John Glen debates with HM Treasury

There have been 84 exchanges between John Glen and HM Treasury

Tue 15th September 2020 Oral Answers to Questions 15 interactions (402 words)
Fri 11th September 2020 Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies (Environmentally Sustainable Investment) Bill 7 interactions (2,263 words)
Wed 9th September 2020 Protection of Jobs and Businesses 5 interactions (1,199 words)
Mon 13th July 2020 Stamp Duty Land Tax (Temporary Relief) Bill 13 interactions (1,595 words)
Wed 8th July 2020 The Economy 10 interactions (1,257 words)
Tue 7th July 2020 Oral Answers to Questions 17 interactions (395 words)
Tue 16th June 2020 Exiting the European Union: Financial Services and Markets 8 interactions (2,665 words)
Mon 18th May 2020 Oral Answers to Questions 10 interactions (244 words)
Mon 27th April 2020 Finance Bill 3 interactions (1,401 words)
Tue 24th March 2020 Oral Answers to Questions 28 interactions (841 words)
Thu 19th March 2020 Coronavirus: Employment Support (Urgent Question) 96 interactions (3,689 words)
Wed 18th March 2020 Bank Branch Closures (Westminster Hall) 6 interactions (1,383 words)
Mon 16th March 2020 Budget Resolutions 2 interactions (1,174 words)
Mon 24th February 2020 Treasury (Ministerial Corrections) 3 interactions (158 words)
Tue 11th February 2020 Oral Answers to Questions 24 interactions (542 words)
Tue 4th February 2020 Lloyds, HBOS and the Cranston Review (Westminster Hall) 9 interactions (1,426 words)
Tue 7th January 2020 Oral Answers to Questions 15 interactions (266 words)
Thu 24th October 2019 The Economy 7 interactions (4 words)
Tue 1st October 2019 Oral Answers to Questions 16 interactions (376 words)
Mon 8th July 2019 Precious Metal Markets 9 interactions (1,424 words)
Tue 2nd July 2019 Oral Answers to Questions 26 interactions (701 words)
Thu 27th June 2019 Co-operative and Mutual Businesses 9 interactions (2,135 words)
Wed 19th June 2019 Breathing Space Scheme 31 interactions (2,694 words)
Wed 12th June 2019 Local Bank Closures (Westminster Hall) 5 interactions (1,880 words)
Thu 6th June 2019 Mortgage Prisoners 15 interactions (1,841 words)
Wed 5th June 2019 Funeral Plans: Regulation 4 interactions (1,510 words)
Tue 21st May 2019 Oral Answers to Questions 35 interactions (678 words)
Tue 21st May 2019 Financial Exclusion: Access to Cash (Westminster Hall) 11 interactions (1,607 words)
Tue 21st May 2019 Debt Collection Letters (Westminster Hall) 8 interactions (1,532 words)
Wed 10th April 2019 British Steel Pension Scheme: Transfers (Westminster Hall) 11 interactions (2,783 words)
Tue 9th April 2019 Oral Answers to Questions 37 interactions (749 words)
Thu 4th April 2019 IR35 Tax Reforms (Westminster Hall) 11 interactions (1,762 words)
Tue 19th March 2019 Clydesdale Bank and SMEs (Urgent Question) 40 interactions (2,338 words)
Mon 18th March 2019 Treasury (Ministerial Corrections) 2 interactions (130 words)
Wed 13th March 2019 Child Trust Funds (Westminster Hall) 22 interactions (1,704 words)
Tue 5th March 2019 Oral Answers to Questions 38 interactions (824 words)
Tue 26th February 2019 Financial Services (Implementation of Legislation) Bill [ Lords ] (First sitting) (Public Bill Committees) 39 interactions (5,055 words)
Mon 25th February 2019 Exiting the EU (Financial Services) 7 interactions (2,512 words)
Mon 18th February 2019 Exiting the European Union (Financial Services) 18 interactions (3,260 words)
Thu 14th February 2019 Santander Closures and Local Communities (Westminster Hall) 30 interactions (2,178 words)
Wed 13th February 2019 Securitisation Regulations 2018 17 interactions (1,765 words)
Mon 11th February 2019 Financial Services (Implementation of Legislation) Bill [Lords] 6 interactions (1,302 words)
Thu 7th February 2019 Closure of Santander Banks 16 interactions (1,780 words)
Tue 5th February 2019 Treasury (Ministerial Corrections) 2 interactions (110 words)
