He suggested that somehow HMRC was not doing enough. I remind the House that in 2016-17, HMRC brought in £574.9 billion in tax revenue, and that was the seventh record year in a row. It generated £29.9 billion of compliance revenue in one year, and in 2016-17 it prosecuted 886 criminals for tax avoidance and evasion, more than double the number six years ago. The hon. Member for Oxford East criticised our commitments to HMRC. Since 2010 we have invested £1.8 billion in HMRC for the purpose of clamping down on tax avoidance and evasion, and we have brought in £160 billion by clamping down on avoidance since that date.

Members have rightly made much of the need to narrow the tax gap. The Government are committed to that as well, but many have failed to recognise that the gap now stands at 6.5%. That is one of the lowest figures in the world, and it is lower than the figure that applied every year in which Labour was in office. We can pride ourselves on having one of the most robust and transparent tax gap estimates in the world, with the methodology scrutinised by the International Monetary Fund and the National Audit Office.

The hon. Member for Bootle suggested that Labour would do more than any other party to tackle the tax gap, but let us judge Labour on its record. The latest tax gap is 6.5%. In 2004-05, after two terms of a Labour Government, it was around 9%. That is not a record to shout about. The tax gap for corporation tax in particular is 7.6%, but a decade earlier, under Labour, it was around double that figure. For large businesses, the tax gap for corporation tax we that inherited was 11.1%; now it has almost halved to 5.8%. And let us look at the receipts: onshore corporation tax revenues last year hit a record of around £50 billion. In 2004-05, after two terms of a Labour Government, they were almost £20 billion lower.

I want now to turn to some of the other contributions to the debate. My right hon. Friend the Member for Loughborough (Nicky Morgan) made some very pertinent points, and I congratulate her on her election to her new position as Chairman of the Treasury Committee—I look forward in due course to appearing before her, with a mixture of excitement and some trepidation, I have to say. I also thank her for her comments about Making Tax Digital. The work of her Committee’s predecessor certainly informed my previous judgment on that matter. She made some important points about the UK being truly open for business. I also subscribe to those points, and the Government are determined to ensure that that remains the case. She made important points on certainty and stability in our tax regime, too, and she will have noted the answer I gave to the hon. Member for North Down (Lady Hermon) in respect of retrospective legislation.

When I was listening to the speech made by the hon. Member for Aberdeen North (Kirsty Blackman), I thought for a moment that I was in a dream where she was not a member of the SNP, but a Conservative—a fellow traveller. She is always welcome on this side of the House. She welcomed the measures for tax deduction of employee legal costs and for electric vehicle charging point tax reductions. She also welcomed our measures on petroleum revenue tax and to clamp down on enablers of aggressive tax avoidance, as well as the changes we have made to the MTD regime. The hon. Lady raised some points about VAT refunds for museums, and I will be happy to look into them and come back to her in due course.

My hon. Friend the Member for Ochil and South Perthshire (Luke Graham) made some important points on MTD. I can say to him that the Government will certainly consult very widely as we go forward with this approach.

As for the hon. Member for North Durham (Mr Jones), who has a flicker of a smirk about his face on the Back Bench there, what can I say? He started his speech by telling us he was going to speak rubbish, and I think it is fair to say that he amply met his objective, not in terms of the content of what he said—he was as eloquent and erudite as always—but in terms of his apparent inability to speak to the matters in question, because of course landfill tax, important though it is, will not form part of the current Bill. He then mentioned APD, for which I was grateful, because that is in the Bill, but I fail to see how I could get puppies in by any possible stretch of the imagination.

The hon. Member for Ilford North (Wes Streeting) gave a thoughtful speech, although I have to say that there were limited areas of agreement between us. I was pleased that he welcomed our changes to MTD. He stressed the importance of the wealthiest paying their share of tax. He is right, but he will know that the top 1% of earners in this country pay 27% of all tax, that the most wealthy 3,000 pay as much tax as the poorest 9 million, and that income inequality is at its lowest level for 30 years.

Wes Streeting Portrait Wes Streeting
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Will the Minister give way?

Mel Stride Portrait Mel Stride
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I will not on this occasion, as I have very little time—I apologise.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned non-dom trusts. I have made it clear that funds remitted out of non-dom trusts will be taxable. He also, however, flirted with the idea of politicians getting directly involved in the tax affairs of individuals, which would be a dangerous road to go down. I do not want politicians interfering in people’s tax affairs; I want to protect tax confidentiality. He also talked about the resourcing of HMRC which, as I have said, has received £1.8 billion since 2010, and is bringing in record levels by clamping down on tax avoidance.

The hon. Member for High Peak (Ruth George) mentioned termination payments and said that she hoped we would not be reducing the £30,000 allowance. That is certainly not our intention at present, and if there were any move to change the figure, it would have to be the subject of a statutory instrument subject to the affirmative procedure, meaning that it would come back to the House for approval or otherwise.

The hon. Member for Enfield, Southgate (Bambos Charalambous) made the point that we need to raise money to pay for public services—he is absolutely right. That is why we are clamping down on tax avoidance and pursuing our policies. The hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Steve McCabe) also mentioned termination payments, and I refer him to my earlier remarks about that. He talked about business investment relief, which will be available and made more flexible for those who have non-domiciled status. That should not be criticised. This is money coming into our country to invest in businesses, in British jobs, in wealth creation and in creating the taxes that, in turn, will fund the public services on which we all depend.

While we consider the action being taken in this Finance Bill, let us not forget what we inherited from the Labour party and the important actions that we have taken. Foreigners did not pay capital gains tax when they sold houses in the UK, but we stopped that in April 2015. Private equity managers could pay minimal rates of tax on their performance fees, but we stopped that in the summer Budget of 2015. Thousands of the richest homeowners did not pay stamp duty, but we stopped that in 2013. On corporation tax, banks did not pay tax on all their profits, but we stopped that in December 2011. Investment companies could cut their tax bill by flipping the currency that their accounts were in; we stopped that in 2011. On income and inheritance tax, people avoided paying tax by calling the salary from their own company a loan; we stopped that in 2013. Non-doms could avoid paying UK tax by splitting their employment contracts; we stopped that in 2014. Hedge fund managers could use partnerships to avoid paying tax on their income; we stopped that in 2014. People could claim inheritance tax relief twice on some assets; we stopped that in 2013. On the economy more generally, and perhaps most importantly of all, the Labour party wanted us to go on bankrupting Britain, but we stopped that in 2010.

That record on tax avoidance and fairness shows that this Government have delivered, and we will continue to deliver with this Bill. Opposition Members have accused the Government of using smoke and mirrors, but the record shows that it is they who talk tough but take little action. The upcoming Finance Bill continues our work to deliver a fair and competitive tax system. It implements measures that will raise £16 billion for our public services. It clamps down on avoidance and evasion, and addresses the challenges that the Labour party chose to duck. I commend the motions to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That—

(a) provision (including provision having retrospective effect) may be made amending Part 3 of the Income Tax (Earnings and Pensions) Act 2003, and

(b) (notwithstanding anything to the contrary in the practice of the House relating to the matters that may be included in Finance Bills) provision may be made taking effect in a future year amending Chapter 6 of that Part (taxable benefits: cars etc).

The Deputy Speaker put forthwith the Questions necessary to dispose of the remaining Ways and Means motions (Standing Order No. 51(3)).

2. Pensions advice

Resolved,

That provision (including provision having retrospective effect) may be made for an employment-related exemption from income tax in connection with pensions-related advice or information.

3. Income tax treatment of certain legal expenses etc

Resolved,

That provision (including provision having retrospective effect) may be made about—

(a) the deductions from earnings that are allowed under section 346 of the Income Tax (Earnings and Pensions) Act 2003,

(b) the exceptions from the application of Chapter 3 of Part 6 of that Act provided for in sections 409 and 410 of that Act, and

(c) the payments that are deductible payments for the purposes of Part 8 of that Act by virtue of section 558 of that Act.

4. Termination payments etc

Question put,

That (notwithstanding anything to the contrary in the practice of the House relating to the matters that may be included in Finance Bills) provision may be made taking effect in a future year about the tax treatment of payments or benefits received in connection with the termination of an employment or a change in the duties in, or earnings from, an employment.

18:58

Division 10

Ayes: 317


Conservative: 306
Democratic Unionist Party: 10
Independent: 1

Noes: 276


Labour: 236
Scottish National Party: 32
Plaid Cymru: 4
Independent: 1
Green Party: 1

5. PAYE settlement agreements
Resolved,
That (notwithstanding anything to the contrary in the practice of the House relating to the matters that may be included in Finance Bills) provision may be made taking effect in a future year amending sections 703 and 704 of the Income Tax (Earnings and Pensions) Act 2003 (PAYE agreements).
6. Pensions: money purchase annual allowance
Resolved,
That provision (including provision having retrospective effect) may be made about the money purchase annual allowance.
7. Dividend nil rate
Resolved,
That (notwithstanding anything to the contrary in the practice of the House relating to the matters that may be included in Finance Bills) provision may be made taking effect in a future year about the dividend nil rate of income tax.
8. Gains from contracts for life insurance etc
Resolved,
That provision may be made amending Chapter 9 of Part 4 of the Income Tax (Trading and Other Income) Act 2005.
9. The “no pre-arranged exits requirement”
Resolved,
That provision (including provision having retrospective effect) may be made about the “no pre-arranged exits requirement” for the purposes of the enterprise investment scheme and the seed enterprise investment scheme.
10. Venture capital trusts (follow on funding and exchange of shares)
Resolved,
That provision (including provision having retrospective effect) may be made amending Chapter 6 of Part 6 of the Income Tax Act 2007.
11. Social investment tax relief
Resolved,
That provision (including provision having retrospective effect) may be made about social investment tax relief.
12. The “no disqualifying arrangements requirement”
Resolved,
That provision (including provision having retrospective effect) may be made about the “no disqualifying arrangements requirement” for the purposes of the enterprise investment scheme, the seed enterprise investment scheme and venture capital trusts.
13. Business investment relief
Question put,
That provision (including provision having retrospective effect) may be made about the conditions under which business investment relief in Chapter A1 of Part 14 of the Income Tax Act 2007 is available.
19:15

Division 11

Ayes: 320


Conservative: 308
Democratic Unionist Party: 10
Independent: 2

Noes: 287


Labour: 243
Scottish National Party: 31
Liberal Democrat: 7
Plaid Cymru: 4
Green Party: 1

