All 7 contributions to the Finance Act 2024

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Wed 13th Dec 2023
Wed 10th Jan 2024
Finance Bill
Commons Chamber

Committee of the whole House
Mon 5th Feb 2024
Finance Bill (Ways and Means)
Commons Chamber

Ways and Means resolutionWays and Means Resolution
Mon 5th Feb 2024
Tue 6th Feb 2024
Wed 21st Feb 2024
Finance Bill
Lords Chamber

2nd reading & Committee negatived & 3rd reading
Thu 22nd Feb 2024

Finance Bill

2nd reading
Wednesday 13th December 2023

(5 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Second Reading
[Relevant documents: Oral evidence taken before the Treasury Committee on 29 November 2023, on the Autumn Statement 2023, HC 286; oral evidence taken before the Treasury Committee on the afternoon of 28 November 2023, on the Autumn Statement 2023, HC 286; and oral evidence taken before the Treasury Committee on the morning of 28 November 2023, on the Autumn Statement 2023, HC 286.]
Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
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I must inform the House that the reasoned amendment in the name of Drew Hendry has been selected.

14:01
Nigel Huddleston Portrait The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Nigel Huddleston)
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I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Before I start the debate, I should declare, to avoid any potential conflict or perception of conflict, that, with reference to my previously published entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests and my ministerial interests, I have recused myself from making ministerial decisions on issues relating to pillar two, which will be dealt with more than ably by the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, my hon. Friend the Member for Grantham and Stamford (Gareth Davies).

My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer delivered an autumn statement with a clear intention to strengthen the economy now and for the future. The Government proposed to do that by putting money back in people’s pockets and cutting taxes. The Finance Bill that we are debating today does just that. First, it supports British businesses by allowing them to invest for less, which will encourage innovation and enhance productivity. Secondly, its measures will improve and simplify our tax system, which will ensure that it is fit for purpose.

The Bill covers 36 different measures in total, some of which are more complex than others. Madam Deputy Speaker, you will be pleased—or perhaps displeased—to know that I do not intend to cover every one in detail in this opening speech. I would like to focus on some of the key themes and measures.

I will first detail the Bill’s measures to support British business. The Government understand the simple truth that a strong private sector drives economic growth. That growth in turn serves the public good by allowing the Government to invest in public services. Perhaps most importantly, it allows the Government to support the most vulnerable. That understanding has shaped our approach. That is why we are lowering business taxes: because it will incentivise investment and boost private sector growth.

The Bill’s first measure to achieve that will make full expensing permanent, allowing businesses to invest for less. As a result, the UK’s plant and machinery capital allowances will increase. It is effectively a tax cut to companies of over £10 billion a year—the most generous of any major economy. The benefits to the economy of the policy—just this measure alone—are that it will drive 0.1% GDP growth over the next five years, increasing to almost 0.2% in the long run, and it will unlock an additional £3 billion of investment per year. That is only one of many Government policies backing British businesses.

The Government also recognise the important role of research and development in driving both innovation and economic growth as well as the benefits it can bring to society as a whole. Therefore, we will merge two Government programmes: the research and development expenditure credit scheme and the small or medium enterprises scheme. That will have two key impacts: it will simplify the system and provide greater support for UK firms to drive innovation. Those changes will apply from April 2024 onwards.

The support does not stop there. The Government will also introduce greater support for loss-making R&D-intensive SMEs. We will also lower the R&D intensity threshold required to access that to 30%. That will help about 5,000 extra SMEs, and they will receive £27 per £100 of qualifying R&D invested. Let us be in no doubt that this is a major boost for innovators across the UK. These measures significantly increase support to R&D firms to about £280 million a year by 2028-29, and overall they will ensure the success of UK plc.

I will now outline the next measure to back British businesses. The Government will extend the sunset clause for two more programmes: the enterprise investment scheme and the venture capital trust scheme. Both will be extended to 6 April 2035. That will support young companies to raise capital for successful growth.

The Government applaud our world-leading creative sector—after all, it grew 1.5 times faster than GDP between 2010 and 2019. In response, a new measure to back British business will go even further through reforming tax reliefs to refundable expenditure credits for the film, TV and video games industries.

Andy Carter Portrait Andy Carter (Warrington South) (Con)
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I am pleased to hear the Minster outline support that the Government are giving to the creative industries, which secures thousands of jobs around the UK, and particularly in the north-west of England, where we have seen a huge creative hub develop. Does he agree that it is not just about jobs, though? It is also about soft power, which the creative industries ensure goes right around the world, with great British TV and film. Does he also agree that we want to see that continue?

Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
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Yes. My hon. Friend makes an important point. The jobs and economic activity are hugely important, but we are known throughout the world for excelling in the creative sectors—we always have, and we always will. We can all be proud of the incredible creative talent in the UK. He is also right to highlight how it is spread right across the UK.

Barbara Keeley Portrait Barbara Keeley (Worsley and Eccles South) (Lab)
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The Minister is talking about creative industries, and the hon. Member for Warrington South (Andy Carter) talked about soft power, but I wonder whether the Minister will get on to the changes to other cultural tax reliefs included in the Bill. Among other proposed changes, the Bill will remove European economic area expenditure from qualifying costs for orchestral tax relief from next April. That will result in a significant long-term cut for orchestras that tour Europe frequently. Does he not see that orchestra tax relief—an important cultural tax relief—is working as it is and should not be amended to the detriment of those orchestras, which should be supported?

Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
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The hon. Lady makes an important point about the success of our creative industries, and particularly the music industry and orchestras. She will be well aware, though, that we are not in the European Union any more, so some of the EEA measures no longer apply. Instead, we have to be World Trade Organisation-compliant. That bring some challenges, but we are certainly there to support the industry across a whole range of measures. I have already mentioned some of them, but we are doing even more with targeted measures to support the sector, because we want to boost investment in three other areas: animated film, animated TV and children’s TV programmes. As a result, those will be eligible for a 5% uplift to a 39% credit rate.

Barbara Keeley Portrait Barbara Keeley
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The Association of British Orchestras has warned that, for some orchestras, the proposed changes to orchestral tax relief risk making European touring financially unviable. Given the financial and administrative burdens that the Government have already forced on orchestras through their botched Brexit deal, it seems ludicrous to create more difficulties for orchestras that are touring, especially as orchestra tax relief is working fine as it is. Does the Minister not accept—I know that he has had evidence on this—that the changes are unnecessary and damaging to orchestras?

Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
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As I outlined, I think the hon. Lady is hoping for measures to turn back the clock to when we were in the EU. We are not in the EU any more, and therefore the world is a different place. However, we are always keen to support and engage with the creative industries, and orchestras in particular. When I was at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, we raised those issues again and again—actually, with considerable success—to enable orchestras and tourers to get across Europe, often by doing individual deals with individual countries, which we sometimes have to do now that we are no longer in the European Union.

I will now outline measures to support our employment-boosting agenda. The path to achieve this is clear: we must remove both barriers to work and incentives not to work. Perhaps most of all, though, we must ensure that hard work is rewarded. That is why our spring Budget announcements were so important. Let us take the abolition of the lifetime allowance. The Office for Budget Responsibility estimates that that will retain 15,000 workers annually and the Bill completes that change by removing the lifetime allowance from the statute book completely.

I now turn to the measures to simplify our tax system. Complex and inefficient taxes are one of the biggest restrictions on businesses. They often come at a high cost in terms of both time and capital. It is the Government’s duty to deliver a modern, simpler tax system and the measures in the Bill will help to do just that. Making full expensing permanent is a huge simplification for larger firms, but we are going further by expanding the cash basis for over 4 million smaller growing traders. This will simplify the process to calculate their profits and pay income tax. We have also listened closely to feedback from businesses and, as a result of that consultation, some of the main restrictions on using the cash basis will be removed. The simpler cash basis will be the default method for calculating profit, and businesses will therefore start on the simpler regime as standard. We will also be taking forward other technical small measures. Those will include improving the data that His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs collects from its customers. These measures will result in a trusted modern tax administration system.

We must also build a tax system that is fair and works for everyone. We cannot understate the role of tax in supporting our public services. Taxes pay for them directly and, through attracting investment, indirectly. We must all fairly play our part. The Bill will make promoting tax avoidance a crime in circumstances where persons continue to promote a scheme after the receipt of a stop notice. It will also enable HMRC to act more quickly to tackle promoters of tax avoidance by introducing a new power for HMRC to bring disqualification action against the directors of companies involved in promoting tax avoidance. We will also reduce the scope for tax fraud in the construction industry by amending the construction industry scheme. The amendment will add VAT to the gross payment status test. This means two things: that compliance will now be checked as part of this process, and that HMRC powers to remove gross payment status will be enhanced.

Of course, it is only fair that we also guard against over-collection of tax. The Bill addresses a concern here, too. It will do so by enabling HMRC to reduce the off-payroll working PAYE liability of a deemed employer who is responsible for ensuring that PAYE is calculated and sent to HMRC correctly. This will apply where that engagement is incorrectly treated as self-employed for tax purposes.

It also remains important that we are in lockstep with our international partners during such unprecedented times. In spring, we legislated to implement OECD pillar two in the UK, building on the historic agreement built by the Prime Minister, to a two-pillar solution to the tax challenges of a globalised digital economy. In the Bill, we are making technical amendments to the main pillar two rules identified from stakeholder consultation. That is to ensure that the UK remains consistent with the latest internationally agreed guidance.

The Bill builds on the autumn statement that focused on the long-term growth of the UK economy and sound economic policy. What a contrast to Labour’s fantasy economics, including £28 billion per year of additional spending without any idea where that money will come from—although we all know at heart that it will be taxpayers or through more debt, which is, of course, just deferred taxation. In contrast, this Finance Bill backs British businesses, rewards hard work, and supports a modern and simpler tax system. In doing so, it delivers on the Government’s commitments to prioritise economic growth, encourage business investment, nurture innovation and simplify our tax system to combat tax avoidance. For those reasons, I commend the Bill to the House.

14:13
James Murray Portrait James Murray (Ealing North) (Lab/Co-op)
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After 13 long years of the Conservatives in power, it is clear that, no matter what they try to do or say, they cannot escape the reality of their record in office. That reality is one of people across Britain being worse off, public services collapsing, and a Conservative party that puts its own interests before the country’s.

We now have a governing party barely able to govern and a Prime Minister barely able to lead, but at least the Chancellor is still following the Prime Minister’s example by trying to emulate his reverse Midas touch. Frankly, whenever the Chancellor talks about getting the economy growing, the country is pushed in the opposite direction. In his speech three weeks ago, he used the phrase “autumn statement for growth” seven times, and what did we see? The growth forecast for next year cut by more than half, cut again the year after that, and cut yet again the year after that. It seems that the Financial Secretary is getting in on the act, too. Today, he talked about what he has been doing to support growth, and what do we see? Figures out today confirm that the UK economy contracted unexpectedly in October, with GDP falling by 0.3%.

It is not just in relation to growth that the reverse Midas touch applies. Last month, the Prime Minister said:

“I want to cut taxes, I believe in cutting taxes.”

But what have we seen? Even after all the changes the Government have announced, the tax burden is still on track to be the highest since the second world war. The truth is that after 13 years of failure on the economy, the Conservatives are incapable of getting our country back on track. After 13 years, they do not have the determination or the plan to get us out of this doom loop where growth is low, taxes are high, public services are collapsing and families are worse off. Only Labour’s plan will bring stability and responsibility back to our public finances, give families the security they need and reform our public services for the future. Only Labour is ready to work with businesses day in, day out to get our economy growing, to create good jobs for the future and to make people across Britain better off.

There are a number of individual measures in the Bill that we have been calling for for some time; we will not oppose its Second Reading, and we look forward to considering it in detail in Committee. However, it is clear that the Bill and the autumn statement it follows are simply the latest chapter in 13 long years of Conservatives failing to get the economy growing and make working people better off. It is sobering and frankly staggering that, as the Resolution Foundation set out following the autumn statement, real average weekly earnings are now set to remain below their 2008 level until 2028. That is two full decades of pay stagnation. That is what happens when the Government cannot find a plan for growth that works.

To be fair, it is not for want of trying. The “autumn statement for growth” is the 11th attempt at an economic growth plan we have seen from the Conservatives. The problem is that the Conservatives simply do not have the ideas we need for our times, nor the focus on the country that the British people deserve from their Government. As Conservative MPs meet behind closed doors to plot their next leadership election, families across Britain are fed up of struggling and being squeezed, businesses yearn for stability and certainty, and our country misses out on the chance to fulfil its potential.

Of course, people across Britain are feeling the hit not just from growth being weaker and inflation more persistent than in similar countries, but from the 25 tax rises the Conservatives have already pushed through in this Parliament alone. There is, however, one small group of people who will continue to be protected from this Government’s tax rises on much of their income. That group of people is non-doms: those who live in Britain but do not pay UK taxes on their income from overseas. As we have long said, Labour believes it is only fair that if a person makes Britain their home, they should pay their taxes here. Closing the non-dom loophole—replacing that archaic status with a residence scheme like other countries have—could raise crucial funding to bring the NHS waiting list down. Yet today we have another Finance Bill from this Government that leaves the loophole open. The Government are continuing to help a few at the top to avoid paying their fair share of tax when they keep their money overseas, while letting families across the UK face a tax burden that is climbing to a post-war high. Whatever the Government say, that is the reality facing working people in Britain.

As the Resolution Foundation points out, any cuts to personal taxation announced in the autumn statement pale in comparison with previously announced tax rises through the freezing of national insurance and income tax thresholds. The Resolution Foundation concludes that the combined effect is an average tax rise of £1,200 per household, with almost every single person in the country who pays income tax or national insurance paying higher taxes overall. Across all taxes that the Government levy, the Resolution Foundation points out that

“despite the tax cutting rhetoric, the reality is that the tax burden is rising, with tax receipts as a share of the economy set to reach 37.7 per cent in 2028/29, the highest level in 80 years.”

That is the reality from which the Conservatives cannot hide.

Barbara Keeley Portrait Barbara Keeley
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My hon. Friend is making a great speech. He has been talking about the tax burden, and I raised the subject of cultural tax reliefs earlier. Another change in orchestra tax relief is that eligibility requires 10% of expenditure to be on goods or services that are used or consumed in the UK, rather than being incurred in the UK. The Association of British Orchestras has said that there is a lack of clarity about what orchestras will now be able to claim. This level of uncertainty is very unfair on UK orchestras, which have been through a turbulent time as a result of Brexit, covid and the cost of living crisis. Will my hon. Friend agree to raise that point with the Minister in Committee, to obtain some clarity and to enable Members to consider what these changes are doing? I appreciate that the subject is too complicated to be dealt with at this point.

James Murray Portrait James Murray
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I thank my hon. Friend for raising that point; she is a great champion for orchestras. It is only right, when we consider the details of the Bill in Committee, for us to push the Government to provide the certainty that is so often lacking from many of the measures that they propose.

I was talking about the reality from which the Conservatives cannot hide. The Chief Secretary to the Treasury, who is present, has been desperately trying to claim that the tax burden is going down. Three weeks ago, she claimed that

“taxes for the average worker have gone down by £1,000.”—[Official Report, 22 November 2023; Vol. 741, c. 360.]

Two weeks ago, she claimed:

“Taxes for the average worker will have gone down by £1,000 since 2010.”—[Official Report, 30 November 2023; Vol. 741, c. 1084.]

However, analysis conducted by the House of Commons Library makes it very clear that national insurance and income tax for the median earner will rise by well over £1,000—up from £6,112 in 2010-11 to £7,364 in 2024-25.

In an attempt to understand the tension between the Chief Secretary’s comments and the Library analysis, I wrote to her and also tabled written parliamentary questions. The Financial Secretary responded to both the letter and the questions with rather more careful wording, saying that

“an average worker in 24-25 will pay over £1,000 less in personal taxes than they otherwise would have done.”

He was careful to make it clear that the Government’s

“calculations are on a same-year basis against a counterfactual”,

and that this was not, in fact, a comparison over time, as that

“would include the effects of earnings growth on cash totals of tax due”.

I wonder whether the Chief Secretary’s statement that taxes for the average worker have “gone down by £1,000” may have inadvertently misled the House, given that her colleague’s written response to me tacitly admitted that the Government’s statistics do not refer to the actual taxes that a worker pays. When the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury responds to the debate, perhaps he will tell us if he knows whether the Chief Secretary would like to correct the record. Whatever the Conservatives say—however they twist and turn—the truth is that people across Britain are feeling the squeeze, and life is very different from the picture that Ministers are desperately trying to paint.

I have already made it clear that we support a number of the individual measures in the Bill. We welcome, for instance, the measure in clause 1 to make full expensing permanent; we have been calling for that for some time. Welcome as it is, however, it simply cannot make up for the years of uncertainty that businesses have faced. When I meet businesses across the country, they are clear that they want stability, certainty and a long-term plan, but even during the time for which I have been shadow Financial Secretary—a period that has seen five different incumbents of the office that I shadow—business taxation and reliefs have been chopped and changed every year.

Let us take the annual investment allowance. At the start of this Parliament, it had been raised to £1 million on a temporary basis. That temporary basis was extended first by the Finance Act 2021 and again by the Finance Act 2022, and was then made permanent by the Finance (No. 2) Act 2023. During that time, of course, the super-deduction, which Members may recall, came and went entirely, and last year full expensing for expenditure on plant or machinery was introduced—but, again, only on a temporary basis for three years, before being amended yet again this year to be made permanent. Frankly, while the latest Treasury Ministers may say that full expensing is now permanent, how long any policy under this Government may last seems to be decided by the Conservatives’ internal battles rather than what is right for the country.

Andy Carter Portrait Andy Carter
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The hon. Member has said that Labour will support the Bill today, and I welcome that, but I have been doing some calculations. Does he agree that if Labour remain committed to their £28 billion borrowing plan, debt will soar and they will break their own fiscal rules?

James Murray Portrait James Murray
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The hon. Gentleman was desperate to make an intervention about fiscal responsibility, when just a year ago his party crashed the economy and sent interest rates soaring, and working families throughout the country are still paying the price. We on this side of the House take fiscal responsibility seriously. We want to have a fiscal lock in place, we want to get debt falling, and we want to get the economy growing. That is the difference between us and the Conservatives.

Clause 2 contains measures on research and development. In Committee we will probe the impact of those changes in greater detail, but it is clear straightaway that stability and certainty have been lacking here as well. We need only look at the changes in the current Parliament’s Finance Acts. The Finance Act 2020 raised the rate of the R&D expenditure credit from 12% to 13%. The Finance Act 2021 made changes to the amount of R&D tax credit that small and medium-sized enterprises could claim. The Finance Act 2023 again changed the rates of R&D tax reliefs, and that same year the Finance (No. 2) Act 2023 made yet further changes to how the relief operates. Now, of course, the Finance Bill before us introduces a whole new regime. Businesses making investment decisions yearn for stability and certainty, but after 13 years in office, the Government are proving themselves incapable of providing those crucial foundations for success.

We acknowledge, of course, that the tax legislation in Finance Acts needs to be kept updated, and that some change is not only inevitable but important in enabling legislation to function well. However, with this Government it is hard to avoid the sense that changes are being made without a long-term plan in mind. It looks very much as if there has been no long-term plan for capital allowances or research and development reliefs, and the same is true of tackling tax avoidance and evasion.

Although we welcome any measures to tackle tax avoidance and evasion, again there has been a busy history of legislation in this Parliament alone. The Finance Act 2020 made changes to the general anti-abuse rule, introduced to deter taxpayers from using tax avoidance schemes. That was followed by more changes to the rule in the Finance Act 2021, alongside other changes to the legislation covering avoidance. In the Finance Act 2022, a further round of changes were made to the legislation relating to avoidance, including on HMRC’s publication of information about avoidance schemes. Now, in 2023, we see the latest set of changes to the rules and penalties in respect of avoidance and evasion. While we will consider the detail of those changes in Committee, it is already clear that a long-term plan is very hard to see.

Stability and certainty are crucial foundations when businesses are making decisions about where to invest and where to create jobs. We in the Opposition hear that from business leaders day in, day out, across all sectors and in all parts of our economy. We know how much damage is done to economic growth and people’s standards of living when that stability and certainty are not there. We saw that at its most extreme last autumn, when the Conservatives crashed the economy and trashed their reputation in a matter of days, through a reckless disregard for our economic institutions and for working people’s security. But it is not just about last autumn; it is about 13 years of Conservative government. It is about the inability of the Conservatives to provide the stability, the certainty and the plan for the future that businesses and our economy need.

Robert Syms Portrait Sir Robert Syms (Poole) (Con)
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If we have crashed the economy and we do not have a long-term plan, why are you voting with us today? [Interruption.]

James Murray Portrait James Murray
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Yes, Madam Deputy Speaker, I took that question to be addressed to me rather than to you. We have made it clear that when it comes to the measures in the Bill for which we have been calling for some time, we welcome and will support them. We would not oppose measures that we have been calling for. However, given the Government’s chopping and changing year on year from one Finance Act to the next, it is desperately clear that there is no evidence of a long-term plan over the past 13 years, and no evidence of the plan that we need for the future. I hope that in a general election, when businesses and working people across the country look at the Conservative party and at the Labour party and ask themselves who has a plan to grow the economy and make working people better off, they will conclude that it is us.

Barbara Keeley Portrait Barbara Keeley
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May I make a further point about cultural tax reliefs? It seems to me that there is not quite enough understanding of the importance of this subject on the Government Benches. International touring is vital to the survival of many orchestras and makes up a fifth of earned income. That is a substantial proportion. My hon. Friend has talked of the changes that have been made, and all the flip-flopping. There is a strong economic and strategic case for incentivising touring in the European economic area for UK orchestras, because it boosts cultural exports and enhances the UK’s place on the world stage. That does not apply only to film and video, which the Minister has mentioned; our orchestras are world-class too. There is a move to limit the cultural tax reliefs, including orchestra tax relief. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for saying that that will be reviewed in Committee, but the key issue is the continuing importance of those cultural reliefs, and what the Minister has said today does not convince me that he understands that. I therefore fully support what my hon. Friend is saying.

James Murray Portrait James Murray
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I thank my hon. Friend for her intervention on that point, and we will certainly raise questions on her behalf in Committee to try to get clarity from the Government. As she rightly points out, clarity and certainty have been distinctly lacking from this Government over a whole range of topics. We will certainly press them on that in Committee.

As I was saying in response to the hon. Member for Poole (Sir Robert Syms), we will not be opposing many of the individual measures in the Bill, including those on capital expensing, on research and development and on tax avoidance and evasion, but they all serve to remind us just how much of a merry-go-round this Government have become and just how much they lack a plan for the future. A plan for the future is what has been sorely missing from this Finance Bill and from the autumn statement, and it is clear that the Conservatives are now incapable of offering one. With no stability, no real certainty and no plan for growth that works, businesses are left without the partner in Government that they need, and without the growth that our economy needs, working people are left worse off, with the tax burden set to rise to a peacetime high.

If Labour wins the next general election, we will overhaul and accelerate the planning system, modernise our electricity grid, attract far greater private investment, scrap and replace business rates, set out a road map for business taxation and boost skills and training across the country. We will do all that to get the economy growing and to make working people better off. That is the change our country needs. Without change, we would have a fifth term of the Conservatives, and what on earth would that mean for Britain? What would the Conservatives speak of as their achievements in this Parliament? Twenty-five tax rises, the highest tax burden in eight decades, taxes up £1,200 per household and two decades of pay stagnation, as well as a fall in real household disposable incomes—the first time that has ever happened in a Parliament. That is the record of the Conservatives. That is what they cannot hide from and that is why it is time for change.

Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
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I call the Chair of the Treasury Committee.

14:31
Harriett Baldwin Portrait Harriett Baldwin (West Worcestershire) (Con)
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What an extraordinary experience that was. I have just listened for nearly 20 minutes to the hon. Member for Ealing North (James Murray) ranting on about tax hikes, but at the same time not proposing a single concrete economic policy. Indeed, Opposition Members have gone entirely AWOL. Where are they? There is no one on the Opposition Benches this afternoon. They are not going to oppose a single measure in this Finance Bill. I have scoured Wikipedia for any policy they might have come up with on taxation, and all I have found is that they are proposing an additional £28 billion in borrowing. That is simply more taxes for our children and grandchildren to pay in the future.

I have also spotted that the Opposition have two additional new taxes that they think would be a good idea. Those two taxes are the ones that were outlined by the shadow spokesman. The first is the non-dom taxation, which analysis shows would actually result in a net subtraction in tax revenue to the UK economy. Furthermore, they are proposing that we should be the only country in the world that taxes education, with a tax that would increase the cost to the state and again fail to pay for itself. So that was my scour of Wikipedia. I am now going to move on from discussing the Opposition rant to talk about the excellent points that the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Worcestershire (Nigel Huddleston) has made.

Harriett Baldwin Portrait Harriett Baldwin
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I will give way to the hon. Lady.

Barbara Keeley Portrait Barbara Keeley
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I am standing in part to illustrate that I am here, because the hon. Lady just said that there was nobody on this side of the House. Well, here I am, and I have been intervening on both the opening speeches, so I hope she will take that back. Also, could she clarify what she was talking about when she mentioned a tax on education?

Harriett Baldwin Portrait Harriett Baldwin
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The hon. Lady is the honourable exception that proves my rule. She is indeed engaging thoroughly in the debate from the void that is the Opposition Benches this afternoon. The tax on education is her party’s Front-Bench policy to add VAT to school fees. She may not be aware of that policy, but it is not a good one and I recommend that she use her influence to get her Front Bench to drop it.

Let me turn to the excellent remarks made by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury. It is the view of the Treasury Committee that the tax system in the UK is far too complicated. We were concerned earlier this year, as we mentioned in our report, about the abolition of the Office for Tax Simplification, because we want to see the Treasury team look at more ways in which it can simplify the tax system. We also published a report on tax reliefs that identified more than 1,000 tax reliefs in our tax system, many of whose impacts or costs to the Exchequer the Treasury does not even know. They really should be thought of as expenditure lines, and they should be looked at a bit more carefully. Some of the steps announced in these measures, and indeed in last week’s National Insurance Contributions (Reduction in Rates) Bill, will do some good in that regard, and I want to highlight those.

Debbie Abrahams Portrait Debbie Abrahams (Oldham East and Saddleworth) (Lab)
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In relation to what the hon. Member was saying about national insurance, would she like to comment on the fact that, overall, the richest fifth of households will be £1,000 better off on average by 2027 whereas the lowest fifth are set to gain only £200. Does that make it the progressive autumn statement that has been claimed?

Harriett Baldwin Portrait Harriett Baldwin
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I can also attest to the fact that the hon. Lady is the second Labour Back Bencher in the Chamber. That brings the total to the two who are visible to me at this time on the Opposition Benches—[Interruption.] I think that the hon. Member for Mid Bedfordshire (Alistair Strathern) is also providing the shadow Parliamentary Private Secretary role. National insurance is indeed a terrible regressive tax as it stands and I wholeheartedly endorse any measures that reduce that burden and simplify things. The hon. Lady has pointed out that this is work in progress, but I think she should welcome the abolition of class 2 national insurance. That has simplified the national insurance system, and in the spring Budget we had the welcome simplification of the lifetime allowance charge. We also had a great simplification in childcare entitlement with the announcement of a much wider offer of free childcare. These simplifications have been broadly welcomed.

There are further welcome simplifications in this Finance Bill. The Financial Secretary to the Treasury was kind enough to write to me yesterday to summarise his principles for the simplification of the tax system. He wants tax rules that

“have a clear consistent rationale”.

He wants it to be

“easy for taxpayers to get their tax right”.

He wants taxpayers to be able to understand what they need to do “at key life cycle points”, and he wants a tax policy that

“does not…distort the decisions of taxpayers and result in poorly informed choices.”

In summary, the Government want

“the tax system to be simpler, fair and to support growth.”

The Financial Secretary’s letter, which we will be publishing on the Treasury Committee website this afternoon, also outlines further simplifications, which were in the remarks he made earlier. They include expanding the cash basis for small businesses, improving the design of Making Tax Digital, simplifying research and development tax credits, which we welcome, and simplifying capital allowances and making them more permanent. I will draw to the House’s attention to other measures for individuals that he did not highlight. There is an increase in

“the threshold for individuals with income taxed through Pay As You Earn to file a Self Assessment return to £150,000”.

That is important because more and more people would otherwise be caught by the freezing of the thresholds. From April 2024, that threshold will be abolished altogether. There are also simplifications for individual savings accounts in this Finance Bill, as well as measures to simplify customs processes. I think the Financial Secretary’s heart is in the right place on simplification, and there is no question but that R&D tax credits were being abused.

I draw the Financial Secretary’s attention to future opportunities for simplification while welcoming the fact that venture capital tax relief is being extended to 2035, as the Treasury Committee called for in our report. I would love to see the Financial Secretary focus on the unintended disincentives to taking on additional work and additional hours that exist throughout the tax system, at all sorts of income points. We have made huge strides on simplifying it for people on universal credit, making every extra hour of work pay, but once people get into the tax system, there are cliff edges and high marginal tax rates that deter them from working more. I will highlight two in particular.

First, the Treasury Committee is currently holding an inquiry on “Sexism in the City,” and we have had evidence on how we could improve some of those marginal tax rates. The child benefit taper was introduced 10 years ago with my wholehearted support. It was the right thing to do in 2013, but it is now time to look again at how it interacts with the free childcare offer. We should consider the opportunity for simplifying the tax system by getting rid of the taper altogether, as it is a terrible deterrent to the families who get caught.

A person with a lot of children, earning between £50,000 and £60,000, can have a marginal tax rate of over 100%. It has become far too complex, and it is deterring many women from taking on more work. With the childcare offer we now have, it is time to look again.

I also want to throw the evidence from our “Sexism in the City” inquiry into the mix. The City has the highest pay and, indeed, the highest pay gap in the country. Some of the best paid careers for women are in financial services, but we hear time and again that, because of the tax-free childcare cut-off at £100,000, some women are choosing to work less than a full week. The freezing of the thresholds is having side effects. As the Financial Secretary thinks ahead to next year’s fiscal events, I urge him to consider those two potential simplifications.

14:42
Drew Hendry Portrait Drew Hendry (Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey) (SNP)
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I beg to move an amendment, to leave out from “That” to the end of the Question and add:

“this House, while approving the changes to taxation of tobacco in the Finance Bill and full expensing being made permanent, declines to give the Bill a Second Reading because it fails to make a much-needed reduction in VAT for the hospitality and tourism sectors, and fails to introduce measures through the tax system that would help alleviate poverty.”

It is a pleasure to follow the Chair of the Treasury Committee, on which I serve, even though she is at odds with the London School of Economics and the University of Warwick on non-dom status—we might return to that later.

The problem with this Bill is not so much what is in it but what is not in it. For example, full expensing is being made permanent, which is laudable and is to be supported, but the Minister and, indeed, the hon. Member for Ealing North (James Murray) did not mention that choices are being made that fail to support families, that make people poorer and that reduce community resilience and sustainability, which is no way to grow an economy. There was no mention of tackling the growing cost of living crisis that people face every day. There was nothing on rents, mortgages, food bills and, most of all, energy costs, as we go deeper into winter. The Minister is an affable person, but he has a brass neck as wide as the Dispatch Box to say that the Government are looking to invest in public services—I will come back to that in a moment.

Today, the Bank of England has told us that the proportion of mortgage balances in which the borrower is behind on payments is the largest in six years. The SNP asked for direct help for people: a £400 energy bill rebate, a social tariff on energy, a lower price cap, mortgage interest tax relief and help for tourism businesses through VAT adjustments. Of course, there could have been much more, but we got none of that from the Chancellor or from this place.

Instead, the Government turned a deaf ear to the inflationary costs for households, in addition to starving the public sector of funds. Councils in England are already going bust: Labour-controlled Birmingham, Hackney, Croydon and Slough; Conservative-controlled Northamptonshire and Thurrock; and Lib Dem-controlled Woking. The Local Government Association says that one in five councils—60 of them—is at risk of issuing a section 114 notice, but the Chancellor, while doing nothing to help families, is slashing public sector spending. Richard Hughes, from the Office for Budget Responsibility, has pointed out that there are £19 billion of public sector cuts coming:

“the real spending power of Government departments in England goes down by about £19bn over the forecast period”.

The Chancellor has also frozen capital spending, which has a direct negative impact on the spending available in Scotland. When Labour is asked what it would do differently, we hear only silence. There is no attempt by this place to protect public services. Scotland’s block grant has, over the past few years, been cut by 17% in real terms compared with 2010—the House of Commons Scrutiny Unit has given those figures. We all know that inflation running at 4.7%—do not forget that it was much higher last year, at 11.1%—means that any increase is dwarfed by inflation, so when Scotland’s block grant increases by just 1.4% next year, it is wiped out before it touches the sides. This is a savage real-terms cut for Scotland.

The Office for Budget Responsibility has said that living standards will be 3% lower in 2024-25 than they were before the pandemic, which is the largest reduction in living standards and the highest tax burden since the 1950s. There is zero growth forecast for the economy. The GDP figures from the Office for National Statistics show that for the three months to October 2023 there was no growth, and the economy actually contracted in October.

David Bharier from the British Chambers of Commerce says that this

“confirms the low-to-no growth cycle the UK economy is in.”

That, of course, takes us directly to the choices that this Government and this place have taken since Brexit. Labour, the Conservatives and the Lib Dems support Brexit, so the self-harm continues to cause difficulties.

The UK suffered a broad-based fall in both openness and competitiveness between 2019 and 2021. UK trade fell by 8%, compared with 2% in France. That is not my description; it comes from the London School of Economics. Our industries face severe challenges due to the Westminster-inflicted harm of Brexit, yet this place cannot point to a single benefit, beyond a made-up line about vaccines. Workforce shortages in tourism, hospitality, the NHS and care have all dramatically increased since Brexit—a Brexit that Scotland rejected and continues to reject. Yet for the people of Scotland, Westminster continues to show indifference.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies has pointed out that the 2p cut to national insurance in the National Insurance Contributions (Reduction in Rates) Bill is almost entirely eaten up by frozen tax thresholds, due to what is known as fiscal drag. Basically, this Government are giving with one hand and taking away with the other.

We have seen nothing on energy bills, which are due to rise again in January; nothing on food bills, while countries such as France and Canada take action; nothing on mortgages, on which the Government could have delivered some relief; and nothing to reduce VAT in a range of areas, where the Government could have taken action to help people and to ease inflation at the same time.

Although certain measures, such as full expensing being made permanent, are welcome, the biggest problem with this Bill is what it fails to address, and that is to help millions of households that are struggling with the cost of living. This place should have introduced a UK-wide version of the Scottish child payment to help families. It should have introduced a £400 energy bill rebate and a social tariff, and it should have provided for a household essentials guarantee.

The Government could have addressed unfair tax loopholes by abolishing the non-dom tax status. As I said, the University of Warwick and the London School of Economics reckon that would raise £3.6 billion per year. The Government could have done that and they could have decided to put a tax on share buy-backs, but instead they decided to set their sights on ill and disabled people, telling them to get back to work. It is worth remembering that, according to research in 2015 by the University of Liverpool and the University of Oxford, old-style incapacity assessments were “associated with” an extra 590 suicides across England between 2010 and 2013. This is a scandalous thing to bring to people at this time. Positive Money has noted that a windfall tax on the profits of the big four banks could have raised £20 billion in the first six months of this year, but the Government chose to do nothing.

The autumn statement delivered the worst-case scenario for Scotland and for our people. We needed proper funding for public services, but instead we face massive cuts—the health funding announced represents just 0.01% of the budget for 2024-25. We needed immediate help for people in our energy-rich country to pay for some of the highest energy bills across the nations of the UK.

By contrast, the SNP Scottish Government have ensured that people in Scotland pay less council tax than those in England, and we have frozen council tax for the next year in order to assist with the cost of living crisis. At the moment, people do not have to pay prescription charges or tuition fees, and they do not have to pay for eye tests. Under-22s and over-60s do not pay for bus travel. We also have the Scottish child payment and much more. In Scotland, we have used the limited social security powers we have to provide dignity, respect and support for people. Those are manifestations of the values of a progressive Government looking at every opportunity to help people who are struggling.

Imagine what would happen to all of that for the people of Scotland if this place had control of all of those issues, as Labour and Conservative Members want to happen. The Scottish Government are using all the levers at their disposal to help people through this cost of living crisis, but the implications of this Westminster fiscal event are clear; with the current reliance on Westminster for our capital grant allowances and limited borrowing powers, this place is stamping its austerity on Scotland. The path for Scotland is ever clearer: we need to be an independent country, to rejoin the EU and to have the ability to look after our own people.