Thu 31st January 2019 Equitable Life 7 interactions (1,097 words)
Tue 29th January 2019 Oral Answers to Questions 15 interactions (225 words)
Thu 17th January 2019 Treasury (Ministerial Corrections) 4 interactions (125 words)
Tue 18th December 2018 HBOS Reading: Independent Review (Westminster Hall) 5 interactions (1,593 words)
Tue 11th December 2018 Oral Answers to Questions 34 interactions (569 words)
Wed 5th December 2018 Affordable Credit for People on Low Incomes (Westminster Hall) 13 interactions (1,282 words)
Tue 4th December 2018 ATM Closures (Westminster Hall) 13 interactions (1,611 words)
Tue 4th December 2018 Financial Implications for the Next Generation (Westminster Hall) 3 interactions (1,360 words)
Tue 20th November 2018 2019 Loan Charge (Westminster Hall) 33 interactions (1,557 words)
Mon 12th November 2018 Treasury (Ministerial Corrections) 3 interactions (86 words)
Tue 6th November 2018 Oral Answers to Questions 21 interactions (341 words)
Thu 1st November 2018 Leaving the EU: Central Counterparty Clearing 4 interactions (1,580 words)
Mon 22nd October 2018 EU Customs Union and Draft Withdrawal Agreement: Cost (Urgent Question) 85 interactions (2,039 words)
Tue 9th October 2018 Business Banking Fraud (Westminster Hall) 9 interactions (1,297 words)
Tue 9th October 2018 Treasury (Ministerial Corrections) 3 interactions (150 words)
Tue 11th September 2018 Oral Answers to Questions 47 interactions (1,017 words)
Thu 12th July 2018 Banking Sector Failures (Westminster Hall) 21 interactions (2,718 words)
Tue 3rd July 2018 Oral Answers to Questions 29 interactions (490 words)
Tue 22nd May 2018 Oral Answers to Questions 42 interactions (751 words)
Thu 10th May 2018 Banking Misconduct and the FCA 9 interactions (1,257 words)
Tue 1st May 2018 Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill [Lords] 14 interactions (2,078 words)
Thu 26th April 2018 Financial Services (Westminster Hall) 12 interactions (2,465 words)
Wed 25th April 2018 Capital Needs of Co-operatives (Westminster Hall) 2 interactions (1,109 words)
Tue 24th April 2018 Financial Guidance and Claims Bill [Lords] 22 interactions (1,729 words)
Tue 17th April 2018 Oral Answers to Questions 24 interactions (327 words)
Wed 14th March 2018 Banking in North Ayrshire 16 interactions (1,432 words)
Tue 6th March 2018 Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill [Lords] (Sixth sitting) (Public Bill Committees) 38 interactions (5,299 words)
Tue 6th March 2018 Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill [ Lords ] (Fifth sitting) (Public Bill Committees) 15 interactions (819 words)
Thu 1st March 2018 Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill [Lords] (Fourth sitting) (Public Bill Committees) 45 interactions (4,348 words)
Tue 27th February 2018 Oral Answers to Questions 23 interactions (545 words)
Tue 27th February 2018 Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill [ Lords ] (First sitting) (Public Bill Committees) 17 interactions (2,447 words)
Tue 27th February 2018 Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill [ Lords ] (Second sitting) (Public Bill Committees) 5 interactions (551 words)
Thu 8th February 2018 Community Bank Closures 5 interactions (1,612 words)
Wed 7th February 2018 Credit Cards: Cost Regulation (Westminster Hall) 13 interactions (1,585 words)
Tue 6th February 2018 Financial Guidance and Claims Bill [ Lords ] (Third sitting) (Public Bill Committees) 59 interactions (4,632 words)
Wed 24th January 2018 RBS Closures (Argyll and Bute) (Westminster Hall) 14 interactions (1,645 words)
Thu 18th January 2018 RBS Global Restructuring Group and SMEs 20 interactions (1,944 words)
Tue 16th January 2018 Oral Answers to Questions 31 interactions (643 words)
Mon 15th January 2018 Childcare Vouchers (Westminster Hall) 25 interactions (2,077 words)
Thu 11th January 2018 Banks and Communities (Westminster Hall) 9 interactions (1,338 words)