14. Basis of calculation of profits for income tax purposes
Resolved,
That provision (including provision having retrospective effect) may be made for income tax purposes—
(a) about the calculation on the cash basis of profits, and
(b) in other respects about the basis of calculation of profits.
15. Trading and property allowances
Resolved,
That provision (including provision having retrospective effect) may be made for new reliefs available in respect of, and of amounts determined by reference to—
(a) an individual’s trading income and miscellaneous income, or
(b) an individual’s property income.
16. Corporation tax relief for losses etc
Resolved,
That provision (including provision having retrospective effect) may be made—
(a) about how corporation tax relief is to be given for losses, deficits, expenses and other amounts, and
(b) for counteracting the effect of tax avoidance arrangements concerning corporation tax relief for such amounts.
17. Corporate interest restriction
Resolved,
That provision (including provision having retrospective effect) may be made about the amounts that may be brought into account for the purposes of corporation tax in respect of interest and other financing costs.
18. Museum and gallery exhibitions: tax relief and tax credits
Resolved,
That—
(a) provision (including provision having retrospective effect) may be made for relief from corporation tax in connection with the production of museum and gallery exhibitions, and
(b) (notwithstanding anything to the contrary in the practice of the House relating to the matters that may be included in Finance Bills) provision may be made for tax credits to be paid to museums and galleries exhibition production companies in respect of expenditure on the production of exhibitions.
19. Corporation tax relief for expenditure on grassroots sport
Resolved,
That provision (including provision having retrospective effect) may be made for relief from corporation tax for expenditure on grassroots sport.
20. Profits arising from the exploitation of patents
Resolved,
That provision (including provision having retrospective effect) may be made amending Part 8A of the Corporation Tax Act 2010.
21. Hybrid and other mismatches
Resolved,
That provision (including provision having retrospective effect) may be made amending Part 6A of the Taxation (International and Other Provisions) Act 2010.
22. Trading profits taxable at the Northern Ireland rate
Question put,
That provision may be made—
(a) about the extent to which trading profits are chargeable to corporation tax at the Northern Ireland rate,
(b) amending the Capital Allowances Act 2001 in connection with Part 8B of CTA 2010 (trading profits taxable at the Northern Ireland rate), and
(c) to reflect changes to the Northern Ireland departments and the creation of new Ministerial offices.
19:29

Division 12

Ayes: 320


Conservative: 308
Democratic Unionist Party: 10
Independent: 2

Noes: 249


Labour: 239
Liberal Democrat: 9
Green Party: 1

23. Chargeable gains
Resolved,
That provision (including provision having retrospective effect) may be made amending the Taxation of Chargeable Gains Act 1992.
24. Domicile
Resolved,
That provision (including provision having retrospective effect) may be made for tax purposes—
(a) for or in connection with deeming individuals to be domiciled in the United Kingdom, and
(b) in relation to settlements with a settlor domiciled outside the United Kingdom at any time.
25. Value of certain benefits
Resolved,
That provision (including provision having retrospective effect) may be made about the value of benefits for the purposes of Chapter 2 of Part 13 of the Income Tax Act 2007.
26. Inheritance tax (overseas property)
Resolved,
That provision (including provision having retrospective effect) may be made as to to the extent to which overseas property with value attributable to residential property in the United Kingdom is excluded property for inheritance tax purposes.
27. Disguised remuneration schemes
Resolved,
That—
(a) (notwithstanding anything to the contrary in the practice of the House relating to the matters that may be included in Finance Bills) provision may be made taking effect in a future year about the application of Chapter 2 of Part 7A of the Income Tax (Earning and Pensions) Act 2003 in cases where loans are made and rights acquired;
(b) (notwithstanding anything to the contrary in the practice of the House relating to the matters that may be included in Finance Bills) provision may be made taking effect in a future year about the income tax treatment of loans, or acquired rights, in cases where there is an arrangement in connection with a trade;
(c) provision (including provision having retrospective effect) may be made about the income tax treatment of benefits arising in pursuance of an arrangement in connection with a trade;
(d) provision (including provision having retrospective effect) may be made amending—
(i) sections 38 and 866 of the Income Tax (Trading and Other Income) Act 2005, and
(ii) section 1290 of the Corporation Tax Act 2009.
28. Disguised remuneration schemes (relevant tax payments)
Resolved,
That—
(1) In section 554XA of the Income Tax (Earnings and Pensions) Act 2003 (employment income provided through third parties: exclusion for payments in respect of a tax liability), in subsection (2), omit paragraphs (a) and (b).
(2) The amendment made by paragraph (1) has effect in relation to relevant steps taken on or after 21 July 2017.
And it is declared that it is expedient in the public interest that this Resolution should have statutory effect under the provisions of the Provisional Collection of Taxes Act 1968.
29. First-year allowance for expenditure on electric vehicle charging points
Resolved,
That provision (including provision having retrospective effect) may be made for a first-year allowance under Part 2 of the Capital Allowances Act 2001 for expenditure on electric vehicle charging points.
30. Transactions in land in the United Kingdom
Resolved,
That provision (including provision having retrospective effect) may be made in relation to the amounts in relation to which the amendments made by sections 76 to 80 of the Finance Act 2016 have effect.
31. Co-ownership authorised contractual schemes
Resolved,
That provision may be made about co-ownership authorised contractual schemes.
32. Air passenger duty (rates)
Resolved,
That (notwithstanding anything to the contrary in the practice of the House relating to the matters that may be included in Finance Bills) provision may be made taking effect in a future year increasing the rates of air passenger duty.
33. Petroleum revenue tax: elections
Resolved,
That provision (including provision having retrospective effect) may be made amending Schedule 20B to the Finance Act 1993.
34. Gaming duty
Resolved,
That—
(1) In section 11(2) of the Finance Act 1997 (rates of gaming duty), for the table substitute—
Table

Part of gross gaming yield

Rate

The first £2,423,500

15%

The next £1,670,500

20%

The next £2,925,500

30%

The next £6,175,500

40%

The remainder

50%”.

(2) The amendment made by paragraph (1) has effect in relation to accounting periods beginning on or after 1 April 2017.
And it is declared that it is expedient in the public interest that this Resolution should have statutory effect under the provisions of the Provisional Collection of Taxes Act 1968.
35. Remote gaming duty
Resolved,
That provision (including provision having retrospective effect) may be made about remote gaming duty.
36. Tobacco products manufacturing machinery (licensing schemes)
Resolved,
That (notwithstanding anything to the contrary in the practice of the House relating to the matters that may be included in Finance Bills) provision may be made conferring powers on the Commissioners for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs to make provision for, or in connection with, a licensing scheme for persons carrying out certain activities in relation to tobacco products manufacturing machinery.
37. Third country goods fulfilment businesses
Resolved,
That (notwithstanding anything to the contrary in the practice of the House relating to the matters that may be included in Finance Bills) provision may be made for the approval and registration of persons carrying on a third country goods fulfilment business.
38. Digital reporting and record-keeping
Resolved,
That provision may be made for and in connection with digital reporting and record-keeping for businesses within the charge to income tax and for partnerships.
39. Digital reporting and record-keeping for VAT
Resolved,
That—
(a) provision may be made for and in connection with reporting and record-keeping for value added tax, and
(b) (notwithstanding anything to the contrary in the practice of the House relating to the matters that may be included in Finance Bills) provision may be made taking effect in a future year for and in connection with digital record-keeping for value added tax.
40. Partial closure notices
Resolved,
That provision may be made in relation to enquiries made by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs into tax returns.
41. Errors in taxpayers’ documents
Resolved,
That provision may be made amending Schedule 24 to the Finance Act 2007.
42. Penalties for enablers of defeated arrangements for avoiding tax or NICs
Resolved,
That—
(a) provision may be made about penalties for persons who enable arrangements for avoiding tax which are defeated, and
(b) (notwithstanding anything to the contrary in the practice of the House relating to the matters that may be included in Finance Bills) provision may be made about penalties for persons who enable arrangements for avoiding national insurance contributions which are defeated.
43. Disclosure of tax avoidance schemes: VAT and other indirect taxes
Resolved,
That provision may be made about the disclosure of avoidance schemes relating to VAT or other indirect taxes.
44. Requirement to correct offshore tax non-compliance
Resolved,
That provision may be made for and in connection with requiring persons to correct offshore tax non-compliance which relates to income tax, capital gains tax or inheritance tax and subsists at the end of the tax year 2016-17.
45. Penalty for transactions connected with VAT fraud
Resolved,
That provision may be made for and in connection with the imposition of penalties in cases where a person enters into a transaction connected with the fraudulent evasion of VAT by another when the person knew or should have known that the transaction was so connected.
46. Data-gathering powers
Resolved,
That provision may be made amending Part 2 of Schedule 23 to the Finance Act 2011 in relation to money service businesses.
47. Northern Ireland welfare payments
Resolved,
That provision may be made amending section 44(2) of the Finance Act 2016 so as to take account of the Housing Benefit (Amendment No. 2) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2016.
48. Incidental provision etc
Resolved,
That it is expedient to authorise—
(a) any incidental or consequential charges to any duty or tax (including charges having retrospective effect) that may arise from provisions designed in general to afford relief from taxation, and
(b) any incidental or consequential provision (including provision having retrospective effect) relating to provision authorised by any other resolution.
Ordered,
That a Bill be brought in upon the foregoing Resolutions;
That the Chairman of Ways and Means, the Prime Minister, Mr Chancellor of the Exchequer, Secretary Boris Johnson, Secretary Sajid Javid, Secretary Justine Greening, Elizabeth Truss, Mel Stride, Stephen Barclay and Andrew Jones bring in the Bill.
Finance Bill
Presentation and First Reading
Mel Stride accordingly presented a Bill to grant certain duties, to alter other duties, and to amend the law relating to the national debt and the public revenue, and to make further provision in connection with finance.
Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time tomorrow, and to be printed (Bill 102).

Finance Bill

2nd reading: House of Commons
Tuesday 12th September 2017

(6 years, 8 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Finance (No.2) Act 2017 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Debate resumed.
Question again proposed, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
Kevan Jones Portrait Mr Kevan Jones (North Durham) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. We are seeing an historic event tonight: a Government actually filibustering their own Finance Bill! I think that should have a plaque somewhere in this Chamber. I am told through the usual channels that the Conservative Whips told their Members to book hotel accommodation tonight because the Labour party was apparently going to talk the Bill long, even though Labour Members were assured by our own Whips that we would not. They have got to keep it going until 10 o’clock, so their Members can be reimbursed by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority. With 25 more speakers to go, and the Whips doing their best to cut down contributions, I wonder, Mr Deputy Speaker, whether you could institute a time limit to save Government Members from the incompetence of their own Whips Office. [Interruption.]

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Hang on a minute. I thank the Government Whips, who have turned out in force, for their advice. I do not know what fear you have put among them, Mr Jones. However, if they were really interested in filibustering, they would have asked you speak. The fact that they did not has probably saved the House. As you well know, that is not a point of order but you have put your point on the record.