14:53
Nigel Mills Portrait Nigel Mills (Amber Valley) (Con)
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It is a pleasure to speak in this debate. Let me start by declaring an interest in relation to clause 15, as I believe I am one of the Members who managed to discriminate against themselves via pension changes a decade ago and therefore will benefit from the tax changes in this Bill. I should therefore perhaps not touch on that any further.

Overall, there is nothing to oppose in the Bill. I will break the habits of this debate and try to speak about the Bill, rather than stuff that is not in it or might have been in it. I will try to address some of the clauses it contains. Clause 1 deals with the full expensing of expenditure on plant and machinery, a matter I raised in the debate on the autumn statement. I welcome the measure, which I hope will work to encourage greater capital investment across the UK economy.

However, we should not underestimate how fundamental a change in our tax system that measure is. We have built, over decades, a series of rules on how companies—and individuals too, but we are talking about companies for this purpose—get tax relief on the capital spend they make. A large amount of work has to go into tracking what is counted as revenue spend and what is counted as capital spend, but now there is no point in doing that work in respect of plant and machinery, because companies are going to get the same tax treatment either way round—so all that can go.

Then there are all manner of ways of getting that relief, be it through the main general pool for plant and machinery, the long-life asset pool or the short-life asset pool. We have different rules for cars, for environmentally-friendly assets and for environmentally-friendly cars. We should take a step back and ask, “Is it necessary to keep this whole complicated regime if, for the vast majority of spend, we are giving 100% tax relief in year 1 when that spend happens? Should we now look at striking away a load of that and just accept that we could have a very different regime?” Perhaps we should just accept the accounts depreciation for all the other assets that are not plant and machinery? I suspect that the loss to the Exchequer for accelerating tax relief on those things would be tiny, but it would take away a huge burden of having to follow a different set of rules.

We also ought to ask, “What do we mean for buildings?” We are now being generous for tax relief on plant and equipment, but not generous at all if a brand-new factory is built. Tax relief is given very slowly on that and even then not on the whole spend. Is that what we want? Or should we be trying to incentivise people to build brand new, modern, energy-efficient factories? We give very little tax relief for office buildings. We want more people to come back to work together in offices, so should we not be incentivising people to build brand-new offices in the right parts of the country, rather than giving no tax relief?

We end up driving an entire leasing industry, because a completely different tax treatment is given where assets are leased or rented, rather than bought outright in someone’s own name. Do we really intend that if someone finance-leases something, they get 100% relief up front? What happens with a hire purchase? All this stuff is so complicated. Having made this radical and expensive change, the Government should go away and think, “What is the future of tax relief for capital items in the UK? How do we incentivise the right form of spend?”

I wish to raise one other question for the Minister to think about. It is very likely that a lot of businesses will be unable to get full relief for this in the first year, because they just will not have enough profit to absorb all their capital spend being relieved in a year. The chances of a medium-sized business that buys a multi-million-pound printing press having multi-million-pound profits are low, so it will end up having a loss to carry forward. Such a business will get benefit in the fullness of time, but we will have restricted how much of its losses it can carry forward and use—if it is a business of a certain size, it can offset only up to £5 million. Do we really mean that now? Or do we mean that if a business has spent a load of capital and generated a big loss that is carrying forward, it should be able to relieve that as early as possible when it makes a profit? Do we need to revisit some of those restrictions we have introduced for sensible reasons in the past?

I urge the Minister to commission some work, now that he has made this big and expensive change, on what the whole regime should look like. Do we need all those hundreds of pages of rules and all the compliance effort that has to go in, for what will probably now be relatively small amounts of tax relief at stake in the grand scheme of things?

I wish to discuss a few other clauses. I wholeheartedly welcome the Bill’s anti-avoidance clauses. It is absolutely right to extend the punishments we give individuals who recklessly promote tax avoidance schemes that they ought to know do not work and in many cases do know do not work but carry on trying to sell. It is entirely reasonable to have the sanction of being able to disbar them from being a company director if they carry on doing that. There has been a lot of encouragement for the Government to go further on duties to prevent all manner of economic crimes, so I fully welcome these things.

In Committee, we could perhaps think about whether we are sure we have drafted that measure perfectly. A lot of tax advisers work through limited liability partnerships, but where someone is a member of a limited liability partnership that is promoting unacceptable tax avoidance, they will not be caught by these rules because they are not a director of a company that is doing it. Therefore, such a person will not be disbarred from remaining as the designated member of an LLP, because they are not a director of a company. Is that what we mean? Given that LLPs and their members have to be registered with Companies House, should we not broaden that sanction out to catch as many people as possible? Perhaps the Minister would think about whether we could make some extension to this, to ensure that we are catching everyone engaging in this industry, not just a small subset of it.

Clause 21 has further amendments on pillar two; at times, I think I am the only Back Bencher who supports pillar two. I will continue to support it but, as I said a year ago, the rules are fiendishly complicated. Anyone who tries to read clause 21 and the schedules that come with it will realise they contain an almost impenetrable set of rules for a relatively small number of situations, in relation to a simple principle about subsidiaries in tax havens that are paying less than 15% tax having their tax topped up to 15%, in order to discourage tax havens and the artificial movement of profit.

We have ended up with a hugely complicated shadow tax regime that every company with subsidiaries around the world will have to apply to every subsidiary they have. Even if they are in a respectable country with tax rates even higher than ours, they will have to work out whether they have accidentally managed to trip themselves below that rate. That cannot be what we intend, so can we try to find a way to filter out most of this work, so that we can catch the guilty but not make life miserable for the innocent?

With those few remarks, I welcome the Bill. The provisions are entirely sensible and I look forward to supporting them. I will have to vote against the SNP amendment, because I want the Bill to proceed today.

15:00
Sarah Olney Portrait Sarah Olney (Richmond Park) (LD)
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The Liberal Democrats do not support the Bill. It is a deception from the Government after years of unfair tax hikes on hard-working families.

The Conservatives talk about tax cuts, but there are no tax cuts. The autumn statement maintains the Government’s unfair stealth taxes through the freezing of tax thresholds, dragging millions of people into a higher band or into paying tax for the first time. Changes to national insurance rates will not even touch the sides after years of tax hikes and spiralling mortgages. Thanks to the Conservatives’ decision to freeze tax thresholds, next year someone on a typical salary of £35,000 will pay an extra £400 in tax, and someone earning a middle income of £65,000 will pay an additional £1,200. Meanwhile, the typical mortgage will go up by £220 per month. Nobody is better off after years of this Conservative Government.

Worse still was the deafening silence on health in the autumn statement. The Government should be using any additional tax revenue to tackle the crisis in our NHS, to give people the quality of care they deserve and to let more people return to work to grow our economy. We cannot fix the economy without fixing the NHS. OBR growth forecasts have been halved, largely because people are waiting for NHS treatment. It is a no-brainer that we need to treat the millions of people on NHS waiting lists and allow them to return to work, but this Conservative Government simply do not care.

The Bill offers nothing to households struggling amid the cost of living crisis. It fails to introduce a proper windfall tax on the super-profits of oil and gas producers. That revenue could be used to fund energy support for the most vulnerable, such as doubling the warm home discount and launching a proper home insulation scheme. It could also be used to invest in British farmers, to bring down food prices for the long term.

The Bill fails to reverse tax cuts for big banks, a measure that could fund support for vulnerable mortgage holders and renters. Worst of all, it takes none of the vital steps we need to grow the UK economy, such as launching an industrial strategy, reforming business rates and the apprenticeship levy, and reducing trade barriers for small businesses.

As other hon. Members have highlighted, the creative industries are a major driver of the UK economy and the Liberal Democrats are committed to ensuring their continued success. The Finance Bill has some implications for theatre tax relief, which plays a crucial role in enabling the development of new theatre productions. UK Theatre and the Society of London Theatre have raised concerns to the Treasury about these implications, which could damage how this essential relief operates. I urge the Treasury to work with representatives from the creative sectors to address these concerns and provide clear guidance on changes to the administration of theatre tax relief introduced in this Bill.

While the Liberal Democrats support of certain measures within the Bill, such as the extension of full expensing, we cannot support any legislation that arises from such a deceptive and unjust autumn statement. Ultimately, the Office for Budget Responsibility says living standards are forecast to be 3.5% lower in 2024-25 than their pre-pandemic level, which is the largest reduction in real living standards since official records began in the 1950s. Households across the country are crying out for real support from this Government, as well as action on the cost of living crisis and investment in our NHS, but all we have heard is more stale announcements that show just how out of touch the Conservative Government are.

Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans)
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I now have to announce the results of today’s deferred Divisions.

On the draft Representation of the People (Overseas Electors etc.) (Amendment) (Northern Ireland) Regulations 2023, the Ayes were 325 and the Noes were 154, so the Ayes have it.

On the draft Equality Act 2010 (Amendment) Regulations 2023, the Ayes were 464 and the Noes were 11, so the Ayes have it.

On the draft Representation of the People (Overseas Electors etc.) (Amendment) Regulations 2023, the Ayes were 324 and the Noes were 186, so the Ayes have it.

[The Division lists are published at the end of today’s debates.]

15:05
Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel (Witham) (Con)
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I praise and congratulate my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer on bringing forward the Bill. As we have previously discussed, it will implement the important measures set out in the autumn statement.

We have already debated some of the key measures that were included in the National Insurance Contributions (Reduction in Rates) Bill, which was considered in the other place yesterday. I do not want to go over the arguments on fiscal drag and lower taxes, as I have set out my views previously, but I commend the Government for bringing forward those measures quickly and in the right way, as they will go some way to easing the tax pressures the public are feeling.

My right hon. Friends on the Front Bench are well versed in my views on the tax burden, so I will not go on about how about I feel about that or measures we can bring in going forward. However, I would like to press them to ensure that we think about long-term provisions and that the next Finance Bill goes further by raising thresholds for income tax, including for higher-rate taxpayers, and for national insurance.

It is worth noting that in the Budget after the general election of summer 2015, the then Chancellor outlined plans to increase the tax-free threshold to the equivalent of 30 hours’ pay at the national living wage. The new £11.44 national living wage rate for 2024 commences in April, so if the tax-free threshold rose to cover 30 hours per week next year, that would equate to £17,000 to £18,000, rather than remaining at £12,570 through to 2028, as currently planned. I press my right hon. Friends to keep that under review—thankfully, all tax measures are under review—and to prioritise uplifts to those thresholds, because we believe in enabling people to keep more of their earnings.

At the same time, when we see GDP figures not growing as fast as they could, as we have today, it is important to focus on how we can grow the economy much more, and with that people’s incomes. We want to see more growth in those GDP figures, but they represent the impact of high interest rates and what they mean for inflation. High interest and inflation have placed a burden on businesses and households. The Bill outlines reductions in business taxation that are well timed and well placed but, as ever, they need to be kept under review. Businesses grow the economy by employing more people, which helps economic growth, and that is the space where we, as a Government and a country, want to be.

It will not surprise my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench that I wish to speak to certain clauses, as I have spoken about clauses on business taxes in the past. I want to focus on the provisions in clause 21 and schedule 12 of the Bill, on pillar two and the global minimum corporation tax measures that we are adopting. I have been on record about this previously, but the Minister is also well aware of my long-standing concerns over the implementation of pillar two measures. Binding ourselves to pillar two undermines our fiscal sovereignty and risks deterring investment into our country. I labour this point because we have just seen the publication of our GDP growth forecasts. Obviously there will be revisions in our growth forecasts, even by financial institutions, and we should be mindful of that, but this measure undermines our competitiveness. It is known that some 130 countries have signed up to pillar two, but, unlike the UK, barely a quarter of them are implementing it at the end of the year. Given our economic backdrop and GDP forecasts, I would rather see a delay in the implementation of this measure.

A written parliamentary answer earlier this month shows that just 30 countries are implementing this measure at the same time as we are. They will be followed by Japan in April, and then Guernsey, the Isle of Man, Jersey, Hong Kong and Singapore from January 2025. We also know that the US, our big economic ally, is not likely to implement the measure, so by pressing ahead with this fiscal measure, we are basically limiting the scope that we give ourselves—oxygen, basically—to develop and grow.

When the Finance (No. 2) Act 2023 went through Parliament last year, it contained more than 150 clauses, which were spread over two parts, with a further five schedules, covering 170 pages in total. Many of us remember carrying those weighty tomes into the Chamber and flicking through all the pages. There was a large and complex change in tax laws. But despite that legislation being passed in the summer, this Bill makes even further changes to pillar two and the domestic top-up levels. Clause 21 and schedule 12, which cover those changes, span 55 pages and include multiple amendments to the Finance (No. 2) Act passed only a few months ago. I recall saying that the amendments alone would generate more complexity to the system. I say politely to those on the Front Bench that the 55 pages here point to the complex nature of the matter. The fact that we are amending something that went through the House not that long ago says it all.

No impact assessment has been provided of these measures, which give effect to the accounting periods beginning on or after 31 December 2023. Companies and partnerships will be impacted by the changes coming into effect in less than three weeks’ time, even though the Bill will not receive Royal Assent until next year. We must be cognisant of the burdens that we are again putting on businesses. I am no fan of accountants, but by putting more burdens on to businesses, we are increasing their dependency on accountants and on process, which we should be freeing them from. I ask the Minister to provide us with further details as to why these changes are needed when the previous Finance Act was passed only earlier this year, and with an impact assessment of them.

I would like to understand the merits of the global minimum income tax, and I hope that, in the same way that all tax is under review, Ministers will consider removing all the provisions from our statute book in due course, because other countries will not follow suit or are delaying implementing some of these measures.

I wish to comment on clause 2, relating to research and development tax credits. It merges the current R&D expenditure credit with the small and medium-sized enterprises scheme. These tax credits help and support businesses to invest and take risks, and, importantly, to innovate and grow, set up jobs and employ people. I have previously raised the concerns that some businesses have about the complexity of claiming them and the processes that they experience. I am aware of many businesses that have spent more than a year having their claims investigated, with multiple rounds of questions and inquiries from HMRC officials. There are many live cases, which I will not reflect on now, but previous Treasury Ministers have committed to hold discussions on them.

Gavin Williamson Portrait Sir Gavin Williamson (South Staffordshire) (Con)
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I thank my right hon. Friend for giving way. In Staffordshire, which is a manufacturing powerhouse, R&D tax credits are vital in driving productivity in manufacturing businesses. Does she agree that it would be good to hear those on the Front Bench make a commitment to reviewing and slimming down that scheme, so that it actually gets those small businesses embracing it and getting the investment that we need?

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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My right hon. Friend is spot on. The scheme was set up for a very good reason, which is, effectively, to support entrepreneurism and innovation and to grow businesses. Now we are seeing those businesses saddled with bureaucracy and burdens. What is worrying is the number of small businesses that have been under investigation by HMRC for over a year, as that is now having a detrimental impact on their performance. As a representative not just of Witham, but of Essex as a whole, I can see businesses that have now come together to make wider representations to HMRC and the Treasury about that. I hope that those on the Front Bench will learn from some of these experiences and look at how we can evolve and adapt the process, so that the scheme can revert back to its original premise of supporting businesses. As I have said many times, the only way is Essex. Essex is a county of entrepreneurs and they are the ones who are feeling the pressures.

In his summing up, will the Minister outline the operational aspect of these changes? In particular, what interactions is he having with HMRC about some of the cases that have been under investigation for more than a year, and the impact that that is having on those smaller businesses? At the end of the day, they are SMEs that are not able to grow their businesses because of these inquiries and investigations. Naturally, that has an impact on the profits that they can then reinvest in their businesses.

I also wish to make a few comments on air passenger duty and the provisions in clause 24. Many of us in this House have spoken about air passenger duty for many years. I have been a long-standing campaigner for reform of this tax to encourage and support economic growth. It is ironic that we are having this debate on a day when the GDP figures have come out as they have. I believe in globalisation—in the sense of more global competition—and in our being more open to the world when it comes to those global dynamic markets.

We should also make travel more competitive and affordable for families, especially as they are struggling with the impact of the cost of living. Reforms that have taken place under previous Conservative Chancellors have been welcome. I query the small increase in the APD rates for 2024-25 in the Bill. Back in the summer, in his speech on net zero, the Prime Minister pledged to scrap plans for new taxes on flying, but the Bill provides for an increase in APD rates, ranging from 50p to £6 per flight. Although they are small increases, they are still increases. They are lower than the rate of inflation planned for and assumed in previous Government statements and OBR forecasts, which is to be welcomed. Therefore, any clarification on what is happening with APD going forward is welcome. Again, that is important for certainty and also for forecast purposes.

On the subject of air travel, I am disappointed that the autumn statement and this Finance Bill do not contain reforms to end the so-called tourism tax. I was one of the few Members to speak on that during the Humble Address debate. If we look at London, our great city, we can see that, at this time of the year, it is a magnet for tourism and for people coming from overseas. It is great for our businesses, great for our country and great for our brands—our British brands and our small brands. Our tourism sector and shopping and retail businesses are losing out to their European competitors as a result of the removal of the VAT refund and the VAT-free shopping and arrangements that had previously been in place. I think that we can reintroduce those measures. In the last debate, those on the Front Bench committed to looking at dynamic modelling in this area, and some external reviews of the potential revenue base. It would be a boost for business and jobs, and we should be looking at all measures to boost economic growth and competition. There are plenty of reports and studies out there. I do not want to labour the point; I know that those on the Front Bench will be aware of them.

It is winter, and we are heading towards a spring fiscal statement. Since 2010, the Government have consistently kept fuel duty down, cutting and freezing rates. This is an opportune moment to remind the public what the Government have achieved on that alone, because it is very important. Families, businesses and households depend upon it, and I very much hope that we will continue to stand up for the measures that we have put in place historically. I urge the Government to commit to maintaining the 5p reduction, and perhaps even to go further where there is fiscal headroom. Finding fiscal headroom is difficult, but sometimes—I say this as a former Treasury Minister—it can be found when we really look for it.

As the Bill passes through the House and is subject to further scrutiny, I know that my colleagues on the Front Bench and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who is dedicated to dealing with the difficult fiscal challenges that we face, will be focused on unleashing future growth by reducing taxes and, importantly, empowering the very businesses that employ people and keep people in their jobs for long-term economic security.

15:21
Robert Syms Portrait Sir Robert Syms (Poole) (Con)
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I agree with a lot of what my right hon. Friend the Member for Witham (Priti Patel) said. I was in this House for 13 years of Labour Government. Twice a year, we had the autumn statement and Budget, and all taxes were reviewed. In not one of those fiscal statements did they change the arrangement for non-doms. Why? Because it brings in more money. I am therefore shocked at the criticism from those on the Labour Front Bench of their Chancellors when in government. What we have with the Opposition is the politics of the magic money pot. The magic money pot is called non-doms, and the Opposition think that it will pay for everything. It will not; because such people are internationally mobile, they will move. The best things to tax are things that do not move, such as property. People can move, and we will not get sufficient money in as a result.

The Government have done a lot of good things. Putting up the triple lock is the right decision to look after pensioners, but those who pay tax might, because their pension will go up, pay more tax. Putting up the living wage is a good thing, because we want a higher-paid economy, but as lower-paid workers’ pay goes up, they pay more tax. It is one of the features of the modern world that those in the most successful and highest-paid economies tend to pay more tax. Although the overall tax burden, because of the freeze, has gone up, we need to reverse that, and we have started the process in the autumn statement.

The Government have set out a good long-term plan, which is essentially based on increasing the incentives for business to invest. We have a problem in Britain on productivity. One way of getting productivity up is to get pay up and investment in machinery and equipment up. If we can do that, we can pay for the public services that we all want, on both sides of the House, in terms of better education, a better health service and better outcomes. However, that requires getting productivity up. One of the problems since 2008 has been that Britain has struggled with productivity. Whatever we do, whether it involves incentives, higher pay, or credits for research and development, if it gets productivity up, that has to be a good thing.

I welcome an awful lot of what is in the autumn statement, but we should not look at it as one event; it is part of a series of events brought in by the Chancellor that mean that our national debt is falling over the plan. Our yearly deficit looks like it will be in the 3% range rather than the 4% range. Even the trade gap looks like it is improving. Our economic situation does not look too bad, and when we look over the channel to the EU and the eurozone, our problems seem rather less than theirs, with some of those countries going into recession.

I, too, saw today’s GDP figures. I would caution against any flash estimate of GDP. The monthly figures bounce around. I spent six weeks on a Finance Bill Committee during the days of the coalition when every day those on the Labour Front Bench talked about the double-dip recession, which was revised away six months later. The key point is to do the right things for the economy, get productivity up and get the economy growing, and the other things will come right. They will certainly come right when a lot of data is in. Even the three-monthly GDP data is based on something like a quarter of the stats. It is constantly updated over years and months. We should not be too fixated on short-term figures.

One reason I think the economy will grow over the next 12 months is that living standards have gone from falling to rising. That means that ultimately the British consumer ought to come to the rescue of the British economy and get it growing, if the Government can keep a stable economic situation, and pay continues to outstrip inflation, which I am very optimistic about. Brent crude has fallen under $75, which means that gas prices are now barely above where they were before the invasion of Ukraine. That has improved since the autumn statement. Petrol prices are falling again. This morning, the 10-year bonds interest rate was under 4%. That is a sign that the pressure now is to lower interest rates. The overall Government economic policy is not only to balance the books and reduce taxation in terms of national insurance, which will help 29 million people, but to get interest rates down so that, when people come to refix their mortgages, they can do so at a more reasonable rate. Good progress has been made, but we will not be free with one bound; it will take Budgets, statements and steady persistence. That means not giving in to every request for extra spending, however worthy they are individually. I commend those on the Treasury Bench and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He has put together a good package, and I look forward to what will happen in March.

Before I sit down, I will pay tribute to a Labour Chancellor, Lord Alistair Darling of Roulanish, who was a very modest but very competent man. He faced what would be anybody’s nightmare in the Treasury, with banks collapsing. I think that history will treat him well for his management of the economy at that very difficult time. He is missed by this House and I am sure the other place will miss him too.

Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I echo that tribute to Alistair Darling. I was in the House with him for many years. He was a great politician and an excellent Chancellor of the Exchequer.

David Simmonds will make the last Back-Bench contribution. We will then move on to the wind-ups. I anticipate at least one Division.

12:59
David Simmonds Portrait David Simmonds (Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner) (Con)
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It is a pleasure to speak in this debate, having been here to listen to some incredibly insightful and useful contributions from so many colleagues. I will endeavour not simply to repeat those excellent points, but to focus on some additional ones that have been raised in the course of the debate. My hon. Friend the Member for West Worcestershire (Harriett Baldwin), the Chair of the Treasury Committee, touched on something that is not in the autumn statement, but that I am sure those of us on the Government Benches will wish to seek further assurances about from Ministers: the tax on education proposed by the Opposition.

I represent a constituency in which there are five independent fee-paying schools, which have certainly been in contact with me to raise their concerns about the Opposition’s proposal. Every secondary school that serves my constituency, including the state-funded ones, is an independent school, because they are all academies. Every special educational needs and disability school that serves my constituency is an independent school, including those that have never been part of the state sector but came into existence as charitable organisations with a view to providing specialist SEND services. There are even stables in this country that provide equine therapy to non-verbal autistic children that, because they serve more than one child, are registered as independent schools with Ofsted.

The implications of the proposed policy, which it is said would raise £1.7 billion, would be additional VAT on fees paid by local authorities up and down the land and, more significantly from the Exchequer’s perspective, to bring a huge amount of VAT within scope of being reclaimed by that wide variety of institutions. I hope that Ministers will state with great clarity that it remains the policy of this Government that we support the excellence in our incredibly diverse independent sector, which includes both SEND and state-funded education.

We have been challenged to say what has been the biggest achievement of the Government in the past 13 years. For me, it is the thing that forms the backdrop to this Finance Bill and to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor’s autumn statement: the transformation in the number of people in our country who earn their own living through work. The Office for National Statistics data shows an incredibly clear trend in youth unemployment. Under the last Conservative Government, it was falling and falling; once Labour took office, it began to rise. Since this Government took office in 2010, the rate of youth unemployment has halved. That makes an incredible difference to both the financial wellbeing and, most importantly, the mental and physical health of our young people. It gives people prospects. It gives people hope. It means all our citizens have a stake in the economy of our country.

The same trends are replicated elsewhere. I remember what it was like as an employer trying to engage with the incredibly complicated systems under the last Labour Government, in which so many people were disincentivised to work—especially women who wanted to work part time and fit that around bringing up children. The changes in policy—particularly universal credit and really good childcare offers—have transformed the ability of people in this country to access the workforce over that period. While that has not always meant that those individuals are much better off, the fact that they are able to earn their own living and take pride in having a stake in our economy is incredibly important.

There are particular reasons why this Bill strikes me as important. I would like to develop the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Amber Valley (Nigel Mills) about tax avoidance stop notices. I have a number of constituents who have been affected by the loan charge over the past few years, and it particularly concerns me to hear from them that, in some cases, they are still being contacted by businesses trying to sign them up to schemes of the kind that have already got them into significant financial trouble.

I enormously welcome the fact that the Government are taking steps to make sure that that behaviour can be brought to an end and that we do not see any more of our constituents trapped in financial situations not of their own making as a result of the marketing of organisations that should know that, while what they are doing is theoretically and perhaps technically within the law because a loan is free of tax, if it is not a genuine loan and not to be repaid during the person’s lifetime, it should be considered part of their remuneration for the purposes of taxation. I welcome the step that the Bill makes in that respect.

The second thing I particularly welcome is the abolition of the lifetime allowance charge. I have heard from a very large number of professionals across my constituency, especially in the NHS, but also in other types of businesses in the private sector. The impact of the lifetime allowance has been the loss of highly experienced staff from those organisations. These are generally people in their 50s and 60s who are at the peak of productivity and have an enormous amount to give, but face a financial cliff edge and are forced by that limit to make a decision to leave a career that, in many cases, they love and enjoy and in which they have much to contribute. In the NHS in particular, the change will enable experienced GPs, surgeons and consultants to return to the workplace or continue working at a higher level than they would have been able to in other circumstances. For that reason, it will benefit our public services enormously, both in productivity and by ensuring that waiting lists, which are already beginning to fall, come down much faster.

Let me turn to some of the measures designed to support our small businesspeople and the self-employed. In politics, the loudest voices in debates about the economy are often those of large corporations with substantial, well-funded public affairs departments. However, we also know from the ONS that around 70% of people employed in the UK economy are in an enterprise with fewer than five staff. The voices of those small businesses, which are the bedrock of our economy, are not heard collectively as often as the voices of big international businesses.

The measures to simplify and reduce national insurance for small businesspeople and the self-employed are enormously welcome, and not just because of the money that they put in people’s pockets—it is important for us to remember that point. We heard some scoffing and comments of “big deal” from the Opposition when the reductions in class 2 national insurance contributions were mentioned, but the reductions represent about a quarter of what most households in the UK spend on Christmas, or a significant contribution to a child’s school uniform, a summer holiday or maintaining the car. All of those things make a small difference individually and a big one collectively. They send a message to our lower-income but entrepreneurial people that we are a Government who are on their side and keen to get off their backs.

I will finish with two suggestions. The first—to develop again a point made by my hon. Friend the Member for West Worcestershire—is to tackle some of the cliff edges in our tax system. The abolition of the lifetime allowance charge is one example of that. It is clear that around the £100,000 income level—that is a significant sum of money, but one typically earned by many of the public sector professionals on whom services such as the NHS, GP practices and schools depend—many of the benefits of extra earnings begin to be withdrawn. The situation in which two earners on £99,000 a year, with a joint income of £198,000, can continue to enjoy the benefits of tax-free childcare, but if one earner goes to £100,001 a year, those benefits are completely withdrawn, creates a significant marginal tax rate for professionals with children.

I have heard from a number of constituents who work in public sector bodies, particularly the NHS, that they have had to scale back their hours or decline to take on additional waiting list initiative work funded by the Government because the impact of that cliff edge is so financially significant for them. Of course, we see the same impact at that point from the pensions taper. I suggest to my Front-Bench colleagues that, as we think about the public sector productivity strategy, we need to consider how to take out some of those cliff edges so that the people we are asking to work and contribute more, and who are in a position to make a transformational difference to some of our public services, have good financial incentives to do so.

Finally, the OBR has been mentioned a few times in the debate. There is a degree of controversy about whether it is the correct body to provide a view about the sound financial management of our national finances. Having spent a lot of time in the local government sector, it is striking to me that it is a legal requirement for councillors making decisions in any of our local authorities to have before them the financial and legal implications of the decision, whereas in this House we usually decide on policies in a crowded debate with a big row about what we should do and then, sometimes months later, have a scantily attended debate at which the financial implications of the policy are debated and agreed. We do not take the financial implications and the policy decision together. I suggest that Ministers should consider whether, in order to emphasise the sound financial management approach of a Conservative Government, in addition to statements such as those about compliance with the requirements of the European convention on human rights, we should seek to ensure that every Government policy and paper on which this House makes a decision states what the financial implications of that decision might be.

Coming back to the point about VAT on school fees, I will make a forecast: should there be a change of Government, we will find ourselves back in the position that we were in under Gordon Brown. The announcement will be, “We want to spend the extra £1.7 billion that we have assumed, but we can’t actually raise that in taxes because the policy doesn’t work in practice, so we’ll borrow it,” and the £28 billion will become £29.7 billion. In addition, the non-dom money will not be forthcoming, so the Government will say, “We’ll assume how much that might be when we get around to tackling that and add that on to the borrowing as well.” That is the reason why under Gordon Brown we spent something like 10% more in every year than we raised in tax revenue. As a measure to prevent future Governments from running our finances into the ground again, let us make sure that we have that clarity of financial rigour in the decision making of Parliament, so that when Members cast our vote, we all understand the implications for taxpayers of the policies on which we are making decisions.

Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans)
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I call Tulip Siddiq to begin the wind-ups.

15:41
Tulip Siddiq Portrait Tulip Siddiq (Hampstead and Kilburn) (Lab)
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This afternoon, we have been told that the measures in the Finance Bill and the wider autumn statement will deliver the growth that our economy urgently needs. Unfortunately, our leading economic institutions and economists do not seem to agree. Despite the Conservatives’ attempts to distract attention with headline figures, the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies has described their numbers as “sort of made up”. The Chancellor wants us to believe he is cutting taxes to give people back more of their pay packets, but the reality—as my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing North (James Murray) helpfully clarified for the Government—is an average tax rise for working people of £1,200, with nearly everyone who pays national insurance left with a bigger tax bill next year.

The Chancellor may want gratitude and praise for his recent interventions, but the reality is that growth forecasts have been cut for next year, the year after and the year after that. Meanwhile, the Bank of England is forecasting zero growth before 2025. The Conservative party might want us to believe that that is due to events outside its control and that things are starting to improve, but we learned just today from the latest GDP figures that growth fell in October, demonstrating that our economy is still going backwards despite all the warm words we have heard from Ministers. Taxes up, debt skyrocketing and the biggest hit to living standards ever recorded—that is the legacy of 13 years of Conservative government, however much they try to escape from the reality of their record. Only the Labour party has a clear plan to grow our economy by boosting wages, bringing down bills and making working people in all parts of the country better off.

As we have set out, there are a number of specific measures in the Bill that we support and, indeed, have long called for, so we will not oppose the Bill’s Second Reading. For example, we welcome the Government’s decision to heed the calls of industry and make full expensing for businesses permanent, because we know that if the UK is to turn a corner and we are to drive growth in the economy, we need to address our chronic lack of business investment.

While we wait for Committee stage to examine in great detail the decision to consolidate research and development tax relief schemes, it is worth noting that that is the latest of eight separate changes to the R&D regime that this Government have made since the last election. My hon. Friend the Member for Ealing North took us on a comprehensive tour of the constantly shifting tax policy we have seen from the Tories during this Parliament. It is now clear that by chopping and changing their business taxation and reliefs, from the annual investment allowance to the short-lived super-deduction, the Government have kept businesses guessing and not given them the confidence they need to grow.

The measures set out today do not scratch the surface when it comes to undoing the years of uncertainty for business and investors, while industry is crying out for stability and a long-term plan. The truth is that, despite the words of Conservative Members, the UK is now lagging behind our international competitors when it comes to private sector investment as a share of GDP, at a time when we cannot afford to drag our feet. It is Labour who will address this head-on with a comprehensive plan to boost business investment, working with our businesses to expand and compete with rivals in the US, Europe and Asia.

It is clear from this Finance Bill and the recent autumn statement that this Government lack the imagination, leadership and appetite to transform our economy after 13 years in power. Without that stability, certainty and long-term plan, our businesses will be left unequipped to deliver the growth that we so urgently need at this time. If we do not deliver that growth, the poorest in our society will pay the price as their living standards stagnate. The Government may want us to believe that our economy is turning a corner, but back in reality, millions of people are struggling to make ends meet.

The hon. Member for Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner (David Simmonds) asked what the greatest achievement of this Government is. Frankly, I think that is quite a dangerous question, but I will try to answer it for him anyway. Was it crashing the economy, or producing the shortest serving Prime Minister in the history of our country? Was it the tax burden being at its highest since the war, household incomes that will be 3.5% lower next year than before the pandemic or, my personal favourite, the latest growth forecasts showing us plummeting and plummeting even further? Was it—shall I turn to my own constituency—people having to make the choice between turning on the heating and eating? That is the reality facing people in the country after 13 years of a Conservative Government.

Drew Hendry Portrait Drew Hendry
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Will the hon. Lady give way?

Tulip Siddiq Portrait Tulip Siddiq
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I have one line of my speech left, but I will give way.

Drew Hendry Portrait Drew Hendry
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

If, as the shadow Minister says, and I agree, the Bill is this bad, why is she voting for it?

Tulip Siddiq Portrait Tulip Siddiq
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

We are not actually voting. [Interruption.] I think the hon. Member is slightly misguided, as we are not voting.

There are specific measures that we support, but, overall, we do not support the economic plan of this Government. If the Government are so sure about their economic plan, why do they not take their opinions to the public? Why do they not call a general election, and we will see who is smiling and smirking after that?

15:47
Gareth Davies Portrait The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury (Gareth Davies)
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What a great pleasure it is to close this debate on the Finance Bill on behalf of the Government. I want to thank my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary, who is new in post, and to recognise the work of his predecessor and my constituency neighbour in Lincolnshire, my right hon. Friend the Member for Louth and Horncastle (Victoria Atkins), who carried out a great deal of work on this Finance Bill in the run-up to the autumn statement.

I will address a number of the points raised in this very good debate—it was lacking on quantity, but high on quality from a number of sources—but before I reflect on the comments, let me reflect on the Bill. Be in no doubt but that this Finance Bill will mean that companies will pay less tax if they invest more. It will simplify and strengthen tax reliefs to bolster innovation, and it makes the tax system fairer and more secure. Taken together, the measures contained in it will strengthen our economy and create more opportunities for more rewarding work in every corner of this country.

I will now turn to the comments made by a number of colleagues. I will start with my hon. Friend the Member for West Worcestershire (Harriett Baldwin), the Chair of the Treasury Committee, who has carried out significant work on the tax simplification programme with her Committee. The Government are clear that we want the tax system to be simpler and fairer, and to support growth. As she mentioned, the Financial Secretary has written to her just this week setting out the progress we are making on simplification. This autumn statement, and the Finance Bill in particular, has a number of measures, not least the capital allowances and the R&D expenditure credit consolidation. This a step in the right direction, but we are not complacent and we will continue to go further.

I was heartened to hear cross-party support for full expensing. That is in the context of the lowest headline rate of corporation tax in the G7, but the autumn statement announcement, and the provision in the Bill, is a £10 billion-a-year effective tax cut, called for by the IFS, the CBI, the IOD, Make UK, and many other businesses across the country. It is also in conjunction—this is not in the Bill—with a business rates package that will see a freeze for more than 90% of rate payers in this country.

The hon. Member for Richmond Park (Sarah Olney) made a comment about the oil and gas sector. Let me be clear: this Government have resolute support for our domestic oil and gas sector, and its 210,000 jobs. She called for a “proper tax” on oil and gas companies, and I can tell her that we already have one of the highest rates of windfall tax in the world. The energy price levy strikes the right balance between providing support for families and businesses through an energy crisis—namely through the energy price guarantee, which effectively paid 50% of people’s energy bills—while also encouraging investment to bolster our energy security. Conservative Members want to see the sector’s profits reinvested to support our domestic economy, our jobs, and our domestic energy security. Investment allowances within the EPL help to do that, and the energy security investment mechanism, which I announced in June, will help to provide banks with certainty in their modelling as they provide financing to the oil and gas sector, and as they are part of the transition to net zero.