Oral Answers to Questions

John Glen Excerpts
Tuesday 15th September 2020

(1 week, 4 days ago)

Commons Chamber
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HM Treasury
Holly Mumby-Croft Portrait Holly Mumby-Croft (Scunthorpe) (Con) - Hansard

What fiscal steps his Department is taking to support businesses affected by the covid-19 outbreak. [906063]

John Glen Portrait The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (John Glen) - Hansard

The Government recognise the extreme disruption that the pandemic has caused businesses, which is why we have delivered a generous and comprehensive package of support, in line with best practices globally, totalling more than £190 billion. That has included grants, loans, the furlough scheme, the self-employment income support scheme, deferred VAT payments, business rate reliefs and protections for commercial tenants.

Bim Afolami Portrait Bim Afolami - Hansard

I thank the Minister for his answer. Will he and the Treasury consider reviewing the rules of the furlough scheme to deal with cases where some small businesses, particularly one in my constituency, missed out on that scheme through administrative error and, in effect, paid staff when that could have been done through the furlough? Will he discuss that with me separately to see whether we could review the rules to deal with that sort of administrative mistake?

John Glen Portrait John Glen - Hansard

Obviously, the scheme has helped 1.2 million employers, and that involves 9.6 million jobs. I am happy to engage with my hon. Friend on the specific example he raises. No appeal process is available for those who have made administrative errors, but if a mistake has been made by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, a complaints procedure can be followed. I will follow up on this with him personally.

Miriam Cates Portrait Miriam Cates - Hansard

This Government’s support for businesses throughout the pandemic has been wide-ranging and delivered at speed. Without the real-time information held by HMRC, it would have taken significantly longer for those grants to reach employers and many more jobs would have been lost. Digital tax administration not only helps HMRC, but cuts costs to businesses, so what is the Treasury doing to build on those successes and make the UK one of the most digitally advanced places in the world to run a business?

John Glen Portrait John Glen - Hansard

My hon. Friend is right; it is incumbent on the Government, in all Departments, to look at how we can refine the way we operate, to be more effective. That is why in July my right hon. Friend the Chancellor published a 10-year tax administration strategy, setting out our vision for a modern system, which will involve extending making tax digital to more taxpayers. That is a first step, and we hope it will bring us to a world-leading situation in this country.

Holly Mumby-Croft Portrait Holly Mumby-Croft - Hansard

I have been told by businesses in my constituency that the hospitality VAT cut was a lifeline to them and helped them to continue. Will my right hon. Friend consider extending that VAT cut beyond January next year, to help those businesses with that recovery?

John Glen Portrait John Glen - Hansard

Clearly, every intervention has a cost, and that measure provided support for 150,000 businesses, protecting 2.4 million jobs. As we approach future fiscal events, all contributions and businesses cases for changes will be looked at carefully by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor. I am sure that he has heard my hon. Friend’s representations today.

Duncan Baker Portrait Duncan Baker (North Norfolk) (Con) - Hansard

What fiscal steps he is taking to support retail and high street businesses affected by the covid-19 outbreak. [906050]

Break in Debate

Daniel Zeichner Portrait Daniel  Zeichner  (Cambridge)  (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard

  The Government will be aware of the significance of the sale of Cambridge-based ARM to American chip maker Nvidia. Will the Government intervene both to secure the headquartering and jobs in Cambridge, but perhaps more significantly, to get an exemption from the American CFIUS—Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States—rules, which give the American Government such leverage? Why on earth would we want to throw away such a bargaining chip in advance of trade negotiations? [906125]

John Glen Portrait The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (John Glen) - Parliament Live - Hansard

The hon. Gentleman is right to raise ARM, which is obviously a key employer in his constituency. The Government are taking a very close interest in this transaction. It was pleasing to see yesterday that parties close to the transaction said that the headquarters would remain in Cambridge. It is a matter we are engaging very closely on, and I am very happy to engage with him personally on any questions arising from that.