Jack Brereton Portrait Jack Brereton
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On the points made by the hon. Member for High Peak (Ruth George) in her intervention, we are simplifying the tax system to ensure that work pays for people who are in work. Under Labour, people were better off on benefits and that is not right. People should be better off when they are in work. Some of Labour’s claims are not true. We on the Conservative Benches believe that the only way for people to get out of poverty and deprivation is through work.

We must monitor closely the increases in consumer debt and insolvency in constituencies such as mine. It is much lower than the 150% it was under Labour during the financial crisis, but with low interest rates making borrowing cheaper we have seen rises from 130% to 135% of income in recent years. As Conservatives in government, we must continue to ensure that lenders are not allowed to take the high levels of risk seen under Labour. Lenders need to continue to be more careful, and to ensure that mortgages and other consumer borrowing remains affordable.

It is vital that we do all we can to ensure a decent level of security for our constituents and their families in later life. Measures introduced under the Conservative leadership, such as pension auto-enrolment, have made sure that millions more are now saving enough to support themselves in retirement. It is now even more important that savers of working age access the advice they need to manage their pension investments to maximise their income once they draw their pension. Clause 3 will therefore be welcomed by my constituents. In 2017-18, the state pension is more than £1,200 higher than in 2010. For those reaching state pension age after April 2016, the new state pension introduces a single flat rate of £159.55 per week. That means many people will receive much more than under the old system, and it is much fairer.

We have some incredible employers in my constituency. I was very privileged to visit Goodwin International and Wedgwood over the summer. Such businesses are at the cutting edge in their field. Whether it be in high-tech manufacturing, precision engineering or the creative ceramics industry, businesses are enjoying blossoming success with the fruits of better skilled jobs.

I am particularly pleased with the provisions on business investment relief, which will help businesses to continue to bring more investment to the UK and encourage more foreign investment in British companies, with investors no longer being dissuaded by excessive taxes. It is especially important that more of this investment enters areas such as Stoke-on-Trent, where we have an appetite for development, huge potential to grow and prosper and an ability to improve jobs. The provisions will expand the types of investment that can be made in UK businesses under the business investment relief scheme and so encourage greater foreign investment. It builds on the more than £1.5 billion invested under the scheme since its introduction in April 2012 and makes it easier and more attractive to bring in foreign investment that would otherwise go elsewhere.

Although I can identify examples in my constituency of the progress made nationally, we still need to go further in Stoke-on-Trent, which has suffered from years of lacklustre representation by Labour MPs who failed to deliver for the area even when their own party was in government. I have made it clear that the battle now is over skills and creating higher skilled and better paid jobs for my constituents, and critical to this is helping local businesses to grow these opportunities. We have colossal potential in Stoke-on-Trent to do this and to expand further the successes of Conservatives in government and Conservative MPs locally.

Stoke-on-Trent has been named the second-best place in the country to start a business and one of the best places nationally for business survival. Nationally, there are 1 million more businesses now than in 2010. The Government have helped business create jobs through cuts to corporation tax, which has fallen from 28% to 19% since 2010 and is set to fall further to 17%, and through the re-evaluation of business rates, which has taken 600,000 small firms out tax altogether. This is in direct contrast to Labour’s often stated policy of taxing businesses and jobs to pay for its £58 billion spending black hole. These uncosted promises could be paid for only through higher taxes and debt for our constituents, and that is why I will be supporting the Bill tonight.

19:07
Nusrat Ghani Portrait Ms Nusrat Ghani (Wealden) (Con)
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It is an honour to follow the passionate and detailed speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent South (Jack Brereton).

I am not sure, Mr Deputy Speaker, if, like me, you were reminded on reading the Bill of the reason you sought elected office: the desire to provide security and opportunity for our constituents. The Government have a proud record of 3 million extra jobs, Labour’s deficit cut by two thirds, and some of the strongest growth figures in the G7. The economy is in good shape thanks to the sound and responsible policies implemented over the past seven years, and we are delivering a strong economy with strong public services.

The Bill delivers an alternative to Labour’s black hole. It is about a fair taxation system that delivers for ordinary working families, that does not place a stranglehold on individual entrepreneurialism or burden people with tax bills they cannot afford, that is fair and robust, and that tackles tax avoidance and evasion. We have a good record on taxes, too. We have reduced corporation tax from 28% to 19%, meaning that SMEs, which are so important to our economy, including Wealden’s economy, can keep more of their own money. This has generated more income for the Treasury: corporation tax receipts have increased from £37 billion to £50 billion.

One nation Conservatism is perfectly explained by the raising of the personal allowance, which has given 30 million people a tax cut of £1,000 and lifted 1.3 million out of income tax entirely. In combination with the national living wage and the freezing of fuel duty for the seventh consecutive year, this means that ordinary families are better off thanks to a Conservative Government.

By contrast, over 13 years in government, Labour failed to deliver on tax avoidance. The tax gap—the difference between the taxes owed and the taxes received—stood at 10%, and it allowed the Mayfair loophole to go unchallenged, which let hedge fund billionaires off the hook to the tune of millions of pounds. Labour was weak on tax avoidance in the Finance Bill that the House debated before the general election, demanding that the measures we are discussing today be stripped from the wash-up Bill. Labour cannot be trusted on tax avoidance. Its Members occasionally talk the talk, but they will never walk the walk.

Where Labour failed, we are delivering. The Bill contains important measures to crack down on individuals and corporations when they do not pay what they owe. Tax avoidance by larger companies and wealthy individuals not only short-changes the Treasury, but short-changes the SMEs that drive the economy, and that is a message we are sending very clearly today.

Like every other Member in the Chamber, I have many small businesses in my constituency. It is our job to stand up for those businesses in this place. They are not able to use complex tax schemes and clever accounting to shuffle their money around the world, reducing their tax bills to near zero; instead, they pay their fair share. By 2020, the contribution that SMEs make to the economy will be more than £200 billion and, importantly, they will be employing more than 15 million people.

The Bill will deliver on our promises and commitments, helping to level the playing field. It will ensure that our public finances are in order, allowing us to invest more in our public services and better preparing our economy. Above all, supporting it is the responsible thing to do, and that is why I shall support the Bill tonight.

19:11
James Cartlidge Portrait James Cartlidge (South Suffolk) (Con)
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I thought I would take a leaf out of the shadow Chancellor’s book by bringing a red book into the Chamber to wave around in his style. It is a copy of “The Middle Way”, by Harold Macmillan, written in 1938. I brought it here because I think that what is significant about the Bill is not any of the individual measures, which we all accept are very technical—they are not particularly headline-grabbing or, dare I say, sexy—but the context. This is a serious point. I think many people feel that they are still living in a time when capitalism itself—in which I believe very strongly—is being questioned. It worries them that it is not seen to be fair, and they fear that our economic system is not rewarding everyone evenly.

Here we are, eight years after the credit crunch and its major impact. Macmillan wrote his book in 1938, nine years after the Wall Street crash, but, then as now, the impact of the crash was still being felt by society, and there was a drive towards populism. I believe that such a move to populism can be resisted only through sensible measures from centre parties that address the injustices of capitalism while still ultimately supporting its success and its growth.

We are very fortunate, in that when Macmillan wrote that book there was high unemployment and a deep depression. The situation was very different, but it was comparable in the sense that people on both the left and the right were turning to much more extreme alternatives. Interestingly, Macmillan’s answer was a national living wage. His answer was nationalisation. His answer was making all kinds of what we might typify as socialist interventions in the economy. Since 2008, we have nationalised the banks. A Conservative Government have introduced a range of measures that could be seen as potentially hitting—dare I say—our voters.

I think that the most classic example, for which I had argued myself, is the introduction of measures relating to buy-to-let landlords. We have seen a huge surge in that area of home ownership, with people owning multiple portfolios. I know that those measures have not been popular with the few. If we were the party of the few and not the many, we would never have introduced them, but we had the guts to do so because we felt that that was right at a time when first-time buyers were struggling ever harder to get on to the property ladder.

I think that this is the key point. The sense of injustice that is out there now, and which leads people to question our economy, is about asset wealth. Yes, wages have been under pressure since the crash, but when we came out of the crash, what did we do? In order to escape the worst effects of the depression, we pumped huge amounts into the economy. Inflating assets again, the help-to-buy scheme and quantitative easing—all those measures were right at the time, and in many ways continue to be.

Kirsty Blackman Portrait Kirsty Blackman
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The hon. Gentleman has been talking for three minutes, but I do not think that he has mentioned the Finance Bill yet. Are we going to have a discussion about it at some point?

James Cartlidge Portrait James Cartlidge
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That was a charming intervention by the hon. Lady—is that the best she can do? I am talking about our current economic context, which is why we have introduced this Finance Bill, and I was coming on to say that its measures could be seen by some as an attack on large corporations. The measure on dividends—I have to say that I still receive dividends—will be unpopular with some of our voters, who are some of the richest people in society, but we feel at this time that we have to strike a balance, and I support the balance we are striking. We are bringing in permanent non-dom status, but at the same time we will be encouraging non-doms to invest in this country, incentivising them to use money held legally abroad so that it comes here.

To me, that is the most important aspect of this Finance Bill: it acknowledges that there is still for the wider public what Ted Heath called the unacceptable face of capitalism—those people who are seen to be abusing the system with avoidance, evasion and all the other tactics. It is right that we are tough on those, and we have been incredibly successful in that, but the difference between us and the Labour party is that we act from a standpoint of fundamentally believing in capitalism. We believe in free enterprise, and in the idea of people standing on their own two feet, being brave, taking risks and creating businesses. We understand that in order to protect that system, just like Macmillan said, sometimes we have to take measures that can be seen to be even potentially anti-business, but the alternative is throwing the baby out with the bathwater wholesale by a party which now is fundamentally against our economic system.

There may be people who are unhappy with some of these measures, such as on dividends or the buy-to-let taxes I mentioned, but the alternative is a case of out of the frying pan and into the fire—into the arms of a Labour party whose leadership, at least, is fundamentally against the capitalist system. When those people attack with vigour the measures such as those we have taken on tax avoidance, saying we could go so much further, they do so because fundamentally they do not believe in the entire system. I do, and I think these measures are sensible. They help us to strike a difficult balance at this difficult economic time, and that is why we should support the Bill.

19:16
Alex Burghart Portrait Alex Burghart (Brentwood and Ongar) (Con)
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A number of measures in the Bill will be very broadly supported by my constituents as they uphold some of the values that Members have raised, such as the importance of fairness in our economy. My constituents believe in hard work and fair play, and many measures in the Bill support those values. In particular, we intend to get more money out of non-doms and will raise money for the Exchequer so that we can put it into our prized public services.

That issue matters very much to me. For many years I worked at the Centre for Social Justice, an independent think-tank that was established to alleviate poverty and to look at its root causes. One thing we saw time and again was that where there are workless households, there is despair. That despair rubs off on children, diminishes parents’ mental health, and gradually eliminates people’s ability to get back into work—it gets them trapped in a vicious cycle.