Along with SNP Members, the hon. Member also said that she would like an increase in tax on banks, but she failed to mention that tax on banks has increased in recent times from 27% to 28%. She failed to mention that the tax revenue contribution from banks has increased significantly from £17 billion in 2010, to more than £33 billion today. That helps to pay for our NHS, our education, our defence, and many other public services that we all rely on. We want our banking system to be internationally competitive, and to keep the 1 million jobs that it employs stable and secure.

Many Opposition colleagues have mentioned living standards, and they are right. Conservative Members care deeply about that issue. That is why as part of the autumn statement, we increased the state pension by 8.5% as part of the triple lock which, by the way, has brought 200,000 pensioners out of poverty since it was introduced by a Conservative Prime Minister. We have also uprated benefits by 6.7%, and uprated the local housing allowance, which will benefit 1.6 million households across the country. That was on the back of a £289 billion welfare budget. Under this Government 400,000 children have been brought out of absolute poverty, and we have seen the Government step in with significant support through two global shocks of covid and the energy price spike, with £500 billion of support to get people through.

Drew Hendry Portrait Drew Hendry
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Will the Minister give way?

Gareth Davies Portrait Gareth Davies
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I will not give way. We are going to proceed I’m afraid; the hon. Gentleman has had his chance.

I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for Witham (Priti Patel) who has great consistency when it comes to reducing the tax burden. She has made clear her views on our tax system, and we agree with her. We have a keenness to bring taxes down, but we will do it in a responsible way that is in line with sustainable public finances. She also made clear her consistent campaign on pillar 2, and we are very alive to her concerns. I am pleased that the Chancellor recently met and wrote to her, following the two fiscal statements. I understand her concerns about sovereignty, and I assure her that the pillar 2 provisions do not impact on sovereignty or indeed on competitiveness. The provisions in the Bill are technical amendments that we will discuss in more detail as it goes into Committee.

Finally I thank, as always, my hon. Friend the Member for Poole (Sir Robert Syms) for his positivity about our economy, which does not always get reported. For me, his critical point was about looking at the long-term performance of the economy, not just at the provisions we are putting in place. Instead of looking month by month by month, we should look at long-term provision.

In conclusion, in January this year, the Prime Minister set out his priorities for the Government. Three of them were economic and, since then, we have seen our inflation cut in half and our economy is expected to grow in every year of the OBR’s forecast period. That is half a decade of uninterrupted growth. Because we are reducing borrowing, debt is now forecast to fall. Put simply, we have turned a corner, and it is because of the actions of this Government, this Prime Minister and this Chancellor.

This is a Conservative approach through supply-side reform, and it is in stark contrast to the Labour party’s debt-driven ambitions. We know that its plans to borrow some £28 billion every year for green initiatives will put at risk the great progress that we and the British public have achieved. The independent Institute for Fiscal Studies has issued a stark warning for Labour’s plans. It said they will increase inflation and drive up interest rates, leading to more debt, higher rates, higher inflation, fewer jobs and more tax. That is the Labour party’s playbook. We cannot let that happen, and we will not.

We want an economy driven by enterprise, and by workers and by businesses throughout this country who push and strive, making us more competitive abroad and resilient at home. We want a tax system that pushes up businesses and workers who want to succeed, not that pulls them down when they do succeed. The autumn statement was a statement for growth, investment, work and reward. The measures in the Bill will deliver much of that, so I strongly commend the Bill to the House.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

15:56

Division 32

Ayes: 46


Scottish National Party: 38
Independent: 3
Plaid Cymru: 3
Alba Party: 2

Noes: 296


Conservative: 291
Independent: 2
Democratic Unionist Party: 2
The Reclaim Party: 1

Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 62(2)), That the Bill be now read a Second time.
16:11

Division 33

Ayes: 291


Conservative: 284
Independent: 1
The Reclaim Party: 1
Democratic Unionist Party: 1

Noes: 54


Scottish National Party: 38
Liberal Democrat: 12
Independent: 2
Alba Party: 2

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 1 (capital allowances: permanent full expensing etc for expenditure on plant or machinery);
(b) Clause 2 and Schedule 1 (new regime for research and development carried out by companies);
(c) Clause 21 and Schedule 12 (Pillar Two);
(d) Clause 25 (rebate on heavy oil and certain bioblends used for heating);
(e) Clause 27 (interpretation of VAT and excise law);
(f) Clauses 31 to 34 and Schedule 13 (tax evasion and avoidance);
(g) any new Clauses or new Schedules relating to the subject matter of the Clauses
and Schedules mentioned in paragraphs (a) to (f).
(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) The proceedings—
(a) shall be taken on that day in the order shown in the first column of the following Table, and
(b) shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at the times specified in the second column of the Table.

Proceedings

Time for conclusion of proceedings

Clauses 1 and 2 and Schedule 1; any new Clauses or new Schedules relating to the subject matter of those Clauses and that Schedule2 hours after the commencement of proceedings on the Bill.

2 hours after the commencement of proceedings on the Bill.

Clause 21 and Schedule 12; Clauses 31 and 32 and Schedule 13; Clauses 33 and 34; any new Clauses or new Schedules relating to the subject matter of those Clauses and those Schedules

4 hours after the commencement of proceedings on the Bill.

Clauses 25 and 27; any new Clauses or new Schedules relating to the subject matter of those Clauses 6 hours after the commencement of proceedings on the Bill.

6 hours after the commencement of proceedings

Proceedings in Public Bill Committee etc
(5) Proceedings in the Public Bill Committee shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion on Thursday 18 January 2024.
(6) The Public Bill Committee shall have leave to sit twice on the first day on which it meets.
(7) 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 Third Reading
(8) Proceedings on Consideration shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion one hour before the moment of interruption on the day on which those proceedings are commenced.
(9) Proceedings on Third Reading shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at the moment of interruption on that day.
Programming committee
(10) Standing Order No. 83B (Programming committees) shall not apply to proceedings in Committee of the whole House, to proceedings on Consideration or to proceedings on Third Reading.—(Scott Mann.)
Question agreed to.

Finance Bill

Committee of the whole House
Wednesday 10th January 2024

(4 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Finance Act 2024 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: Committee of the whole House Amendments as at 10 January 2024 - (10 Jan 2024)
(Clauses 1 and 2, schedule 1, clause 21, schedule 12, clauses 25, 27 and 31 to 34, schedule 13 and new clauses relating to those clauses and schedules)
Considered in Committee
[Dame Eleanor Laing in the Chair]
Clause 1
Permanent full expensing etc for expenditure on plant or machinery
Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.
Eleanor Laing Portrait The Chairman of Ways and Means (Dame Eleanor Laing)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

With this it will be convenient to consider the following:

Clause 2 stand part.

Schedule 1.

New clause 1—Review of reliefs for research and development

“(1) The Chancellor of the Exchequer must, within three months of this Act being passed, publish a review of the implementation costs of the measures in section 2 incurred by—

(a) HMRC, and

(b) businesses.

(2) The review under subsection (1) must include details of the implementation costs of all measures related to credit or relief for research and development that have been introduced since December 2019.”

This new clause would require the Chancellor to publish a review setting out the total implementation costs of all changes to research and development reliefs in the current Parliament.

New clause 3—Assessment of impact of Act on business investment and economic growth

“Within six months of the passage of this Act, the Chancellor of the Exchequer must carry out an assessment of the impact of section 2 and Schedule 1 of this Act on business investment and economic growth, and lay a report of that assessment before both Houses of Parliament.”

This new clause would require the government to produce an assessment of the impact of the Bill’s new regime for research and development carried out by companies. This assessment would need to examine the impact on business investment and economic growth.

14:39
Nigel Huddleston Portrait The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Nigel Huddleston)
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This Government’s aim is to grow the economy for the good of everyone by removing barriers to private sector investment and delivering a tax system that is supportive of business. At the spring Budget 2023, the Chancellor set out his approach for a highly competitive tax regime. By announcing a package of generous tax incentives, combined with a rate of corporation tax that remains the lowest in the G7, this Government have ensured that the UK continues to be one of the best places in the world for businesses to grow and invest.

The Bill marks our next step in making the UK one of the most competitive tax systems among major economies by enhancing the support that the corporation tax system provides to businesses that drive growth by making long-term investments. It meets the Government’s commitment to introduce permanent full expensing, as announced at the autumn statement, solidifying our international competitiveness and creating the certainty that businesses have told us they need in order to confidently invest. The Bill will also drive UK business innovation by merging the existing research and development expenditure credit scheme with the small and medium enterprise scheme. Merging those schemes will simplify and improve the system for supporting cutting-edge research and development.

Turning first to clause 1, at spring Budget 2023, the Government introduced two new temporary first-year capital allowances for qualifying expenditure on plant or machinery. The first was a 100% first-year allowance for so-called main rate expenditure, known as full expensing, which allows companies to write off the full cost of plant and machinery in the year that the cost is incurred. The second was a 50% first-year allowance for expenditure on special-rate assets such as lighting systems, thermal insulation and long-life assets, allowing companies to write off half the cost of an asset in the year that it is incurred, with the remaining balance written down at 6% in every year afterwards.

The Chancellor was clear that his long-term ambition was to make those new reliefs permanent once the fiscal and economic conditions allowed, and at the autumn statement he confirmed that he was able to do just that. Clause 1 delivers that ambition, making both full expensing and the 50% first-year allowance permanent by removing the end date of 31 March 2026. That means that companies will be able to permanently benefit from full expensing. It solidifies our position as joint top of the rankings of OECD countries with regard to plant and machinery capital allowances, and means we are the only major economy with permanent full expensing.

The change will give companies the certainty they need to make long-term investments, and responds to calls from the CBI, Make UK, Energy UK and 200 other business groups and leaders, and from companies including BT Openreach, Siemens and Bosch, which have said that making the policy permanent would be the single most transformational thing the Government could do for business investment and growth. According to the Office for Budget Responsibility, it will generate almost £3 billion of additional business investment each year and £14 billion over the course of the next five years. The forecast is that GDP will be 0.1% higher by the end of the forecast period and slightly below 0.2% higher in the long term as a result.

Richard Fuller Portrait Richard Fuller (North East Bedfordshire) (Con)
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I applaud the Government’s initiative to make full expensing permanent, but of course we know there will be a general election within the next 12 months. Has my hon. Friend heard from the Opposition whether, if they were to be in Government, they would maintain it?

Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
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My hon. Friend is incredibly knowledgeable about this area through some of his previous business and ministerial experience, and that is a question I am intrigued to hear answered by the Opposition shortly. I believe it is vitally important, because the whole point is to give businesses the confidence to invest in the long term, and certainty is key to the investment decisions being made.

Richard Fuller Portrait Richard Fuller
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Further to that point, does my hon. Friend not think, as I do, that it is an aspect of a responsible Opposition to be clear, right now as we are debating this in this House, what they would do were they to be in Government?

Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
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I think my hon. Friend is kicking off what is likely to be a long debate over the course of the next year, but an important one for our constituents and businesses. The economy will play a pivotal part in discussions this year. It is very clear what we are doing: we are implementing vital changes, asked for by business and in response to business, to provide that business certainty and an environment in which they and therefore our constituents can thrive. I do not think any of us want to put that at risk. However, without the clarification and confidence from the Opposition about what they might do, these issues will be raised and the uncertainty can persist. We on the Government side of the House are committed to this, and my hon. Friend is right to make that clear.

Nigel Mills Portrait Nigel Mills (Amber Valley) (Con)
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I think the Minister just read out that the assessment is that this measure will create £3 billion additional investment per year. Is that right? If I remember the Green Book correctly from the autumn statement, the annual cost of this measure was £11 billion, which I think equates to £55 billion of extra capital expenditure. Is he saying that £52 billion of that £55 billion is just bringing forward investment that would have happened later, and £3 billion is new, or have I somehow got my numbers wrong and this will generate a load of investment that would not otherwise have happened?

14:45
Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
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My hon. Friend is right to point out the timing element with both full expensing and R&D; I will come on to R&D in a moment, because I think that is the £55 billion figure he mentions, but these measures, particularly the full expensing, will of course have a long-term impact over a long period of time. The cost is up-fronted, but the benefit is over a long period, and anyone who has worked in business understands that. He is right to point out the anomaly, and it is a very important point because a lot of people probably would not understand it, but the fact that the OBR has highlighted the incremental impact on the economy overall shows that there is a clear and transparent net benefit. The timing of the impact changes, but we are talking about additional investment right away, because we will be giving businesses the confidence to be able to make those decisions and invest immediately.

Matt Rodda Portrait Matt Rodda (Reading East) (Lab)
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I appreciate the Minister’s comments so far. Can he confirm how many times policy has changed in this important area since 2019? While he is making some further points today, it seems that Government policy has changed quite erratically, and that in itself is difficult for businesses to respond to when they are looking for certainty in planning for the long-term.

Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
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I agree that certainty for business is pivotal, but with both full expensing and R&D the Government, the Chancellor and others have been indicating the direction of travel for some time and therefore giving increased certainty. As I have said, it was mentioned a while ago that we intended to pursue the policy of full expensing when the economic circumstances allowed, and now they do. R&D, which I will come to in a minute, has been discussed for quite a long time and is the result of extensive co-operation with industry.

It is also the reality, though, that Government policy needs to change in response to the nature of a changing economy and to things such as digital, the cloud and so on. When it comes to other investments, we need to make sure that new and emerging policy areas are covered as well. We have seen today, as we saw in the autumn statement, a very clear direction of travel from the Conservative side of the Chamber, which is about incentivising businesses and cutting taxes. Permanent full expensing also simplifies the capital allowances regime overall, as companies can claim the full cost in year one, reducing the need to claim writing-down allowances year on year.

Turning to clause 2 and schedule 1, the Government have also announced the closure of the R&D tax relief review launched in 2021—the point I was just making to the hon. Member for Reading East (Matt Rodda)—alongside a set of changes to simplify and improve the system. Clause 2 makes changes to merge the current R&D expenditure credit and SME schemes for expenditure in accounting periods beginning on or after 1 April 2024, simplifying the system and providing greater support for UK companies to drive innovation.

The merged scheme will have an above-the-line mechanism similar to the R&D expenditure credit, with a rate of 20%. That will make the benefit more visible and easier for companies to factor into their investment decisions. Additionally, small and medium enterprise lossmakers will now be able to carry forward their losses rather than having to surrender them, which will give a total benefit of up to £45 per £100 of R&D expenditure.

There will also be a reduction in the rate at which the merged scheme credit is taxed for lossmakers, from 25% to 19%. That is worth around £120 million per annum to non-intensive lossmakers and will increase the up-front cash benefit for lossmakers. Subcontracting rules in the merged scheme will allow the company taking the decision to do R&D to claim relief on contracted-out R&D. That approach is based on the current SME scheme, which was identified as the best option in the consultation we delivered, and has been refined further following engagement with industry last summer.

Subsidy rules will also be removed, allowing SMEs to claim relief for work for which they receive a grant of a subsidy. This represents an increase in generosity for SMEs as well as being a major tax simplification.

The Government are also legislating for enhanced support for loss-making R&D-intensive SMEs. That was announced at spring Budget 2023 and will benefit 23,000 SMEs a year by providing further support to the most R&D-intensive SMEs while merging the current schemes. The Government are promoting the conditions for enterprise to succeed. Companies claiming the existing SME tax relief will be eligible for a higher payable credit rate of 14.5% if they meet the definition for R&D intensity.

At the summer statement, the Government announced several improvements being made to that enhanced support. The R&D intensity threshold is being lowered to 30% from 40% from April 2024, meaning that around 5,000 more companies will benefit from the support. A one-year grace period is being introduced, providing greater certainty by ensuring that companies that dip under the 30% threshold will continue receiving relief for one year. The same subcontracting rules as the merged scheme will apply to this enhanced support, further helping to simplify the system with one set of rules that both SMEs and larger companies will follow.

Overall, R&D reliefs will support an estimated £55 billion of business R&D expenditure in 2028-29—a 25% increase from £44 billion in 2021-22. Expenditure on R&D reliefs is forecast to increase in every year of the scorecard period. We will also restrict nominations and assignments for R&D relief payment. That measure ensures that genuine businesses get the payment for their R&D claim directly, rather than receiving it through an agent, and is designed to benefit genuine claimants and reduce non-compliance.

Subject to limited exceptions, no R&D tax credit payments will be made to nominee bank accounts, and any R&D tax credit payments must be paid directly to the company that claims for the R&D, so claimants will now receive their payments directly, giving them more control. That will ensure that the person claiming the relief has better oversight of the claim and receives the money into their account quicker. Claimants will also be clearer on exactly how much money is being charged by their agents, rather than just receiving a net amount after fees have been deducted. That builds on previously announced measures and policy changes to help to ensure greater company control over R&D claims.

The Government are committed to making the UK the best place in the world to do business. Full expensing and R&D tax relief support businesses to grow and invest, which will boost productivity and economic growth. That remains the key way to raise everybody’s living standards and to fund high-quality public services throughout the UK. I commend clauses 1 and 2 and schedule 1 to the Committee.

James Murray Portrait James Murray (Ealing North) (Lab/Co-op)
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Let me start by briefly considering the context in which we are debating clauses 1 and 2. As we know, the Bill follows the Chancellor’s statement on 22 November last year, in which he claimed that he was delivering an “autumn statement for growth”. As the Committee may remember, the Office for Budget Responsibility confirmed on the same day that growth forecasts had been cut by more than half for the coming year, cut again for the year after that, and cut yet again for the year after that. Independent analysts confirmed that, even after all the changes the Government had announced, personal taxes would still rise. In fact, personal taxes are now set to rise by £1,200 per household by 2028-29, with the tax burden on track to be the highest since the second world war. Despite people across the country paying so much in tax, public services are collapsing, the NHS is on its knees, and more and more families are struggling to make ends meet.

That was the context in which we considered the Bill on Second Reading just before Christmas: 13 years of Conservative economic failure had left people across Britain worse off. The only thing to have changed since then is that we now face 14 years of Conservative economic failure. It may be a new year, but those in the governing party face the same cold truth: nothing they can say or do now can repair the damage that they have done to our economy.

People in businesses across Britain deserve so much better. As a foundation of better management of the economy, our country needs and deserves stability, certainty and a long-term plan. It is for that reason that, although we welcome the fact that clause 1 makes full expensing permanent, which we have long called for, it simply cannot make up for the years of uncertainty that businesses have faced. Businesses need stability and predictability to help them plan for growth, and their long-term planning has been held back because the Government have been chopping and changing business taxes and reliefs year after year, with no evidence of anything resembling a long-term strategy.

Richard Fuller Portrait Richard Fuller
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I was very pleased to hear the shadow Minister say that the Opposition welcome the full expensing. That helps, but maybe he can go further to clarify. In new clause 6, tabled in his name, the Opposition are calling for a review of all business taxes and reliefs, which would include full expensing. He will know, as will the hon. Member for Mid Bedfordshire (Alistair Strathern) who is sitting behind him, that there is a particular potential investment decision in our county. Will the shadow Minister make it explicit that the Labour party’s intention is to include in its manifesto for the next election a commitment to maintaining full expensing?

James Murray Portrait James Murray
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As I have said, we have long been calling for full expensing, and we welcome the fact that it is being made permanent. I do not mean to sound jokey in my response—I am deadly serious when I say this—but if the hon. Gentleman wants to know what a Labour Government would do if we got into office, there is one way to see that eventuality come about: we could have a general election sooner rather than later, instead of dragging things on throughout the course of 2024.

Frankly, the country needs to move on from the current Government. Just look at their record on capital allowances since the last general election. The hon. Member for North East Bedfordshire (Richard Fuller) spoke about certainty and the need for stability, but let us look at the changes that have happened to capital allowances over the past four or five years. As I mentioned on Second Reading, back at the beginning of this Parliament, the annual investment had been raised to £1 million on a temporary basis. That temporary basis was extended by the Finance Act 2021, extended again by the Finance Act 2022, and then made permanent by the Finance (No. 2) Act 2023. Meanwhile, over the course of this Parliament, the super-deduction came and went entirely. Last year, full expensing for expenditure on plant or machinery was introduced but only on a temporary basis for three years.

Now, of course, Treasury Ministers are amending what their predecessors announced last year by making full expensing permanent. Although we welcome that policy, I wonder how long it will last. Frankly, I wonder how long any policy can be expected to last under this Government, when they are led—in the loosest possible sense of that word—by such a weak Prime Minister. If we accept clause 1 at face value, we welcome its principle of making full expensing permanent, as that is something that we have long called for. I will focus the rest of my questions on some of the specifics of the Government’s approach.

As ever, I am grateful to the excellent team at the Chartered Institute of Taxation for all their thoughts on the detail of what the Government have proposed in this clause and others. I know that one matter of interest to the chartered institute was the fact that, at the autumn statement, the Government said that they would publish a technical consultation on leased assets. I would be grateful if the Minister told us when that will be published.

Furthermore, both the Chartered Institute of Taxation and the Association of Taxation Technicians—to which I am also grateful for its thoughts on the detail of the Bill—have queried which companies and assets are eligible for full expensing. I would be grateful if the Minister clarified which assets are outside the scope of full expensing, and whether the Treasury will publish a detailed list of what does and does not count as plant and machinery. I would also be grateful if he told us how many firms will not be eligible for full expensing because they are partnerships. I know that many who take an interest in this matter would welcome clarity on that.

In clause 2, the Government propose changes to the system of tax credits for research and development. As with their approach to business taxation and capital allowances, the Government have failed to deliver any sense of stability when it comes to R&D tax credits, despite certainty and predictability being so crucial to businesses that are making investment decisions. That much is clear when looking at the list of changes that we have debated in Finance Bills over the course of the current Parliament alone: the Finance Act 2020 changed the rate of R&D expenditure credit; the Finance Act 2021 changed how much R&D tax relief small and medium-sized enterprises could claim; the Finance Act 2023 again changed the rates of R&D tax relief; the Finance (No. 2) Act 2023 changed further how the relief operates; and now, the Finance Bill before us changes the system of reliefs yet again. We accept, of course, that some change is necessary and important to enable legislation to function well, but that does not seem to be what we have seen. What we have seen is a Government incapable of providing stability, predictability, and the long-term plan that businesses need to invest and grow. It is clear that after 14 years in office, the Conservatives are incapable of providing that crucial foundation for our economic success.

Matt Rodda Portrait Matt Rodda
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My hon. Friend is making an excellent point, which comes to the nub of the argument: the Government are not capable of providing business with the certainty it needs. That is such a tragedy, because so many wonderful emerging industries in the UK which have incredible potential need that certainty, as indeed do other businesses.

14:59
James Murray Portrait James Murray
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My hon. Friend is absolutely right. So many businesses in the UK that are keen to invest, grow, and make people across Britain better off are being held back by the lack of stability and certainty from this Government. I cannot help but notice that the Government recognise the symptoms of the problem—that a lack of stability and certainty is indeed a problem for economic growth—but they are simply unable to provide a response to that problem, and provide the long-term plan that Britain so desperately needs.

We know that so much chopping and changing without any clear long-term plan has had a cost for our economy, by undermining prospects for investment, innovation and growth. Indeed, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales has shared with us the view of its members that there is a lack of confidence when claiming R&D tax relief within the UK, and their belief that

“this has arisen due to the various changes made to the rules in quick succession over the past few years.”

We also know, of course, that having so many changes one after the other has a direct impact on taxpayers as well as businesses, as the public finances bear the costs for all the impacts on His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs in terms of IT systems and staffing. Our analysis of HMRC policy papers suggests that the changes made and proposed within the current Parliament have had a cumulative impact on operational costs for HMRC of more than £60 million. That sum is likely to include a substantial waste of taxpayer money as a result of so many piecemeal changes rather than coherent and lasting reform.

In order to be clear and transparent on the costs of all the Government changes to R&D tax credits, we have tabled new clause 1. The new clause would require the Chancellor to publish a review setting out the total implementation costs of all changes to research and development reliefs in the current Parliament. I hope Ministers will accept that straightforward new clause, but if not, I look forward to Government Members who would be interested in such transparency joining us in supporting it. Furthermore, if Ministers are not prepared to vote for the new clause or accept it, I would be grateful if they could at least commit to writing to me with the figures that our new clause requests.

Turning to the substantive impacts of clause 2, we should be clear about what the clause does. In the autumn statement, the Chancellor said that the Government were

“creating a new, simplified R&D tax relief that combines the existing R&D expenditure credit and small and medium-sized enterprise schemes.”—[Official Report, 22 November 2023; Vol. 741, c. 325.]

We have heard similar words from the Minister in this debate. In reality, though, the Government’s plans still effectively maintain two separate schemes: although they seek to merge the two existing schemes, they continue to provide additional support for R&D-intensive SMEs through the existing SME scheme, rather than its forming part of the new merged scheme. Although we recognise that R&D-intensive SMEs may need extra support, the Chartered Institute of Taxation has pointed out that the Government’s plans are

“less a merger than the shifting of most SMEs into a revised scheme based on an ‘RDEC’ approach, with the SME scheme remaining for a smaller group of R&D intensive SMEs.”

The Association of Taxation Technicians has pointed out the impact this may have, saying that

“the introduction of new rules to define R&D intensive SMEs and the possibility of companies moving in and out of the two regimes as their expenditure profile changes will arguably result in an overall increase in the complexity of the R&D relief regime, rather than simplification.”

As I said, we recognise that R&D-intensive SMEs may need additional support, but I would be grateful if the Minister could explain why the Government have chosen to continue operating a separate scheme to provide that support, rather than delivering it as part of the new merged scheme.

Alongside understanding the Government’s intention regarding the design of the new regime, I would also like to question the Minister about the timescales for implementing the measures in clause 2. In the policy documents associated with the autumn statement, it was clear that the new regime would apply from April 2024 onward. In the Bill, however, schedule 1, which clause 2 introduces, makes clear that the changes will apply from an “appointed day”—a day to be appointed by the Treasury in regulations. I would be grateful if the Minister could confirm in his reply what that appointed day will be. Is it 1 April 2024, or will it be a later date?

As April is less than three months away, if the appointed day does indeed fall within that month, is the Minister confident that that leaves enough time for proper consultation, and for any new systems and processes to be put in place by businesses, agents, software providers and HMRC? If, instead, the appointed day is later than April 2024, those affected need to know what is happening. I hope the Minister will be able to provide clarity on that question today; otherwise, sadly, this seems to be yet another example of continued uncertainty for businesses from this Government.

Finally, we know that the Government are concerned about the level of non-compliance with the R&D tax credit schemes. In their policy paper published in November about the merging of the current schemes, they wrote:

“Further action may be needed to reduce the unacceptably high levels of non-compliance in the R&D reliefs, and HMRC will be publishing a compliance action plan in due course.”

Tackling non-compliance is of course very important, so I would be grateful if the Minister could confirm in his reply when HMRC will be publishing the promised compliance action plan.

I am also very aware from meetings I have had with smaller businesses that they often face a great deal of confusion over the guidelines associated with R&D tax credits. Whereas larger businesses will typically have the resources and institutional capacity to navigate those rules, I am concerned that smaller businesses often do not, and may find themselves having to pay for expensive consultants to help them understand them.

HMRC could have a role to play in supporting small firms with clarity about the guidelines on R&D tax credits, as well as, of course, in its role in tackling genuine fraud. Indeed, the Startup Coalition—an organisation that advocates for policies to support innovative firms in the UK—has highlighted the need for HMRC to improve, and has called for improved

“transparency around adjudicating whether activity is R&D to provide certainty for firms.”

The ICAEW has made similar points, stressing the need for guidance and education and making clear that

“the new rules will significantly affect all sizes of companies including those smaller entities with limited professional tax resource.”

I therefore urge the Minister to make sure that any plan for improving compliance with the rules also focuses on making the rules easier to comply with wherever possible, and on working with small, innovative firms to help give them the certainty they need to thrive.

To conclude, Labour will not be opposing either of the clauses, but I urge Treasury Ministers to accept our new clause 1 and, when they reply, to respond to the specific points that I have raised. More widely, it is clear from their approach to capital allowances and R&D tax reliefs that the Conservatives are incapable of providing stability and a long-term approach. Their failure is letting down businesses across our country who stand ready to play their part in growing the economy and making people across Britain better off.

Maggie Throup Portrait Maggie Throup (Erewash) (Con)
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I am delighted to be able to speak in Committee on the Finance Bill, which I believe emphasises the Conservative principles of encouraging entrepreneurs, free enterprise and innovation. Many in this Chamber will know that I do not have a traditional finance background, but I did run my own business for 19 years, which I think qualifies me to identify when fiscal measures are really going to help business. That is what I see in the Bill, especially clauses 1 and 2, which I will speak to today.

First, I will take the opportunity to speak in favour of clause 1, which will support UK business by making full expensing permanent. In the spring Budget 2023, the Chancellor introduced major reforms to the system of capital allowance by replacing the super-deduction system with three years of full expensing. The new measure, which was initially put in place until 1 April 2026, allows companies to claim the full cost of their expenditure on plant or machinery against tax when the business investment is made. That measure was well received by businesses across the UK, as my hon. Friend the Minister has already stated; he quoted a number of large plcs, but the measure has also allowed a number of Erewash-based businesses to benefit and prosper.

Dales Fabrications Ltd previously claimed a super-deduction, the predecessor of full expensing, on a very significant piece of machinery. It sounds quite complicated to me, but it is a 4-metre press break with lots of bespoke options. The benefits of the super-deduction were of such significance that the business purchased additional and highly beneficial tooling concurrently with the machine. The now chairman of the business said to me:

“In reality, we would have inevitably deferred that additional tooling purchase without the super deduction, thus meaning we wouldn’t have had 100 per cent of the benefits of our new machinery from day one and would have been effectively denied access to some types of work that went beyond typical industry-standard sizes.”

The owner of another business, Millitec, said:

“Super deductions are really good and a real incentive for us to invest.”

The successor of the super-deduction, which means being able to expense fully the cost of plant and machinery on a permanent basis, as proposed in clause 1, will undoubtedly continue to be a huge incentive for businesses across the UK to invest in their futures and in UK plc. I know from speaking to my local businesses that they really welcome this, and see it as one way to be able to expand and grow their business. However, I have a question for my hon. Friend the Minister. The terminology of plant and machinery is very broad, so when he responds could he provide some clarity for my Erewash businesses about what is defined as plant and machinery, to help them understand what is in scope? For example, does it extend to IT equipment? I think that having a better understanding of the terminology will really help businesses of all sizes to take full advantage of what is on offer.

The contents of clause 1 shows that the Government are on the side of business. Ahead of the autumn statement last year, 200 businesses—including AstraZeneca, which was so instrumental in the covid vaccine roll- out, and Toyota, a major employer of many of my constituents—wrote a joint letter to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor asking for the 1 April 2026 expiry date to be removed, so making full expensing permanent. Today, by supporting clause 1 and making full expensing permanent, we are backing businesses and helping them to succeed. It also shows that the Government are listening to businesses and making sure they are putting in place measures that will really help them grow their business.

Clause 1 will provide businesses with the biggest tax cut in modern history, worth over £10 billion a year, making the UK capital allowances regime one of the most generous in the world. Since the introduction of temporary full expensing in April 2023, the UK has become an appealing place to invest. The UK has had the second highest investment growth in the G7 and three times that of the US. Making full expensing permanent can only perpetuate that growth. Will my hon. Friend say when he winds up whether plans are in place to extend full expensing to plant and machinery that is either leased or hired? Those two options are often the only affordable ones for businesses with big ambition, but limited capital.

Let me turn to clause 2 and schedule 1. The Bill will simplify research and development rules by merging the small and medium-sized enterprises and the R&D expenditure credit schemes. Whether it is trialling and distributing the successful covid vaccines, which helped us defeat covid-19, or testing and developing new innovations that will enable us to meet our net zero targets, R&D businesses play a vital role in growing our economy. At the spring Budget 2023, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor announced enhanced support for R&D-intensive SMEs worth around £500 million per year, a consultation on the potential merged R&D tax relief scheme and support for those loss-making R&D businesses. As a result, the measures in this Bill show the Government’s unwavering support for R&D businesses.

Specifically, clause 2 and schedule 1 will help reduce bureaucracy and ensure that taxpayers’ money is spent as effectively as possible by simplifying the R&D tax system. That will stop many businesses having to navigate the complex transition between the two existing schemes. It is anticipated that the reduction of the intensity threshold in the R&D-intensive businesses scheme from 40% to 30% from April this year will allow around 5,000 extra SMEs to qualify for an enhanced rate of relief. A one-year grace period will also be introduced, providing certainty for companies dipping under the 30% threshold that they will continue to receive relief for one year. This is a vital measure for so many R&D-focused businesses, which inherently have peaks and troughs of activity. Taken together, these changes will provide £280 million-worth of additional relief per year by 2028-29 to help drive innovation in the UK.

15:10
As a former biomedical scientist and someone who continues to take a keen interest in the area, I know that the measures in clause 2 and schedule 1 will undoubtedly benefit the bioscience sector. The Government are adopting an interesting position on subcontracting. The Bill will allow the decision maker to claim for subcontracted R&D work. Will the Minister confirm that proposed new section 1133(3) will mean that if a company is contracted to do work that is not research and development but then decides to carry out some related R&D work, it will be entitled to claim relief for it? Will he also confirm that the new measures will allow a business that contracts out to a research organisation qualifying activities, such as a clinical trial, to claim for the costs of the contract? If this is the case, I am sure that R&D subcontracting will increase collaboration and knowledge sharing, which are crucial for economic growth.
I have no doubt that the measures announced in the Bill will be the ignition that accelerates the UK’s economy and leads us to a brighter future. I will support the Bill throughout today.
Drew Hendry Portrait Drew Hendry (Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey) (SNP)
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I am only going to make some brief remarks on the two clauses. The UK Government are clearly scrambling to fix an economic mess of their own making, and the Bill is full of such measures.

On clause 1, during the autumn statement I welcomed this move, but it does little to deal with the damage to business that has been caused by the big grey elephant in the room that none of the parties wishes to mention, which is Brexit. Far from the ideal of removing red tape and decreasing bureaucracy, as we have heard thrown about in this Chamber, it has actually led to more red tape and more difficulties for business. This is just one of the measures the Government should be taking, among many others they must consider in future. I hope to come to those later in the debate.

The “years of uncertainty” that the hon. Member for Ealing North (James Murray) mentioned have indeed been years of uncertainty caused by this Government, but they have definitely been impacted by the Brexit that Labour now supports, along with the Liberal Democrats. People are struggling with a cost of living crisis, and it is affecting domestic sales too, so they need other fixes. Again, I will have some questions about that later.

Clause 2 and schedule 1—I hope this will be helpful for the Minister—are like trying to make a jigsaw puzzle with no box, no picture and just some random bits and pieces to try to plug together to make something out of. Productivity does not work without the skills required in research and development. We do not get the advance or the boost we need without that and, once again, the spectre of Brexit means that we have a skills shortage across the nations of the UK. That is particularly affecting Scotland, which needs its own immigration rules. It is something we would ask to have powers over, short of our call—it would of course be the absolute best result—for Scotland to have independence so it can make these decisions itself.

Nigel Mills Portrait Nigel Mills
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It is a pleasure to speak in this debate. I want to direct my remarks to clause 1, on permanent full expensing for the purchase of plant and machinery, which I discussed during the autumn statement and on Second Reading.

This is actually quite a radical and expensive policy. We have, probably for longer than all our lifetimes, given companies relief for capital expenditure using capital allowances. That was originally quite a generous 25% in the first year—I suspect that most plant and machinery had a longer life than that when the rules were produced. We have chosen to do that for all these years, rather than just letting a business deduct its own accounting calculation of depreciation, because we did not want the manipulation of tax deductions by businesses doing their tax returns. We chose to do it this way.

The tool that Governments of all colours for decades have had when the economy hits trouble is to give first-year allowances and various enhancements. I remember a 40% first-year allowance and a 50% first-year allowance. We have had full expensing up to £1 million, as the shadow Minister referred to. That has been the way of incentivising investment in a period of economic recovery for probably as long back as there has been a toolkit.