Dr Kieran Mullan Portrait Dr  Kieran  Mullan  (Crewe and Nantwich) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard

  Bounce back loans have been vital to many businesses in Crewe and Nantwich. Although they appreciate the help they have had from the scheme, some have been left waiting too long to access the support. For example, Axis Boats in my constituency waited eight weeks. Until it approached me and we worked together on it, it was not able to get the finance. Will my hon. Friend agree to meet me to discuss examples such as this and to ensure that banks are fully playing their part in getting people access to this support? [906112]

John Glen Portrait John Glen - Parliament Live - Hansard

My hon. Friend is right to raise this point, which he has raised before. In his constituency, 1,400 businesses have benefited from the bounce back loans from 28 providers across the country, but I am happy to engage with him in relation to the number of cases he has dealt with and see what interventions can be made at this time.

Zarah Sultana Portrait Zarah  Sultana (Coventry South) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard

  The likes of Amazon, Facebook and Google have seen their profits soar during the pandemic. Using accounting tricks, these companies avoid paying their fair share of tax, which is how Amazon UK’s pre-tax profits have risen by 35%, while its tax bill rose by less than 3%. Will the Chancellor promise to keep the digital services tax and promise that it will be billionaires and the multi- national corporations who will pay for coronavirus spending, not workers and small businesses who have been hit so hard? [906130]

Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies (Environmentally Sustainable Investment) Bill

(2nd reading: House of Commons)
John Glen Excerpts
Friday 11th September 2020

(2 weeks, 1 day ago)

Commons Chamber
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HM Treasury
Mr Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans) - Hansard
11 Sep 2020, 12:07 a.m.

Let me just explain what is happening, because it has been a while since we have had a Friday sitting. When I call the Minister, the debate will continue as long as people who are on the call list are trying to catch my eye. At the end of that, I will then call Anna McMorrin to end that debate. If anybody wishes to withdraw from the call list, please come and see me in the Chair.

John Glen Portrait The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (John Glen) - Hansard
11 Sep 2020, 12:07 a.m.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Cardiff North (Anna McMorrin) both on securing this private Member’s Bill and on highlighting the important issue to the House. I acknowledge the many significant contributions so far: from my hon. Friends the Members for Northampton South (Andrew Lewer), for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk (John Lamont), the hon. Member for Croydon Central (Sarah Jones), my hon. Friends the Members for Clwyd South (Simon Baynes), for Grantham and Stamford (Gareth Davies), for Christchurch (Sir Christopher Chope), for Rushcliffe (Ruth Edwards), for Bolton West (Chris Green), for Sedgefield (Paul Howell), for Darlington (Peter Gibson) and for Gedling (Tom Randall). All of them have interrogated the Bill very carefully and thoughtfully with some interesting exchanges along the way.

I wish to put it on record that I fully agree with the ambitions of the hon. Lady’s Bill to support the growth and development of the co-operative and mutual sector and to tackle climate change; I have enjoyed our dialogue during the preparation of the Bill to get to this point. They are two key drivers of my tenure as Economic Secretary. I also wish to put it on record that the Government have taken significant steps to support the co-operative and mutual sector to reach its potential, and I will continue to champion mutuals of all kinds. Just last week, I was pleased to attend a roundtable on the topic of regional mutual banks chaired by my hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Kevin Hollinrake) who has also made contributions again today. I will be taking some of those thoughts from that discussion forward.

Treasury officials who work with me also hosted an innovative mutuals workshop with representatives from across the sector last year to drive practical changes to help co-operatives. In 2014, as has been mentioned, we passed the Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act to reduce legal complexity and, at the same time, we increased the amount of capital a member could invest in a society from £20,000 to £100,000.