That is why it is so important that this Government over the past seven years have built a recovery around work. We now have record employment in this country. That has become a phrase that we just knock off, but we fail to realise the human value of the fact that we now have more people in work than ever before. I know we are political opponents, but I would appreciate it if just once I could hear an Opposition Member welcome the fact that we have the lowest unemployment in our history. I will happily take an intervention if someone wants to welcome it now.

Jonathan Reynolds Portrait Jonathan Reynolds
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We say that all the time. We always welcome it, but we just wish it was possible for the debate to include a consideration of the situation in a huge number of households where people are in work, as child poverty rates are rising and households are in poverty. Why does the Conservative party say nothing about that phenomenon, which is a huge part of life in Britain today?

Alex Burghart Portrait Alex Burghart
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I listened to the opening remarks in today’s debate and I did not hear anyone from the Opposition welcoming record employment, so I am glad to hear the hon. Gentleman do so now. If I gave him the opportunity, I am sure that he would also want to welcome the fact that inequality is decreasing and that a whole generation will benefit from growing up in households with work. It is a gift that keeps on giving. The number of children in workless households has decreased by a third since 2010, and the number of households in which no one has ever worked has fallen by 40% since the previous Labour Government were in office. In fact, we are nearly back at the all-time low that was reached under the Major Government. The gift of work enables families to get on with their lives and enables children to grow up in a home where they have the example of people in work. Those opportunities cannot be taken lightly.

I am pleased that the Government on whose Benches I sit continue to feed the economy, but we are not doing that by spending money that we do not have or by borrowing money from future generations. Instead, we are spending and living within our means. I am extremely pleased to see that essential value embodied in the Bill, which is why I shall be supporting it tonight.

19:21
Rachel Maclean Portrait Rachel Maclean (Redditch) (Con)
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It is a pleasure to be called to speak in this critical debate. I, too, support this Finance Bill, because it is important and relates to taxation, which underpins the foundations of democracy and good government. Due to the time constraints, I will discuss only two key points that the electorate expect the Government to deliver on for the people of this country, and the first is fairness.

Opposition Members make much of our record and talk about tax avoidance, but they rarely did anything in their 13 years in government. I am proud to be a member of a party that considers such values paramount. We are tackling the abuses that the public rightly find disgusting. Small businesses cannot afford to wriggle through the loopholes that Opposition Members built into the legislation when they were in government. It has been left to a Conservative Government to end permanent non-dom status for the first time. We have seen the extraordinary spectacle of Opposition Members being on the side of the richest non-doms, and let it not be forgotten that Labour allowed the Mayfair loophole to persist, with hedge- fund billionaires paying just 10% tax on their earnings. They were happy to sit back and let tax avoiders shirk their responsibilities to pay for our NHS and other public services. Instead, a Conservative Government have tackled the issue of raising the revenue that we need, and which Opposition Members regularly call for, to fund our schools, hospitals and other public services.

I welcome the Bill because it also deals with the redistributive nature of taxation. We are building, and will continue to build, a redistributive tax system that is fairest to those on low incomes, and I am proud to say that the richest 1% are set to pay 27% of all income tax and that the richest 5% will pay 38%. It is right that we ask the richest to pay more tax. All Members ought to be familiar with the Laffer curve. It is not a dry economic theory; it is a fact that results in more money going into the Exchequer’s coffers to pay for schools and hospitals. It is ironic that we hear so much from Opposition Members about inequality when this Government have delivered the lowest levels of income inequality for 30 years.

Competence is the other element that people look for in a Government, and I want to draw Members’ attention to a city that is close to Redditch. Birmingham is our nation’s great second city and close to the hearts of Redditch residents, many of whom work there, play there or used to live there, and we can see there the record of the Labour party in government. It is a city in which a bin strike has been ongoing for months, with no sign of resolution. Huge, stinking piles of rotting rubbish are an eyesore on the streets, rats roam unhindered through the stench, and cockroaches and other pests scuttle all over the pavement. What a fate to inflict on the poor residents of Birmingham, who are trying to go about their daily lives and run their businesses. I never see a Labour Member for Birmingham, our great second city, speaking about this issue. If the Labour party cannot run a bin service, the public rightly question how it can possibly run a country.

The electorate deserve an approach to running the economy that delivers opportunity by growing businesses and backing jobs. We understand that by lowering taxation on small businesses we can encourage more entrepreneurs to take the giant risks to their livelihood that starting a business involves—I know all about those risks having lived through that cycle myself.

We are supporting the small businesses that make up 99.3% of all private sector businesses, many of which are in Redditch and doing extremely well. My constituents in Redditch will welcome these measures, which are fair to businesses and fair to the lowest paid, and will raise more taxation to fund public services in Redditch and the rest of the country. I look forward to voting in favour of the Bill tonight.

19:26
Bim Afolami Portrait Bim Afolami (Hitchin and Harpenden) (Con)
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It is a pleasure to follow so many important, thoughtful and eloquent speeches from both sides of the House. I will refer to some of them, but start by considering where the British economy is today and by recognising, as my hon. Friend the Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Alex Burghart) has just made clear, that a lot of our discussions in this debate on productivity, on trying to increase median earnings, on trying to raise wages and on getting more money into people’s pockets are predicated on the lowest unemployment rate since 1975. They are predicated on the Conservative Government since 2010 finally taking action to address the deficit and the debt. We should not forget that fact, and we should realise that we stand on the shoulders of successful Conservative economic policy as we enter this debate.

This Finance Bill, as many of my hon. Friends and other hon. Members have already made clear, addresses many important issues and should be welcomed on both sides of the House. In particular, it addresses fairness. In what ways does it address fairness? It clamps down on aggressive tax avoidance and tax evasion. In particular, it makes sure that large multinationals pay their fair share of tax, which enables us to keep taxes on SMEs and ordinary individuals lower.

What is the Conservative Government’s record in this area? The tax gap is now only about 6.5%. For those Members who are unaware, the tax gap, to which many Conservative Members have already referred, contrasts the amount that a fiscal measure should yield to the Exchequer with what it actually yields. Our tax gap is one of the lowest in the OECD and is this country’s lowest for many, many years.

This Finance Bill ends permanent non-dom status for the first time—that definitely never happened under a Labour Government. There are a couple of other more technical measures on interest deductibility for certain companies and on offsetting losses for large multinationals. The Bill makes it harder for certain large businesses—by all means, not all—not to pay their fair share.

It is important that we consider what the Conservative approach to the economy has been. My right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (John Redwood) made a powerful speech at the beginning of the debate in which he eloquently set out how, as Conservatives, we believe in a higher tax take, not higher tax rates for individuals. The higher tax take is what is significant. Following up on what my hon. Friend the Member for North West Hampshire (Kit Malthouse) said, high tax rates on certain people or companies just to make ourselves feel better can often yield lower tax revenues for the Exchequer, which presumably is not a wise economic policy, although it seems to be the one pursued by Labour.

As we have heard many times, including just now from my hon. Friend the Member for Redditch (Rachel Maclean), the top 1% pay between 27% and 28% of all income tax, which is one of the highest levels this country has ever seen. The corporation tax rate has been reduced significantly since the Conservatives came into government in 2010. In the financial year 2009-10, this tax yielded £37 billion, whereas in the financial year 2016-17, it raised £50 billion. That is the impact of Conservative economic policy, and we should not forget that our approach is about raising the tax take, rather than raising tax rates.

We should also consider where fiscal policy is now and how we should think about it in the future. It is important that the Government seek to be a little more flexible in some of their actions on fiscal policy. It is important for business confidence that they present the positive, forward-thinking growth agenda for the 21st century that we all want to see. We need to expand opportunities and incentives for people to invest in this country and for people who run businesses, or who want to set them up in Britain, to expand them and grow. My hon. Friend the Member for North West Hampshire spoke eloquently and at length about the importance of this country’s difficulty in growing medium-sized companies into large ones. Let us be more ambitious in fiscal policy so that we can encourage more of that activity.

We all want to see Britain lead the world in every sector, be it tech, manufacturing or finance. I welcome the announcement at the March Budget about the Treasury looking at how to tax tech multinationals, which are currently not taxed as much as they might be, and working internationally to do so. By doing that, we can reduce some of the taxes that hurt SMEs, such as business rates and comparatively high payroll taxes. If we can think and work internationally with our global partners on how we tax big multinational internet businesses, we might be able to bring down the level of tax for individuals and SMEs in this country.

Conservative Members have made it clear that we want to make Britain an even more exciting, attractive place in which to invest, and my hon. Friend the Member for Newark (Robert Jenrick) made an incredibly powerful speech about the importance of simplifying the tax code. I urge the Minister and the Government to look again and more seriously at that. Many Members have referred to the fact that the Finance Bill is heavy and thick. I am sure the Minister has drafted it with absolute care and dedication, but is it not a shame that it is so thick and that we cannot have a simpler tax code? I urge the Government to look again at more proactive ways in which we can simplify our tax system to make it easier for everybody, both individuals and businesses, from across the world and within this country.

Let me finish by making a few remarks on a subject that has been raised many times in this debate, productivity, which is the missing piece in our economic miracle over the past few years in this country. So many incredibly intelligent people, economists from across the country and across government, have examined the issue, yet our productivity has stubbornly been stuck below that of some of our leading European partners. We all know some of the ingredients—they include skills, infrastructure and, in certain respects, the tax system—but one thing that is not considered enough is business confidence in our fiscal policy and economic future. I urge the Government to present a more positive vision: show us how we are going to become a 21st-century economy in a more productive way. Let us show the world that we are the place to be for leaders in tech, finance, manufacturing and all the other areas of our economy. If we can do that more effectively, we will improve the capital investment from all over the world that inevitably aids productivity.

I fear that I may be wearing away Members’ patience, so I shall finish. The Government have made significant strides in sorting out the country’s economy; the Finance Bill builds on that work, I am proud to support it, and I commend it to the House.

19:35
Jonathan Reynolds Portrait Jonathan Reynolds (Stalybridge and Hyde) (Lab/Co-op)
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The British economic model is “broken” and in need of “fundamental reform”. Those are not my words, but the findings of the interim report of the Institute for Public Policy Research’s economic justice commission, which comprises, among others, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the global managing partner of McKinsey and the policy chairman of the City of London corporation. The report spells out in painful detail the situation that most Members see in our constituencies every week: the link between economic growth and higher living standards is broken; young people with no prospect of attaining the quality of life enjoyed by their parents; a UK with a fundamental imbalance between the south-east and everywhere else; a labour market characterised by insecurity and low pay; and inequality growing, with a third of children living in poverty, and that proportion going up.

Michael Tomlinson Portrait Michael Tomlinson
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Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Jonathan Reynolds Portrait Jonathan Reynolds
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I feel I have heard quite a lot from the Conservative party, so if the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, I shall proceed.