Now we have landed on permanent full expensing, so businesses get full relief on plant and machinery spend in the first year. What are the Government expecting to happen differently here? Are we expecting capital investment by businesses of more than £1 million a year that otherwise would not be economically viable and would never have happened? Are we expecting investment to be brought forward and to take place earlier than it otherwise would have? That would be entirely welcome and would probably modernise businesses, protect jobs and give them a chance to grow in a way that they perhaps would not have had, which is not a bad policy aim at all. Or are we just giving business an earlier tax relief than they otherwise would have had, whereby they bank that and are happy but it does not change behaviour?

It is hard to get behind the numbers on this measure in the Green Book. As I said earlier, the estimate at the end of the five-year period, and probably the first full year that making this permanent will make a difference, is a tax cost of £10.9 billion just for this measure. If we run the numbers, bearing in mind that businesses will already have had 25% tax relief on that same expenditure in that year, that means we expect a £55 billion higher claim to get tax relief in that financial year than otherwise would have happened. However, the Minister said that only £3 billion of that is estimated by the OBR to be additional investment that would not otherwise have taken place at some point. It suggests that we have a lot of investment being brought forward with a lot of more generous tax relief that would have happened anyway. Will the Minister explain what the Government are aiming to achieve and what is being forecast? Is the OBR being unduly cautious? That would enable us to understand how we judge whether the measure has been successful.

Are we expecting to see whole loads of investment in plant and machinery that never would have been viable before, or are we expecting to see it brought forward? If what we are getting is brought forward, at some time the cost should start to taper down, because this is not a new tax relief that businesses would not have already had; it is just an acceleration of tax relief and businesses will pay more tax in all subsequent years, because they are not getting the relief they used to get. The measure could cost £11 billion in the first year and gradually that would level down and in the fullness of time there would be no more annual cost, in effect. Can the Minister clarify that?

It is not immediately clear how the Government plan to assess whether the measure has worked or is working. I assume that from electronic corporate tax returns we can track down to the pound the amount of investment claimed for full expense relief every year. We could have a report within six months of the end of a calendar year on how much of these 100% allowances has been claimed and compare that with the total amount claimed for capital allowances in whichever preceding years we like. We could see whether full expensing was driving behaviour change. Will the Minister talk us through what he expects to happen and how he will assess whether this has been an effective way of boosting productivity and increasing investment for £11 billion a year? It is probably one of the most sizeable line entries we have seen in a Finance Bill in my 14 years here. Normally we expect the big number to be a tax cut for individuals, and this measure is significant.

As we are making this measure a permanent feature of our tax system, it shines a light on what we are trying to get from our corporation tax system. There will not be any kind of compliance saving. The Minister made a brave attempt at saying there might, but effectively all that will change is that the number that a business currently puts in its additions to its writing down allowance pool will now be put in the 100% first-year claim box. It is the same number in a different box; that is the only compliance change we have here. It throws into question some previous policy decisions we have made, because for a business to get full benefit from this, it needs to be paying enough tax to use the full relief in that first year.

If a business cannot use the full relief, the incentives are not as powerful as they would otherwise be, because then the option is effectively to carry that excess deduction forward, but we introduced rules a few years ago that are strict on how many losses a business can use in a year. If we really think that giving people the earliest possible cash tax benefit for capital investment drives investment, we should probably take away that restriction on using losses, so that businesses can get the benefit as early as possible and not have it spread over a number of years going forward. Will the Minister explain whether the Government will look at that and make sure we are not accidentally undoing some of the benefit we are seeking to get?

My second question is: what do we do with the legacy writing down allowance pool that relates to plant and machinery expenditure for God knows how many past years? On a reducing balance basis of 25%, it takes many, many years to get full tax relief for expenditure, so every business will have a large pot of money that it has not yet had tax benefit for. Are we expecting them to run that down at 25% reducing balance a year and still be doing so in 23 years’ time, by which point no one will have any idea what on earth that balance ever was? Or should we say, “That is a bit of a nonsense. Why do we not just let you take the whole balance at 20% a year over the next five years and finish that problem off, because we do not need to be focusing on that?”? We could find any number we like there, but it would draw a line under that past expenditure in a way that genuinely simplifies things.

We then have the question of, “What do we do with capital expenditure on items that are not plant and machinery?” The tax relief we give on structures and buildings is not generous, but if we are trying to drive an increase in productivity and large businesses to invest in new gigafactories to build batteries for electric cars or for electricity storage or whatever, do we not want to incentivise them to build the factory building as well, rather than either giving them no relief or giving it over a long time? If we are spending £11 billion a year to encourage investment in plant and machinery, should we not spend a little money on trying to encourage other things that are key for industrial investment to take place, by being a bit more generous on buildings and structures? Has the Minister any thoughts on that?

The Government did a capital allowances review only a year or two ago, which did not look at permanent full expensing as one of the options, but it would be interesting to see whether they have had any further thoughts on that. We are now asking every business to go through and track every item of capital that they spend and treat it differently in their tax return from how they treat it in their accounting records. Then we have all manner of different laws depending on whether it is a long-life asset, a short-life asset, a car or an environmentally friendly car—I could go on. For the amount now at stake, and given that we have given full relief for plant and machinery, which is the biggest amount, do we really need all that cost and complexity? Or should we just say for all those other items, “You can just have your accounting calculation”? Okay, businesses might take it a bit quicker than we would like, but in actual fact the cost of that is not all that material in the grand scheme of things.

We could move to a system where the only adjustment someone has to make to their tax return is to claim a very generous tax relief on plant and machinery, and they would not have to touch anything else. That would be a more coherent corporation tax regime, now that we have spent all this money incentivising plant and machinery. It would then genuinely be a compliance saving for a business in that situation.

I support the measure and truly hope that it works, but, as a significant amount is being spent, it would be helpful to understand what we are trying to achieve and how we will know whether we have been successful. I hope that the Government will move on to think about how we can slightly recast our tax system so that it makes sense, having made this radical and generous change.

Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
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I thank hon. Members for their contributions. I will take a few moments to respond to quite a few questions raised during the debate. First, I reassure hon. Members that further guidance will be provided on these schemes. Of course, we do not want all the schemes just to exist; we want them to be used so that they have a real-world impact. More information will therefore be coming out about a variety of areas over a period of time.

I gently remind the hon. Member for Ealing North (James Murray), who yet again took the opportunity to talk the UK economy down—the Opposition always do—that every single Labour Government have ended with unemployment higher than what they inherited from the Conservatives. I think the public are well aware of that pattern.

I turn to the many questions raised. I thank my hon. Friends the Members for Amber Valley (Nigel Mills) and for Erewash (Maggie Throup), and indeed Opposition Members for their contributions. On timing, the Government have been clear since the merged scheme consultation was published in January last year that the intended implementation date for the scheme is April 2024. Importantly, in response to that consultation and in recognition of comments, the merged scheme will apply to accounting periods starting on or after 1 April 2024 rather than to expenditure incurred from that date. Again, we will provide further guidance on that.

15:30
On leasing and hiring, which was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Erewash and the hon. Member for Ealing North, the Government committed at the spring Budget to engaging with stakeholders with a view to extending the scope of expensing to include assets for leasing and hiring. As the autumn statement confirmed, that will continue to be considered. We will launch a technical consultation on draft legislation shortly—in early 2024.
Several hon. Members asked about the perfectly valid and important point of what specifically will be included. I have a whole list of what is defined as plant and machinery—as I said, I reassure hon. Members that further guidance will be provided: it includes things such as computers, printers, office equipment, vehicles, vans, lorries, tractors, forklift trucks, tools, ladders and drills, and equipment such as excavators, compactors, bulldozers and so on. That is quite a comprehensive list, but more information will be provided.
My hon. Friend the Member for Amber Valley raised an important point about buildings. Of course, while they are not included in full expensing, businesses can instead receive relief through the separate structures and buildings allowance that the Government introduced in 2018.
On fraud, which was raised by the hon. Member for Ealing North, over the last three years HMRC has significantly increased the number of people working on R&D compliance to over 500. We have also announced policy measures to counter non-compliance in R&D schemes and will follow-up with a more detailed compliance action plan outlining of how HMRC will reduce error and fraud. That will be released in due course.
Debbie Abrahams Portrait Debbie Abrahams (Oldham East and Saddleworth) (Lab)
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Following on from the comments of the hon. Member for Amber Valley (Nigel Mills) about the impact of the schemes and given the Federation of Small Businesses’ request for some publication about the impact of these tax reliefs on R&D levels, will the Minister also publish a report on their impact on different regions and subregions?

Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
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All taxes are kept under review, as are their impacts, so some of the calls for further analysis are not necessary because we do that as a matter of course. It is important to stress that many external studies have found that when full expensing has been introduced in other countries, it has been very effective in supporting investment. Of course, the OBR forecasts predict a boost of £3 billion each year. The analysis of the impact of the super-deduction is already taking place, but companies have 12 months from the end of their accounting period to amend their tax returns, so HMRC will not have complete data on the impact of the super-deduction until 2024. However, we will provide further analysis in due course.

My hon. Friend the Member for Erewash mentioned a whole range of real-world impacts from these measures and the previous measures, including the super-deduction, as well as, importantly, the annual investment allowance of £1 million, which affects the 99% of smaller businesses that can effectively benefit from full expensing. In the autumn statement, we announced full expensing for larger businesses: the top 1%, who conduct about 80% of full investment.

I am aware of time, but will cover a couple of other key points that were raised. My hon. Friend the Member for Erewash raised subcontracting. Again, we engaged extensively with stakeholders on this issue over the summer, and the Government have developed an approach that will allow the person taking the decision to do R&D to claim that relief. That was the preferred result of the consultation. However, an exception will apply in the important area that she mentioned of companies doing R&D—such as in a clinical trial—in the UK for another company that is ineligible for relief because, for example, it is an overseas customer. That is to make sure that the impact is there for everyone to benefit from. The hon. Member for Ealing North also mentioned partnerships; a corporate partner is eligible for full expensing, but an unincorporated partner is not. Again, the annual investment allowance of £1 million covers the investment needs of almost all unincorporated partnerships.

The hon. Member keeps harping on about taxes rising. I strongly advise him to look at his December payslip and compare it to the one he will get shortly. Maybe he will have the decency to come to me and tell me whether his tax is lower or higher. Each fiscal event needs to be taken separately. At the last one, the autumn statement, we cut taxes—national insurance is down 2p. [Interruption.] If the hon. Member does not believe me, I pose this challenge to him: if his payslip shows that his taxes are lower, perhaps he will do me the courtesy of coming to me and apologising, or give the difference to a charity, to put his money where his mouth is.

We do not believe that new clause 1 is necessary because the information has already been published in the tax impact and information notes alongside each change, which give a clear explanation of the policy objectives, along with details of the implementation costs for both HMRC and businesses. Therefore, the new clause is not necessary. I urge the House to reject it, and I commend clauses 1 and 2 and schedule 1 to the Committee.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 1 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 1 agreed to.

New Clause 1

Review of reliefs for research and development

“(1) The Chancellor of the Exchequer must, within three months of this Act being passed, publish a review of the implementation costs of the measures in section 2 incurred by—

(a) HMRC, and

(b) businesses.

(2) The review under subsection (1) must include details of the implementation costs of all measures related to credit or relief for research and development that have been introduced since December 2019.”—(James Murray)

Brought up and read the First time.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time.

15:37

Division 36

Ayes: 224


Labour: 163
Scottish National Party: 36
Liberal Democrat: 14
Independent: 7
Plaid Cymru: 2
Social Democratic & Labour Party: 1
Green Party: 1
Alba Party: 1

Noes: 294


Conservative: 287
Democratic Unionist Party: 3
Independent: 2

Clause 21
Ensuring consistency of Parts 3 and 4 of F(No.2)A 2023 with OECD rules etc
Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.
Rosie Winterton Portrait The First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means (Dame Rosie Winterton)
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With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Schedule 12.

Clauses 31 and 32 stand part.

Schedule 13.

Clauses 33 and 34 stand part.

New clause 2—Review of measures to tackle evasion and avoidance

“(1) The Chancellor of the Exchequer must, within three months of this Act being passed, publish a review of the measures in sections 31 to 33 to tackle evasion and avoidance.

(2) The review under subsection (1) must include details of—

(a) the average sentence handed down in each of the last five years for the offences listed in section 31;

(b) the range of sentences handed down in each of the last five years for the offences listed in section 31;

(c) the number of stop notices issued in each of the last five years to which the measures in section 33 would apply; and

(d) the estimated impact on revenue collected in each of the next five financial years resulting from the introduction of the measures in sections 31 to 33.”

This new clause would require the Chancellor to publish details of the sentences given and stop notices issued in each of the last five years to tackle evasion and avoidance, as well as the revenue expected to be generated from the measures to tackle evasion and avoidance in this Act in each of the next five years.

New clause 4—Assessment of impact of Act on multinational profit shifting and tax competition between jurisdictions

“(1) Within six months of the passage of this Act, the Chancellor of the Exchequer must carry out an assessment of the impact of section 21 and Schedule 12 of this Act on multinational profit shifting and tax competition between jurisdictions, and lay a report of that assessment before both Houses of Parliament.

(2) The report must consider the efficacy of the measures contained in section 21 and Schedule 12 in achieving the policy objective of combatting base erosion and profit shifting.”

This new clause would require the government to produce an assessment of the impact of the Bill’s “Pillar Two” measures, in order to ascertain whether these measures have been successful in achieving their policy aims.

New clause 5—Tax compliance reporting

“(1) Within six months of the passage of this Act, the Chancellor of the Exchequer must carry out an assessment of the impact of sections 31 to 34 and Schedule 13 of this Act.

(2) The report must consider the capacity and ability of HMRC to enforce compliance with the measures contained in sections 31 to 34 and Schedule 13 of this Act, including setting out staffing arrangements within HMRC's Customer Compliance Group for undertaking enforcement work relating to sections 31 to 34 and Schedule 13 of this Act.”

This new clause would require the government to produce an assessment of the impact of the Bill’s tax evasion and avoidance measures. The assessment would need to examine whether the capacity and ability of HMRC was sufficient to properly enforce those measures.

New clause 7—Review of effectiveness of section 31 measures in preventing fraud involving taxpayers’ money

“(1) The Chancellor of the Exchequer must, within three months of this Act being passed, conduct a review of the effectiveness of the provisions of section 31 in preventing fraud involving taxpayers’ money.

(2) The review must evaluate the effectiveness of the provisions of section 31 in preventing fraud involving taxpayers’ money through comparison with the effectiveness of—

(a) other measures that seek to prevent fraud involving taxpayers’ money, and

(b) the approach taken in other countries.”

This new clause would require the Chancellor to review the effectiveness of measures in this Act to prevent fraud involving taxpayers’ money, and to compare them with other measures that seek to prevent fraud involving taxpayers’ money and the approach taken in other countries.

Gareth Davies Portrait The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury (Gareth Davies)
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Clauses 21 and 31 to 34 and schedules 12 and 13 cover technical changes to pillar 2 of the international tax agreement—doubling the maximum sentence for the most egregious forms of tax fraud—the introduction of new powers to tackle the promotion of tax avoidance, and action against fraud in the construction industry scheme.

The UK’s tax gap is currently at an all-time low, at 4.8% of total tax liabilities. That is due to strong Government action to tackle all forms of non-compliance in the tax system, but we are never complacent. That is why we have introduced more than 200 measures since 2010, including 40 since 2021, to reduce the tax gap even further. The Government are taking action to ensure that individuals and companies pay the taxes that are due in the UK. We want to deter individuals from committing fraud in the first place. That is why we are doubling the maximum sentence for tax fraud.

The Government are also taking action against tax avoidance by introducing a new criminal offence of the promotion of tax avoidance and by expediting the disqualification of directors of companies that promote tax avoidance. The measures are designed to protect tax revenues, which are important for funding our vital public services.

It is also important to protect tax revenues from companies shifting profits offshore. That is why the UK implemented pillar 2 on 31 December 2023. We are updating existing legislation with technical amendments today to ensure that UK legislation is consistent with newly agreed guidance, to address further stakeholder comments to clarify terms, and to avoid unintended consequences.

Clause 31 strengthens our enforcement powers when it comes to tax offences. It doubles the maximum prison term, from seven years to 14 years, for individuals convicted of the most egregious cases of tax fraud. This applies to all taxes and duties administered by HMRC. It also increases the maximum penalty for counterfeiting from 10 years to 14 years. These measures demonstrate, I hope, the Government’s intent to crack down on tax fraud and to deter criminal actions that damage the public purse.

Clauses 32 and 33 and schedule 13 seek to target the promotion of tax avoidance, in order to protect taxpayers and reduce the damage inflicted on the public finances. Recent powers such as HMRC’s power to name promoters and their schemes, and its power to issue stop notices, are effectively disrupting promoters’ activities. None the less, a small number of promoters persist in attempting to sidestep the rules, so clause 32 and schedule 13 enable HMRC to act swiftly to seek the disqualification of directors and other individuals who control or exercise influence over companies involved in the promotion of tax avoidance. They enable the removal of those individuals from the avoidance market and will deter others from becoming directors of companies that promote avoidance.

In the Finance Act 2021, the Government introduced rules that allow HMRC to issue stop notices that require promoters to stop promoting specified tax avoidance schemes. Stop notices are an important deterrent tool, as failing to comply with a stop notice can lead to a substantial civil penalty. Clause 33 increases the consequences of failing to comply by introducing a new criminal offence, which will apply to promoters who continue to promote an avoidance scheme after receiving a stop notice. Creating a criminal offence signals the severity of this issue and reinforces the importance of complying with a stop notice.

Finally, clause 34 tackles serious non-compliance in the construction industry. The construction industry scheme requires contractors to withhold tax unless a subcontractor holds gross payment status. Most gross payment status holders are legitimate and compliant construction businesses but, in recent years, gross payment status has been used by organised crime organisations to facilitate fraud. This allows unscrupulous actors to compete unfairly against legitimate businesses. Clause 34 therefore strengthens the tests for gross payment status by adding VAT to the taxes with which subcontractors must demonstrate compliance. This measure is predicted to raise around £300 million over the next five years.

Each of these clauses helps to protect vital tax revenue used to fund our public services. They seek to deter taxpayers from knowingly defrauding the Government and encourage them to act against the promotion of tax avoidance. I therefore ask that clause 21, clauses 31 to 34 and schedules 12 and 13 stand part of the Bill.

James Murray Portrait James Murray
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I rise to speak to the new clauses in my name and that my hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead and Kilburn (Tulip Siddiq).

Clause 21 and schedule 12 relate to the implementation of pillar 2 of the OECD/G20 inclusive framework on base erosion and profit shifting. Labour supports this clause and schedule as they are intended to modify the existing multinational and domestic top-up taxes introduced in the Finance (No. 2) Act 2023, to make sure these new taxes work as intended. We have long supported the global deal on the taxation of large multinationals, as we want to see it working as effectively as possible.

We know that the OECD guidance on implementing the deal is coming out in tranches, so it is important that UK legislation is updated to reflect that. We recognise that, as with any global deal of this scale, its details are complicated and its implementation will take time, yet we have been clear throughout its development that we support the principle of a global agreement as a crucial step in making the tax system fairer, thereby helping to make sure that British businesses that pay their fair share of taxes are not undermined.

Indeed, nearly three years ago, in April 2021, I first set out in the Commons our support for a global deal to make that tax system fairer, to make sure that a level playing field is there for British businesses and to stop the international race to the bottom on tax for large multinationals. The Treasury Ministers at the time appeared at first lukewarm in backing plans emerging from the United States for a global deal. Eventually, however, the then Chancellor, now the Prime Minister, began to support the deal in public. We were glad that the current Prime Minister seemed to have come round, but I am not sure all his Back Benchers have. For instance, I wonder whether the hon. Member for North East Bedfordshire (Richard Fuller) would agree with the Prime Minister when he said:

“We now have a clear path to a fairer tax system, where large global players pay their fair share wherever they do business.”

We agree with the Prime Minister on that point, but I just wonder whether everyone on the Conservative Benches does. I am reading some of their faces and I think the answer is clear. Could it be that the Prime Minister lacks support from prominent Back Benchers within his own party on a policy he is now championing? Surely not. But Treasury Ministers should rest assured that if their Back Benchers pull any tricks on clause 21, they will have our support for it to pass.

16:00
Of course, clause 21 relates to pillar 2 of the OECD deal, which seeks to make sure that large multinationals pay a minimum rate of 15% corporate tax in every country in which they operate. There is, of course, also pillar 1, which involves partially reallocating taxing rights over the profits of large multinationals to the jurisdictions where consumers are located. We know that the implementation of pillar 2 is going ahead, as this Bill makes clear, but pillar 1 appears to have slowed. So I would be grateful if the Minister provided an update to the House of progress toward the implementation of pillar 1. We know, for instance, that there is still work to be done to reach the necessary agreement between all major economies, so perhaps he would confirm whether the Government are still committed to pillar 1 being implemented. If so, what steps has he taken since taking up his role to help make that happen?
Clause 21 relates to making sure that large multinationals pay their fair share of taxes, but clauses 31 to 34 deal with wider questions of tax avoidance and evasion. We believe the Government should make sure that there are always tough prison terms and powerful deterrents for those who commit fraudulent tax evasion and other serious tax offences, and that those punishments should be well publicised and effectively enforced. Likewise, Labour believes there is a strong case for tougher punishments for those who commit fraud against public services, Government and the public purse. Other countries have stronger laws and sanctions than the UK has for such offences, which mean that judges can hand down tougher punishments to criminals who have ripped off the taxpayer, such as by wilfully defrauding the country through public contracts or business support. Our new clause 7 would require the Government to be open and honest about what they are doing to prevent fraud involving taxpayers’ money, in terms of the measures in this Bill, other measures more widely and in comparison with the practices overseas. Those who defraud the taxpayer are stealing from the country and it weakens our public services. We want to see fraudsters and organised crime gangs met with the full force of the law. As a country, we should have the most effective possible measures in place to prevent fraud involving taxpayers’ money. Our amendment today will be the first step in making sure that that is the case, and I urge all MPs to join us in voting for it.
In the legislation before us, we see the Conservatives trying to act tough by raising the maximum prison term for tax offences from seven to 14 years, but the Government’s own figures reveal that average sentences for tax fraud are just two years—once again, they cannot hide from their record. They have failed to take tax fraud seriously, and any changes they make after 14 years in office are far too little, far too late. It is clear from an HMRC report looking at the approach taken by its fraud investigation service towards tax compliance and serious fraud in 2022-23 that the average length of custodial sentencing was 24 months. We believe that the public deserve more information on how sentencing is working under the current Government, so our new clause 2 requires data to be published setting out the average sentence, and the range of sentences, handed down in each of the last five years for the offences that clause 31 applies to. I urge Ministers to accept our new clause 2, but if they are not willing to do so, will they write to me with details of all the information that it requests? Whatever that data may show, it seems clear from the data that is already available that under the Conservatives sentences appear to be nowhere near the existing seven-year maximum, and so 14 years seems even more distant a prospect. Whatever the Government may say about sentencing, our courts system is already hamstrung by being neglected and facing the highest backlog on record—65,000 cases in the Crown courts and over 350,000 in the magistrates courts. We will not oppose clause 31, but this debate has made clear the depth of the Conservatives’ failure on law and order, and just what a mess they have created.
Clause 32 and schedule 13 would enable HMRC to bring disqualification action against directors of companies involved in promoting tax avoidance. We support the principle behind the clause and will not oppose it. However, as the Chartered Institute of Taxation and, in particular, the Low Incomes Tax Reform Group have helpfully pointed out, there are questions about making sure these powers are targeted and used correctly. These questions arise because of cases where the true promoters of tax avoidance schemes recruit others, often vulnerable or naive individuals, to be directors of the company involved, thereby shielding themselves from any action. To be effective, the legislation needs to respond to that situation. On the one hand, the law needs to be able to pursue those ultimately responsible, whether they are formal directors or not. On the other hand, there needs to be a degree of discretion about the punishment of those recruited to be sham directors when they may be vulnerable people.
On the first of those points, I understand that the Government are aware that those ultimately behind an avoidance scheme may not be directors themselves and the legislation seems to recognise that. As the Low Incomes Tax Reform Group pointed out, the original draft legislation referred to directors, shadow directors and managers, which they felt covered the full range of people who may be behind tax avoidance schemes. However, while the legislation includes references to shadow directors, the category of managers is no longer mentioned. In his response, will the Minister explain the rationale behind removing the reference to managers and consider whether that needs to be reconsidered?
On those recruited to be sham directors, the Low Incomes Tax Reform Group has given powerful examples of where young or vulnerable people can be recruited without understanding what they are getting into. While ignorance is not an excuse, it is reasonable for HMRC to ensure that the consequences for vulnerable individuals who have unwittingly got involved are not unreasonably harsh.
Furthermore, this is about not only protecting vulnerable people but ensuring the sham directors do not end up taking the fall for those behind the scheme, thereby letting the latter off being punished and leaving them free to exploit a new round of vulnerable recruits. In his response, will the Minister explain what processes and checks HMRC will be putting in place to identify vulnerable people, thereby making sure that any action against sham directors is appropriate for the individuals concerned?
We know that there is a wider issue of bad faith actors setting up shell companies with fake directors, and then using those shell companies for a range of purposes, including the practice of sitting behind dodgy American-themed candy stores to avoid paying business rates. We have been calling for tougher identity-verification requirements for new companies. In the case of business rates, this would strengthen councils’ ability to take enforcement action against those who do not pay their bills. I realise it is beyond the scope of this debate, but will the Minister write to me with details of what conversations he has had with the Secretary of State for Business and Trade about using powers in the Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Act 2022 to specify identity verification requirements for new companies with Companies House?
Clause 33 introduces a new strict liability criminal offence for failing to comply with a stop notice issued by HMRC in relation to a tax avoidance scheme. In practice, this clause will escalate the punishment for failing to comply with a stop notice from its current position, which is penalties of up to £100,000 or £1 million in certain circumstances, to instead meaning that the promoter has committed a criminal offence if they fail to comply with a stop notice without a reasonable excuse.
We welcome firm action being taken against those promoting tax avoidance schemes. However, the Chartered Institute of Taxation has made it clear to HMRC that it is concerned that the decision to issue a stop notice, and thereby determine that a criminal act may have been committed, will rest entirely with HMRC with no external oversight. To make sure that appropriate safeguards are in place, I understand the Chartered Institute has proposed that failure to comply with a stop notice should be a criminal offence only if judicial approval for the issue of the notice has been obtained first. Alternatively, at the very least, the Chartered Institute of Taxation has made it clear that HMRC’s internal governance overseeing the issuing of stop notices must work effectively. Similarly, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales has proposed a number of safeguards, which I understand the Government have said that they will not consider. The ICAEW has also suggested that such stop notices should be issued only through a decision taken at a higher level of seniority within HMRC than at present.
I understand that HMRC has said that it does not support any of the range of safeguards proposed by these representative bodies, but has said that it will be sharing a clear picture of its governance process in due course. I would be grateful if the Minister confirmed when that will happen, and what checks and balances he expects this governance process to enshrine.
Finally, I will address clause 34, which relates to the construction industry scheme and gross payment status. Under the construction industry scheme, we know that contractors make deductions from payments to subcontractors and pass that money on to HMRC as an advance payment against the subcontractors’ tax liabilities. We know that a subcontractor can avoid this money being withheld by applying for gross payment status. Clause 34 limits those subcontractors who can hold this status by excluding any who fail to meet VAT obligations and who are involved in various categories of tax fraud. We welcome the principle of this measure in setting out to penalise subcontractors who do not follow the rules on tax. However, we recognise the concern, which was again raised by the Chartered Institute of Taxation, that it could have a disproportionate effect on the cashflow and reputation of subcontractors if they were to lose gross payment status as a result of minor VAT compliance failures.
We therefore welcome the fact that, as we understand it, draft regulations have been published to attempt to address this point. I would welcome the Minister’s further reassurances today that the Treasury will engage with the industry, including the Chartered Institute of Taxation, to make sure that the regulations are effective.
As I have made clear, we will not be opposing the clauses being considered in this debate, but I look forward to the Minister’s response to the detailed questions that I have raised in relation to them.
Richard Fuller Portrait Richard Fuller
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I wish to raise just a couple of points. Let me turn to the issues of pillar 2 and the moving forward of the Government’s policy on that in clause 21 and schedule 12. Obviously, that relates to changing the decision maker on the taxation rates for multinationals operating in this country from the British Government, elected by the British people, to the determinations of an international organisation through treaty.

As we move forward, it is important to be aware of the changing context. Hon. Members, particularly those from the Conservative Benches, have raised in the past the issue of who else is coming along to this particular minimum tax global party. We already know that China, one of the major economic actors in the world, is not part of the OECD, will not be complying with us and will not be part of these regulations. First, I am interested in any updates the Minister may have on those views about China. Secondly, it is clear that there will be an election in the United States later this year and that there is a significant difference in opinion between the Republican party and the Democrats about whether they will enact the US’s part in the taxation policies of pillars 1 and 2—particularly in pillar 2. Given that there is a reasonable chance—some say it is better than a 50:50 chance—that there may be a change in Administration in November and the United States could then withdraw from participation in the OECD process, can the Minister, in his summing up, give some reassurance to those Conservative Members who, although always supportive of the Prime Minister, may just want to make sure that we have clarity on what we would do in the eventuality that neither of the two major economies in the world—the United States and China—are taking part in this particular global minimum tax from multinationals.

I would also be interested to hear from the Minister—perhaps not from the Dispatch Box today, but separately with the taxation Minister—where the definition of certain words is moving in the Treasury and HMRC when it comes to tax avoidance and tax evasion. I recall that, many years ago, the difference was that tax evasion was illegal and that tax avoidance, while perhaps not what the HMRC wanted to happen, was legal. We see in the Finance Bill references to tax avoidance that imply that it is illegal. I worry that there is insufficient clarity, from HMRC’s perspective, on the difference between tax evasion, which is illegal, and tax avoidance, which is legal but perhaps not desirable. Perhaps the Minister could give some clarity on that.

All those on the Treasury Bench will be aware of the persistence of the concerns about the loan charge and other aspects of tax avoidance schemes, which HMRC has gone to court over, winning in certain actions and then deciding to apply blanket solutions to cases where there has never been a finding of fact in a court regarding the particular schemes. My specific question—I hope that this is within scope, Dame Rosie; you will tell me if it is not—is why we have not brought HMRC’s approach on tackling the loan charge to a conclusion. People have been pursued for far too long in an area that is far too grey. It would be interesting if the Minister had an update on that.

16:15
Lastly, I commend the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Ealing North (James Murray). I did not like his speech on the first group, but I thought that his speech on the present group was very good and very reasonable. He made a very important point, which I am sure the Government will want to look at, on failure to comply with stop notices, and the requirement—proposed, I think he said, by a third party—for some sort of judicial approval before a notice is issued. At the moment, the Bill basically says that HMRC, undefined, can issue such notices. That really is quite a significant further expansion of HMRC’s responsibilities. The shadow Minister referred to a good point: more protection is needed for those who might be caught by such notices. I am sure that those on the Government Front Bench always listen to points made on both sides of the House, but I thought that I would commend that point from the shadow Minister.
Sarah Olney Portrait Sarah Olney (Richmond Park) (LD)
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I will speak to new clauses 4 and 5, tabled in my name. I reiterate that the Liberal Democrats do not support the Bill, which is a deception from the Government after years of tax hikes on hard-working families. It arises from an autumn statement that contributed to a record fall in living standards by maintaining the Government’s stealth tax on working families through the freezing of income tax thresholds. Some of the measures under consideration today may have worthy aims, but that wider context must be noted.

New clause 5, tabled in my name, would require the Government to produce an assessment of the impact of the Bill’s tax evasion and avoidance measures. That assessment would specifically need to include a review of whether the staffing of the compliance functions of HMRC is sufficient to implement the new measures. That follows the revelation to me in answer to a parliamentary question last year that almost 2,300 HMRC tax compliance staff are still working on matters relating to our exit from the European Union and covid-19 schemes. That means that thousands of staff who would usually be working on recovering taxes or dealing with other issues are instead being redeployed to manage the Government’s mishandling of the pandemic and the Brexit deal.

It is alarming to see civil servants being moved from one crisis to another—an indication of a Government in non-stop firefighting mode. We have known for a long time that HMRC is an organisation beset by understaffing issues. Last year, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales said that such chronic understaffing is not only causing unacceptable delays to businesses and families but hindering activity and actively hurting our economy. With that knowledge, can we have faith that HMRC will be properly equipped to put the measures in the Bill into action?

While the measures in clauses 31 to 34 and schedule 13 may have worthy aims of combating tax avoidance and fraud, the knowledge of those shortcomings makes it very difficult to have confidence in the capacity of HMRC, and in particular its compliance functions, to administer the measures effectively. I therefore urge the Government to accept new clause 5, and support the Liberal Democrats in ensuring that HMRC is fully equipped with sufficient staff to tackle tax avoidance properly.

New clause 4, also in my name, concerns the Bill’s pillar 2 measures, in clause 21 and schedule 12. It would require the Government to produce an assessment of the impact of those measures, examining whether they have been successful in achieving their policy aims. As Liberal Democrats, we strongly believe in the need for a fair international system that tackles corporate tax avoidance and evasion for the benefit of all countries. We welcome the pioneering work that has taken place under the auspices of the OECD for the formation of a fairer international tax system. The measures in clause 21 arise from that process and enable the UK’s adoption of the income inclusion rule and domestic minimum top-up tax rule. As such, they are to be welcomed; however, issues remain.

Most crucially, we believe that the global minimum corporation tax rate set at 15% under the deal remains too low. Liberal Democrats have called on the Government to help negotiate an increase to 21%, as originally proposed by the US under President Biden. Organisations such as Oxfam have highlighted that the 15% minimum rate still leaves many developing countries at a disadvantage, as they will continue to face unfair competition from tax havens. It is extremely disappointing to see the Government’s failure to back a rate of 21%, despite having raised UK corporation tax to 25%. The significant progress that has been made should not be obstructed or diluted, but if we are serious about pursuing the goal of a fairer global tax system, we must also take the time to ensure that the best path is being followed.

Nigel Mills Portrait Nigel Mills
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I understand the intent of what the hon. Member says. Could she explain how the review could be done within six months of the Act being passed, given that no business will have filed a tax return with any adjustments in until well after that period? Indeed, half the world probably will not have introduced the measure by that stage. Would that not be a bit of a premature assessment? Would we not risk that assessment showing no progress and then strengthening the arguments of those who would like to repeal it? It would probably be quite a bad assessment to do at that stage.

Sarah Olney Portrait Sarah Olney
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I welcome the hon. Member’s intervention, and—dare I say it—I completely agree with him. Of course, one is constrained by what one can amend in legislation, but I would like to see that as the start of an ongoing process of review. Let us be honest, it is an innovative proposal, not just because it requires an international co-operative effort, but because that very effort is innovative. It is therefore something that we as a sovereign Parliament should be keeping very much under review as the work continues.

I briefly note that the Finance Bill has implications for theatre tax relief, which plays a crucial role in enabling the development of new theatre productions in the UK. UK Theatre and the Society of London Theatre have raised concerns with the Treasury about those implications, which could damage how that essential relief operates. I therefore urge Ministers to liaise with those groups and particularly to provide assurance that international touring will not be hampered due to the Bill’s definition of UK expenditure. That is certainly an area that would benefit from scrutiny in Public Bill Committee.

Although the Liberal Democrats support certain measures in the Bill, such as the extension of full expensing, the Bill as a whole does not have our support, arising, as it does, from an unjust and deceptive autumn statement. I urge hon. Members to support the amendments tabled in my name, in particular new clause 5, which would hold the Government to account to ensure that HMRC is properly resourced to allow it to implement the measures in the Bill.

Gareth Davies Portrait Gareth Davies
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I thank hon. Members from across the House for their contributions. I will speak relatively briefly but will try to address some of the points raised. I will deal last with the new clauses, and in the meantime address some of the questions from the hon. Member for Ealing North (James Murray) from the official Opposition. He asked about pillar 1 and the progress being made. This Government fully support pillar 1 and are keen to maintain momentum on its progress as soon as possible. He should take comfort from the recent publication of the substantially agreed text of the multilateral convention. That demonstrates progress, but as I say, we are not complacent on that and are keen to see further progress as soon as possible.