Kevin Hollinrake Portrait Kevin Hollinrake - Hansard
11 Sep 2020, 1:04 p.m.

The Minister refers to the roundtable we held on mutual banks. One of the astounding figures in that roundtable was the SME lending by mutual banks in other countries throughout the financial crisis. In Japan, there was no reduction in lending to SMEs. In Germany, there was a 20% increase. In Switzerland, there was a 30% increase over that five-year period. In the UK, there was a 25% decrease in lending to SMEs. Does that not show the power of mutual banks as a solution to SME lending?

John Glen Portrait John Glen - Parliament Live - Hansard
11 Sep 2020, 1:05 p.m.

It does show the considerable potential, but we must be clear about the different legal traditions and frameworks that exist in those different jurisdictions. Right now, we are looking at where we can examine ways of moving forward constructively from the basis that we have in this country.

I would like to move on and examine some of the other elements where the Treasury has made contributions to assist this broad agenda. Where we have identified barriers holding mutuals back, we have acted to remove them. This year, we worked with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs to ensure that companies converting to co-operatives are treated on a level playing field. At the Budget, the Government announced that the tax burden on housing co-operatives would be reduced. Most recently, the Treasury has worked closely with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to ensure that co-operatives can benefit from the Government’s covid-19 business support offer, including through the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020.

I am conscious that the interest of the hon. Member for Cardiff North is not just about the development of the co-operative sector. In our discussions, her passion for taking action to address climate change and her considerable experience in Wales prior to coming to this place have been abundantly clear to me. The Government share that ambition. As the House will be aware, we legislated to reduce emissions to net zero by 2050, becoming the first major economy to do so. In the Budget earlier this year, the Chancellor also announced a series of real, tangible measures to support green growth and tackle climate change. They were wide-ranging and included: committing to the carbon capture and storage infrastructure fund; fulfilling the manifesto commitment to tree planting and peatland restoration through a £640 million Nature for Climate fund; delivering on our commitment to increase the proportion of green gas in the grid by consulting on introducing a Great Britain-wide green gas levy to support biomethane production, alongside other measures to decarbonise heat; doubling the size of our energy innovation programme; and, at the summer economic update in July, the Government announced a further ambitious £3.05 billion package for housing decarbonisation designed to cut carbon, save people money and create jobs.

In my own area of responsibility at the Treasury, green finance is a priority. We published our green finance strategy in July last year. It sets out very clear objectives to align private sector financial flows with clean environmentally sustainable and resilient growth, and to strengthen the competitiveness of the UK financial sector. The tone of the debate and the content of colleagues’ speeches today has shown that there has to be an almost limitless ambition in terms of the dimensions of interventions. A number of contributions focused on the issue of green bonds and mobilising green finance. That means accelerating investments to support clean growth and our environmental ambitions. I think I would want to say that the issuance of green bonds will be an important part of the pathway to delivering the transition to net zero by 2050. It is something that the Treasury keeps under active and ongoing review as we approach fiscal events in the future.

I would like to turn now to the reasons the Government cannot support this Bill, despite sharing the ambitions of the hon. Member for Cardiff North. For the benefit of the House, it may be worth restating that societies can currently issue shares to raise capital and may also issue debt in much the same way as companies, as the Opposition Front-Bench spokesman, the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton South East (Mr McFadden) correctly set out. The current arrangement allows for a considerable amount of flexibility for co-operatives seeking to raise capital, while safeguarding their status as genuinely mutual member-owned and controlled entities.

The Government believe that the UK should have a strong and robust regulatory system which provides strong protection for consumers. Investment in mutuals, like any other investment, is not risk-free—a point that has been made by several hon. Members. Although it is for investors to make their own choices about risk—as has been pointed out, investments can go up and down—it is crucial that the Government ensure that appropriate protections are in place, particularly where a new type of investment instrument or product is being created.