Today’s proceedings, along with the ways and means discussion last week, have been characterised by deeply held concerns about the state of our economy. There have been many fine and noteworthy contributions in what has been a wide-ranging debate, taking us from Venezuela to the application of the Laffer curve to corporation tax. I feel that Conservative Members will find it quite difficult to cope when I point out that the average rate of corporation tax in OECD countries is 25%, or that in Germany, the strongest economy in Europe, it is between 30% and 33%—and it is even higher in America. The hon. Member for South Thanet (Craig Mackinlay), who is no longer present, even questioned the very basis of taxing companies at all, but it is a reasonably held position that companies benefit from good infrastructure, a skilled workforce and a proven legal system, and it is reasonable to balance the impact of taxation between individuals and corporate entities. I feel duty-bound to point out that the tax gap fell every year between 2005 and 2010—from 8.5% to 7%.

I wish to pay tribute to two particular contributions—

John Redwood Portrait John Redwood
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Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Jonathan Reynolds Portrait Jonathan Reynolds
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I will not give way; I have listened to the Conservative party for more than eight hours.

The first contribution to which I pay tribute is the maiden speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Dan Carden). It was at times funny and moving, and it captured the character of his constituency extremely well, but it also had a serious and thoughtful message about the changing nature of work, automation, and the fundamental lack of opportunity faced by young people today. He described Liverpool as one of the great cities of the world, which it undoubtedly is—perhaps not quite as much as Manchester, but we can take that outside—and he proved he will be a fine representative for it. With 85.7% of the vote at the election, I imagine we will have the chance to hear from him for some time to come.

It was also a pleasure to hear the maiden speech of the hon. Member for Moray (Douglas Ross). He was extremely articulate and gracious about his predecessors, and that came across very well. I have visited his constituency: I have been to Elgin and to Cullen, and I have tried Cullen skink, a dish every bit as tasty as his maiden speech. I congratulate him on such an assured debut.

Despite the party political nature of much of the debate, we have heard serious concerns about ailing productivity. We have heard worries about the lack of certainty in the Brexit negotiations and what that means for the public finances. We have heard Members reference the challenging demographic and technological changes that face our nation, and yet we have a Bill before us that has nothing to say about any of that.

When I was talking to residents in my constituency during the EU referendum, leave voters raised specific concerns about immigration and sovereignty, but more than anything else it was a sense of recurrent anger and of post-industrial decline that they had witnessed and lived through that animated so many of them. My constituents told me that they were voting leave because of zero-hours contracts, because they could not get on the housing ladder, or because they had lost their job due to austerity and now had to work for less pay and poorer conditions. For me, those people were voting not to leave the EU, but to try to leave the UK. All of us, whichever side of that referendum or this House we are on, must be concerned about that. We should want to tackle that disconnection and alienation—not just paint a rosy picture of statistics and how we want to see them for our own political benefit.

I will let the House into a secret: I am jealous—I really am—of the Ministers on the Front Bench. I am jealous of the power that they have to put this right. I am jealous of the opportunity that they have to do good. However, instead of using that opportunity and that power, this Government do not even appear to see the problems. The Finance Bill before us today seems to be legislating for a completely different set of economic circumstances. It is not difficult to see why there may be frustration among those who look at these measures and feel that they are being left behind and among those who look at this Government and ask: why is there always one rule for the people at the top, and another for everyone else?

We have had an absurd set of interventions about student debt, pretending that the Leader of the Opposition had said something, which evidently he had not. It says to me that the Conservative party is still in denial about what happened in the general election—how it lost a majority despite being so far ahead in the polls. If Members think that it was down to something that they are wilfully misinterpreting, I am afraid that they will face further difficulties ahead.

The backdrop to last week’s ways and means debate was a rally of nurses outside Parliament, rightly asking for redress for the 14% real terms pay cut they have endured since 2010. Yet while that was happening, this Government were proposing a resolution, which expanded business investment relief for non-doms. It was a stark reminder of where this Government’s priorities lie: look after the people at the top, and the rest of us will supposedly benefit from the trickle down. It is just that on the Labour Benches, we see it the other way round.

Only this Government could pretend to flirt with the public and say that they were ending the public sector pay gap, and then, on the day that the consumer prices index comes out at 2.9%, announce rises well below that. If we end up, as is looking likely, with people like those nurses taking industrial action in protest at their treatment, public sympathy will not be on the Government’s side.

As a country, we are on the cusp of huge change driven by deeper globalisation, environmental change, technology, and, most pressingly, our exit from the European Union. Brexit is now the defining issue of our generation and it brings with it significant challenges and uncertainty. Our worry is that we are approaching Brexit not from a position of economic strength, but as a rudderless ship, already taking on water and listing badly off course. The Government are failing to plan ahead for our future outside of the EU and this Bill is another demonstration of that.

I want to refer specifically to the Government’s provisions around HMRC. The Conservative party certainly talks a good game on tax avoidance, but the Government have yet to explain how HMRC will better battle tax avoidance while accommodating another £83 million of cuts. Surely this is the time that we should be investing in HMRC, not taking resources away.

One of the most pressing areas is the future of our customs system. This Bill sees the introduction of a fulfilment house registration scheme to deter VAT abuse by overseas businesses. However, experts are already suggesting that abuse may escalate faster than HMRC can keep up, particularly given the ever growing popularity of online business. More urgently, the legislation makes no reference to how this will change once we have left the EU. The scope of these measures will be altered hugely should our customs arrangements with the EU change, which they almost certainly will. There are huge implications for policing our own customs border, and for getting an IT system ready to manage customs and excise once we leave the EU, but this Government cannot even tell us what the likely transition arrangements will be, let alone start preparing for them. Surely the worst possible place to start is from a situation in which we have already lost 5,000 staff from HMRC. Time and again, we find ourselves in a situation where it is hard not to conclude that this is a Government without any substantive agenda, other than hanging on to office at all costs.

This Finance Bill, now finally coming to the end of its Second Reading after months of delay, was sadly not worth the wait. It is a damning reflection of the Tories’ priorities—fiddling on the deck of the rudderless ship as it cruises straight towards the rocks. We need answers on investment, productivity, fairness and prosperity, but we have a Government who are not even willing to ask the right questions. Listening to some of the contributions today—we heard some presidential quotes in the maiden speeches—I was reminded of a line from President Obama’s first campaign, when he said

“it’s not the magnitude of our problems that concerns me the most. It’s the smallness of our politics.”

Our message to the Government is that we will vote against this Bill tonight because it is not worthy of the challenges this country faces. The British people have had enough of an austerity policy that has comprehensively failed, and they are desperate for something better. If this Government cannot bring themselves to face up to the challenge of building a post-Brexit country that is fairer, more competitive and more prosperous, they should get out of the way for the people who can.

11:30
Steve Barclay Portrait The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Stephen Barclay)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The debate has been wide-ranging, covering virtually every aspect of the Bill. That is right and proper for a Bill of such importance. We have heard a number of impressive contributions, including two maiden speeches.

The hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Dan Carden) made a powerful and assured maiden speech in which he rightly talked about the cultural richness of Liverpool. His reference to his 85.7% share of the vote at the election is a good example of the improved performance and productivity to which all MPs can aspire. There are not too many Members who can say to the hon. Member for Bootle (Peter Dowd) that his election result was on the low side at 84%.

My hon. Friend the Member for Moray (Douglas Ross) gave an excellent maiden speech. He spoke of the successful business growth in his constituency and his ambition for the area, particularly for its local growth deal. I am sure that colleagues in Government will work closely with him on that. I am even surer that the Father of the House will very much look forward to sharing a dram of the whisky to which my hon. Friend referred.

I will respond to the detailed points raised by Members shortly, but I first want to be clear about the purpose of the Bill, which is underpinned by principles that I hope we all share: that tax should be competitive and fair, and that it should be paid where it is due. In the weeks ahead, we will have the opportunity to scrutinise the detailed provisions in Committee. The majority of the Bill has already been subject to significant scrutiny following announcements made last year or even earlier. Consultation has been widespread. Together with the pre-election Finance Bill, the measures have had almost nine hours of debate before today.

The Opposition suggest that our strategy to keep tax competitive in some way undermines our absolute commitment to world-class public services and that lower taxes somehow mean less investment in hospitals, schools and our emergency services. But the Government know that it is only through a strong, growing and dynamic economy that we can afford the vital public services our country needs. When we help business to do well, to invest and to create jobs, we are building our tax base to secure that funding for the long term. Competitive taxes protect revenues. Look at what happened when we reduced our level of corporation tax. The private sector created 3.4 million new jobs with an additional £18 billion in corporation tax. In contrast, raising taxes—as the Opposition threaten—to what the Institute for Fiscal Studies describes as their “highest ever peacetime level” would put the brakes on our economy, drive investment elsewhere, reduce employment and, ultimately, diminish our ability to raise the funds our public services need.

Let me deal with some of the specific points raised during the debate. The hon. Member for Aberdeen North (Kirsty Blackman) once again raised the issue of termination payments. These reforms are about providing clarity in the legislation and ensuring that there are no loopholes that people can use to avoid tax. They will not affect statutory termination payments or payments arising as a result of employment tribunals. They will not reduce the £30,000 tax-free allowance that exists to protect the less well-off when they are made redundant. We have no plans to change the £30,000 allowance. In any case, that would require an affirmative statutory instrument under this Bill.

The hon. Lady raised with the Financial Secretary the issue of whether a statutory instrument on tax relief for museums and galleries had been tabled, and I am happy to reassure her that it has, as he thought, been tabled today, so it is before the House.

The hon. Member for High Peak (Ruth George) raised the issue of non-doms. Let me be clear: this Bill abolishes permanent non-domiciled status. When people live in the UK permanently, it is right that they should pay UK tax. Non-doms already contribute over £9 billion a year to the Exchequer, and we expect the Bill to raise a further £1.6 billion over the next five years. So this Finance Bill will deliver fairness and protect revenue. This is a balanced approach, and one that has been subject to extensive consultation.

During the debate, Opposition Members criticised the provisions for offshore trusts. Let. be clear again: if funds are taken out of trusts, they will become liable for tax. As the Financial Secretary set out in the debate last week, our international agreements on the exchange of information will provide a critical boost to enforcement.

A number of Members, including my hon. Friends the Members for Newark (Robert Jenrick) and for Harborough (Neil O'Brien), raised the issue of avoidance and evasion. The Bill implements a large number of measures to tackle tax avoidance and evasion. It prevents businesses from claiming excessive tax deductions, by updating the rules around how companies claim deductions for interest expenses. It continues our crackdown on artificial disguised remuneration schemes, and it introduces a new penalty for those who enable tax avoidance.