The hon. Gentleman very reasonably asked for more information on sentencing and the action taken by HMRC. I will give him some data. Last year, there were 240 prosecutions. Within that, there were 218 convictions, and 130 of those were custodial sentences and 110 were suspended sentences. That equates to a 90% success rate for HMRC. The hon. Gentleman is right that the average length of a custodial sentence is 24 months. We want to extend a maximum sentence for two reasons: first, to make it clear that we consider fraud and all fraudulent activity some of the most serious crime possible because of its impact on public finances; and secondly, because if the maximum sentence increases, we expect all sentences to rise, as sentences are judged relative to the maximum sentence. However, I stress that it is the Sentencing Council that issues the guidance to judges and it is ultimately judges and the courts who rightly decide what sentences are given to those found guilty.

The hon. Gentleman asked about safeguards for stop notices, and he is right to highlight that that is an important measure for HMRC. I can tell him there have already been 20 stop notices issued since HMRC started issuing them just a year ago, but there are robust governance processes and safeguards in place, including review and appeal rights. However, any criminal sentences are decided by the courts and it is the Sentencing Council that will decide on that. I will look carefully at the other questions he has raised and ask for a written response. If we have that data, I commit to writing to him with that information.

My hon. Friend the Member for North East Bedfordshire (Richard Fuller) has rightly and consistently raised his questions and concerns on pillar 2. I can tell him that the UK is implementing pillar 2 in time and alongside EU member states, Japan and Canada, which I think he would agree are all peers. He asked about China. China has not announced implementation plans for pillar 2, but it is a member of the inclusive framework of countries that are in negotiations right now on pillar 2 and we are monitoring that very carefully, as he would expect. The US Administration have always supported both pillars 1 and 2 and have been one of the strongest advocates for them; as he will know, in 2017, the United States introduced its own domestic version of pillar 2, requiring those companies with foreign income to pay a minimum level of taxation.

The punchline, to answer my hon. Friend’s ultimate question, is that already the agreement has been put in place to ensure that, by 2025, 90% of multinationals will be in play, so we are confident in the robustness of that agreement. He asked about the loan charge; I do not believe that is in scope for this debate, but the Financial Secretary to the Treasury will follow up with him and engage with him and the loan charge and taxpayer fairness all-party parliamentary group in due course.

I will briefly address the new clauses that have been laid down. I will deal with new clauses 2, 5 and 7 together, as they all relate to tax avoidance and evasion, and then I will address new clause 4. New clause 2 would require the Chancellor to provide a report on the average sentence and range of sentences given to offences being amended in clause 31, the number of stop notices issued that clause 33 would apply to and the impact of those clauses on tax revenues. New clause 5 would require the Chancellor to carry out an assessment of the impact of clauses 31 to 34 and schedule 13 on HMRC’s compliance activities and new clause 7 would require the Chancellor to review the effectiveness of the provisions of clause 31 in combating fraud involving taxpayers money.

Let me say straight out of the gate that I agree it is important that we regularly review and evaluate policy. However, the new clauses are unnecessary, as HMRC already publishes detailed information about its compliance and performance on a regular basis. As I have said, the UK tax gap is already at an all-time low of 4.8% and will remain low and stable, given the measures that we are implementing. Every year, HMRC publishes information on the number of custodial sentences received for tax compliance offences and the average sentence length in HMRC’s annual report and accounts. The 2023-24 annual report and accounts will be published this summer, providing a full overview of HMRC’s performance. As most of that information is already publicly available in routine HMRC publications, the assessments legislated for by the new clauses are unnecessary, in our humble view.

New clause 4 would require the Government to report an assessment of the technical changes to pillar 2 introduced in clause 21 and schedule 12. It would consider the efficacy of the technical changes and their impact on multinational profit shifting and tax competition between jurisdictions. The Government consider that such a report is not necessary because the amendments in the Bill are technical changes to enhance the pillar 2 legislation that received Royal Assent just last year. Those amendments simply help to ensure that the policy objectives of the legislation are met fairly and effectively, reflecting both new international guidance and stakeholder comments. Ultimately, it is about avoiding unintended consequences in legislation that has already been passed. Of course, the Government will monitor pillar 2’s overall impact as businesses begin to respond to its implementation around the world—130 countries are privy to it.

I hope to have reassured Members that the additions in new clauses 2, 4, 5 and 7 are not necessary. For the reasons that I have set out, I urge the Committee to reject them. I commend clauses 21 and 31 to 34, and schedules 12 and 13, to the Committee.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 21 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 12 agreed to.

Clauses 31 and 32 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 13 agreed to.

Clauses 33 and 34 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

New Clause 2

Review of measures to tackle evasion and avoidance

“(1) The Chancellor of the Exchequer must, within three months of this Act being passed, publish a review of the measures in sections 31 to 33 to tackle evasion and avoidance.

(2) The review under subsection (1) must include details of—

(a) the average sentence handed down in each of the last five years for the offences listed in section 31;

(b) the range of sentences handed down in each of the last five years for the offences listed in section 31;

(c) the number of stop notices issued in each of the last five years to which the measures in section 33 would apply; and

(d) the estimated impact on revenue collected in each of the next five financial years resulting from the introduction of the measures in sections 31 to 33.”—(James Murray.)

This new clause would require the Chancellor to publish details of the sentences given and stop notices issued in each of the last five years to tackle evasion and avoidance, as well as the revenue expected to be generated from the measures to tackle evasion and avoidance in this Act in each of the next five years.

Brought up and read the First time.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time.

16:32

Division 37

Ayes: 228


Labour: 165
Scottish National Party: 37
Liberal Democrat: 14
Independent: 7
Social Democratic & Labour Party: 2
Plaid Cymru: 2
Green Party: 1
Alba Party: 1

Noes: 298


Conservative: 293
Independent: 2
Democratic Unionist Party: 1

New Clause 5
Tax Compliance Reporting
(1) Within six months of the passage of this Act, the Chancellor of the Exchequer must carry out an assessment of the impact of sections 31 to 34 and Schedule 13 of this Act.
(2) The report must consider the capacity and ability of HMRC to enforce compliance with the measures contained in sections 31 to 34 and Schedule 13 of this Act, including setting out staffing arrangements within HMRC's Customer Compliance Group for undertaking enforcement work relating to sections 31 to 34 and Schedule 13 of this Act.”—(Sarah Olney.)
This new clause would require the government to produce an assessment of the impact of the Bill’s tax evasion and avoidance measures. The assessment would need to examine whether the capacity and ability of HMRC was sufficient to properly enforce those measures.
Brought up, and read the First time.
Question put, That the clause be read a Second time.
16:47

Division 38

Ayes: 18


Liberal Democrat: 12
Independent: 2
Plaid Cymru: 2
Labour: 2
Social Democratic & Labour Party: 1
Green Party: 1

Noes: 300


Conservative: 295
Independent: 2
Democratic Unionist Party: 1

New Clause 7
Review of effectiveness of section 31 measures in preventing fraud involving taxpayers’ money
“(1) The Chancellor of the Exchequer must, within three months of this Act being passed, conduct a review of the effectiveness of the provisions of section 31 in preventing fraud involving taxpayers’ money.
(2) The review must evaluate the effectiveness of the provisions of section 31 in preventing fraud involving taxpayers’ money through comparison with the effectiveness of—
(a) other measures that seek to prevent fraud involving taxpayers’ money, and
(b) the approach taken in other countries.”–(James Murray.)
This new clause would require the Chancellor to review the effectiveness of measures in this Act to prevent fraud involving taxpayers’ money, and to compare them with other measures that seek to prevent fraud involving taxpayers’ money and the approach taken in other countries.
Brought up and read the First time.
Question put, That the clause be read a Second time.
17:01

Division 39

Ayes: 222


Labour: 163
Scottish National Party: 37
Liberal Democrat: 13
Independent: 6
Social Democratic & Labour Party: 2
Plaid Cymru: 2
Green Party: 1
Alba Party: 1

Noes: 301


Conservative: 296
Independent: 2
Democratic Unionist Party: 1

Clause 25
Rebate on heavy oil and certain bioblends used for heating
Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.
Rosie Winterton Portrait The First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means (Dame Rosie Winterton)
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With this it will be convenient to discuss clause 27 stand part.

Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
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I will take clause 27 first. The changes that it makes clarify how VAT and excise legislation should be interpreted in the light of changes made by the Retained EU (Revocation and Reform) Act 2023, which came into effect on 1 January. The Act ends the supremacy and special status afforded to retained EU law in the UK. As we made clear when it was introduced, the Government are taking a bespoke approach to UK VAT and excise law. In line with the 2023 Act, clause 27 confirms that, for VAT and excise, it will no longer be possible for any part of any UK Act of Parliament or domestic subordinate legislation to be quashed or disapplied on the basis that it is incompatible with EU law. In other words, it will no longer be possible for businesses to rely on EU law where it is in conflict with domestic law. The measure also provides that UK VAT and excise law continues to be interpreted as Parliament intended, drawing on rights and principles that currently apply in interpreting UK law.

17:15
This legislation, which was subject to a Provisional Collection of Taxes Act 1968 resolution from 1 January, ensures the stability of the VAT and excise regimes and provides legal certainty for businesses following the changes in the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Act 2023 taking effect. It mitigates the risk of relitigating the settled interpretation of UK law, protecting billions of pounds of Exchequer revenue.
VAT and excise duty from alcohol, tobacco and hydrocarbon oil raise over £200 billion of revenue a year. VAT is a litigious area, with the existing framework and precedents protecting large amounts of revenue. For example, £5 billion of tax revenue was protected in just five VAT cases with the support of such precedents. VAT operates in real time, with VAT invoices and the associated money being passed between businesses and other businesses or consumers on the basis of the law in place at that time, which means legal certainty is key. Businesses rely on this to ensure that their tax affairs are correct, and HMRC relies on it to collect tax.
EU principles and rights will therefore continue to apply solely as aids to interpreting UK legislation. Any potential change in interpretation would create uncertainty for business. It could open up loopholes to be exploited by those looking to avoid paying their fair share, risking billions of pounds of Exchequer funds.
I move on to clause 25. At Budget 2020, to help meet our climate change and air quality targets, the Government announced that we would remove the entitlement to use rebated fuels from most sectors. Rebated fuels, such as red diesel and certain heavy oils, incur a lower rate of fuel duty, in contrast to the petrol and diesel used by cars and other road vehicles, which incur the full rate of fuel duty. As part of these reforms, the Government decided to continue to allow rebated heavy oils, other than red diesel and bio-blends made with red diesel, to be used for all heating uses, due to the concern that removing the entitlement to use these fuels for this purpose would significantly increase the heating bills of the households and businesses that use them, especially in areas off the gas grid.
However, as enacted, the Hydrocarbon Oil Duties Act 1979 prevents machines and appliances from using certain rebated heavy oils for commercial heating. That includes fuel oil used in some commercial heating applications, including in furnaces. As the Government’s intention was to continue to allow the use of rebated fuel for heating, HMRC has exercised its discretion on collection and management powers to allow the use on this basis. The assumption was that the existing legislation would be changed at the earliest opportunity, which is what we are doing now. Clause 25 amends the 1979 Act, giving clarity to the dozen or so businesses affected by this anomaly, in line with the Government’s announced policy position. I make it clear that no consumers have been disadvantaged by this error.
These changes are necessary to provide legal certainty for business and to ensure that the relevant regimes operate as intended. I therefore commend clauses 25 and 27 to the Committee.
Tulip Siddiq Portrait Tulip Siddiq (Hampstead and Kilburn) (Lab)
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I rise to speak to the clauses relating to VAT and excise, beginning with clause 25, which restores the full tax rebate for machines and appliances that use non-gas heavy oils and bio-blends for commercial heating purposes. The Government have said that this is to correct an anomaly brought about by the April 2022 changes to the Hydrocarbon Oil Duties Act 1979, which mean that machines using kerosene have benefited from a full rebate while those using other types of heavy oil were made ineligible for lower duty rates when used for heating.

The Government have said that their April 2022 tax changes were intended to reduce the use of gas fuels and to make progress against the UK’s climate commitments. However, perversely, under the current system companies receive a tax penalty for using next-generation renewable fuels such as hydrotreated vegetable oil for heating, instead of kerosene, despite the fact that HVO produces nearly 90% less greenhouse gas emissions. I therefore support clause 25, which seeks to correct that unintended error and restore equivalent tax treatment for the use of non-gas heavy fuels for commercial heating. However, let us be clear: the correction will have a limited impact on businesses across the UK facing rocketing heating bills as the cold starts to bite this winter.

We also know that it is often the scandalous lack of grid connections that forces many businesses, particularly in rural areas of Scotland, to operate their machines off grid, using heavy oils and biofuels. Changing tax incentives, although significant, will not deliver the overhaul our energy system needs to become a clean energy superpower. After 13 years of mismanagement, our energy grid is on its knees, with new developments forced to wait up to 15 years for a new connection and more than £200 billion of privately funded energy projects stuck in limbo.

Labour will prioritise reforming the grid, overseeing the largest upgrade to our national transmission infrastructure in a generation and accelerating connections for those who are forced off grid. We cannot afford to keep dragging our feet any longer. The Government claim they are serious about delivering the transition and boosting the use of clean energy sources, but the neglect of our grid infrastructure has been shocking. We know that the significant increase in both clean power generation and clean industry that the UK will need to reach net zero will require four times as much grid infrastructure in the next seven years as has been built in the past 30. Although the Opposition do not oppose clause 25, which is a welcome correction, ensuring that tax incentives for non-gas heavy fuels remain consistent is the bare minimum we should be expecting from the Government on this vital issue.

I move on to clause 27, which seeks to clarify UK primacy on VAT and excise law following the passage of the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill. The Government’s draft legislation seeks to ensure that in relation to VAT and excise law it will no longer be possible for any UK Act of Parliament or domestic subordinate legislation to be quashed or disapplied on the basis that it was incompatible with retained EU law. The Government state that this measure will

“ensure the stability of the VAT and excise regime”,

providing legal certainty for businesses. Labour, unsurprisingly, supports the objective of this legislation; ensuring that firms have clarity over how the VAT and excise regimes should be interpreted following the UK’s departure from the EU is crucial to retaining business confidence. However, following the Government’s public consultation, which concluded in November, it remains entirely unclear whether the measure achieves its stated objective of reducing the complexity for businesses of interpreting the VAT regime.

In its consultation response, the Chartered Institute of Taxation highlighted a number of concerns about the proposals, pointing out that the significant complexity in interpreting this draft legislation risks undermining the certainty it seeks to deliver. Specifically, the CIOT points out that the distinction drawn in the legislation between disapplication and the quashing of UK law as a result of EU law, and interpretation,

“might in practice be insufficient to achieve the desired result”.

Consultation feedback also pointed out that the measures in clause 27 do not make it clear how far higher courts are intended to be bound by prior case law from the Court of Justice of the EU, thus creating uncertainty for businesses and advisers.

Although taking a “bespoke UK approach” to VAT and excise legislation is welcome in principle, the draft legislation also fails to address the fact that the removal of the reliance on EU provisions will create significant gaps in UK legislation where our domestic rule book did not fully transpose EU directives. It is not just tax experts that have sought to draw attention to this issue through the Government’s consultation; the industry body for the banking and finance sector, UK Finance, has warned over and over again that the draft legislation

“does not appear to adequately address”

the complexity of the VAT landscape

“thereby sustaining a high degree of uncertainty for industry and the prospect of settled interpretations of VAT law being disturbed.”

The trade body pointed out that although EU VAT law includes a clear VAT exemption for intermediary services in connection with bank accounts, the exemption has not been implemented in UK law. With business no longer able to rely on the direct effect of EU law, material changes to VAT exemptions in the financial services sector will come into effect. That is just one example from my own shadow brief, but it highlights the additional uncertainty that this “clarifying” draft legislation has already created for business. Despite the clear message from tax experts and industry in the consultation, it seems that the proposals are at best problematic. It is of particular concern that the Government seem to have ignored that feedback and ploughed on, with not a single amendment made to the draft legislation.

Detailed guidance is needed to address the significant issues that have already been raised regarding clause 27 and to ensure it meets its objectives. Labour will not oppose the measure as we remain supportive of it in principle, but urgent clarity is needed as it will come into effect from the beginning of this year. The shock that a Government measure designed to provide “legal certainty and stability” has raised more questions than answers has slightly worn off for those of us obliged to follow the circus on the Government Benches on a daily basis.

To conclude, we will not oppose the two clauses, but the detail of the proposals continues to raise questions about the competence of the Government. From being able to afford low-carbon fuel and avoid crippling heating bills to having certainty over the VAT regime, UK businesses deserve far better. After 13 years of leadership, we need a Government who can provide the confidence that businesses desperately need, using the clean energy sources of the future to drive growth and investment across the country.

Mike Penning Portrait Sir Mike Penning (Hemel Hempstead) (Con)
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It is a pleasure to have sat through the Committee stage of the Bill and to hear the Government talk about the advantages we have from Brexit. I am pleased to hear that the Government have looked, and continue to look, extensively at the taxation system—in particular at the interpretation of VAT, as mentioned in this clause.

One interpretation of VAT in this country massively affects people who are visually impaired and those who cannot read, perhaps because of dyslexia: there is no VAT on books, but the Treasury apply VAT at 5% to audiobooks. If that interpretation of VAT is to be taken as far as it possibly can, I am disappointed that disabled people are not being protected within the structure of the Bill, in the way that they have been for many years.

Years ago, when I was disabilities Minister, I was told that VAT changes could not happen because we were in the EU. We are no longer in the EU and we can set our VAT rates as we would like. It would be fundamentally good if the Government came forward with an interpretation of VAT that said that people who rely on audiobooks, through no fault of their own, do not have to be penalised by VAT at 5%. I am not talking only about the visually impaired—I declare an interest: I am dyslexic and rely on audiobooks, although not completely. People who do not read Braille are being punished as well.

The Government continue to look at new taxation rules and new ways of making sure that people do not get around the taxation system, and it is clear that they are looking at the implementation of VAT. What better spring present for those who rely on audiobooks than for the Minister to say that he will meet me, talk about the issue further and perhaps look at the early-day motion in my name?

Drew Hendry Portrait Drew Hendry
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The technical changes in clauses 25 and 27 open up a lot of questions. I agree with the Labour Front Bench spokespeople that there are many questions on operation that still have to be answered, but there are wider questions about both these clauses, inspired by their context. Before I get to them, I want to point out that this Finance Bill is a stark reminder that the Westminster Government never reflect the values of the people of Scotland. We need independence so that we can build a fair and dynamic economy that works for everyone. People are suffering through the bitterest cost of living crisis. The provisions set out in the Finance Bill are nowhere near enough to help households in Scotland, which have been left paying the price for disastrous decisions by Westminster Governments—not least the harm of Brexit. There is no help for families struggling with rocketing food prices, and no help for mortgage payers, many of whom are now seeing huge increases in their fixed-rate deals.

17:30
The cold is biting right now. A week ago, this Westminster Government oversaw not the hoped-for help of the £400 energy bill rebate that we in the SNP called for, but another 5% hike, courtesy of the price cap increase.
Although clause 25 is righting a small wrong, people living off the gas grid deserve a lot more help than is being offered with this measure. They should have had the comfort of being included in regulation under Ofgem, as imperfect as that organisation is. Indeed, I introduced a ten-minute rule Bill in this House to ask for that, yet people living off grid are still suffering from a wild west approach to pricing in how they heat their homes. That affects many people across my constituency and other large rural areas. They simply do not have a choice when prices surge. This is a tiny measure being taken today, and more should have been done.
I mentioned the £400 support that we called for, but a social tariff should also have been considered. There should have been reductions, not increases, in the price cap to help people at this juncture. Energy policy, as we know, is fully reserved to Westminster, and it is the Chancellor who decides whether people can afford to put the heat on. Well, a lot of folk cannot afford to do so.
In my constituency, and across the highlands and islands, we produce six times more clean, cheap, renewable energy than is needed by the people living there. The massive bulk of that production is exported to other parts of the nations of the UK, yet, in return, we get to pay higher standing charges and higher unit prices in a climate that demands that we use more to make life bearable. We suffer the highest fuel poverty. Electricity charges in the highlands are around 30% higher than they are here in London, according to Ofgem. How is that fair?
The Chancellor offered £1,000 a year off energy bills for those living near planned new power lines and generating equipment. The question we now ask is: what about those already living next to and among generating equipment? Why should they not be included and compensated in the same way? After the long years of this energy injustice, it must now be time to right that wrong. The Chancellor must establish a highland energy rebate, and, again, speed is of the essence. All of this and more should be done, but the fact is that this place does not act on Scotland’s needs. We have the energy, but we do not have the power. We should have that through independence.
On clause 27, as highlighted in the explanatory notes to the Bill and in the Minister's comments, we know that the Chancellor will raise more than £200 billion pounds a year in VAT and excise duty alone, a significant amount of that on the back of Scotland’s food, whisky and oil production. The Conservatives’—and now Labour’s and the Liberal Democrats’—Brexit was supposed to release the means to support business. Instead, all Brexit has brought is red tape and heartache. We see the results of that today in this debate. So let us see the Government step forward. I am not expecting them to fulfil the wild promises of Brexit—there is no possibility of that—but let us see whether they can live up to a tiny amount in the form of a VAT cut for the tourism and hospitality sector and some support for disabled people. I agree with the right hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead (Sir Mike Penning) that there should be more attention paid to that.
The UK Government’s attempt to sell the tax measures set out in the statement as a giveaway for working people is beyond belief. The Office for Budget Responsibility has been clear that the Chancellor’s decision to freeze income tax will create 3.2 million extra taxpayers by 2028, with 2.6 million people more in higher tax bands. This is a Tory-made cost of living crisis. The reality is that households in Scotland are paying the price for the UK Government’s mismanagement of the economy, with an especially devastating impact on vulnerable people.
The stark difference between the UK Government’s autumn statement, and consequently the Bill, and the Scottish Government’s Budget, which prioritises ensuring that everyone in Scotland can have a decent standard of living, is a timely reminder of why we need to get our own governance. In December, a report by UNICEF found that the UK’s child poverty rates were among the highest in the world’s richest countries. The report compared well-off countries’ efforts to reduce child poverty, and the UK ranked as one of the worst-performing, coming 37th out of the 39 nations of the EU and the OECD.
We also know that the cost of living crisis is disproportionately impacting disabled people. Again, the call for a VAT cut is valid, but there was nothing in the Chancellor’s autumn statement or the Bill that will do anything to make it easier for those with disabilities to get through this cost of living crisis. Indeed, the Government seem committed to making the lives of those with disabilities more difficult through a renewed focus on ramping up the use of cruel benefit sanctions. In October last year, research by Scope found that nearly one in three disabled people face debt. James Taylor, executive director of strategy at Scope, noted:
“When disabled people are being pushed into debt and can’t afford to eat, stay warm or shower, it’s clear the system is broken. These figures lay bare the fact disabled people are being hit hardest in this crisis.”
It is utterly shameful that the UK Government have failed to introduce measures in the autumn statement or the Bill that would improve the lives of millions of people who are facing poverty, and in some cases actual destitution. The fundamental problems with the autumn statement and the Bill are what was omitted from it.
Patrick Grady Portrait Patrick Grady (Glasgow North) (SNP)
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Is this not the problem? If we do not invest in people’s health and wellbeing, in the long term it will cost the NHS, social services and the Department for Work and Pensions even more to support people as they continue to spiral down. Does that not contrast with the preventive approach that the Scottish Government take, with such innovations as the baby box and the child payment?

Drew Hendry Portrait Drew Hendry
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My hon. Friend is right: the on-costs of not doing so lead to further problems, and to higher costs not only to the public purse but to the mental and physical wellbeing of those who are impacted by the cost of living crisis.

These major fiscal events serve as a tangible example of the total mismatch between the values of the UK Government and the people of Scotland. The things that the UK Government choose to spend money on and the tax measures that they have chosen to leave out of the Bill, such as abolishing non-dom status, are a clear reminder of that. It is abhorrent that at the same time as announcing cruel measures to force ill and disabled people into work, the UK Government did not include any provisions on making the tax system fairer. There are countless examples of the UK Government wasting money and then attempting to claw back the funds by targeting groups who are the least well off. The return to draconian measures forced on ill and disabled people is just the latest example. The stark difference between the Bill and the Scottish Government’s Budget, which prioritises ensuring that everyone in Scotland can have a decent standard of living, is a timely reminder of why we need independence.

The SNP believes that building a strong economy starts with giving people a decent standard of living, and our most recent Budget reflected that, as my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow North (Patrick Grady) mentioned. The Scottish Government’s Budget reflects the people of Scotland’s shared values and speaks to the kind of Scotland that we want to be. It is important to remember that the Scottish Government have achieved that against the backdrop of their very limited ability to raise additional revenue through taxes, and having to work largely with a fixed budget. Despite those very difficult circumstances, the Scottish Government have once again shown their commitment to protecting the NHS from strikes, as well as investing in it and shielding the most vulnerable people, as far as possible, from the impact of regressive Westminster policies.

While the Tories have just delivered a 3% real-terms cut to England’s NHS in their autumn statement, the Scottish Government announced an increase to the frontline NHS budget in real terms. They also remain committed to helping those most impacted by the cost of living crisis. In their Budget last month, the Scottish Government increased the game-changing Scottish child payment in line with inflation to £26.70 a week, giving more support to the more than 323,000 under-16s who receive it. They maintained their commitment to invest £1 billion over the course of this Parliament to tackle the poverty-related attainment gap, with £200 million to be distributed in 2024-25. They are committed to funding the £12-per-hour real living wage for adult and child social care, and early learning and childcare workers in the private, voluntary and independent sectors that deliver funded provision. They have helped households through the cost of living crisis by making available an additional £144 million of funding to councils that agree to fully fund a council tax freeze in 2024-25—the funding equivalent of supporting a 5% increase. Those are just the latest measures the Scottish Government have taken to promote equality.

The Scottish Government have of course introduced landmark policies to ensure that everyone in Scotland has access to a decent standard of living. If Westminster was in charge, Scotland would lose things like free university tuition, free school meals, free period products, free bus travel for under-22s and free childcare for three and four-year-olds, as well as eligible two-year-olds. All that is possible because the Scottish Government take a different approach to a Budget than this place, and we need to ensure that we can do that in a much more effective way through the powers of independence.

Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
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I think some hon. Members may have tried to expand the debate strictly beyond the scope of the measures we are debating; for understandable reasons, I will stick strictly to the clauses.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Sir Mike Penning) made some important points about ensuring that we take full advantage of the benefits of leaving the European Union. Of course, we have already made progress in that area by removing, replacing and improving retained EU law, including revoking all direct EU regulations in relation to customs duty, introducing a UK tariff and domestic customs regime, introducing VAT relief for women’s period products and for the installation of energy-saving materials, and so on. On the points he made regarding potential future changes to VAT, we of course always keep tax under review. He will forgive me for not making tax policy at the Dispatch Box this evening, tempted as I am; that is the purpose of key fiscal events. I will absolutely commit to meeting my right hon. Friend, as I am always willing to listen and hear comments.

Comments were made about encouraging the use of greener fuels. The Government encourage the use of renewable fuels through the renewable transport fuel obligation, which incentivises the use of low-carbon fuels and reduces emissions from fuels supplied for use in transport and non-road mobile machinery. On the point about the Court of Justice, the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 provides that Court of Justice of the European Union judgments issued since the end of the implementation period are not binding on UK courts. On the point about codifying everything, trying to codify all interpretative effects into black and white UK law would of course be a huge endeavour and would require a complete review of all that legislation, taking many years and still leaving significant tax revenue at risk.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 25 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 27 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

The Deputy Speaker resumed the Chair.

Bill (Clauses 1 and 2, schedule 1, clause 21, schedule 12, clauses 25, 27 and 31 to 34, and schedule 13) reported, without amendment, and ordered to lie on the Table.

Finance Bill (Ways and Means)

Ways and Means resolution
Monday 5th February 2024

(3 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Finance Act 2024 Read Hansard Text Watch Debate Amendment Paper: Consideration of Bill Amendments as at 5 February 2024 - (5 Feb 2024)
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That provision may be made for the electricity generator levy not to apply to new generating plant.—(Nigel Huddleston.)
Roger Gale Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Sir Roger Gale)
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I call the SNP spokesperson.

17:22
Drew Hendry Portrait Drew Hendry (Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey) (SNP)
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I rise to speak about the procedure being used here. This motion is very odd and worryingly symptomatic of a Government avoiding their responsibilities to this House, given that they could have tabled an amendment of the law resolution, which would have allowed them to add their new clause to the debate today, without this unique use of Standing Orders. This resolution has prevented Members from tabling any new clauses or amendments relating to the subject, because there is no time between the end of the debate and the beginning of the next one to table any relevant motions, as I would have liked to have done, for example, on the highland energy rebate for people living among generating equipment, both planned and existing. I sincerely hope that this unique use of Standing Orders does not become standard, as any future legislation based on a Ways and Means resolution can be unilaterally changed with almost no notice and no opportunity for this House to table related amendments.

Question put and agreed to.

Finance Bill

Consideration of Bill, not amended in the Committee and the Public Bill Committee.
[Relevant documents: Nineteenth Report of the Treasury Committee of Session 2022–23, Venture Capital, HC 134, and the Government response, HC 1876; Sixteenth Report of the Treasury Committee of Session 2022–23, Tax Simplification, HC 1425; Oral evidence taken before the Treasury Committee on 29 November 2023, on the Autumn Statement 2023, HC 286; Oral evidence taken before the Treasury Committee on the afternoon of 28 November 2023, on the Autumn Statement 2023, HC 286; Oral evidence taken before the Treasury Committee on the morning of 28 November 2023, on the Autumn Statement 2023, HC 286; Oral evidence taken before the Treasury Committee on 18 November 2023, on the Work of HMRC, HC 783; Correspondence from the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the Treasury Committee, on the Autumn Statement 2023, reported to the House on 9 January 2024; Correspondence from the Financial Secretary to the Treasury to the Treasury Committee, on tax simplification, reported to the House on 13 December 2023; Correspondence from the Financial Secretary to the Treasury to the Treasury Committee, on tax simplification, reported to the House on 5 September 2023.]
New Clause 5
New investment exemption
“(1) Part 5 of F(No.2)A 2023 (electricity generator levy) is amended as follows.
(2) In section 280 (key concepts), in subsection (1), in the definition of “relevant” (as in relevant generating station)—
(a) omit the “and” after paragraph (a), and
(b) after paragraph (b) insert “, and
(c) to the extent it is not comprised of qualifying new generating plant (see section 311A);”.
(3) After section 311 insert—
“311A Meaning of “qualifying new generating plant”
(1) Generating plant is “qualifying new generating plant” if it is new generating plant commissioned as part of a qualifying project that meets the new investment condition.
(2) The new investment condition is met in relation to a qualifying project if on 21 November 2023 it was reasonable to conclude, having regard to all of the circumstances, that there is a significant likelihood of the project not proceeding.
(3) The Treasury may by regulations provide for cases in which qualifying projects are to be treated as meeting the new investment condition.
(4) “Qualifying project” means a project to commission—
(a) new generating plant for—
(i) a new generating station, or
(ii) an existing generating station which (as a result of the project) is to be wholly or substantially comprised of new generating plant, or
(b) new generating plant that increases the generating capacity of an existing generating station.
(5) Subsection (6) applies where new generating plant that increases the generating capacity of an existing generating station replaces existing generating plant.
(6) Only so much of the new generating plant as represents generating capacity in excess of the capacity of the generating plant it replaces is to be regarded as qualifying new generating plant.”
(4) In section 313 (definitions in this Part), in the table, at the appropriate place insert—

“qualifying new generating plant

section 311A”.”

(Nigel Huddleston.)
This new clause introduces an exemption from the Electricity Generator Levy for new generating plant in respect of which no substantive decision to proceed with the project had been made before the day of the Autumn Statement.
Brought up, and read the First time.
17:24
Nigel Huddleston Portrait The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Nigel Huddleston)
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I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Roger Gale Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Sir Roger Gale)
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With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

New clause 1—Review of effectiveness of section 31 measures in preventing fraud involving taxpayers’ money

“(1) The Chancellor of the Exchequer must, within three months of this Act being passed, conduct a review of the effectiveness of the provisions of section 31 in preventing fraud involving taxpayers’ money.

(2) The review must evaluate the effectiveness of the provisions of section 31 in preventing fraud involving taxpayers’ money through comparison with the effectiveness of—

(a) other measures that seek to prevent fraud involving taxpayers’ money, and

(b) the approach taken in other countries.”

This new clause would require the Chancellor to review the effectiveness of measures in this Act to prevent fraud involving taxpayers’ money, and to compare them with other measures that seek to prevent fraud involving taxpayers’ money and the approach taken in other countries.

New clause 2—Review of reliefs for research and development

“(1) The Chancellor of the Exchequer must, within three months of this Act being passed, publish a review of the implementation costs of the measures in section 2 incurred by—

(a) HMRC, and

(b) businesses.

(2) The review under subsection (1) must include details of the implementation costs of all measures related to credit or relief for research and development that have been introduced since December 2019.”

This new clause would require the Chancellor to publish a review setting out the total implementation costs of all changes to research and development reliefs in the current Parliament.

New clause 3—Review of measures to tackle evasion and avoidance

“(1) The Chancellor of the Exchequer must, within three months of this Act being passed, publish a review of the measures in sections 31 to 33 to tackle evasion and avoidance.

(2) The review under subsection (1) must include details of—

(a) the average sentence handed down in each of the last five years for the offences listed in section 31;

(b) the range of sentences handed down in each of the last five years for the offences listed in section 31;

(c) the number of stop notices issued in each of the last five years to which the measures in section 33 would apply; an

(d) the estimated impact on revenue collected in each of the next five financial years resulting from the introduction of the measures in sections 31 to 33.”

This new clause would require the Chancellor to publish details of the sentences given and stop notices issued in each of the last five years to tackle evasion and avoidance, as well as the revenue expected to be generated from the measures to tackle evasion and avoidance in this Act in each of the next five years.

New clause 4—Review of public health, inequality and poverty effects of Act

“(1) The Chancellor of the Exchequer must review the public health, inequality and poverty effects of the provisions of this Act and lay a report of that review before the House of Commons within six months of the passing of this Act.

(2) The review must consider—

((a) the effects of the provisions of this Act on the levels of relative and absolute poverty across the UK including devolved nations and regions,

((b) the effects of the provisions of this Act on socioeconomic inequalities, and on population groups with protected characteristics as defined by the 2010 Equality Act, across the UK including devolved nations and regions,

((c) the effects of the provisions of this Act on life expectancy and healthy life expectancy across the UK including devolved nations and regions, and

(d) the implications for the public finances of the public health and NHS effects of the provisions of this Act.”

New clause 6—Assessment of the impact of permanent full expensing

“(1) The Chancellor of the Exchequer must, within six months of this Act being passed, publish an assessment of the impact of the measures in clause 1 of this Act on—

(a) business investment, and

(b) economic growth.

(2) The review under subsection (1) must—

((a) assess the impact of full expensing being made permanent, and

(b) consider what other policies would support the effectiveness of the measures in clause 1 of this Act.”

This new clause would require the Chancellor to publish an assessment of the impact on investment and growth of the measures in this Act to make full expensing permanent, and to consider what other policies could support the effectiveness of permanent full expensing.

New clause 7—Review of multipliers used to calculate higher rates of air passenger duty

“(1) The Chancellor of the Exchequer must, at the next fiscal event, publish a review of the multipliers used to calculate higher rates of air passenger duty for each destination band.

(2) This review must propose options for introducing a multiplier to link the higher rate and the reduced rate within the domestic band.

(3) The Chancellor must, at the next fiscal event, make clear what changes, if any, he will implement as a result of this review.”

This new clause would require the Chancellor to publish a review of the multipliers used to calculate the higher rates of air passenger duty, and to propose options for introducing a multiplier to link the higher rate and the reduced rate within the domestic band.

Government amendments 1 to 6.

Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
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The Government’s aim is to grow the economy for the good of everyone, and our tax system is a key part of that. For households, higher taxes mean less financial freedom and less choice in how they spend their money. For businesses, they can mean less growth and investment, and that means fewer jobs for workers. That is why we need to grow our economy to create jobs and give ourselves the financial headroom to reduce taxes and remove the barriers to private sector investment. We must have a tax system that is supportive of business.

At spring Budget 2023, the Chancellor set out his approach for a highly competitive business tax regime. By announcing generous tax incentives combined with a rate of corporation tax that remains the lowest in the G7, the Government ensured that the UK is one of the best places in the world for businesses to grow and invest, but we should not be satisfied with simply being one of the best. This Bill therefore marks our next step in making the UK the best place in the world to do business.