It is this Government who are tackling tax avoidance and evasion head-on. It is this Government who have announced more than 75 measures to tackle tax evasion and avoidance since 2010. We have seen HMRC more than double the annual number of prosecutions for avoidance and evasion in that time. That is how we have secured almost £160 billion in extra tax revenue. We secured over £8 billion in extra tax from the largest and most complex UK businesses in 2016 alone. In 2015-16, we secured £900 million in tax from the wealthiest, which would otherwise have gone unpaid—more than doubling the amount secured in 2011-12.

We now have over 100 countries around the world that are exchanging financial account information so that we can track down offshore money. We have published one of the first public registers of beneficial ownership in the world.

In 2016-17, HMRC brought in £574.9 billion in tax revenue—the seventh record year in a row. We have seen the tax gap drop to a level unprecedented under the Labour Government—a level that is among the lowest in the world. There is only one party in this House that can point to a record like that on tax avoidance and evasion, and it is not the Labour party.

Members raised a wide range of points in the debate. In a powerful speech, my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (John Redwood) highlighted the importance of the mobility of high net worth individuals. He also recognised the £9 billion tax contribution of non-doms and the fact that our tax take has gone up under the corporation tax changes—a hugely important point to note.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Forest of Dean (Mr Harper) brought the attention of the House to the importance of productivity if we are to deliver the sustainability we want to see in higher wages. My hon. Friend the Member for Braintree (James Cleverly), who is a doughty champion of small and medium-sized businesses, correctly highlighted the importance of the sector, including microbusiness.

The hon. Member for Dundee East (Stewart Hosie) welcomed the provisions in clauses 3 and 4, as well as the extension of a number of reliefs. He raised concerns about retrospection, but the Bill will simply ensure that measures come into effect from their originally intended commencement date.

The hon. Member for Walthamstow (Stella Creasy) spoke about her concerns at the level of debt, which is really why she should support the Bill.

My hon. Friend the Member for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk (John Lamont) highlighted the significant fall in unemployment in his constituency and the importance of growth in driving those jobs. My hon. Friend the Member for Gordon (Colin Clark) spoke about the importance of investment and about the distinction between investment and spending.

My hon. Friend the Member for South Thanet (Craig Mackinlay) welcomed the Bill and brought his professional insight to the debate as an accountant. He flagged a number of issues that colleagues in the Treasury will be keen to discuss with him.

My hon. Friend the Member for Wealden (Ms Ghani) spoke of the progress that the Government have made in tackling areas of abuse. My hon. Friend the Member for South Suffolk (James Cartlidge), who is always a strong defender of capitalism, spoke about its importance. My hon. Friend the Member for North West Hampshire (Kit Malthouse) welcomed the constructive way that the Government had listened to his campaign on Making Tax Digital. In his role on the Treasury Committee, there will be scope for further discussions with him on other areas where he brings his expertise, and we very much welcome that. My hon. Friend the Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Alex Burghart) highlighted the record of job creation under this Government. My hon. Friend the Member for Redditch (Rachel Maclean) spoke of her pride in the Government tackling abuses. My hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Bim Afolami) talked about the difference between the tax rate and the tax take.

This Bill will deliver through supporting families, supporting the less well-off, supporting our public services, and ensuring a stable and dynamic economy. It will deliver by raising new finances to finance new infrastructure and technical education, putting productivity first. It will deliver by raising new revenues from those who would otherwise avoid or evade tax altogether. This Bill lies at the heart of a plan to go on building a prosperous nation.

The Opposition profess to be tough on tax avoidance and evasion, to want to tighten up the rules for non-doms, and to want to clamp down on the tax gap. The Bill before the House does exactly that. So let the question tonight be not simply whether this Bill should proceed but whether Labour Members really do wish to deliver on these principles rather than succumb to the easy place of opposition for opposition’s sake—whether they wish to stand up to the avoiders and the evaders, or themselves to avoid and evade their responsibility. I commend this Bill to the House.

Question put, that the Bill be now read a Second time.

19:57

Division 16

Ayes: 320


Conservative: 308
Democratic Unionist Party: 10
Independent: 2

Noes: 299


Labour: 248
Scottish National Party: 34
Liberal Democrat: 11
Plaid Cymru: 4
Green Party: 1

Bill read a Second time.
Finance Bill (Programme)
Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 83A(7)),
That the following provisions shall apply to the Finance Bill:
Committal
(1) The following shall be committed to a Committee of the whole House—
(a) Clause 5 (termination payments etc: amounts chargeable on employment income) and any new Clauses or new Schedules relating to the tax treatment of payments or benefits received in connection with the termination of an employment or a change in the duties in, or earnings from, an employment;
(b) Clause 15 (business investment relief) and any new Clauses or new Schedules relating to the conditions under which business investment relief in Chapter A1 of Part 14 of the Income Tax Act 2007 is available;
(c) Clause 25 (trading profits taxable at the Northern Ireland rate) and any new Clauses or new Schedules relating to the extent to which trading profits are chargeable to corporation tax at the Northern Ireland rate.
(2) The remainder of the Bill shall be committed to a Public Bill Committee.
Proceedings in Committee of the whole House
(3) Proceedings in Committee of the whole House shall be completed in one day.
(4) Those proceedings shall be taken in the order shown in the first column of the following Table.
(5) Each part of the proceedings shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at the times specified in the second column of the Table.
(6) Standing Order No. 83B (programming committees) shall not apply to proceedings in Committee of the whole House.
Table

Proceedings

Time for conclusion of proceedings

Proceedings committed under

paragraph (1)(a) (termination

payments etc)

2 hours from commencement of proceedings

on the Bill

Proceedings committed under

paragraph (1)(b) (business

investment relief)

4 hours from commencement of proceedings

on the Bill

Proceedings committed under

paragraph (1)(c) (trading profits

taxable at the Northern Ireland rate)

6 hours from commencement of proceedings

on the Bill

Proceedings in Public Bill Committee etc
(7) Proceedings in the Public Bill Committee shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion on 26 October 2017.
(8) The Public Bill Committee shall have leave to sit twice on the first day on which it meets.
(9) When the provisions of the Bill considered, respectively, by the Committee of the whole House and by the Public Bill Committee have been reported to the House, the Bill shall be proceeded with as if it had been reported as a whole to the House from the Public Bill Committee.
Proceedings on Consideration and up to and including Third Reading
(10) Proceedings on Consideration and any proceedings in legislative grand committee shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion one hour before the moment of interruption on the day on which proceedings on Consideration are commenced.
(11) Proceedings on Third Reading shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at the moment of interruption on that day.
(12) Standing Order No. 83B (programming committees) shall not apply to proceedings on Consideration and up to and including Third Reading.—(Mark Spencer.)
Question agreed to.
Business of the House (Today)
Ordered,
That, at this day’s sitting, the Speaker shall put the Questions necessary to dispose of proceedings on the Motions in the name of Andrea Leadsom relating to (a) Nomination of Members to Committees and (b) Standing Orders etc. (Departmental Nomenclature) (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) not later than two hours after the commencement of proceedings on the Motion for this Order; such Questions shall include the Questions on any Amendments selected by the Speaker which may then be moved; proceedings may continue, though opposed, after the moment of interruption; and Standing Order No. 41A (Deferred divisions) shall not apply.—(Mark Spencer.)

Finance Bill

Committee: 1st sitting: House of Commons
Wednesday 11th October 2017

(6 years, 7 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Finance (No.2) Act 2017 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: Committee of the whole House Amendments as at 11 October 2017 - (11 Oct 2017)
(Clauses 5, 15 and 25, and related new clauses)
Considered in Committee
[Dame Rosie Winterton in the Chair]
Clause 5
Termination payments etc: amounts chargeable on employment income
13:30
Peter Dowd Portrait Peter Dowd (Bootle) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I beg to move amendment 1, page 12, leave out lines 8 to 12.

This amendment removes the power for the Treasury to amend the meaning of “basic pay” for the purposes of calculating “post-employment notice pay” by regulations.

Rosie Winterton Portrait The Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means (Dame Rosie Winterton)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment 12, page 13, line 27, at end insert—

“402F  Review of impact of termination payments on low income workers

(1) Within two months of Royal Assent being given to the Finance (No. 2) Act 2017, the Chancellor of the Exchequer shall commission a review of the impact of the provisions of sections 402A to 402E on low income workers.

(2) A report of this review must be laid before the House of Commons before the start of the tax year 2018–19.”

This amendment requires the Chancellor of the Exchequer to carry out a review of how the changes to termination payments will affect low income workers before these provisions come into effect.

Amendment 2, page 14, line 15, leave out “different” and insert “higher”.

This amendment removes the power for the Treasury to reduce the £30,000 threshold in connection with the taxation of termination payments by regulations.

Amendment 3, page 14, leave out lines 20 to 23.

This amendment is consequential upon Amendment 2.

Amendment 4, page 14, leave out lines 27 and 28 and insert—

‘(2) “Injury” in subsection (1) includes—

(a) psychiatric injury, and

(b) injured feelings.””

This amendment explicitly includes (rather than excludes) injured feelings within the definition of “injury” for the purposes of payments which are excluded from the provisions of Chapter 3 of Part 6 of the Income Tax (Earnings and Pensions) Act 2003 (payments and benefits on termination of employment).

Clause stand part.

Peter Dowd Portrait Peter Dowd
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

To be fired from a job is perhaps one of the most difficult experiences for an employee. There are very few people in this Chamber, let alone in the country, who have never had to go through the awkward, bitterly disappointing and scary experience of losing, or potentially losing, a job. This is the daily reality for thousands of people, and it goes to the heart of clause 5.

I ask the Committee to imagine how thousands of people across the country at BAE are feeling at this moment after yesterday’s announcement of job losses. How are those workers feeling in Warton, Samlesbury, Portsmouth, Guildford and RAF Leeming, and in the Chief Secretary’s own county of Norfolk at RAF Marham? Added to the worry, concern, anxiety and hopelessness of redundancy now comes a potential tax bill to pay for the Government’s hapless management of the economy. Will the writ of clause 5 stretch across the Irish sea? What about the threat to the jobs of those at Bombardier in Northern Ireland, and the thousands of other associated jobs over there?

Lucy Frazer Portrait Lucy Frazer (South East Cambridgeshire) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The hon. Gentleman rightly points out the devastating consequences for people who lose their jobs—he refers to particular instances at the moment—but does he also recognise that this Government have created 3 million more jobs, which is helping our economy and those people?

Peter Dowd Portrait Peter Dowd
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

This is not relevant to the debate, but a significant number of those jobs are incredibly low paid, and people have not had pay rises for many years. What the hon. and learned Lady says might well be the case, but the reality is that it is not about the quantity; it is about the quality—[Interruption.] Of course it is.