We are taking huge, ambitious steps to make that a reality in the autumn statement and in the Bill. For example, no other major economy has made full expensing permanent. That is a major step in encouraging more investment by giving a huge tax relief to those who invest. Alongside that, we have introduced a generous new regime for research and development carried out by companies. We are now going further to encourage even more investment by introducing new clause 5, which will exempt receipts from new electricity generating projects from the electricity generator levy.

I will address each amendment in turn, looking first at the details of new clause 5. The electricity generator levy was introduced following the energy crisis to ensure that energy companies with extraordinary returns contribute more towards vital public services and support for households. However, we must balance that against ensuring that the UK remains a brilliant place to invest in renewables. The new clause makes changes to the EGL that will exempt receipts from new electricity generating projects from the levy. It will ensure that all generators in scope of the levy will benefit from the exemption if they choose to proceed with investments in new generation capacity and make a substantive decision to go ahead with a project on or after 22 November 2023—the date of the autumn statement. That will help support continued investment in the UK’s renewable generation capacity by removing new investments from the tax and providing businesses with the confidence to make such new investments.

I turn to Government amendments 1 to 3. To ensure that the research and development tax relief clauses in the Bill work as intended, the Government are proposing technical amendments to the R&D clauses. The Bill introduces a new enhanced support for R&D-intensive small and medium-sized enterprises, such as those in our vital life sciences sector. From April 2024, the R&D intensity threshold will be reduced from 40% to 30%.

Amendments 1 and 2 make changes to ensure that R&D-intensive companies get the relief as intended. Amendment 1 removes two situations where a company would appear less R&D-intensive than it actually is. These issues were raised with us by an industry stakeholder, for which I am grateful. To avoid abuse and to protect the scheme for genuinely R&D-intensive companies, the ratio is worked out at a group level. Currently in the legislation, companies within groups that charge each other for services could have costs double counted and therefore reduce their R&D intensity. The amendment will fix that. The Government do not want to exclude companies from relief because of legitimate commercial arrangements that do not affect the underlying true R&D intensity of the business.

On top of providing more support for R&D-intensive companies, the Bill will simplify and improve our R&D reliefs by merging the R&D SMEs scheme with the R&D expenditure credit. To ensure that those clauses work as intended, the Government propose technical amendments to the R&D clauses. Companies and accountants wanted the merged scheme to be implemented on an accountancy period basis as that makes claims simpler and delays the merged scheme for the majority of current R&D expenditure credit claimants. It therefore gives them a bit more time to prepare.

The new rules for contracted-out R&D will ensure that the company making the decision to do the R&D and bearing the risk is the one that gets the relief. However, that means that, as currently drafted, there could be temporary situations when two companies are in a contractual relationship and one moves into the new R&D tax credit system ahead of the other. For a limited period of time, that could result in situations where both parties could claim on the same R&D or neither could claim, as was raised by stakeholders. Amendment 3 ensures that the legislation works as intended. For temporary double claims, the R&D credit will go to the claimant in the old system until both have started new accounting periods. To avoid a temporary gap where no company can claim, the legislation will be amended to ensure that subcontractors can claim where their customer is still in the old system.

17:31
I want to clarify the definition of “contracted out R&D”, as some stakeholders have been concerned that the legislation allows a company to claim for a contract as R&D if it merely thinks that R&D will take place. That is not the case. The word “contemplating” has been deliberately used because, in legal terms, it means that the company will know that specific actions are being considered, planned and required for the R&D to take place, rather than just generally thinking that it will take place. The Government will publish updated guidance for comment this week, to help companies understand the new rules.
The Bill has a package of groundbreaking reforms to reliefs for the creative industries. Amendments 4 to 6 ensure that claims for the creative industries’ tax reliefs are submitted with the required information to effectively administer the reliefs, while removing a potential disadvantage for companies. The Government are legislating in the Bill to introduce an additional information requirement for claims to the creative reliefs. Companies will have to provide additional information to support their claims, which will help protect the reliefs from fraud and error.
As the legislation is currently drafted, a claim is invalid if the required information is not provided. Where that information relates to connected party transactions, His Majesty's Revenue and Customs cannot verify that it is complete and correct at the point the claim is submitted. If it is discovered at a later date that required information related to connected party transactions was omitted, that would lead to the whole claim being treated as invalid and no relief being granted. A company may then be out of time to resubmit its claim. To prevent companies from being disadvantaged in this way, the amendments fix the additional information requirement to allow HMRC to specify the consequences of failure to provide information in regulations. That will ensure that entire claims are not automatically invalidated in cases where the claimant company has not provided HMRC with all the information related to its connected party transactions within the time limit.
I have outlined the case for each of the Government amendments, and I therefore urge the House to accept them.
James Murray Portrait James Murray (Ealing North) (Lab/Co-op)
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In speaking to new clause 6, which relates to permanent full expensing, I remind the House of the context in which this Finance Bill was published. It followed the Chancellor’s statement on 22 November last year, in which he claimed that he was delivering an “autumn statement for growth”. Members will remember, however, that the same day, the Office for Budget Responsibility confirmed that growth forecasts had been cut by more than half for the coming year, cut again for the year after that, and cut yet again for the year after that. Independent analysts confirmed that even after all the changes that the Government had announced, personal taxes would still rise. They are set to rise by £1,200 per household by 2028-29, with the tax burden on track to be the highest since the second world war.

That was the context in which this Bill was published: flatlining wages, higher taxes, higher mortgage payments and worsening public services—all the product of 14 years of Conservative economic failure. Our country needs change. A critical part of making that change will be to get our country’s growth rate up. We need a plan for growth, to make people across Britain better off, and to ensure sustainable funding for our public services. Labour has been developing our plan for growth by working hand in hand with businesses across the country and across the economy.

We know how highly businesses that are considering investing in the UK rate stability, predictability and a long-term plan. For that reason, we welcome the fact that, as our new clause 6 highlights, the Bill makes full expensing permanent. Permanent full expensing is something we have long called for, as a policy that can support greater business investment and economic growth. Because Labour knows how important stability and predictability are to businesses, the shadow Chancellor, my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds West (Rachel Reeves), announced last week that Labour is committed to maintaining permanent full expensing in the UK tax system, as well as the annual investment allowance, if we win the next general election. The shadow Chancellor has made this commitment to offer businesses certainty for the years ahead. Businesses considering plant and machinery investment across Britain can be confident that the tax treatment of that investment would not change with a Labour Government.

Of course, there is still a general election to face, so I use this opportunity to invite the Minister to put on the record whether the Conservatives will follow our lead by confirming that should they win the general election, they will maintain permanent full expensing. I am sure many businesses would welcome the certainty that would come from knowing both the main parties are going into the election fully committed to keeping permanent full expensing. I urge the Minister, when he responds, to confirm whether that will be his party’s policy going into the general election.

After all the chopping and changing we have seen in capital allowances in recent years, the Minister needs to make the commitment explicit. As I mentioned during earlier stages of the Bill, the annual investment allowance had been temporarily raised to £1 million when this Parliament began; that temporary basis was extended by the Finance Act 2021, again by the Finance Act 2022, and then made permanent by the Finance (No. 2) Act 2023. Meanwhile, over the course of this Parliament, the super-deduction came and went. Last year, full expensing for expenditure on plant and machinery was introduced on a temporary basis for three years. In this Bill, the Government are finally making it permanent. After so much instability, a commitment from Treasury Ministers at the Dispatch Box that the Conservatives, like Labour, will commit to maintaining permanent full expensing feels like the least they can do.

Our new clause 6 would require the Chancellor to publish not only an assessment of the impact of permanent full expensing, but a consideration of what other policies would support its effectiveness. We believe this is important to ensure that business investment is supported as much as possible. The Opposition have begun to set out what some of our policies would be if we won the next general election. As the shadow Chancellor has set out, if we were in government, we would consider the outcome of technical consultations on whether leased assets can be included in full expensing and on simplifying the UK’s capital allowance regime. I would be grateful if the Minister updated us on the progress of those consultations.

Last week, the shadow Chancellor also made clear the commitment that if Labour wins the next general election, we will ask HMRC to produce simple and comprehensive guidance making clear which assets are eligible for each type of capital allowance. That guidance would give businesses clarity over how their investments will be treated, and businesses will be able to use it as a single point of reference when making investment decisions. Will the Minister confirm whether the Government have considered taking such steps, or making such a commitment?

To give further certainty, the Shadow Chancellor has also said that in government, Labour would explore the greater use of rulings and clearances. Under such an approach, businesses would be able to get a written ruling from HMRC about the tax treatment of potential investments, making clear, for instance, whether they qualify for full expensing or other capital allowances. We know that businesses benefit from other countries’ tax administrators being able to provide such rulings and clearances. As certainty is crucial to encourage investment in Britain, I would be grateful if the Minister confirmed whether the Treasury has asked HMRC to consider the greater use of rulings and clearances for investment, and, if so, what its conclusion has been.

Of course, any policies on expensing or other capital allowances sit under the headline rate of corporation tax. It is hard to conclude anything other than that the Conservative party is rather unclear and confused about its approach to corporation tax rates in the UK. For evidence of that, we need look no further than the current Chancellor: in July 2022, during his leadership bid, he pledged to cut the headline rate of corporation tax from 19% to 15%, yet when he became Chancellor just three months later, one of his first acts was to promise to raise the tax instead from 19% to 25%. It is no wonder that businesses, and indeed Conservative Back Benchers, find it so hard to understand the Conservatives’ policy on corporation tax rates.

Let me be clear about the certainty we would offer if we won the next general election. As the shadow Chancellor has set out, we believe the current rate of 25% strikes the right balance between what our public finances need and, as the lowest rate in the G7, keeping our corporation tax competitive in the global economy. That is why we are pledging to cap the headline rate of corporation tax at its current rate of 25% for the whole of the next Parliament. We would take action if tax changes in other advanced economies threaten to undermine UK competitiveness. That choice provides predictability and has a clear rationale. That is the pro-business choice and the pro-growth choice. The promise to cap corporation tax at 25% is clear from us. Again, to offer businesses as much certainty as possible, will the Conservatives follow our lead and also pledge, today, to cap corporation tax at 25% for the next Parliament?

These commitments—to cap corporation tax, to maintain permanent full expensing and to keep the annual investment allowance—will all form part of the road map that we would publish in the first six months of a Labour Government, setting out our tax plans for businesses for the whole of that Parliament. That would put stability, predictability and a long-term plan at the heart of our approach. To give businesses as much certainty as possible, I would be grateful if the Minister confirmed whether a corporation tax cap at 25% and keeping full expensing in place will be in the Conservative party manifesto too.

Richard Fuller Portrait Richard Fuller (North East Bedfordshire) (Con)
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I was interested in what the shadow Minister was saying about what would happen if other countries changed their corporation tax. As he will know, Mr Trump, the former President, has said that he would cut US corporation tax, potentially from 21% to 15%. Given such examples, does the hon. Gentleman anticipate that a Labour Government would look to cut the headline rate of corporation tax, as we would be looking at a significant tax cut by the world’s largest economy?

James Murray Portrait James Murray
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I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. As we have made clear, we would take action if tax changes in other advanced economies threatened to undermine UK competitiveness, but the headline commitment from us is to cap corporation tax at 25% for the duration of the next Parliament. I recall that in earlier consideration in this debate, he and I had an exchange about permanent full expensing, so I hope he will welcome our commitment to maintaining permanent full expensing if we are in government. Perhaps he will put pressure on his Front-Bench colleagues to join us today in making that a cross-party commitment from the House.

New clause 7 focuses on the multipliers used to calculate higher rates of air passenger duty. As we have discussed at earlier stages of the consideration of this Bill, clause 24 makes no changes to band A rates, while in band B, the reduced, standard and higher rates will increase by £1, £3 and £7 respectively. In band C, the reduced, standard and higher rates will rise by £1, £2 and £6 respectively. In each of those three bands, which cover international travel to a range of destinations, a simple principle is followed: if the duty for passengers on economy flights goes up, the duty for those flying business class and by private jet goes up too. In the domestic band, however, which covers flights within the UK, that simple principle of fairness does not apply. Instead, under the Bill, for domestic UK flights, the reduced rate of APD rises by 50p and the standard rate rises by £1, yet the higher rate is unchanged. Let me be clear what this means in plain English: from 1 April, passengers flying economy and business class within the UK will see their taxes rise, whereas passengers taking exactly the same flights by private jet will enjoy a tax freeze. Although the changes kick in on 1 April, this is no April fools’ day joke, although the Prime Minister may be laughing; it is the result of a hidden loophole that that the Conservatives have introduced. We discussed this matter in Committee, when the Exchequer Secretary tried to provide an explanation for this unfairness. He said that APD rates are

“uprated by a forecast of RPI and those rates are then rounded to the nearest pound.”

As for the different rates I highlighted in Committee, he said:

“It largely depends on how they”—

the rates—

are rounded to the nearest pound; the actual rate is determined by whether the figure is rounded down or up.”––[Official Report, Finance Public Bill Committee, 16 January 2024; c. 34-35.]

I know that the Exchequer Secretary always tries to give me a straight answer—let me put it on the record that I genuinely appreciate his efforts to do so—but I fear that his explanation in Committee may have been unintentionally misleading or, at the very least, only partial. Since that Committee stage, the House of Commons Library has given me information confirming that it does not tell the full picture to say that the duty rates are, as the Minister claimed,

“uprated by a forecast of RPI and those rates are then rounded to the nearest pound.”––[Official Report, Finance Public Bill Committee, 16 January 2024; c. 34.]

In fact, my understanding is that the Minister’s statement applied only to the reduced rates of air passenger duty. Those are indeed adjusted each year in line with forecast RPI and rounded to the nearest pound. However, the standard and higher rates are not calculated by separate reference to RPI; rather, they are generally set as multipliers of their respective reduced rates. For instance, the standard and higher rates in band B are set as 2.2 and 6.6 times the band B reduced rate respectively, rounded in both cases to the nearest pound.

17:45
The use of multipliers within bands would at least mean that if the reduced rate went up in any particular band, the higher rate should go up too, and there would be a sense of fairness to the system. The problem is that that is not the case, because there is a loophole that applies to the rates in the domestic band. The loophole means that the higher rate in the domestic band is not linked by way of a multiplier to the reduced rate in that band, but rather is linked to the reduced rate in band A, and is equal to the higher rate in that band.
I realise that some of these calculations are complex, and the terminology runs the risk of being confusing, so again let me be clear about what this means in plain English. For international flights, when the rate of duty for economy class passengers goes up, the rate of duty for private jet passengers goes up too. If that had been true for domestic flights, then this year the rate of duty for private jet passengers would be going up, following the rise in the economy rate. However, the loophole means that this link does not exist, so this year duty is going up for passengers flying economy class within the UK, and is frozen for those flying by private jet.
Our new clause 7 would require the Government to consider and respond to options for closing that loophole. It would require the Government to review the multipliers used to calculate air passenger duty rates, and to consider options for introducing a multiplier to link the higher and reduced rates within the domestic band. Taking that course of action would close the domestic flights loophole that will see private jet passengers benefit from a tax freeze this year, while everyone else flying economy and business class sees a tax rise.
I very much hope that the Government will accept both our new clauses. They will ensure that Ministers consider the loophole in air passenger duty that has given private jet passengers a tax freeze while everyone else is paying more, and consider what else is needed to make permanent full expensing as effective as possible. We believe that the Government must do all that they can to provide a stable and predictable environment that encourages business investment and boosts economic growth. During this debate I have set out our approach to providing that stability and predictability, including our commitments to cap corporation tax at 25% for the whole of the next Parliament, if we win the general election, and to maintain permanent full expensing. In the interests of giving businesses as much certainty as possible, I urge the Minister to say whether the Conservatives will join us by going into the general election with both those commitments from his party too.
John Redwood Portrait John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con)
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I have declared my business interests in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests.

I rise to support the Government’s new clause 5. I think it is good that they are considering what more they can do to promote investment in the United Kingdom’s generating capacity. We import far too much power already, especially when the sun does not shine and the wind does not blow, and on the basis of the Government’s ambitious forecasts and targets for much more of our energy to be delivered by electricity, I think that the position will get a lot worse quite quickly. Anything that the Government can do to encourage that additional investment in generating plant will be very welcome.

We will, of course, need a similar positive approach to grid and cable, because the more we electrify, the more we will need to convey that power from the rather remote locations where much of it comes from to the parts of the country that will need it. So my only worry about new clause 5 is that I am not sure it goes far enough. I think it is helpful in this limited number of cases, but I trust that the Chancellor, when it comes to the Budget—quite soon, on 6 March—will consider that the new clause is just a stepping stone and that we need to review again the very large tax impositions on energy of all kinds in this country. We now have double corporation tax in many cases and a range of windfall taxes that are often not really windfall taxes because they do not come off when the prices go down, although they are put on when the prices are going up.

That whole area needs considerable review, because we need to take seriously the fact that we are short of energy overall. We are short of electricity generating capacity and short of the means to route power from generation to use, and it would be an important stimulus for the British economy if we produced more of our own energy and generated more of our own electricity, and if we were thinking about having a surplus to export again instead of all too often being cruelly reliant upon imports of liquid natural gas and electricity, particularly from the continent.

I would also like briefly to refer to new clauses 4 and 6. They are wide-ranging new clauses that invite the Government to make assessments or reviews of features of this legislation, but they also wish to broaden it out to get the Government to review the impact of their general fiscal strategy on equalities, on investment, on the state of the corporate sector and on inequalities in our society. I am quite sure that the Government will be reviewing all those things as a matter of course, as this is often a continuous process. Indeed, many of the items covered in this request for special review are already reported on and form part of the normal process of policy preparation, and rightly so. If the Minister were to tell me that he would be grateful if I did not vote for these new clauses, I would have no problem with that—I am not sure that it would help to embody them in the legislation anyway; I think it would be a bit of an abuse of the legislation—but the Government need to respond to the general thirst for knowledge that these new clauses represent, and to understand that there are some serious issues here that need to be returned to. I trust that the Chancellor will return to them at the Budget.

Looking at the fiscal impact that these new clauses cover, I trust that in the preparation of the Budget we will have analysis in the Treasury of these particular measures, which are still going through from the last time, but I also hope that the Government will review the extraordinary losses of the Bank of England—I think that they have already run up to £34 billion in the current financial year. These are losses that the Treasury, and therefore the taxpayer, have to pay as they are incurred, and that is completely unacceptable. It imposes strains on the public accounts and on the Treasury at a time when we really do not need them and when we need that money for other purposes.

There are two simple measures that the Bank could take to stem the magnitude of those losses. First, it should not be selling bonds at a big loss in the market. The European Central Bank is not doing this, although it has a similar problem with a portfolio of very expensively acquired bonds. There is also the issue of the running losses on these holdings where the Bank of England is paying the full, much enhanced, short-term interest rate following its increases in it. This now greatly exceeds the revenue on the bonds because the Bank paid far too much for the bonds and there is a very low rate of interest on them. Those running losses are a problem. I think the Bank should look at what the European Central Bank is doing, in paying different interest rates on reserves held under this system so that it does not have such a large running loss.

Richard Fuller Portrait Richard Fuller
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Can my right hon. Friend tell me if I have got this right? In the commentary ahead of the Budget, we talk about wiggle room and the Office for Budget Responsibility forecast and about £5 billion or £10 billion here and there, but I think I heard him say that this matter was completely out of the control of the those on the Treasury Bench and this Parliament; that the Governor of the Bank of England could unilaterally decide to crystallise losses on whichever extent of bonds he wished to, and then put that loss into the calculations of the Chancellor of the day; and that the Chancellor would then have to work around that in order to work out what the fiscal expenditure, public expenditure and taxation would be. Is that actually the case? It sounds mightily undemocratic to me.

John Redwood Portrait John Redwood
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That is an interesting point of debate, but my understanding of the constitutional position is that it is not as bad as my hon. Friend is suggesting because all the bonds were acquired with the express permission of the then Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Bank of England’s website says that the bond portfolio is held on behalf of the Treasury. Successive Chancellors of the Exchequer—beginning with the Labour Chancellor who first undertook quantitative easing and carried on by successive Conservative Chancellors—all signed an agreement with the Bank to say that they would indemnify against loss. So, given that the Government and this Parliament empowered the purchase of the bonds and now take responsibility for any losses on them, it seems perfectly reasonable for there to be a proper conversation about whether we want to take the losses.

I see nothing wrong with us here challenging the idea that, uniquely among the big quantitative easing programmes, it is the Bank of England that not only insists on selling the bonds at big losses but gets reimbursed. The ECB does not sell them in the market at big losses. The Federal Reserve Board sells them in the market at big losses but gets no money back; it simply puts on its balance sheet that it has lost a lot of money and takes the view that, as it is a central bank, it does not really matter if it loses a lot of money, because central banks create money and it is therefore not like a normal commercial business. So I hope that Ministers will look at this as part of the general assessment that is being invited by these new clauses.

I hope also that Ministers will look at the expenditure items in the overall accounts covered by new clause 4 on the public finances, because there has been a marked decline in public sector productivity in the years 2020 to 2023. It was quite without precedent in my experience of following public finances over the years, and this very sharp decline represents at least a £30 billion loss to our system, in that it now costs at least £30 billion a year more to run the group of public services covered by these figures than it did before the collapse in productivity. On top of that, there has also been the need for much bigger sums to cover inflation. This is not the inflation figure; this is the real loss figure from the productivity.

We are all sympathetic to the difficulties that lockdown and the transition out of lockdown caused, and there was bound to be disruption. Our public services were badly affected by that, as children could not go to school and hospitals were disrupted by covid, but that is now some time behind us and it seems perplexing that we cannot get those public services back to 2019 levels of productivity. I hear comment that maybe artificial intelligence will do it and that there needs to be a big investment in computers. Well, that should be on top. All that I am saying to the Government is that we can surely get back to 2019 productivity levels using techniques from 2019, which was very much pre-artificial intelligence and before the latest round of computerisation. Again, this is a big area that needs to be looked at as part of any review of the public finances.

The third area, which is also very large and very much in the news today, is that even more people in our country do not feel they can go back to work and that they need help at home because they are no longer able to work. The Government are working on some important programmes, through the Department for Work and Pensions, to show people that through a combination of part-time flexible working and working at home with proper support and training, and maybe with additional financial support to help them, they could go back to work for part of the time and make a contribution. We desperately need them, and I think their lives would be more rewarding. They would also be better off because we now have a benefits system that means it is always better to work. This should be a cross-party matter, because it is a problem that our nation as a whole faces. We can enrich those people’s lives, help to reduce the burden on the taxpayer and improve the net income of those concerned. Again, this involves many billions.

My point in making these three simple points apparent to the House is that there are very large sums of money indeed involved in bond losses and productivity, which we need to review because that would help in the formation of the next Budget. It would create more headroom, both for the tax cuts that we need if we are to promote growth, and for improved public service provision in the areas where the shoe is still pinching. I trust that will be part of any review that might emerge from these new clauses, or from the spirit of these new clauses. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor is thinking about this, as we will have a Budget hard on the heels of this Finance Bill, which came out of the autumn statement. In these conditions of recovery, and given the need for faster growth, I welcome having more than one Budget a year, and the fact that we may have three fiscal events quite close to each other, if all goes well. They must promote growth and reduce taxes, and this is a good start.

I welcome new clause 5, but can we please have more? Can we please look at the headroom that I think I have helped to identify?

Roger Gale Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Sir Roger Gale)
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I call the SNP spokesperson.

18:00
Drew Hendry Portrait Drew Hendry (Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey) (SNP)
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I am sure that the people suffering through the rampant cost of living crisis across the nations of the UK hoped that if the Government tabled a new clause today, it would address their struggles in paying their rent, their ever-increasing mortgages, their higher food bills, thanks to Brexit, and their even higher energy bills after the cap was adjusted in January. The Government tabled only new clause 5 and, as I said on the Ways and Means motion, we have no opportunity to amend it.

The electricity generator levy disproportionately impacts Scotland’s renewable sector. The SNP welcomes the fact that new clause 5 will exempt new renewable projects from the EGL, but as noted by the chief executive of Scottish Renewables, though the autumn statement introduced new measures such as the EGL exemption, they are

“not enough on their own. We urgently need consistent policies to provide an environment which will enable businesses to invest at the scale needed right now.”

A pledge to invest £28 billion a year in the green energy transition might be a good thing, but it seems to be off the table not only for the UK Government but—

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Order. I wish to make a short statement.

I know the whole House will wish to join me in expressing our sympathy with His Majesty the King following this evening’s announcement. Our thoughts are, of course, with His Majesty and his family, and we all send him our very best wishes for his successful treatment and speedy recovery.

Drew Hendry Portrait Drew Hendry
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Thank you, Mr Speaker. Obviously, it is entirely appropriate to have paused for that statement. I was unaware of the news brought to the Chamber, but it is clearly significant. Our thoughts are with the royal family at this time.

As I was saying, we need consistent policies to help the renewables sector, and we are not seeing that either from the Tory Government, who have run out of ideas, or from the Labour party, which makes promises and then ducks responsibility for what is required.

We would have liked new clause 5 to flesh out the Chancellor’s promise, made in the autumn statement, to take up to £1,000 a year for up to 10 years off the electricity bills of people living near new generation equipment. We have not heard that today, so we do not know what schemes are coming up.

As I intimated earlier, I would have liked to table an amendment on this point: if new clause 5 is applicable to people living next to new generation equipment, what about those who already live among generation equipment in, for example, the highlands and islands? We have the coldest climate in the UK. Most people are off the gas grid, so we have higher average bills than the rest of the UK. We pay the highest standing charge for electricity, 40% more than here in London, and because of UK Government policies, we have the highest level of fuel poverty in the UK, yet we export six times more electricity than we use in the highlands. It would have been entirely appropriate for the Minister to agree to introduce a highland energy rebate, to put some of that contribution back into the pockets of people across the highlands and islands who are struggling because of those conditions.

Jamie Stone Portrait Jamie Stone (Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross) (LD)
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The hon. Gentleman is making a very good point that rings true in my constituency, too. Of course, the problem is made more difficult still because of the other costs faced by people living in our constituencies, such as delivery charges and the cost of other services. Even a tube of toothpaste can cost a little more the further away it is from the big urban centres. That makes the problem a lot worse.

Drew Hendry Portrait Drew Hendry
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The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right, and I welcome his support for the campaign I am trying to start in order to get justice for people across the highlands and islands. He mentions other costs; of course, rural properties are often larger and less insulated. That does not mean that people in those properties have more money; it just means that their property was built that way, centuries or decades ago. That brings higher costs. Many of the factors affecting people across the highlands and islands could be mitigated by a highland energy rebate.

New clause 4, tabled by the hon. Member for Oldham East and Saddleworth (Debbie Abrahams), would require the Chancellor to review the public health, inequality and poverty effects of the Bill, and to publish a report within six months of the Bill being passed. It is regrettable that it looks as if the new clause will not be pressed to a Division tonight, but the SNP would have supported it. We believe that a requirement to consider the implications for equality, poverty and health should be included in every Bill for which that would be relevant.

As I said, people are suffering from a cost of living crisis fuelled by decisions made in this Parliament. Mortgages are going up as a direct result of the disastrous mini-Budget, and now food costs are going up. Of course, there is more to come, as the Brexit regulations kick in at the end of April. Not only are prices going up, but they will rise even higher from May as businesses across the UK face more red tape. Of course, we are already seeing our highest energy bills ever. Meanwhile, we are doing what we can with our limited powers in Scotland. We already have lower council tax and, of course, we are introducing a council tax freeze. A poll out today shows that nearly 70% of the public approve of this policy.

New clause 6 would require the Chancellor to publish an assessment of the Bill's impact on investment and growth and of the impact of making full expensing permanent, and to consider what other policies could support the effectiveness of permanent full expensing. Given that full expensing is expected to cost £1 billion to £3 billion a year, after an initial £10 billion a year for the first three years, the policy deserves some scrutiny.

Since full expensing was announced in the autumn statement, the SNP has supported its being made permanent, as this would give business greater certainty and would simplify the tax system. However, it is vital that Members be fully informed, so that this Parliament can assess the effectiveness of this policy and whether it encourages investment in assets such as plant and machinery, as it is designed to do, or whether that is at the expense of other forms of investment. Full expensing is a rare point in the autumn statement on which we agree, but as I have said time and again, the Bill has failed. People are struggling through a cost of living crisis, and they want to know what help they will get now, while they are struggling because their household expenses are going through the roof.

People want investment in clean energy, and a just transition from oil and gas. We will need oil and gas for a period, but that transition should be safeguarded. The United States is providing hundreds of billions of dollars in initial support for new green technologies, such as hydrogen. The European Union has made similar high-level investments, yet the UK Government and the Labour party are dawdling on the issue, wasting the opportunity for us to lead across the world. Like so many Bills, this Bill ignores the needs of the people of Scotland, so it is little wonder that they are on the inevitable path to independence.

Roger Gale Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Sir Roger Gale)
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Order. May I take this opportunity to associate myself with Mr Speaker’s remarks? I am sure that all our thoughts are with King Charles and the royal family this evening.

Anthony Mangnall Portrait Anthony Mangnall (Totnes) (Con)
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I associate myself with your remarks, Mr Deputy Speaker, and those of the Speaker, and I wish His Majesty a speedy recovery.

It is interesting to take part in such a debate. It is disappointing to hear Labour describe itself as the pro-business party, given that it is asking businesses to increase wages, recognise unions, accept collective bargaining and restrict labour flexibility, as well as increasing bureaucracy and telling businesses where to invest. To me, that is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Turning to the Bill and the amendments, it is extraordinary to hear the spokespeople on both Opposition Front Benches talk about expensing becoming permanent. That is exactly what the Bill intends to do; the minute we get Royal Assent, expensing will be permanent. On Second Reading, the Minister said it would be permanent and, as soon as the Bill is enacted, that will be in place and on the statute book, which is welcome.

Amendments 1 and 2 make points about full expensing. Those amendments will ensure that the UK’s plant and machinery capital allowances will increase and there will be a tax cut of about £10 billion a year, which will help to drive up growth across the whole United Kingdom, specifically in our manufacturing sectors. From the point of view of those in south Devon, that tax cut is worth having. It will help to drive growth and attract investment and innovation across the country, not just in the industrial heartlands we speak about so often.

There are often international comparisons made on research and development. Amendment 3 offers us the opportunity to drive innovation and economic growth. Merging the research and development expenditure credit scheme and the small and medium enterprise research and development relief scheme achieves that rare thing that we so often fail to do in Government: simplify the tax code and provide greater support for UK firms. We should all welcome that.

It is worth stating the impact of the changes in the Bill that will support loss-making small and medium-sized enterprises by reducing the intensity threshold by 10%, from 40% to 30%. That is expected to help 5,000 further SMEs, and they will receive £27 per £100 of qualifying research and development funding invested. That is an extraordinary amount of support—in the region of £280 million a year by 2028-29—and it will be welcomed by small businesses across the country. The Bill also extends the sunset clauses until April 2035 for two more programmes—the enterprise investment scheme and the venture capital trust—which is welcome.

Clauses 4 and 5 outline support for the creative sector. One of our unsung success stories is how well the UK creative industries have done because of this Government’s extraordinary tax cuts, which have helped TV, film, music and video games thrive in this country. Between 2010 and 2019, that industry has grown by an extraordinary one and a half times, creating thousands of jobs across the country and attracting millions—if not billions—of pounds of investment and spurring on growth. That sets the benchmark.

As a Government, we need to help all industries, not just the creative industries, by reducing the tax burden and ensuring we can find ways to support them. I make a plug for the tourism and hospitality sector, which the Minister knows I often mention. In the future, I hope we will be able to do the same for the tourism and hospitality sector as we have done for the creative industries through a VAT reduction.

I support the Government amendments to the Bill. I welcome the intent of this Finance Bill, which is helping to ensure that work pays, ensuring that the tax burden for businesses is going down, and creating a landscape that will attract the investment and opportunities that we so desperately need in this country.

18:15
Sarah Olney Portrait Sarah Olney (Richmond Park) (LD)
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On behalf of myself and my Liberal Democrat colleagues, I express our sympathies to the King and his family, and our hope that his treatment will prove to be successful.

I will speak to amendments 1, 2 and 3, in addition to new clause 5. To reiterate, the Liberal Democrats are not supportive of the Bill, which is a deception from the Government after years of cruel tax hikes on hard-working families. The legislation maintains the Government’s unfair tax rises on working families through the freezing of income tax thresholds, fails to invest properly in our public services, such as the NHS, and takes none of the vital steps needed to grow the UK economy. Some of the measures in the Bill have worthy aims, but the context is important from the outset.

Amendments 1, 2 and 3 make further changes to the new R&D regime defined in the Bill. While the changes may be necessary and sensible clarifications, just last week, colleagues in the other place, sitting on the Economic Affairs Committee, reported their concern

“that the number of significant R&D changes made in the last 5 years has led to a perception of instability in the UK’s R&D tax relief regime and undermined the intended incentive effect of the relief.”

What businesses need more than anything is certainty and stability. The Government’s chopping and changing on R&D is indicative of a wider failure to create a stable and settled environment in which business can flourish.

Perhaps the clearest example of that has been the scrapping of the UK’s industrial strategy and the disbanding of the independent body overseeing it. This short-sighted step has robbed businesses of the stability they need to grow. The constant changes to the R&D relief regime are a clear example of how that lack of foresight and stability can undermine the aim of economic growth. Once again, I urge the Government, even at this late stage, to relaunch an industrial strategy. A proper industrial strategy can create the conditions for sustainable growth, including through effective and clear incentives for R&D investment, especially among SMEs, and ensure that the UK’s regulatory, R&D and tax frameworks are geared towards fostering innovation.

New clause 5 introduces an exemption to the energy generator levy for new plant investments. The Liberal Democrats believe that, although this may help to strengthen investment in renewable energy and contribute towards our net zero targets, the Government’s own assessment of the measure notes that it is unlikely to affect the retail price of electricity for households as energy prices remain tied to gas prices.

The Bill, and the autumn statement from which it arose, does nothing to help families with soaring energy prices or to put a proper windfall tax on the oil and gas giants. The Government continue to sit on their hands as businesses and families struggle with energy price inflation. A windfall tax on the super-profits of oil and gas producers could raise significant revenue which could have paid for a targeted package of support for those worst affected by the energy crisis, by doubling the warm home discount and investing in an emergency home insulation scheme. It remains clear that November’s autumn statement and the Finance Bill both represent a missed opportunity to address the crisis in energy prices.

To conclude, while the Liberal Democrats are supportive of certain measures within the Bill, such as the extension of full expensing, we cannot support any legislation that arises from such a deceptive and unjust autumn statement. Ultimately, British households are seeing the biggest fall in living standards since the 1950s, and households across the country are crying out for real support from the Government, for action on the cost of living crisis and investment in our NHS, but all we have heard is more stale announcements from a Conservative Government who are completely out of touch.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP)
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I concur with the comments made by others about King Charles, on my behalf and that of the Democratic Unionist party and his loyal subjects in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland—especially Northern Ireland. I pray, as I know you do, Mr Deputy Speaker, as well as others in the Chamber, for King Charles and for the royal family. I pray for a speedy recovery to his health. I pray, as we all pray, to the great healer, omnipotent over all, that his family will know the peace of the Lord as they support him at this time.

I thank all those who have contributed to this Bill debate, and I thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for giving me the chance to participate. Understandably, much of the Bill focuses on the measures that are needed to deliver the autumn statement. The Minister understands that—I would like to welcome him to his place. As he knows, I hold him in great respect, and look forward to his responses at the end of this debate.

For every public sector pay rise that is rightly awarded, money must be raised, and therefore we all support the principle of this Bill in theory. However, in practice, not many of us want to sign off on a Bill that raises taxes for those who are struggling at present. Obviously, as prices have risen, obligations have gone up correspondingly. Northern Ireland has been seeking a complete removal of the air passenger duty as a way of enhancing our connectivity and our attractiveness to international business investment. As a result, the rise in APD is disappointing. I know what the Minister’s response will be. We are all aware of what the renewal of Stormont means: it means that we can look at this matter ourselves. None the less, the renewal of the Assembly has also highlighted the issue of the allocation of finances. It is clear that an overhaul of the funding formulas for Northern Ireland is necessary to meet the need in the long term.

Before I left the office this morning, I heard the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland on the radio saying that he hoped that a new funding formula would be found for Northern Ireland. We on the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee have also put forward that view. It is matter that involves all parties. The hon. Members for Belfast South (Claire Hanna) and for North Down (Stephen Farry) join us in wanting the same. That is three of the political parties in Northern Ireland that want that formula. There are also labour Members who support the view, along with a number of Conservatives with some concerns. We are all pushing for a formula similar to the Welsh system. If that comes into place, we in Northern Ireland would benefit, and that is only fair and right. I am highlighting this because if we as a party wished to do something about air passenger duty in the Northern Ireland Assembly, or if a cross-party group were wishing to do the same, we would need to have that formula in place. As I say, we are looking for fair funding for the future.