How insensitive and out of touch must this Government be to put clause 5 before Members today of all days? The Prime Minister has vowed that she will do anything and everything she can to help those affected at Bombardier and BAE, so perhaps the Minister would like to withdraw this provision here and now and put the Prime Minister’s warm words into action.

Mark Harper Portrait Mr Mark Harper (Forest of Dean) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I agree with the hon. Gentleman about the concerns that those workers will be facing, but he knows perfectly well that the Government’s proposals in this Bill are designed to deal with abuse. He knows that there are no plans to change the rules in a way that would affect people on lower incomes who are not doing anything wrong, and the Minister made that clear on Second Reading. The hon. Gentleman’s scaremongering is making the concerns of those workers worse, rather than reassuring them, which is what he ought to be doing in this House of Commons.

Peter Dowd Portrait Peter Dowd
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The only people who are scaremongering are this Government who are threatening to tax people’s redundancy payments—that is the scaremongering in this House.

Perhaps the Minister would like to withdraw this proposal. I will happily give way to him if he wants to reconsider his decision—he might have discussed it with the Prime Minister. In some instances, a job loss can be even worse if individuals lose their employment because of base and nasty discrimination, whether because of their age, gender, race, religion or sexuality.

The amendments speak directly to the question of how much money an employee who has lost their job should receive in tax-free redundancy pay, and how much an employee who is discriminated against should receive in tax-free compensation from an employment tribunal.

Mel Stride Portrait The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mel Stride)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Is the hon. Gentleman not aware that when a tribunal has granted an award on the grounds of discrimination, that is automatically exempt from tax, despite what this clause may or may not be doing?

Peter Dowd Portrait Peter Dowd
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I agree with that particular point.

We know the Government’s overall stated aim is to crack down on what they say is significant avoidance related to non-contractual payments in lieu of notice. To do this, there is a complex set of formulas to mandate what will be considered as notice pay, even when that is not actually given in lieu of notice. Amendment 1 addresses our concern that the Government are giving themselves the power to change the meaning of basic pay for the purpose of calculating notice pay. That could significantly change the basis of the calculations, so the Minister should set out more clearly the intention of this measure.

Kelvin Hopkins Portrait Kelvin Hopkins (Luton North) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I agree with everything my hon. Friend says, of course. Does he agree that a lump sum on termination of employment could be considered as potential income over a period of years, and should not be considered just as a lump sum to be taxed within one year?

Peter Dowd Portrait Peter Dowd
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Again, that goes to the heart of the issue. The Government are trying to focus on a particular moment in time, rather than taking into account the fact that a person might be out of employment for a long time.

We see a running theme of this Government in this Bill and so many of their other actions: they are removing powers from Parliament and giving them to Ministers. But other elements have been tacked on to the clause that are seemingly unconnected to the stated aims about payments in lieu of notice. It is clear that the Government are laying the ground so that workers who have already lost their jobs should pay tax on more of their termination payments. Is that the message that the Government are now sending to the likes of the BAE workers? Is it the message they want to send to the victims of redundancy? There can be no other explanation for this clause. It gives the Treasury powers through delegated legislation to raise or lower the tax-free threshold.

Changes to the tax-free allowance for termination payments were first mooted by the Office of Tax Simplification in 2013 when it cited such payments as an employee benefit that would merit further study. I find it rather peculiar that a payment to an employee who has just lost their job is considered as an employee benefit—how bizarre. It is as though a termination payment were some sort of added extra and a huge inconvenience for employers, when in fact that worker has just lost their job and this may well be the last payslip they receive for a long time. The Government have promised not to reduce the threshold, so it comes as a bitter pill that the Bill will allow them to do just that.

If there is no intention to reduce the threshold, Conservative Members should have no hesitation in voting for amendment 2, which would allow the threshold only to be increased through delegated legislation, removing the power to decrease the amount. I wait with bated breath for the Minister to keep the Government’s word and accept our amendment.

In the previous debate, the Minister went to great lengths to claim that the Government’s plans to give themselves the power to water down the tax-free threshold on termination payments, and to exclude injury to feelings from tax-free compensation payments, had nothing to do with attacks on those who have just lost their jobs. No, instead that is apparently part of some ambitious strategy that the Government have to tackle tax avoidance.

The Minister is so concerned about tax avoidance that he has claimed that

“when the Government find tax avoidance, we will clamp down on it.”—[Official Report, 6 September 2017; Vol. 628, c. 253.]

Such a bold assertion makes me wonder if the Minister has even read his own Finance Bill. Has he read clause 15, which we will debate later, through which his Government are loosening the rules to allow more non-doms to receive tax breaks if they use money from offshore tax havens to invest in the UK?

Alex Burghart Portrait Alex Burghart (Brentwood and Ongar) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Is the hon. Gentleman not aware that clause 15 will bring more money into this country, which is presumably a good thing, and something we can all agree on?

Peter Dowd Portrait Peter Dowd
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

We will deal with that a little later. The hon. Gentleman may want to pay attention to my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford East (Anneliese Dodds), who will expose that fallacy.

Kelvin Hopkins Portrait Kelvin Hopkins
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Is it not the case that the Government are squeezing money out of people who cannot escape from taxation—namely, less well-off people who lose their jobs—rather than chasing the big money people who evade and avoid taxes?

Peter Dowd Portrait Peter Dowd
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My hon. Friend, as ever, puts it in a nutshell. That is the case.

Has the Minister read clauses 29 to 32 and schedules 8 and 9? With those measures, the Government are deliberately signposting a loophole to ensure that non-doms can set up offshore trusts that are exempt from planned changes to non-domiciled status. That exemption completely undermines the Government’s planned changes. The fact is that this Government are not interested in tackling the scourge of tax avoidance and evasion, which costs the UK economy billions every year. They have no interest in ensuring that those who invest foreign money in the UK do so in a transparent and open manner.

Rachel Maclean Portrait Rachel Maclean (Redditch) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that under this Government we have made the largest strides to close the tax gap that we have seen in recent years, which means that we are collecting more from rich people and tax avoiders than ever before?

Peter Dowd Portrait Peter Dowd
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

That will be dealt with later, but it is not the case for many multinationals. The papers are strewn with examples of the Government’s sweetheart deals with multinationals, so the hon. Lady cannot tell me that that is the case.

Mel Stride Portrait Mel Stride
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the hon. Gentleman for generously giving way. The latest figure for the tax gap is 6.5%, which he will know is lower than that in any year under the last Labour Government. It was over 8% in the financial year 2005. He will also know that our record on avoidance and evasion is that we have raised £160 billion since 2010. What amount did his party achieve by clamping down on avoidance, evasion and non-compliance when it was in office?

Peter Dowd Portrait Peter Dowd
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It does not include profit shifting from multinationals. I am quite happy to defend the record of the last Labour Government, but I am more interested in this Government and what the next Labour Government will do in this regard.

The Government are only interested in doing what they have always been interested in since the party was founded: dramatically curbing the rights of workers and transferring their money to those who least need it. That is, outrageously, what clause 5 will do. Why else would the Government give themselves the power to lower the tax-free threshold for statutory redundancy payment? Why else would the Government feel the need to further harm discrimination victims? If, as they say, there is a need for clarity in the definition of “injury”, why do they not accept amendment 4, which would make it clear that victims of discrimination should not have compensation for harm taxed as if it were earnings? We only need to look at the comments of the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, who wrote an astounding report in 2012 comparing the work practices of Germany and the United Kingdom.

Lucy Frazer Portrait Lucy Frazer
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The hon. Gentleman is being very generous in taking interventions. He suggests that the Conservative party is not looking after those on lower incomes. Does he not accept that it was our party that increased the tax threshold for lower income workers and also introduced the living wage?

Peter Dowd Portrait Peter Dowd
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

When we take into account cuts to working tax credits and changes to benefits, that does not stack up, I am afraid. The hon. and learned Lady should know that.

In 2012, the Chief Secretary set out how some employers in Germany were exempt from pesky regulations, such as on unfair dismissal, or social security contributions, and opined that the UK Government should follow suit. She argued that the best way to fight unemployment, particularly among the over-60s and the under-20s, was by encouraging more shift work, work on Sundays and late-night work and, yet again, getting rid of protection against unfair dismissal. Is it any wonder that this Government are hellbent on giving themselves the power to cut the amount that a worker can receive tax-free after they are dismissed?

Rachel Maclean Portrait Rachel Maclean
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Why is the hon. Gentleman discussing removing the power of unfair dismissal when that is neither covered by the Bill nor proposed by the Government?

Peter Dowd Portrait Peter Dowd
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Because it goes to the heart of this Government’s attitude—[Interruption.] Narrative; that is a very good word. Should anyone in the Chamber be surprised that the same Government brought in the illegal and deeply unfair employment tribunal fees? It is part of the theme and the narrative. They are now set, once again, to try to limit the amount that workers who are discriminated against in the workplace can receive. The clause is simply another step that this Government have taken in the past seven years to distort and debase hard-won employment rights. If it remains in the Bill unamended, it will give the Government even more power to wreak havoc and misery on the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

11:30
In the light of yesterday’s announcement of BAE job losses, what message does the clause send to workers such as those at BAE? It says, “You’ve lost your job—a well-skilled job at the forefront of our defence industry—and you may lose your tax-free redundancy sum or have it reduced.”
The Prime Minister was handed a fake P45 last week. That was a joke. Many sacked workers get a real P45, and now, under these proposals, they may also get a big tax bill to accompany it. That is no joke—[Interruption.] Conservative Members may snigger and laugh, but it is no laughing matter. I ask the Minister once again to withdraw this proposal.
Mark Harper Portrait Mr Harper
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I will deal with the amendments and some of the issues introduced by the hon. Member for Bootle (Peter Dowd).

Let me cover first the jobs position. The only criticism I have of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for South East Cambridgeshire (Lucy Frazer), who raised this matter, is that, of course, jobs are created not by the Government but by businesses operating under the conditions that are created by the Government. It is important we remember that, because we should not take it for granted. The jobs performance of many countries in the European Union has been pitiful by comparison. Not that long ago, this country created more jobs than the rest of the European Union put together. That is not a trivial point; it makes a difference to millions of people across the country.

The hon. Member for Bootle ought not to sneer at the number of jobs. He is also wrong about the quality of those jobs. Figures from the Office for National Statistics clearly show that most of the jobs that have been created are permanent, full-time and skilled managerial or professional jobs. They are not rubbish jobs, as he calls them in that slightly sneering way. They are good-quality jobs and are providing good livelihoods for people across our country.

Kelvin Hopkins Portrait Kelvin Hopkins
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The right hon. Gentleman suggests that Governments effectively have no role in creating jobs. The reality is that macroeconomic policies have an enormous effect on the creation of jobs. Those countries that have chosen foolishly to join the euro and now have a massively overvalued currency, in effect, have lost millions of jobs in some cases. We have fortunately not been part of the euro, and currency flexibility is a crucial part of that; that is Government policy.

Mark Harper Portrait Mr Harper
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I completely agree, but the hon. Gentleman misquotes me. I did not say that Government have no role. I said that Government do not create the jobs, but I explicitly said that Government create the conditions within which businesses operate and can create jobs. He is absolutely right about that, and I do not necessarily demur from what he said. The euro and the straitjacket of monetary policy across Europe has led to appalling situations in some countries where unemployment rates are very high, which I do not think is sustainable. That is why our economic performance is incredibly strong. We should not throw that away.

Catherine West Portrait Catherine West (Hornsey and Wood Green) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Could the right hon. Gentleman explain how, when he was Chief Whip, Thames Water failed to pay taxation between 2010 and 2014?

Mark Harper Portrait Mr Harper
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I have not got any idea. I was not Chief Whip between 2010 and 2014. Individual taxpayer matters are for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, and Ministers do not get involved in individual taxpayer decisions. As the Financial Secretary to the Treasury and several other hon. Members have pointed out, we have reduced the scope for businesses to avoid and evade paying taxes. We have closed that gap and are collecting more revenue that we can spend on our important public services, which I want to turn to.

The hon. Member for Bootle mentioned multinationals. He will know that there is nothing we can do unilaterally to collect money from multinationals that operate in different countries. That has to be part of an international process. He will know that David Cameron’s Conservative Government led that process and set up the initiatives. It is not very exciting, Mrs Winterton, but we are part of what I think is called the base erosion and profit-shifting programme. I am a non-practising chartered accountant, and I am afraid that we talk about such exciting things over coffee, but it is important because it relates to a set of international rules for treating where companies earn income consistently so that we tax them where they are genuinely doing their economic work. This Government cannot do that unilaterally; we have to co-operate. This Government have been leading and shaping that work across the world, not following others or trying to avoid it. Not only do we not have anything to be ashamed of, we have a lot to be proud of, which is shown in the revenue that we have been collecting.

Moving on to the substance of clause 5 and the amendments, I want to return to the point I made when intervening on the hon. Member for Bootle. There is nothing in the proposals that should alarm anybody—particularly those on lower incomes—who is playing by the rules. That issue came up when there were votes on the Ways and Means motions, and the Minister made the Government’s intentions clear and they are not what the hon. Gentleman suggested. Anybody worrying about their job at Bombardier, BAE Systems, about which we heard yesterday, or any other company should know that the Government have not proposed to alter the £30,000 tax-free limit at all. If the Government were to bring forward such a proposal, it would be governed by a statutory instrument under the affirmative procedure, meaning that the matter would come to the House and that Ministers would have to make the case at the Dispatch Box and persuade the House to back a change. There is no such proposal. The hon. Gentleman knows that it is not true and in saying that it is he is scaremongering and worrying people when they have no reason to be worried. He should be ashamed of himself.

As the Minister set out on Second Reading, clause 5 is necessary because the rules are unclear and complex and there is some abuse. Some 85% of termination payments are below the £30,000 threshold and will not be affected, but we must make sure that people do not abuse rules that are there for a good reason: to ensure that employees who lose their jobs are properly compensated and have some money to help them as they look for another job. There is no proposal to change that; this is about dealing with abuse.

On amendment 4 and “injured feelings”, there is a clear reason why it is foolish. Were it agreed to, it would introduce a large loophole into the process that would absolutely be abused. If someone wanted to offer some tax-free payments on loss of office, the payment could be labelled as “injured feelings”, rather than as something in the contract, and they could avoid paying tax and national insurance on it. The Minister should be congratulated on thinking things through and ensuring that people cannot dream up loopholes. Dealing with tax evasion is not just about acting after it has happened; it is about smartly drafting legislation so that loopholes are not left open in the first place.

Charlie Elphicke Portrait Charlie Elphicke (Dover) (Con)
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My right hon. Friend is making an incredibly powerful argument. I was just considering his remarks on tax avoidance, loopholes and, indeed, Thames Water, which was mentioned by the hon. Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Catherine West), and it is important to remember that industrial-scale tax avoidance arose under the previous Labour Government, who did nothing at all to stop this egregious practice. This Government have been passionate, trenchant and active in righting that wrong.

Mark Harper Portrait Mr Harper
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My hon. Friend is right. We hear a lot from the Opposition about clamping down on evasion and aggressive tax avoidance, and I give them credit for talking about it a lot. Unfortunately, they did not do anything about it when they were in government. The Minister and this Government talk about it a little bit, but we spend most of our time dealing with it and collecting the money, which is the right balance.

Catherine West Portrait Catherine West
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The list definitely dates from 2010—if I am not mistaken, that was when the Tory Government came to power—and includes Google, the Vodafone sweetheart deal, and Amazon. Government Members should concede that, despite some gradual improvements, we are still not where we ought to be and that this group of amendments includes things that taxpayers would like to see this House take much more seriously.

Mark Harper Portrait Mr Harper
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There are a couple of things in what the hon. Lady says. She is absolutely right that we need to do more to ensure that multinational companies pay tax in the appropriate jurisdiction, but we cannot do that unilaterally. We have to work with other countries, because we need international agreement on where a company’s profits are earned. The media sometimes does not understand this, but companies pay tax on profits, not revenues, so the whole argument is about where the profits land and that has to be addressed internationally. This Government are leading that international work, not following it—[Interruption.] It is no good the hon. Member for Oxford East (Anneliese Dodds) shaking her head. UK tax professionals have been leading this work and continue to drive it forward. We have a proud record.

Anneliese Dodds Portrait Anneliese Dodds (Oxford East) (Lab/Co-op)
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I have seen some of this from the inside, within the European Union. For example, I have seen measures against trusts and measures to introduce country-by-country reporting blocked by Conservative MEPs, and I frequently saw measures to attempt to introduce international co-ordination blocked by Conservative-related politicians.

Mark Harper Portrait Mr Harper
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No. First, it cannot just be done at European Union level—[Interruption.] No, we have to do it globally, because many of the companies involved are US companies. The base erosion—[Interruption.] I do not know why the Opposition Front-Bench team are laughing. The base erosion and profit sharing programme comes from the OECD.

Catherine West Portrait Catherine West
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Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mark Harper Portrait Mr Harper
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I cannot take an intervention when I am still dealing with the first one. The base erosion and profit sharing programme is a global initiative, and we are leading on that work.

As for the point of the hon. Member for Oxford East about the EU, if I remember rightly, the reason why the Government blocked the French-driven proposals for country-by-country reporting was that they were part of an EU plan to try to drive up the total amount of tax that we take from business, not to ensure that companies pay tax in the right way. We are not an anti-tax country. That move was part of an EU plan to avoid countries being able to have competitive tax regimes and to avoid businesses locating in the United Kingdom. The French wanted to stop that because many of their businesses and smartest people now work in London or other parts of the UK, but the change was not in our national interest and I believe that that was why we blocked it. However, we need to continue the international work, and I am pleased that we have been leading on it.

My final point is about workers’ rights. I understand that the hon. Member for Bootle has to do this stuff to please people on his side, but he is absolutely wrong. This Government have absolutely no agenda of the sort that he mentioned. When talking about our leaving the European Union, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has made it clear that we want to protect workers’ rights. We stand four-square behind the rights that are in place, and we will be legislating for them in the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, which I am sure will provide many hours of joy and fun in Committee. You may even be in the Chair, Dame Rosie, to listen to some of those exciting debates. We are going to protect workers’ rights, and there is nothing at all in the proposals to concern somebody who is worried about losing their job. This is about cracking down on people who have been abusing the provisions that protect legitimate workers who lose their jobs, using them as an excuse to get tax-free cash out of the system and cheat the taxpayer. That is what the proposals are about and that is why I hope that the Committee rejects all the amendments and supports clause 5.

Kirsty Blackman Portrait Kirsty Blackman (Aberdeen North) (SNP)
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It is good to be back in the House after a bit of a recess and to be here again talking about the Finance Bill. It is our second such Bill this year—our second of three—so we are here for the long haul. I want to discuss termination payments and the relevant amendments tabled by the Scottish National party and Labour. The Government have been clear that they are just closing a loophole, but the Budget suggested that the measure will generate an extra £430 million a year. That is £430 million a year that these workers will not be getting when they receive their termination payments. However the Government want to dress it up, this is additional tax on these people who are losing their jobs and receiving termination payments. These people are in a vulnerable situation, as they are receiving a termination payment and are no longer in employment and they will be taxed more as a result.

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Like the Labour party, the Scottish National party has concerns about the impact of that measure on low-income workers, and we have made that clear in our amendments. I understand that the Government are saying that 85% of those who get these termination payments and will be affected by this change are not low-income workers, but the other 15% are, and my concern is for them. If someone finds themselves out of a job, an amount of money is needed to allow them to get back on their feet and to ensure that they do not have a significant knock to their confidence, so that they can get back to the workplace after a relatively short time.
The right hon. Member for Forest of Dean (Mr Harper) used the phrase “we have closed the gap”. I am not sure that it is quite closed yet. There is still a gap as regards non-payment of tax. Fair enough, measures have been taken to move towards ensuring that tax is paid by the rich in the way it should be, but the gap has not yet closed.
Kelvin Hopkins Portrait Kelvin Hopkins
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The hon. Lady may remember that the tax expert Richard Murphy calculated at one point that the genuine tax gap—not the one that the Government give us—was £119 billion a year. That has no doubt come down slightly, but there is a long way to go before we collect that tax. That figure overwhelms the amount of money that the Government will squeeze out of workers who are losing their jobs.

Kirsty Blackman Portrait Kirsty Blackman
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I absolutely agree and I think that the tax gap is probably significantly larger than the Government are suggesting. On that note, small countries are very good at having a very small tax gap—a wee plug for Scottish independence there.

We have a couple of other specific concerns about termination payments. We are still not clear about people who have faced termination as a result of injury, injury to feelings or psychiatric injury. We do not want them to receive less as a result of this change. I heard what the Minister said about those people who have been involved in discrimination cases when the decision has been in their favour, but we want to ensure that people who are trying to move on from a situation after termination but who have been injured or have suffered an injury to feelings or a psychiatric injury are not disadvantaged by this change in the rules.

I will not speak for much longer, but let me say one more thing. The Government’s explanatory notes say that the Government are looking to ensure that all payments in lieu of notice, not just contractual payments in lieu of notice, are taxable earnings. That way of putting it is what most concerns me, because it is clear that workers will be impacted by this change when it comes in. I expect that this change will be proposed by the Government and accepted, so I would very much like a commitment from the Minister that, if it comes in in the next tax year, the Treasury will do an impact assessment one or two years in to see the specific impact on that group of low-income workers who the Government suggest are in the minority. I would like to see its impact, and if it proves to be particularly negative, I want the Treasury to take mitigating steps to change it.