The £3.3 billion that has been made available now is money that many of my constituents believe has been withheld, and that is welcomed. Ever mindful of the positivity that came out of the debate last week, I say let us be positive in looking forward—

Roger Gale Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Sir Roger Gale)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Order. The hon. Gentleman understands that he has caught my eye and I have caught his. May I gently remind him that we are talking about the Government’s new clauses and amendments at the moment? There is a Third Reading debate ahead in which more measures can be raised if necessary, but, at the moment, will he please concentrate on the matter in hand?

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I knew when I saw you looking at me, Mr Deputy Speaker, that you were going to tell me to get back on to the subject. I was about to do so. I thank you for that very kind reminder. You spoke to me in a very nice way, which was much appreciated.

I did refer to new clause 7 and air passenger duty, so I will quickly return to that. When I looked at a number of these issues addressed in the Bill, I could see a very clear and obvious theme: air passenger duty to rise in line with the retail price index; plastic packaging to rise in line with the consumer prices index; aggregate levy in line with RPI; tobacco levy in line with RPI plus 2%; and vehicle excise duty for cars, vans and motor bikes in line with RPI. So it continues and, to be honest, that seems to be understandable.

However, what is clear in the Finance Bill is that, although these things rise by RPI or CPI—I understand how the system works—the Government have again chosen to ignore the needs of the working middle class. I wish to make this point. I have done so in every finance debate, Mr Deputy Speaker. I have taken every opportunity I can to bring up this matter. I am seeking the support of the Minister on this. Indeed, I have asked the Minister about this on a number of occasions, so he knows about the issue. It is about the middle-class families who need that extra bit of help. They are paying their tax, but the £40,000 and £50,000 a year threshold is not helpful. If we wish to address the issues of new clause 6 in relation to permanent full expensing and the issue of air passenger duty—the things that people want—then we also have to address the issue of the threshold as well.

I gently say to the Minister that, when it comes to how we help our squeezed middle class—I am not talking about the very wealthy—can he look at changing the threshold? I ask the Minister for a direct response on that. I do not want him to talk about the higher income benefit charge or any other mitigation. I just want him to help us understand why those who pay into the tax system do not get as much as they should when they are struggling in a way that families back in 2013 could not have imagined. The Government know that to be the case—I think the Minister knows it to be the case—so when it comes to legislation that helps us to represent all of the people of this United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, let this Bill tonight be one that does just that.

Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. May I join you, Mr Speaker and the whole House in wishing His Majesty a speedy recovery following the announcement this evening?

I wish to thank right hon. and hon. Members for contributing to this debate. I shall respond to as many of the points as I can, and also talk to the amendments that have been moved. On new clause 1, I agree that we must prevent fraud and ensure that all taxpayers pay their fair share. To help achieve that, the new maximum sentences for the most egregious examples of tax fraud, the new criminal offence on the promoters of tax avoidance, and enhanced director disqualification powers will come into force on Royal Assent of this Bill. That will all help.

At 4.8% of total liabilities, the UK’s tax gap is at the joint lowest rate ever recorded and has remained low and stable. The UK’s tax gap compares favourably with that of our international partners. HMRC has already published performance updates that provide information on its compliance performance every quarter, so we believe that this new clause is not necessary.

New clause 2 is pretty much the same as the new clause 1 rejected in Committee of the whole House. As I have said previously, we believe that the provision is unnecessary, as the information has been published in the tax information and impact notes alongside each policy change. That gives a clear explanation of the policy objective together with details of the implementation costs for both HMRC and businesses.

New clause 3 would require the Government to publish details of sentences given and stop notices issued to tackle evasion and avoidance in the past five years, as well as revenue expected to be generated by measures in this Bill to tackle evasion and avoidance in each of the next five years. However, HMRC publishes information on the number of custodial sentences received for tax compliance offences and the average sentence length in its annual reports and accounts. The 2023-24 annual report and accounts will be published this summer, providing a full overview of HMRC’s performance. The Government also publish a list of tax avoidance schemes subject to a stop notice on gov.uk, with the most recent report published on 7 December. HMRC has issued more than 20 stop notices since issuing the first one in 2022. The Government also published revenue estimates for the next five years of the clauses in this Bill in the tax information and impact notes. Therefore, as the information requested by new clause 3 is publicly available in routine HMRC publications, the publication requested by new clause 3 is unnecessary.

New clause 4 would require the Government to report on the likely impact of the measures in the Bill on public health, inequality and poverty—matters that concern us all and that we discussed in Committee. Existing mechanisms already effectively monitor and assess Government policies in those areas, rendering the amendment redundant. Departments such as the Department of Health and Social Care and its arm’s length bodies diligently evaluate policies to enhance health up and down the country. Through the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities and the National Institute for Health and Care Research, they address health inequalities and provide robust evidence for policy development. Various Government units, such as the Cabinet Office equality hub, contribute to levelling-up opportunities and ensuring fairness. The Government Equalities Office, the Race Disparity Unit, the Disability Unit and the Social Mobility Commission all focus on different equality dimensions to guide and support inclusive policy development across the country. We therefore do not believe that new clause 4 is necessary.

On new clause 6, I agree that it is important to regularly review and evaluate policy, and to be transparent, which my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (John Redwood) also highlighted. His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs has published a tax information and impact note setting out the impact of the measure, including the economic impact, and the Office for Budget Responsibility has already conducted and published extensive analysis on the investment and growth impact of full expensing. That is available in its “Economic and fiscal outlook—November 2023”, which therefore negates the need to publish a separate assessment in six months’ time. The impact of permanent full expensing will be monitored through information collected from tax returns, and through regular communication with businesses and representative bodies.

18:30
New clause 7 would require the publication of a review of the multipliers used to calculate the higher rates of air passenger duty that apply to larger private jets. I appreciate that there are some challenges in understanding them, but I assure the hon. Member for Ealing North (James Murray) that there is no attempt to mislead or give inaccurate information to the House. The tables are available, and I will provide him with one. The Government review the rates of taxes and reliefs, including APD, annually to ensure that they are appropriate and reflect the current state of the economy. As has been the usual practice since APD was introduced in 1994, rates are announced over 12 months in advance to provide airlines with sufficient notice.
Some of the challenges with the calculations, and the point about rounding to the pound, have arisen because in April 2023 we cut APD on domestic flights by 50%, but not the rate for private jets, which therefore remained equal to that on short-haul international flights. The Bill provides for the uprating of APD rates by forecasted RPI in 2024-25, rounded to the nearest pound, and then of course there are the multipliers. Some of this is the sheer mathematics of ensuring that we do not have disparities. Current APD rates ensure that passengers in private jets pay significantly more tax than passengers on commercial flights. For example, in 2024-25, the higher rate for domestic private jet passengers will be more than 10 times the economy rate. Since the Government keep all rates, including all APD rates, under regular review, new clause 7 is unnecessary. I note the appeal of the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon), which I have heard before.
Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon
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The Minister knows that I am particularly fond of him, but if he has heard my request before, let us now have action.

Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

We always try to act; I cannot do everything, though. I note the hon. Gentleman’s comments. In a similar vein, my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Anthony Mangnall) raised the importance more broadly of the tourism, hospitality and leisure sector, and of the creative sector. He is absolutely right. Measures in the Bill and elsewhere will support all those sectors. Of course, business rates relief is vital to the tourism, retail, hospitality and leisure sector. My right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham made a range of comments, some outside of my direct remit. I assure him that I will raise his points, which ranged from bonds to public sector efficiency—a vital area—with colleagues in the Department.

I was somewhat entertained by the comments of the Labour spokesman, the hon. Member for Ealing North, who was effectively asking me to commit to Conservative party policies as enthusiastically as he does, which is quite a turn up for the books. Of course, we welcome Labour’s support for the policies that we have announced, but there is clear blue water between the Labour party and the Conservative party in terms of principles about the size and scale of Government and the level of taxation. We have seen Labour’s flip-flopping over the £28 billion. I am not sure what the policy is today. It was rather rich of him to ask for commitments from me, given the flip-flopping that is so prevalent in every area of Labour policy.

At one point, the Labour party was supportive of Brexit. Now I do not know. Are Labour Members against it? Were they supportive of the right hon. Member for Islington North (Jeremy Corbyn) being Prime Minister, or do they not want him in the party? Are they in favour of nationalisation, or against it? Are they in favour of private sector involvement in the NHS, or against it? In a whole host of policy areas, we have seen persistent, perennial flip-flopping from the Opposition. I literally have goldfish whose commitments I would trust more than those from the Labour Front Bench. On those points, we will have to respectfully agree to disagree.

As I said, new clause 5 and the six amendments that the Government have tabled will help to ensure that the changes in the Bill apply as intended, and deliver a vital policy to protect renewable investment. They will make the tax environment more easily understood by business and protect vital tax revenue used to fund our public services. I therefore urge that they be added to the Bill. The six new clauses tabled by the Opposition seek to get the Government to publish data and information that is already being published through other sources, as I have outlined. I therefore urge the House to reject them.

Question put and agreed to.

New clause 5 accordingly read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 6

Assessment of the impact of permanent full expensing

“(1) The Chancellor of the Exchequer must, within six months of this Act being passed, publish an assessment of the impact of the measures in clause 1 of this Act on—

(a) business investment, and

(b) economic growth.

(2) The review under subsection (1) must—

(a) assess the impact of full expensing being made permanent, and

(b) consider what other policies would support the effectiveness of the measures in clause 1 of this Act.”—(James Murray.)

This new clause would require the Chancellor to publish an assessment of the impact on investment and growth of the measures in this Act to make full expensing permanent, and to consider what other policies could support the effectiveness of permanent full expensing.

Brought up, and read the First time.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time.

18:36

Division 71

Ayes: 185


Labour: 127
Scottish National Party: 34
Liberal Democrat: 14
Independent: 5
Democratic Unionist Party: 3
Plaid Cymru: 2
Social Democratic & Labour Party: 1
Alba Party: 1

Noes: 285


Conservative: 279
Independent: 2

New Clause 7
Review of multipliers used to calculate higher rates of air passenger duty
“(1) The Chancellor of the Exchequer must, at the next fiscal event, publish a review of the multipliers used to calculate higher rates of air passenger duty for each destination band.
(2) This review must propose options for introducing a multiplier to link the higher rate and the reduced rate within the domestic band.
(3) The Chancellor must, at the next fiscal event, make clear what changes, if any, he will implement as a result of this review.”—(James Murray.)
This new clause would require the Chancellor to publish a review of the multipliers used to calculate the higher rates of air passenger duty, and to propose options for introducing a multiplier to link the higher rate and the reduced rate within the domestic band.
Brought up, and read the First time.
Question put, That the clause be read a Second time.
18:50

Division 72

Ayes: 182


Labour: 127
Scottish National Party: 34
Liberal Democrat: 14
Independent: 5
Plaid Cymru: 2
Social Democratic & Labour Party: 1
Alba Party: 1

Noes: 289


Conservative: 281
Independent: 3
Democratic Unionist Party: 3

Schedule 1
Research and development
Amendments made: 1, page 42, line 12, at end insert—
“(5A) But—
(a) expenditure of a company is to be ignored for the purposes of subsection (5) if it consists of a payment, or other transfer of value, to another company with which the company is connected, and
(b) where expenditure forms part of a company's total relevant expenditure by virtue of subsection (5)(c), a deduction brought into account as mentioned in subsection (5)(a) is to be ignored for the purposes of that provision to the extent that a corresponding deduction for corporation tax purposes is prevented by section 1308(5).”
This amendment deals with two cases in which double-counting might otherwise arise in calculating a company’s, or an aggregate of connected companies’, total expenditure for the purpose of determining whether the R&D intensity threshold is met.
Amendment 2, page 42, line 16, after “period,” insert
“or would do but for subsection (5A)(a),”.
This amendment is consequential on Amendment 1.
Amendment 3, page 63, line 26, at end insert—
“Avoidance of overlaps and gaps in entitlement during transition
17A (1) Sub-paragraphs (2) and (3) apply if, but for those sub-paragraphs—
(a) one company (“company A”) would be entitled to old R&D relief, and
(b) another company (“company B”) would be entitled to new R&D relief,
in respect of expenditure attributable to the same research and development.
(2) If company B would have been entitled to old R&D relief in respect of its expenditure had the Part 1 amendments not been made, only company B is entitled to the relief.
(3) In any other case, only company A is entitled to the relief.
(4) Sub-paragraph (5) applies if—
(a) a company incurs pre-commencement expenditure,
(b) the company is not entitled to old R&D relief in respect of the expenditure, and
(c) had the expenditure been post-commencement expenditure, it would have been—
(i) qualifying Chapter 1A expenditure by virtue of section 1042E of CTA 2009 or section 1042F of that Act as it refers to section 1042E, or
(ii) qualifying Chapter 2 expenditure by virtue of section 1053 of CTA 2009 (as it has effect after the Part 1 amendments) or section 1053A of that Act as it refers to section 1053.
(5) The company is to be treated as satisfying sections 1042F(4) and 1053A(4) of CTA 2009 for the purposes of ascertaining the entitlement of another company to new R&D relief in respect of expenditure attributable to the same research and development as the expenditure mentioned in sub-paragraph (4).
(6) Sub-paragraph (7) applies if—
(a) in respect of pre-commencement expenditure attributable to research and development, one company (“company C”)—
(i) is not entitled to old R&D relief, but
(ii) would be so entitled if none of sections 104C(2), 104G(5), 104H(6), 104J(4), 104K(5), 104L(4), 1052(5) and 1053(4) of CTA 2009 (as they have effect before the Part 1 amendments) applied, and
(b) in respect of post-commencement expenditure attributable to the same research and development, another company (“company D”) would, had the expenditure been pre-commencement expenditure, have been entitled to old R&D relief by virtue of section 1053 of CTA 2009 (as it has effect before the Part 1 amendments).
(7) For the purpose of ascertaining the entitlement of company D to new R&D relief, the research and development is to be treated as contracted out by company D within the meaning of section 1133 of CTA 2009 (as it has effect after the Part 1 amendments).
(8) In this paragraph—
“the new R&D provisions” means Part 13 of CTA 2009 as it has effect after the Part 1 amendments;
“new R&D relief” means relief under the new R&D provisions;
“the old R&D provisions” means Chapter 6A of Part 3 or Part 13 of CTA 2009 as that Chapter or Part has effect before the Part 1 amendments;
“old R&D relief” means relief under the old R&D provisions;
“the Part 1 amendments” means the amendments made by Part 1 of this Schedule;
“post-commencement expenditure” means expenditure incurred in an accounting period beginning on or after the appointed day;
“pre-commencement expenditure” means expenditure incurred in an accounting period beginning before the appointed day.”—(Nigel Huddleston.)
This amendment ensures that one, but only one, company can claim relief in certain transitional situations where more than one company is involved in the same R&D but not both or not all of them have become subject to the changes made by Part 1 of Schedule 1.
Schedule 6
Administration of creative sector reliefs
Amendments made: 4, page 138, leave out lines 15 to 20.
This amendment and Amendments 5 and 6 allow regulations imposing information requirements for creative sector relief to provide for consequences of non-compliance short of the total invalidity of the claim (for instance, by making a claim invalid only so far as it relates to certain items of expenditure).
Amendment 5, page 138, line 25, after “which” insert
“, and the time by which,”.
See the explanatory statement for Amendment 4.
Amendment 6, page 138, line 26, at end insert—
“(c) the consequences of failing to provide the information as required (which may include the total or partial invalidity of the claim or a reduction of the claimed relief).”—(Nigel Huddleston.)
See the explanatory statement for Amendment 4.
Third Reading
19:02
Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

This Government are backing British business, supporting employment, and creating a simpler and fairer tax system. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor delivered an autumn statement with the clear intention of strengthening the economy, now and for the future. This Finance Bill, which Members of the House have had the opportunity to scrutinise and debate over the past few months, does exactly that. It takes forward important tax measures to help businesses invest for less; encourages innovation and supports our creative industries by elevating rates and simplifying credits; and improves and simplifies our tax system to ensure it remains fit for purpose.

Mr Deputy Speaker, allow me to remind Members of the Bill’s key aims. Our first aim is to support British industry, so that we can solidify our position as world leaders in key sectors. Making full expensing permanent allows UK businesses to invest for less. We have moved to make the UK’s plant and machinery capital allowances the most generous of any major economy. Permanent full expensing has been called the single most transformational thing we could do for investment, and it was welcomed by more than 200 companies and trade associations.

The Bill also merges two significant Government schemes: the SME scheme and the R&D expenditure scheme. In doing that, we are meeting our aim of simplifying the system while providing greater support to British businesses, so that they can spend less time on administration and more time on innovation. The Bill also introduces greater support for loss-making R&D-intensive SMEs and lowers the intensity threshold required to access that support to 30%, helping around 5,000 extra SMEs. To further support investment in renewable energy, we have introduced a new assets exemption for the electricity generator levy, a measure that will continue to drive growth in both our renewables sector and the wider economy. We also continue to support our world-leading creative industries with tax measures that reform the film, TV and video game tax reliefs, turning them into refundable expenditure credits that are easier for business.

Our second aim is to support employment. We must remove barriers to work and incentives to not work, and most of all, must ensure that hard work and expertise are rewarded. That is why the Bill makes changes to encourage people to stay in work and use their expertise for longer. The Bill will complete the abolition of the lifetime allowance, amending pension tax rules so that employees with valuable, hard-earned expertise are no longer encouraged to reduce their hours or retire early. The Office for Budget Responsibility estimates that this will retain 15,000 workers annually, keeping many high-skilled employees and experienced individuals in our labour market while ensuring that they receive their rightful benefits for working.

Our third aim is to create a simpler, fairer and more modern tax system—an aim that the Bill also supports. Making full expensing permanent is a huge simplification for larger firms, but we are a nation of millions of small businesses. In the Bill, we are expanding the cash basis—a simplified way for over 4 million smaller and growing traders to calculate their profits and pay their income tax. While we remain focused on reducing the tax burden, we cannot overstate the role of tax in supporting public services, so we must all do our part. Everyone must pay their fair share, which is why the Bill introduces a new criminal offence for those who promote tax avoidance schemes and continue to promote them after receiving a stop notice. Alongside this, His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs will for the first time be able to bring disqualification action against the directors of companies involved in promoting tax avoidance, including those who control or exercise influence over a company. These are vital steps in ensuring that the system is fair for all, and that those who try to undermine it face the consequences.

I thank right hon. and hon. Members from across the House for their helpful and insightful contributions to the debate on the Bill. I also thank the many stakeholders who have provided their views on the issues raised, the Treasury, HMRC officials and House Clerks who have helped the Bill to get to this point. This Bill backs British business, rewards hard work, nurtures innovation, and supports our leading industries while solidifying long-term economic growth. For those reasons, I commend it to the House.

19:07
James Murray Portrait James Murray
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I begin by wishing His Majesty the King the very best for a speedy recovery. My colleagues and I are thinking of him and the royal family at this time, and we wish him a swift return to full health.

Throughout consideration of the Bill, the Opposition have made it clear that it contains a number of measures for which we have been calling for some time. For instance, we welcome the Government finally making full expensing permanent after so many years of chopping and changing capital allowances; we have made it clear that we will maintain that policy if we win power this year. We have also made it clear that we will maintain the system of R&D tax credits introduced by the Bill—again, after so many years of this Government chopping and changing the design of the scheme. In both cases, that is because we prize stability and predictability for businesses; they have made it clear to us that they value that greatly.

We know that providing certainty is a critical factor in boosting business investment and economic growth. If Labour won the next general election, we would put that certainty and stability at the heart of our approach in government by publishing a road map in the first six months, setting out our business tax plans for the whole Parliament. We have set out our approach to full expensing and to corporation tax, so I am disappointed that the Minister was not able to give us a clear guarantee that the Conservatives will maintain full permanent expensing and cap corporation tax at 25% for the whole of the next Parliament. Businesses can have confidence, however, that both of those commitments are locked in with Labour.

Of course, there are provisions in the Bill of which we have been critical, not least the fact that it freezes tax for passengers flying around the UK on private jets, while hiking taxes for everyone else who is flying economy or business class. Also, the Government admit that some provisions will need to be returned to and corrected. That is a far from ideal position to be in before a Bill has even become law. We know this is the case because, towards the end of last month, HMRC admitted that the way in which the Government have legislated to remove the lifetime allowance has

“created unintended consequences for members with multiple pension schemes”.

HMRC says that further legislation will be necessary to fix three areas in schedule 9 relating to the abolition of the lifetime allowance. That clearly indicates rushed legislation that runs the risk of creating problems for all involved. The legal firm Wedlake Bell, for instance, has said:

“The proposed new tax regime replacing the LTA at breakneck speed from 6 April 2024 is very risky for all parties including trustees, administrators, members and indeed HMRC itself.”

More widely, our concern with this Bill, as with the autumn statement it followed, is that the Conservatives cannot hide or move on from their 14 years of economic failure. Those 14 years of failure have left economic growth languishing and people across Britain worse off. Last November’s autumn statement for growth was the 11th attempt at an economic growth plan from the Conservatives. The truth is that the Conservatives are incapable of getting our country back on track. We need a general election so that Labour can offer the change and the plan that families and businesses across Britain need.

Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I call the Chair of the Treasury Committee.

19:11
Harriett Baldwin Portrait Harriett Baldwin (West Worcestershire) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I will not detain the House for long, because I have the feeling that not all my colleagues are here to listen to my remarks. However, I want to make a couple of points.

First, having heard the Opposition complain about the measures in this Finance Bill, one would think that they did not like them, but they are not here this evening, they are not voting against Third Reading, and they have not tabled any solid proposals themselves. The only economic policy anyone has heard from the Opposition is the extra £28 billion that they want to impose in taxes on our businesses and our families.

Katherine Fletcher Portrait Katherine Fletcher (South Ribble) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Does my hon. Friend agree that it is almost as though the Opposition do not have a plan?

Harriett Baldwin Portrait Harriett Baldwin
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I would agree with my hon. Friend.

I point out that the 110 pro-growth, pro-supply side measures in this Finance Bill have not stoked inflation. Indeed, inflation has fallen from over 11% down to 4%, and according to the Bank of England’s forecast, it is on track to reach 2%, so one has to commend the measures taken in this Bill, and I look forward to voting for that progress shortly.

I add my thanks to the officials from the Treasury and HMRC who have worked so hard on this legislation, only to hear that in a month’s time there will be another Budget and another Finance Bill. One has to recognise the hard work that has gone into this Bill, but I do worry that HMRC is being asked to do more and more. I worry about the fact that various thresholds have been frozen, and in particular, as the Minister knows, that the high-income child benefit charge is affecting more taxpayers up and down the land.

I am worried about one of the 110 measures—one that is within HMRC’s bailiwick. It is the measure allowing people to put fractional shares into their individual savings accounts. That was a very welcome announcement in last year’s autumn statement. I tried to put down an amendment to the Bill about it, but it was found not to be orderly because that change has not been legislated for this time around. In fact, the word is that HMRC will not be able to put that in place until at least the next tax year. Can I ask the Financial Secretary to convey the sense of urgency that I think we all feel about making these pro-growth, pro-investment changes?

There is a wide range of measures in this Finance Bill that I welcome, and I look forward to the Budget on 6 March. I think we can pay tribute to all the hard work that the Financial Secretary, his team, and all the Treasury and HMRC officials have put into this excellent piece of legislation.

Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I call the SNP spokesperson.

19:09
Drew Hendry Portrait Drew Hendry
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

In this Third Reading debate on the Finance Bill, one thing has been conspicuously absent from both the Tory and the Labour Front Benchers’ speeches—the one thing affecting people most just now: their struggle with the cost of living crisis. People are struggling to pay their bills. They are struggling to pay their mortgages, which have gone up because of this Government’s disastrous mini-Budget. They are struggling to pay their rent. They are struggling to pay their food bills because of these parties’ disastrous Brexit, which is pushing food price inflation even higher. They are struggling to pay their energy bills, because this Government have been asleep at the wheel while prices have been rising, and even allowed the energy price cap to go up in January when bills have never been higher. This is a travesty of a Finance Bill. It has done nothing to help the people of Scotland with their finances, it has done nothing to help people across the rest of the UK, and I will definitely vote against it tonight.

19:16
Debbie Abrahams Portrait Debbie Abrahams (Oldham East and Saddleworth) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

May I ask colleagues in all parts of the House for some indulgence? Unfortunately, I was missed out on Report, but I very much wanted to speak about new clause 4, which I tabled. It is very close to my heart, and it is the reason why I became an MP. Specifically, it is about asking the Government to make an assessment of the public health effects of the Bill, particularly in terms of regional inequalities, the impacts on protected characteristics and the impact on the NHS.

I would first like to associate myself with the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing North (James Murray) about His Majesty King Charles. I wish him a very speedy recovery, and send best wishes to his family.

I had hoped that I might convince the Minister just a little more than I did in Committee about what a difference the assessment in my new clause would make. I am going to extend the arguments just a little more, if he will bear with me. I appreciate that I cannot do anything about the issue in this Bill, but perhaps he could think about it for the one we will have after the Budget, because I will be returning to this issue again. The proposal is not about changing anything in the Finance Bill; it is about publishing the Government’s evaluation of the impact of their policies, as announced in the autumn statement, on the health of our constituents as mediated through, for example, changes in poverty and socioeconomic inequalities. Ideally, that would have been done during the planning of the autumn statement, but given that that did not happen, my new clause would have provided the opportunity to make decisions based on an evaluation of the impacts on our health, including our children’s health.

Many Members will have heard about and read the report of the Academy of Medical Sciences on child health, which came out earlier today. In it, the UK has been revealed to have a stalling infant mortality rate, which is worse than 60% of that in similar countries. This is after a century during which infant mortality has been decreasing. The academy has put to us, as decision makers, that we need to be doing a lot better. My new clause would have helped the Government in their quest for transparency, fulfilling the Prime Minister’s promise on that, and restoring confidence in the Government and in politics more widely. It would also have allowed the Government to monitor their commitment to levelling up our health across the country and to tackling the appalling north-south divide.

I was director of public health research at the University of Liverpool along with Professor Dame Margaret Whitehead, who in 1987 published her report revealing for the first time the north-south health divide. It came out a few years after the Black report and it showed the causal relationship between poverty and health. Margaret took it a step further, emphasising socioeconomic inequalities, not just poverty, as the key driver of these health inequalities.

We have been building on that evidence base for the past 40 years or so. Many will have read “The Spirit Level” by Professors Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett which showed the universal relationship between socioeconomic inequality and educational attainment, social mobility, trust between communities—where has trust gone within our communities?—reducing crime and much more. The narrower the gap in socioeconomic inequalities, the better almost all societies across the world do on a whole host of measures including health and wellbeing.

Professor Sir Michael Marmot’s 2010 totemic “Fair Society, Healthy Lives” report set out six objectives across our life course of what we as a country need to do to address these socioeconomic inequalities and reduce health inequalities. He warned us in 2017 when we started to see life expectancy in England as a whole flatlining, which was accompanied by declining healthy life expectancy. We heard many questions in today’s Department for Work and Pensions orals about what we can do to get a fit and healthy labour force, and our inequalities are partly why we are in our current position. Professor Marmot also revealed that life expectancy for the poorest women and in the poorest areas was declining, and that we were one of three advanced economies in the world where this had been happening, along with the USA and Iceland. This is not a question of our having reached peak life expectancy; we are falling behind most of our competitors. He also revealed that health inequalities had increased and that there was an even starker north-south health divide.

Then covid hit. The same pattern of infection, ill health and death was seen with covid as was seen before the pandemic with other conditions. The same groups of people and the same areas were affected by covid as were affected by, for example, heart disease.

Last month Michael provided another update in his latest report, “Health Inequalities, Lives Cut Short”. He said in The BMJ a couple of weeks ago something that I asked the Prime Minister about last week:

“if everyone had the good health of the least deprived 10% of the population, there would have been 1 million fewer deaths in England in the period 2012 to 2019. Of these, 148,000 can be linked to austerity. In 2020, the first year of the covid pandemic, there were a further 28,000 excess deaths.”

Today, I see no evidence that policymakers have learned from or even understand this injustice, or its economic consequences. I urge them to watch a short film, “The Unequal Pandemic”, which shows the human cost of this inaction. Our experience of covid and these inequalities is not inevitable.

Today’s Academy of Medical Sciences report estimates that a cost of £16.13 billion a year could have been avoided by early childhood intervention. The relationship between population health and productivity is also well established. In its 2018 “Health for Wealth” report, the Northern Health Science Alliance argued that in order to improve our productivity and growth we must improve our health. It calculated that improving the health of the north to the level of the rest of England would increase productivity by £13.2 billion a year. It is in the economy’s and the Chancellor’s interest to undertake this health assessment of his measures. I appreciate that that is not going to happen in this Bill, but I would be grateful if the Minister would consider it for the next one.

I was grateful in the Finance Bill Committee for the Minister responding with a long list of data that the Government already collect on poverty, and so on. Unfortunately, he did not explain how these data were then analysed to assess the impact of his Government’s measures on, for instance, stricter social security sanctions, and how those would affect the current levels of children living in poverty, deep poverty and destitution, as described in the Joseph Rowntree Foundation “UK Poverty 2024” report. He did not explain if these data had been disaggregated to examine the impacts of these policies on different parts of the country, on disabled people or on people from ethnic minority communities, and he did not explain what scenario-modelling on poverty, deep poverty and destitution had been undertaken to understand whether more children will die before their first birthday because they had been born into a poor or destitute family. For each 1% increase in child poverty, an extra 5.8 babies per 100,000 livebirths will die before their first birthday.

Professor Sir Michael Marmot has asked us to provide hope—hope that we as politicians can recognise and understand that these inequalities must be addressed and that they are not inevitable, and I agree. I urge the Minister to really consider this, if not now, then in the next Finance Bill, and to come back with a set of proposals on how the Government are going to do it.

Question put, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

19:26

Division 73

Ayes: 283


Conservative: 276
Independent: 3
Democratic Unionist Party: 3

Noes: 39


Scottish National Party: 32
Liberal Democrat: 6
Independent: 1
Alba Party: 1

Bill read the Third time and passed.

Finance Bill

1st reading
Tuesday 6th February 2024

(3 months, 1 week ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Finance Act 2024 Read Hansard Text Amendment Paper: Consideration of Bill Amendments as at 5 February 2024 - (5 Feb 2024)
First Reading
15:20
The Bill was brought from the Commons, endorsed as a money Bill, and read a first time.

Finance Bill

2nd reading & Committee negatived & 3rd reading
Wednesday 21st February 2024

(2 months, 4 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Finance Act 2024 Read Hansard Text Watch Debate Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: Consideration of Bill Amendments as at 5 February 2024 - (5 Feb 2024)
Second Reading (and remaining stages)
18:02
Moved by
Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton
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That the Bill be now read a second time.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait The Parliamentary Secretary, HM Treasury (Baroness Vere of Norbiton) (Con)
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My Lords, it is a pleasure to open this debate on the Finance Bill. As I explained during a memorable debate in your Lordships’ House last year, the Autumn Statement was designed with three purposes in mind: “to drive growth” across the economy, to create jobs, and to ensure that hard-working people can keep more of what they earn.

As many noble Lords will know, since the beginning of 2023 we have been working on five priorities. Three of those priorities are economic: to halve inflation, grow the economy and reduce the national debt. I will outline our current economic picture in more detail shortly. A year on from when we set out these priorities, I am pleased to report that there has been some significant progress.

Inflation has fallen from 11.1% to 4%, and this has led to two positive outcomes: wages are rising faster than inflation, and mortgage rates are starting to come down. On growth, like some other similar economies, the UK faced challenges at the end of 2023, but overall the economy was larger at the end of the year than at the start. The Bank of England and the IMF forecast growth to increase over the next few years. Finally, our national debt is on track to fall as a share of the economy.

The Government proposed at the Autumn Statement to put money back in people’s pockets, cut taxes and “back British business”. That is why the National Insurance Contributions Act has reduced national insurance from 12% to 10%, delivered a tax cut for 29 million working people, and saved the average worker £450 a year. But I recognise that times are still far too tough for far too many. That is why we need to stick to our plan, so we can deliver the long-term change our country needs to deliver a brighter future for Britain, and improve economic security and opportunity for everyone.

As part of delivering our broader long-term plan, we need to deliver our Autumn Statement commitments. This Finance Bill does exactly that. First, it will support British businesses by allowing them to invest for less. Secondly, it will support employment, by ensuring that hard work pays, through reforms to our pensions system. Finally, its measures will improve and simplify our tax system, ensuring that it is fit for purpose. Indeed, the Finance Bill covers 36 different measures in total, some more technical than others.

Before I delve into the specifics of these measures, I will first outline some of the economic context behind this Finance Bill. As noble Lords will be aware, inflation—and the subsequent impact on the cost of living—has been the Government’s key challenge since Vladimir Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine in 2022. Therefore, it is significant that, as I noted previously, inflation has more than halved, from 11.1% in late 2022 to 4% in February. Our key priority remains getting inflation back to the 2% target, to drive sustainable growth. The recent GDP figures are a reminder that, while inflation has more than halved from 11% to 4%, wages are rising, mortgage rates are falling and taxes are being cut. But we are not out of the woods yet; there is more to do. The OBR has projected that the 2023 Autumn Statement policies will have “lasting supply-side effects”. Combined with policies from the Spring Budget in 2023, this approach will permanently boost output by 0.5% by 2028-29.

I will now outline the measures in the Bill which will back British business, reward work, and support a modern and simpler tax system. I turn to the suite of measures to back British business. First, we will make full expensing permanent, thus allowing businesses to invest for less. As a result, firms will save £10 billion a year—the most generous plant and machinery capital allowances of any major economy. This will drive 0.1% GDP growth over the next five years, and that number will increase to 0.2% every year over the longer term. It is forecast to unlock an additional £3 billion of investment per year.

The Government’s second measure recognises the importance of research and development. R&D is important because of its dual role: driving economic growth and bringing benefits to wider society through innovation. Therefore, we will merge two government programmes: the R&D expenditure credit scheme and the small to medium-size enterprises scheme. This will have two key impacts: it will simplify the system and provide greater support for UK firms to drive innovation. These changes will apply from 2024 onwards. I note that the Government have consulted widely on proposed changes to the R&D tax credit system over a considerable period. We have decided to proceed with an April 2024 implementation date to move the system to a more stable footing at the earliest opportunity.

In the Bill we have gone even further, by introducing greater support for loss-making R&D-intensive SMEs. In addition, we will also lower the R&D intensity threshold required to access this support to 30%. As a result, around 5,000 extra SMEs will now be covered by the support and will receive £27 per £100 of qualifying R&D invested.

I note that noble Lords on the Economic Affairs Finance Bill Sub-Committee want us to simplify this scheme further by bringing it within the merged scheme at a higher rate of relief. It is worth being aware that the intensive scheme will share many of the merged scheme’s rules, including on subcontracting, albeit with a different rate mechanism given that the merged scheme is above the line. While there is potentially an option to simplify in the future, further work is needed to establish how that would operate while still targeting the scheme effectively.

These measures will significantly increase support to firms’ R&D efforts by about £280 million per year by 2028-29. We will also extend the sunset clause for two more programmes: the enterprise investment scheme and the venture capital trust scheme. Both will be extended to 6 April 2035, providing support to young companies in their endeavours to raise capital.

The UK’s creative industries grew 1.5 times faster than the wider economy between 2010 and 2019. It is therefore right that the Government offer them their fullest support. That is why we will reform tax reliefs to refundable expenditure credits for the film, TV and video games industries. In addition, we have designed targeted measures to boost investment in three areas: animated film, animated TV and children’s TV programmes. These areas will now be eligible for a 5% uplift in tax relief to a 39% credit rate.

This Government believe that hard work must be appropriately rewarded. That is why we are using this Bill to legislate for the abolition of the lifetime allowance. The OBR estimates that this will retain 15,000 workers annually in the UK labour market. The British Medical Association described it as

“potentially transformative for the NHS”,

because many of the individuals will be highly skilled, including senior doctors. We will effect this transformation with the right incentives. The removal of pension tax limits will motivate individuals to work harder for longer so that they can reap the rewards in future years.

Finally, I turn to measures in support of the third objective of our Finance Bill, a simpler and modernised tax system. This Bill, as I previously mentioned, makes full expensing permanent, which is a huge simplification for larger firms, but we are also supporting more than 4 million smaller, growing traders by expanding the “cash basis”. This will simplify the process for them to calculate their profits and pay income tax. We have closely consulted industry and, as result, the Government will legislate to remove three of the main restrictions on using the cash basis, completely removing limits on the size of businesses able to use the basis, interest deductions and the loss relief available.

We must also make sure that HMRC delivers on its strategic objective to collect the right tax at the right time. The Bill will deliver this by enabling HMRC to reduce the off-payroll working PAYE liability of a deemed employer which is responsible for ensuring that PAYE is calculated and sent to HMRC correctly. This will apply where that engagement was incorrectly treated as self-employed for tax purposes.

Of course, we need to ensure that UK plc is following, adopting and influencing developments on taxation on the global stage. That is why in the spring we legislated to implement OECD pillar 2 in the UK. This built on a historic international agreement to a two-pillar solution to the tax challenges of a globalised digital economy. This Bill goes on to make technical amendments to the main pillar 2 rules, as identified from stakeholder consultation, and ensures that the UK remains consistent with the latest internationally agreed guidance.

We will also take forward other technical measures, such as improving the data HMRC collects from its customers. These will result in a trusted, modern tax administration system. However, a simple, modernised tax system must also be fundamentally fair. Therefore, this Bill will create a criminal offence for promoters of tax avoidance specifically where persons continue to promote a scheme after the receipt of a stop notice. The Bill will also ensure that HMRC is empowered to respond more quickly to tackle promoters of tax avoidance. It will do so by introducing a new power for HMRC to bring disqualification action against the directors of companies involved in promoting tax avoidance. The scope of that power will include being applicable against those who control or exercise influence over a company.

Further to that objective of fairness, our next measure under this objective will amend the construction industry scheme to reduce the scope for tax fraud in that industry. To do so, the amendment will add VAT to the gross payment status test. This means two things: VAT compliance will now be checked as part of this process and HMRC powers to remove gross payment status will be enhanced. We will also legislate to confirm that, in line with the retained EU law Act, where UK law is incompatible with EU law, UK VAT and excise law will prevail. This measure also ensures the stability of the VAT and excise regimes while providing legal certainty for business following the changes in the retained EU law Act taking effect. This protects billions of pounds for the Exchequer.

This Finance Bill delivers some of the Chancellor’s key announcements at Autumn Statement 2023. As I have set out, it backs British business, rewards hard work and supports a modern and simpler tax system. I beg to move.

18:15
Lord Davies of Brixton Portrait Lord Davies of Brixton (Lab)
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My Lords, the Finance Bill gives us a chance to raise issues which others may regard as hobby horses but which I think are important topical, technical matters that are worth drawing to the Minister’s attention. I have two issues on my agenda. The first is the implications for recipients of the state pension of the Government’s policy of freezing income tax personal allowances and the second is the taxation of pension benefits following the abolition of the lifetime allowance.

Those with a very long memory will be aware that there is something called the Rooker-Wise amendment, “Rooker” being my noble friend Lord Rooker. Back in 1977, it was laid down for the first time in legislation that the personal allowance should be increased each year in line with inflation. I think that, technically, that is still in force, but successive Governments, including this Government, have opted out, through Finance Bills, of that requirement to index-link. My understanding —and I ask the Minister for confirmation—is that the freeze, which is now proposed to go up to 2027-28, was provided for in last year’s Finance Act and so there is no need for it to appear again in this Bill. Does that imply that the Government have given up on rolling forward the period for which the personal allowance will be frozen? It is shorter this year than last year. Is that a clear statement of policy or has it just been left out? We cannot forecast the Budget. Will we be told? Perhaps we will if it is not in the Budget and not in purdah. Does the freezing last only until the year that we were told it would be or is it going to be rolled forward another year?

That is very pertinent to the main point that I want to raise, which is the impact of freezing the personal allowance on pensioners, particularly those dependent mainly on the state pension. As we know, the state pension is being increased in line with the triple lock, to which all parties are currently committed, so it goes up by inflation, earnings or 2.5%, whereas the personal allowance is frozen. The new state pension is rapidly catching up with the personal allowance. My figures, based on estimates by the Office for Budget Responsibility, are that the new state pension will catch up with the personal allowance by 2027-28 and that in the following year, 2028-29, it will exceed the personal allowance.

The practical problem is that pensions are not part of the PAYE system. Where people receive a state pension—many pensioners receive a state pension that is greater than the new state pension because they have retained rights from the previous scheme—they will owe tax but are not part of the tax system. Instead, at the beginning of the following year they get a brown envelope in the post saying, “You owe us some money”. That is going to become more and more frequent as the state pension increases but the personal allowance is frozen.

I want the Government to say they are fully aware of this problem and are on the case. The obvious answer is that the state pension ought to be brought within the remit of the PAYE system so that people pay the taxes due over the year, as people do out of their earnings. However, I have not yet heard the Government say either that they understand the issue that is coming down the road or that they are going to do anything about it.

I emphasise that the hardest hit will be those earning income entirely from the state pension—maybe they do not have any other income or it is very small—that is slightly larger than the new state pension. We are talking £15,000 a year, which is not exactly riches. That is over £2,000 more than the personal allowance so they will be liable for 20% tax on that £2,000, which is £400. Someone on £15,000 a year is going to get a request for £400, to be paid as a lump sum. That is untenable. It will be a crisis when it arrives, and I just hope the Government can get ahead of the issue.

I turn to pensions taxation. Clause 14 and Schedule 9 deal with the abolition of the lifetime allowance charge. The Financial Secretary said in the Commons, when introducing the Bill, that this was intended as part of a policy to

“remove both barriers to work and incentives not to work”.—[Official Report, Commons, 13/12/23; col. 925.]

Those remarks were echoed by the Minister in this House. Indeed, the OBR estimated that the abolition of the lifetime allowance would mean there would be 15,000 more people in work, not least in the medical profession. That is an estimate based on behavioural change so we have to be a bit sceptical, but still it will have had an impact.

However, the Government have been too quick to congratulate themselves on solving the problem of pension taxation on highly skilled professionals, given the extent to which they will still be leaving their jobs because of the impact of the pension tax system. In my view, the annual allowance has always been the bigger problem. Particularly when someone is at work, the annual allowance means that early the following year they get another brown envelope relating to a significantly larger sum of money, saying, in some cases, “You owe a sum in excess of £100,000”. That is not unknown, so this is a serious issue. The Government may think they have addressed that because they have increased the annual allowance from £40,000 to £60,000, but still on £60,000 there will be highly paid, sorely needed professionals who will get a tax charge the following year.

That is not even the biggest problem. There are two further immediate problems. First, there is the taper. This is not the venue to start explaining the technical details of pension taxation, but the taper withdraws the relief available on the annual allowance as incomes increase. It is a classic case of something that those familiar with how taxation works will know: when you remove a taper, you get very high marginal rates. There is a taper on the tax payable after allowing for the annual allowance. The taper is still there, and some professionals argue that that is actually what is driving them out of employment.

There is a second issue that needs to be addressed. The rules have changed. You are taxed on the growth of your pension in a pension scheme. If you have two schemes, under the previous rules each pension scheme was taken separately. If you happened to be in an old pension scheme, which many doctors were, as well as in a new pension scheme because of all the changes that were made to pensions in 2015, you could have a declining value of a pension in one scheme but an increase in the value of the pension in the other. Overall, you would not really have gained much at all, but you were still taxed on the increase in the one scheme even though you were not getting any extra pension.

The Government addressed that, so you were allowed to combine your schemes from the same employer, but there is an issue they have not addressed: if your pension went down last year, you get no credit for that if your pension goes up the following year. So over a two-year period there might be no change in your pension, but you still have to pay tax on the value of the increase of that pension the following year.

Those are the two issues that I have taken the opportunity to draw to the attention of the Minister: the taper and the taxation of negative pensions growth.

18:26
Lord Desai Portrait Lord Desai (CB)
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My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, although I cannot say anything technical like he has. The Bill is coming before us far too late to really matter. I know we cannot amend money Bills and so on, but it would have been better had it come after it originally appeared in the Commons.

I have two observations. First, there has been a lot of effort in the Finance Bill, and by the Government generally, to emphasise tax cuts, especially tax cuts on business corporations. As an economist, I know, and it is very easy to show, that tax cuts do not actually encourage investment in a country. Whatever the corporations do, they do not plough it back into investment. Investment depends not on that sort of consideration but on expectations about growth.

What has happened here for the last 15 years is that we have had a number of corporation tax cuts and so on, but the economy has not grown. We have had one of the lowest growth experiences in the last 15 years, roughly since 2008. The Government really ought to think seriously about that, because I know that more tax cuts are promised in the forthcoming Budget. Indeed, the Chancellor is always trying to reassure people that he will find money somewhere—I do not know where—to make tax cuts. Basically, the borrowing rates on government debt are high right now because again and again there have been promises of tax cuts that have alarmed the markets. When the Liz Truss tax cut in particular was announced, it spooked the markets very much and put a lot of pension funds in trouble.

My one piece of advice is: please be careful and do not get mixed up in the idea that tax cuts somehow bring growth. They have the opposite effect from what people think they do. The recession that we have recently experienced, while it was a mild one, shows that all the talk of tax cuts ought to stop. We ought to make quite sure that we reduce our borrowing and enhance other taxes that are not efficiently imposed.

Secondly, there is one major thing, which we have seen the proof of in the Prime Minister and the leader of the Opposition releasing news on their taxes. This showed one major defect in our tax system: that we tax capital gains at a much lower rate than we tax income. That is not healthy. All economists would tell us that we ought to treat income from earnings and from capital gains in a symmetrical way. If we did that, we would increase our tax revenue and reduce our deficit.

18:30
Lord Leigh of Hurley Portrait Lord Leigh of Hurley (Con)
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My Lords, it is always a great pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Desai, even though I do not agree with much of his analysis. In particular, I cannot understand why he thinks that if one takes a risk and invests capital, the rewards should be taxed at the same rate as banking a salary and working at a desk. They are two different sources of income and wealth, and therefore deserve different tax treatments, but I admire the way that he speaks so eloquently and without any notes on every occasion. I can only aspire to that.

I refer to my register of interests and remind your Lordships that I am chairman of the House of Lords Economic Affairs Finance Bill Sub-Committee, to which my noble friend alluded earlier. This sub-committee looked at the Bill with great interest and our report was published a couple of weeks ago, on 1 February. As I think this is the only time that the report will be mentioned in the House, I use this opportunity to thank the committee members, the clerk, his assistants and colleagues and, in particular, the two spads for their hard work in turning it around and delivering it in record-breaking time; as the noble Lord, Lord Desai, indicated, there was a crunch, because it followed the Autumn Statement.

The report focused on a few main areas. The main one was research and development, where we followed up on last year’s report and were pleased to see that the R&D review is now complete. We recommended that His Majesty’s Government do not make any further changes to R&D tax relief, other than some simplifications that we recommend. As my noble friend said, research and development is incredibly important to the UK economy. It is pleasing to note that gross domestic expenditure on R&D has risen from some 1.5% in 2010—to take a date at random—to nearly 3% now.

The new R&D intensive scheme needs careful monitoring and the threshold, which is a cliff edge, should be kept under review. We called for draft guidance on applying that test, as it is difficult for companies to predict whether they are going to be intensive companies. As my noble friend indicated, it is possible that the new intensive scheme will be merged with the main scheme. We hope that HMRC will enter into consultations on this issue and possibly delay its implementation until those have taken place. We also had quite a lot to say on the thorny issue of subcontracting of research and development where, in summary, we think a transitional period might be required, although we accept that this has its own challenges.

Another area we were concerned about was the changes proposed on how HMRC will collect data on issues such as hours worked. This is something different: HMRC has never collected data on anything other than tax before. We are not even sure that the Taxes Management Act allows it to do this, so we are concerned to know why it needs that data and what will be the true cost to business in supplying it. This is largely data on hours worked: HMRC has recognised that this would be difficult, so has turned it into data collection on hours paid, but we are still not convinced about the need for it.

We welcomed further attempts to punish promoters of tax avoidance schemes but have asked for some safeguards, particularly in respect of what are called stooge directors. These are people who get persuaded to become a director of a company and do not realise that the company is being used for tax avoidance, but we are not convinced that increasing prison sentences is necessarily always the answer.

Finally, in respect of our report, we were concerned about the level of resources that HMRC deploys for customer service. One obviously accepts that this is an issue across government. We recognise that steps are being taken to improve this issue—which, in my personal opinion, is not helped by civil servants working from home, but that is a wider governmental issue.

As your Lordships will appreciate, my comments are just a taster of our full report of 150-odd pages. However, this shows that our House not only gets to debate the Bill for a day but offers proper scrutiny of legislation—even if, as the noble Lord, Lord Desai, said, we cannot change it. But we are able to produce these reports, which we hope are used by Members in the other place to amend legislation. It is a little disappointing that there are so few of us speaking on this important debate, despite the fact that it is an exceptionally august selection of Peers with great depth of knowledge on the Bill.

Aside from the sub-committee report, I would like to make some additional observations and I hope that my noble friend the Minister can answer some questions that I have. The first is on the EIS, SEIS and VCT areas which she mentioned earlier. I warmly welcome the extension of the sunset clause; I have been advocating for it for some time, as she knows. I know that I have been pushing against an open door with HM Treasury and that she is convinced that I am a minority sport player with too much detail. None the less, I have to say that Clause 11 is to be commenced only by regulation, as in its subsection (2). That is a little unusual and I suspect there is a reason for it. I wonder if it is to do with some wrinkle in the Windsor agreement that is not yet quite ironed out or if we do not have permission from the EU to implement it. If so, we need some clarity that we will get that permission, and to reflect on the fact that we are trying to do things here which we are prohibited from doing by the EU, and that does not sit comfortably, particularly as we should no longer be bound by EU state aid restrictions.

I hope that my noble friend can agree to a review of all the other restrictions on EIS, SEIS and VCT, because we need to create a low-tax, low-regulation country and shed as many burdensome EU restrictions which are no longer necessary as we can. Are we restricted from doing that because of Northern Ireland issues? EIS and SEIS are incredibly important. In the year to 2022, HMRC data shows that £3.4 billion was raised to invest in SME businesses—for thousands of companies, so let us see what more we can do to enhance that scheme.

I also welcome the great progress on pillar 2, which my noble friend mentioned. I know that pillar 2 is not popular with everyone but we are committed to do it, so let us push ahead. It is good to see the transitional undertaxed profits rule safe harbour regimes, in addition to the multinational and domestic top-up tax, which is all part of the OECD global anti base erosion tax rules. This is a very complex and difficult area, with pages and pages of legislation, but it has been going for some time. In fact, it was the subject of my maiden speech almost exactly 10 years ago. We are still not there, but let us hope that the Government keep going in the direction they have taken to date.

Finally, it is worth using this debate on our proposed fiscal changes to reflect on what has been the effect of this Government’s fiscal policies to date on the economy. It is worth noting, as I am sure my noble friend will agree, that it is not just that inflation is falling from 11% to 4% but about the rate of growth in our economy compared to our European competitors. We are the fastest-growing European G7 economy and, from 2025 to 2028, our debt will come down as a huge part of the share of GDP. It is initiatives such as reducing national insurance in the Bill, and of course specifically raising allowances, which have enabled average taxpayers to be some £1,000 a year better off than they would be if those allowances had not risen since 2010. To keep up our outstandingly successful record levels in FDI, while achieving the success we have had in becoming the third-largest tech sector in the world, we have to keep the drive up for lower taxation.

As I understand it, the only tax initiatives announced by Labour are to increase taxation, such as VAT on schools, income tax for non-doms and enhanced tax for carried interests. Perversely, all these plans to raise tax by seeking to penalise successful people will, in my opinion, only lower the tax take. The direction of travel we need to stick to is a lower tax take, and a smarter tax system which encourages investment and increases growth and productivity.

18:40
Lord Sikka Portrait Lord Sikka (Lab)
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My Lords, it is always a great pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Leigh of Hurley, even though I do not agree with much of what he said.

This Bill is a mishmash of policies that have already given us recession, poverty, stagnation, NHS queues, food banks, inequalities and crumbling public infrastructure. Building a just society does not seem to be on the Government’s agenda at all. The Bill continues with failed policies and somehow, different outcomes are expected, which will not happen.

Since 2010, the Government have showered tax reliefs on businesses, but we continue to suffer from chronic underinvestment. The Bill hands out tax reliefs in the form of 100% first-year capital allowances, in the hope that this can somehow increase business investment by possibly £14 billion within the forecast cycle, but that is in any case too little and is unlikely to be durable.

The major reason for low investment is that people do not have enough purchasing power to buy goods and services, and that dissuades businesses from investing. Just look at any town centre and you will see that it has become an economic desert, simply crumbling away. But the Government remain wedded to real wage and public spending cuts. The real average wage is now around the 2007 level; people have not got enough money to spend.

Following the Second World War, the state invested in new industries and took the long-term risks the private sector simply was not willing to take. It invested in new industries such as biotechnology, information technology and aerospace. However, the entrepreneurial state has now been replaced by a state that guarantees corporate profits through subsidies, cash handouts and the exploitation of people and the natural environment. The result is record corporate profits and low investment in productive assets. According to the OECD table, the UK occupies the 35th spot out of 38 countries in the league for investment in productive assets. That position will not change until the state resumes its entrepreneurial role, directly invests in new industries and infrastructure, and ensures that the masses have sufficient purchasing power.

The Government offer nearly 1,140 tax reliefs but have no idea of the total cost. Little is known about the macroeconomic benefits of handing out vast amounts of tax reliefs. The Bill hands out generous research and development tax incentives to creative industries, which will be welcomed by many. Accountants would happily reclassify some business expenditure as R&D and claim higher tax relief. The National Audit Office laments that the tax reliefs for R&D routinely exceed the UK’s actual R&D expenditure. I hope the Minister will be able to tell us why.

In handing out generous tax reliefs, the Government should also ensure that the resulting profits are taxed in the UK. Oil and gas companies get generous tax reliefs, but their profits are not necessarily taxed in the UK. I worked as an accountant in our oil companies, and I am quite familiar with how transfer pricing works. The Government ought to look at that to see where the profits end up.

James Bond movies are made and marketed through a labyrinth of opaque offshore entities. UK government money is given to make those movies. E.ON, the company behind the James Bond enterprise, received £30 million for “Spectre”, £47 million for “No Time to Die”, £24 million for “Skyfall” and £21 million for “Quantum of Solace”. However, E.ON declares tax losses in the UK and very little of its profit is taxed in the UK. Despite receiving £120 million of subsidy, E.ON has been paying less than £500,000 a year in UK corporation tax. Can the Minister explain why there is no comprehensive programme of tracking benefits of tax reliefs, or for ensuring that the resulting profits are taxed in the UK?

The Government make lots of claims about curbing tax dodges, but they are soft on the enablers. If the Minister disagrees, she is welcome to tell the House how many partners of big accounting firms have been investigated, fined or prosecuted for selling unlawful tax avoidance schemes. Hopefully she can name one or two; that would suffice.

An estimated £570 billion of UK wealth is stashed in tax havens. There is little effective check on profit shifting through intragroup transactions to low or no tax jurisdictions. Despite promises, the Government have failed to publish an estimate of what is called the offshore tax gap. Civil investigations opened by the offshore, corporate and wealthy unit, part of HMRC’s fraud investigation service, have declined from 1,417 in 2018-19 to only 627 in 2022-23. This reduces any faith in the measures contained in Part 3 of the Bill.

Tax policy for the last 14 years has become a circus under this Government. There is no sensible debate of what or who ought to be taxed, and at what rate, to shape what kind of society. Special low tax rates are enacted for the rich because they fund political parties, or simply because they demand it. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak paid tax of £508,308 on an income of just over £2.2 million, which is an effective tax rate of 23%. That is the tax rate faced by somebody on a wage of around £30,000 per year.

As I said earlier, no attention is paid to building a fair and just society. The reason why the Prime Minister’s tax bill is so low is that the capital gains accruing to him are taxed at 10% to 28%, while workers’ wages are taxed at 20% to 45%. Workers pay national insurance, but beneficiaries of capital gains pay zero national insurance. Indeed, under the Government’s rules, it is possible to pay a tax rate of only 10% on capital gains of up to £10 million. That does not seem fair to me at all.

The benefits of low capital gains tax are unevenly spread, unfair and create numerous inequalities. In 2020, just 0.5% of adults in the UK paid capital gains tax and benefited from this special regime. Capital gains tax payers are concentrated in London and the south-east of England. Notting Hill, with a population of around 6,400, has more than the combined populations of Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle. You can see where these benefits are going.

The distortions also fuel a tax avoidance industry and rob the public purse. SME directors pay themselves with dividends rather than wages because that reduces their tax bill, as dividends are taxed at a lower rate than wages. The rich hire accountants to convert income to capital gains. Just think about the number of graduates finding jobs in the tax avoidance industry, which adds absolutely zero to the economy.

HMRC data shows that a quarter of people with an income of £2 million paid tax at an effective rate of less than 20%. One in 10 of those earning £2 million paid tax at an effective rate of only 10%, which is less than what someone pays on the minimum wage. This is an utterly unfair system and an unfair society, so can the Minister explain why someone making £2 million a year pays tax at a lower rate than somebody earning £15,000 a year? How is that consistent with claims of levelling up?

Finally, no child should go hungry, so I will suggest how the Government can fund free school meals for everybody: simply deal with one tax abuse, which arises from gift aid. If somebody gives £100 to a charity, that is obviously considered to be net, and the charity can claim £25, so it becomes £125 in the charity’s books. If the donor enters it on their tax return—many do not—they can also claim tax relief. A basic rate taxpayer will claim a tax relief of £20, but higher and additional rate taxpayers claim tax relief on that £100 at 40% and 45%. They are quids in—they are getting more because they are giving to charity. That does not seem fair. If tax relief on charitable donations was curbed at 20% for everybody, that would generate £740 million extra in tax revenues, which is quite enough to fund free school meals for everybody. Hopefully the Minister will say, “Yes, that will be in next month’s Budget”.

18:51
Baroness Kramer Portrait Baroness Kramer (LD)
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My Lords, as the first of the winding speakers, I will say I have some sympathy for the Minister, who has been hit with a wall of technical expertise that is probably not matched in almost any other sector of debate. I wish her great luck in answering the details.

I draw the Minister’s attention in particular to the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Brixton, on the pension allowance, because that issue is so mired in complexity, and the scheme needs complete reform. This does not really affect the private sector, which managed workarounds for this long ago; it is people in the public sector who are caught. The judges have been exempted, as the Minister will know—they have their own special scheme—but senior consultants, senior members of the military and some senior civil servants are caught up in this mess. A straightforward reform would be far more effective than this constant chipping away at the edges and getting it wrong, which is the pattern of the last few years.

This Government are, frankly, living in a parallel universe. The economy is in recession. Many people remain under crushing pressure from the cost of living. Real GDP per capita has fallen for seven successive quarters, and, as I mentioned during Questions earlier, according to the Resolution Foundation, that equates to a loss of nearly £1,500 per household. But, just as significantly, the fundamentals that power the economy and economic growth would, if they were put into a risk assessment analysis, be in the red zone for high risk. But the Government have not responded to this kind of risk and this element of real danger for the economy with a coherent strategy. They have failed to take the action that we need to achieve economic recovery and, frankly, to go out and talk more commonly with people on the doorstep, as I do. People have had enough.

The Autumn Statement of 2023, which sits behind this Finance Bill, is often described by the word “fiction”. The cut in the national insurance rate, which the Minister referred to, is in reality a small reduction in tax increases because of the effect of frozen thresholds. I am stunned that the Minister does not understand the impact of this threshold freeze and in fact suggested that thresholds had risen significantly. You would have to go back to 2010, but we are talking about our more recent period, which is what is impacting people. Frankly, if trading standards looked at the Government’s statements and flagged misleading claims from the Government the way it does with retailers, the Government would not be able to make those claims that the national insurance rate is actually a tax cut; it would be recognised as a reduction in a tax increase.

In evidence to the Economic Affairs Committee, the OBR’s chief executive, Richard Hughes, pointed to the fictional nature of the forecast headroom that the Government claimed in the Autumn Statement and I fear will claim again in the Budget. He explained that the OBR is required to use the Government’s assertions on future tax and public spending, even in the absence of either credibility or detail. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Leigh, who was talking about growth and debt reduction: go back and look at those comments from the OBR in detail.

No one believes that this is just one example, or that the fuel duty escalator—this is one of the tax examples—will be reactivated, but, without it, the tax revenue numbers in the forecast are nonsense. Look at the public spending forecast. Richard Hughes suggested that calling it “fiction” was “generous”. With fiction writers, he said,

“someone has bothered to write a work of fiction, whereas the Government have not even bothered to write down their departmental spending plans”.

Slashing future public spending continuously as a percentage of GDP, which is embedded into that forecast— it is required to be so by government—is either vicious or a con.

Every public service is in dire straits. I am not talking just about the NHS: schools face record deficits, local governments are slashing essentials, the police are short of capacity, prisons are bursting and, frankly, I could go on with every area of public sector activity. Investment in infrastructure, which is absolutely key to our economic future, has not been adjusted by a single penny for inflation, which surely is a recipe for economic self-harm.

We need to focus, with open eyes and real vigour, on economic growth. As we discussed in February, given our older population and its growing dependency, our shortage of working age population is becoming relentlessly more serious. Improving our skills base can help in some sectors, but it requires a revolution in the role of apprenticeships and a complete overhaul of the apprenticeship levy. The drag on our economy of our sick working age population—by percentage, the highest in Europe—requires us to revive the NHS, which is faltering on so many fronts, from GP appointments to long waiting lists. The Government are fiddling at the margins of these issues and not driving forward fundamental change.

A sustained and high growth in productivity is vital—a return to over 2% a year productivity growth instead of the current stagnation. This requires business investment, which continues to be painfully low and has been despite a decade of low corporate taxes—here I agree with the noble Lords, Lord Desai and Lord Sikka. Low taxes have not generated investment, and we have years of experience and evidence for that. I support the full expensing of measures in the Finance Bill, but the OBR figures show that its benefits are actually quite small, and the other measures on R&D and those for the creative industries are useful but, frankly, small fry.

The Government should learn from their own experiences. As I say, low taxes do not persuade businesses to invest, but a proper industrial strategy would attract investment. Policy certainty, instead of shifts in the wind, would attract investment. Reducing friction in our access to the EU market would attract investment. A focus on small businesses, including reforming business rates, would attract investment. In productivity terms, the Government have simply failed to take advantage of the digital revolution. Work practices have changed, but UK productivity has not benefited; it remains utterly stagnant. This Government will waste the potential of the AI revolution unless they change their mind and put in place a coherent strategy.

Trade growth is lacklustre. All the Government’s vaunted trade deals utterly fail to offset the 4% scarring of the economy from Brexit, and we now face the trade consequence of world tensions, anti-globalisation and security concerns, not least with China. I am always stunned when the Government talk about the great trade potential outside Europe—they are essentially referring to either China or countries that fall within the Chinese sphere of influence, where we have so many security and trade issues that looking for that as our rescue is, frankly, a very inadequate response.

Our national debt is running close to 100% of GDP. The OBR, if we take away the requirement that it must give this kind of fake forecast, does not see that number coming down—look at the evidence it gave to the Economic Affairs Committee. There are huge fiscal consequences to running debt at 100% of GDP. We have a very high exposure to variable interest rates, thanks to both quantitative easing and our exceptional volume of index-linked gilts—I think we have twice the amount of any other developed economy; it is extraordinary. Unlike in other major economies, our gilt markets depend on investment by foreigners. It is called the kindness of strangers, and, in volatile times, it is very risky. At times of risk, people exercise a home bias; no one needs to be investing in sterling. We have got ourselves a very risky exposure, as we try to sustain the coherence of the gilt market.

I have not yet referred to the greatest risk of all: climate change. The EU’s climate service announced that global heating exceeded 1.5 degrees across an entire year for the first time last year. That is years earlier than was anticipated. Dealing with climate change is not a “nice to do”; it is a survival issue. I say both to the Government and to Labour: if we do not progress rapidly now, the consequences will be crushing, not least for our economy.

We will soon have a Budget. It is very strange to be discussing a Finance Bill with a Budget less than two weeks away, but I hope that the Government will begin to redeem themselves. Ordinary people are still feeling pain, and that pain will get worse before it gets better. We are in recession, but the downturn in the standard of living has been far greater. The fundamentals of the economy and of economic growth are sounding the alarm. Climate change is coming relentlessly. I say to the Government that looking for the populist vote by floating tax cuts is not the answer. Leaving a scorched earth for the next Government—which I fear is what they have in mind—is not responsible. Let me repeat what I have heard on the doorstep: enough is enough.

19:02
Lord Livermore Portrait Lord Livermore (Lab)
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My Lords, the Finance Bill that we are debating today was published following the Chancellor’s Statement in November last year, in which he claimed to be delivering an “Autumn Statement for growth”. It was the 11th such growth plan that we have seen from this Government over the past 14 years, and, over that time, the UK’s growth record has been poor.

The noble Lord, Lord Leigh of Hurley, mentioned comparative growth rates. We have languished in the bottom third of OECD countries, with 27 OECD economies growing faster than us since 2010. Looking ahead, over the next two years, no fewer than 177 countries are forecast by the IMF to grow faster than the UK. Against this backdrop, in the so-called Autumn Statement for growth, the Office for Budget Responsibility actually downgraded its forecast for growth in each of the next three years—it was revised down this year, next year and the year after that. Growth this year is forecast to be just 0.7%, which is more than halved from the 1.8% predicted in the Budget, with the economy forecast to be £40 billion smaller by 2027 than the Chancellor expected back then. Now, the Office for National Statistics has confirmed that Britain has fallen into recession. We know too, as the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, observed, that GDP per capita fell in every single quarter of the past year.

Britain is trapped in a spiral of economic decline. Having spent 14 years in the economic slow lane, the Government have now put our economy into reverse—the latest chapter in a 14-year story of failure and economic stagnation. First, we had austerity, which choked off investment, and then years of political instability, which in turn fuelled economic instability; then Brexit without a plan; then the disastrous mini-Budget, which, as the noble Lord, Lord Desai, observed, crashed the economy, sending mortgages and interest rates soaring. We have had five Prime Ministers, seven Chancellors, and 11 plans for growth, each yielding less than the last.

If the UK economy had grown at the average rate of the OECD over the past decade, it would now be £140 billion larger, equivalent to £5,000 per household every year. This would mean an additional £50 billion in tax revenues to invest in our public services. Instead, with growth so weak, taxes have risen remorselessly, with less and less to show for it. While our public services crumble, we have seen 25 tax rises in this Parliament alone. The tax burden now rises every single year for the next five years, rising to its highest ever level and making this the biggest tax-raising Parliament ever, with an average tax rise of £1,200 per household.

However, there is one small group of people who will continue to be protected from this Government’s tax rises on much of their income. Missing from this Finance Bill, once again, is any action to tackle non-dom tax status: those people who live in Britain but do not pay UK taxes on their income from overseas. Closing this loophole and replacing this archaic status with a residence scheme like other countries have could raise crucial funding to bring NHS waiting lists down. Labour believes that those who make Britain their home should pay their taxes here. That patriotic point should be uncontroversial; yet, while families across the UK face higher taxes year on year, the Government continue to enable those who keep their money overseas to avoid paying their fair share of tax. So, while we have yet another Finance Bill that leaves this loophole open, families across the UK face a tax burden that is climbing to a post-war high.

The chair of the UK Statistics Authority rebuked Government Ministers this week for making misleading claims about their record on tax. Let us be clear: while the cut in national insurance announced in the Autumn Statement was welcome, it was more than eclipsed by increases in taxes that the Government had previously announced. For example, as my noble friend Lord Davies of Brixton mentioned, the freezing of national insurance and income tax thresholds for six years is now expected to cost taxpayers £45 billion. This fiscal drag means that nearly 4 million more people will pay income tax and 3 million more people will pay the higher rate. To quote Paul Johnson from the Institute of Fiscal Studies, the cut in national insurance rates

“pales into … insignificance alongside the … increase in personal taxes created by the six year freeze in allowances and thresholds”.

The IFS has calculated that, extraordinarily, almost every single person in the UK who is liable for income tax or national insurance will now be paying higher taxes overall. As a result, the tax burden will now reach 37.7% of GDP by the end of the forecast period, an increase equivalent to an astonishing £4,300 additional tax for every household in the country.

We have an economy in recession, the tax burden rising to its highest ever level and the biggest fall in living standards since records began. We must break this spiral of economic decline. Increasing growth is clearly the biggest economic challenge that our country faces. In government, Labour’s defining economic mission will be to restore growth to Britain, with good jobs and productivity growth in every part of our country. Our plan to deliver that mission, supported by British business and developed in partnership with British business, is built on three pillars: stability, investment and reform.

Stability will be brought about by strong, robust and respected economic institutions. Rather than criticising the Bank of England, as a number of prominent Conservative politicians have, we will protect its independence, and we will strengthen the Office for Budget Responsibility. We will introduce a new fiscal lock and tough new fiscal rules. Iron discipline will ensure that every policy we announce, and every line in our manifesto, is fully costed and fully funded. With a Labour Government, never again will a Prime Minister or Chancellor be allowed to repeat the mistakes of the Liz Truss Budget. Never again can we allow a repeat of the devastation that that Budget brought to family finances or allow a plan to be pushed through that is uncosted, unscrutinised and wholly detached from economic reality.

We prize stability and predictability for business, as we know how highly businesses that are considering investing in the UK prize stability, predictability and a long-term plan. This Finance Bill contains a number of measures that we have been calling for for some time. We welcome the Government finally making full expensing permanent after so many years of chopping and changing capital allowances; we have made it clear we will maintain this policy if we are in government. We have also made it clear that we will maintain the system of R&D tax credits introduced by this Finance Bill—again, after so many years of this Government chopping and changing the design of the scheme.

Of course, there is still a general election to face, so I use this opportunity to invite the Minister to put on the record whether the Government will follow our lead. Will she confirm that, should they win the general election, they will maintain permanent full expensing? I am sure that many businesses would welcome the certainty that comes from knowing that both main parties are going into the election fully committed to keeping this policy in place.

Let me be clear about another area where we will provide certainty, should we win the next general election. As the shadow Chancellor has set out, we believe that the current corporation tax rate strikes the right balance between what our public finances need and maintaining our competitiveness in the global economy. That is why we are pledging to cap the headline rate of corporation tax at its current rate for the whole of the next Parliament. We would take action if tax changes in other advanced economies threatened to undermine UK competitiveness. That choice provides predictability and has a clear rationale; that is the pro-business and pro-growth choice. So, again, to offer businesses as much certainty as possible, I ask the Minister whether the Government will follow our lead and also pledge, today, to cap corporation tax at its current rate for the next Parliament?

Our commitment to stability will be matched by a commitment to investment, through partnership with the private sector, to power the industries of the future with a modern industrial strategy; a new national wealth fund to invest alongside business, in our automotive sector, in our ports, and in the future of our steel industry; and a new national champion in homegrown power, leading the way on floating offshore wind, tidal and nuclear power, to ignite growth, boost our economic security, drive down energy bills, and create good, well-paid jobs across Britain. This will be combined with our commitment to reform, starting with our planning system, taking on vested interests to get Britain building again. Stability, investment, reform—the foundations of a plan to break free from the vicious cycle over 14 years of stagnant growth, rising taxes, and falling living standards.

Lord Leigh of Hurley Portrait Lord Leigh of Hurley (Con)
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Can the noble Lord clarify a point that he made in response to a point that I made about non-dom taxation? I understand that the Labour Party originally thought that taxing non-doms in the way that he described would raise £3 billion—it then reduced it to £2 billion and I think that it now thinks that it is £1 billion. It would be very helpful to have precision and clarity on the estimate that this will raise. Will he also confirm, now that Labour Party officials are talking to the Treasury, that they have asked the Treasury for its figures on the Labour Party’s proposals on non-doms, which, as I understand it, show a net loss to HMRC in respect of those proposals?

Lord Livermore Portrait Lord Livermore (Lab)
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I do not think that I am at liberty to divulge the exact nature of those discussions, but I can certainly say that that is not correct.

Lord Leigh of Hurley Portrait Lord Leigh of Hurley (Con)
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Does the noble Lord have an answer to my question on the specific amount that the non-dom tax proposals will raise?