The recent public and regulatory attention, following the failure of London Capital and Finance, to retail investments such as those that are often referred to as mini bonds highlights that care is needed when developing investment products for retail investors. From the beginning of this year, the Financial Conduct Authority took action to limit the promotion of a certain type of mini bond to certain retail investors, citing concerns about the high risk that capital invested would not be repaid and the illiquid nature of the investment. The FCA is now consulting on making those temporary rules permanent and extending them to some similar securities.

Unfortunately, we believe that the type of share proposed in the Bill may unintentionally—I do accept that it would be unintentional—create a capital instrument with characteristics similar to those of a mini bond, without ensuring that adequate protections for consumers were in place. Some of the significant issues with mini bonds arose as a result of their illiquid nature—the fact that they cannot easily be transferred—limiting investors’ ability to access their funds. Although the share proposed in the Bill is transferable, we believe that, in practice, it is likely that it would be highly illiquid. Mutual shares can ordinarily only be transferred at par value, which in turn limits the potential for the emergence of any secondary market for the shares, because the incentive to purchase existing shares is limited. In the case of the share proposed in the Bill, the opportunities for retail investors to recover their funds before the term attached to the share has expired, should they need to do so, may be extremely limited. That limitation could pose risks to retail investors with relatively low net worth who may need to access their capital.

Investment in mutuals is not risk-free. Many investors in mini bonds were motivated by the opportunity to support a brand or product that they had some relationship with, so they may not have fully considered the risks posed to their capital. That issue should be considered carefully in this case, because it is likely that individual socially minded investors may see investment in a green co-operative as an ethical use of their funds and may underestimate the associated risk.

That issue may be compounded by two further considerations. First, although the FCA is the registering authority for co-operatives, where they are not undertaking regulated activity they are not supervised by the FCA in the manner in which financial services firms are. We believe, therefore, that there is a significant risk of mistaking registration with the FCA to suggest a level of scrutiny that does not exist, and that may cause investors to underestimate the risk. Furthermore, as the investments are unlikely to be covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme, there would be no compensation available to consumers if the issuing co-operative were unable to repay the original investment. That has been a particularly contentious area with mini bonds.

More broadly, the Treasury’s review of the current regulatory arrangements for the issuance and marketing of non-transferable debt securities, such as some mini bonds, is ongoing. It is right that we consider carefully the outcome of that review before consideration is given to the creation of any capital instrument with similar characteristics. We do not want to have to do another review when we have not concluded this one yet. I hope I have made it clear to the House that the Government have significant concerns about the potential consumer detriment that may unintentionally arise as a result of the type of share proposed in this Bill.

Kevin Hollinrake Portrait Kevin Hollinrake - Hansard
11 Sep 2020, 12:04 a.m.

Does the Minister agree that the issue with mini bonds, and particularly with London Capital and Finance, was the misunderstanding around what was regulated? In that case, the product itself was not regulated, but the marketing of it was. That was very confusing for consumers, many of whom thought they were buying regulated products when they were not. Would it not be more straightforward to simplify and widen the regulatory framework to bring those kinds of products into it?

John Glen Portrait John Glen - Hansard
11 Sep 2020, 12:03 a.m.

My hon. Friend shows his usual grasp of these matters. He is right to say that the lack of clarity about the promotions regime and the regulation of the underlying instruments poses some real challenges. Alongside Dame Elizabeth Gloster’s review, which will report in November, we are looking carefully at the right joined-up response to deal with the risks that we have seen in the recent unfortunate situation arising from these mini-bonds.

Alongside protecting consumers, it is right that the Government consider the impact of any proposed changes to the shares issued by co-operatives on the sector. We have seen clear examples in other policy areas of legal forms being used to deliver investor benefits other than for the purpose they were intended, such as tax-advantaged venture capital schemes in energy generation. The FCA noted in response to its 2015 consultation that it had taken the decision not to register a number of energy societies as co-operatives. Those decisions were taken on a case-by-case basis, when it was determined that the conditions for registration as a co-operative were not met. In those cases, the relevant condition for registration was that the society must be a bona fide co-operative society.

Key to what makes mutuals distinct from other legal forms is their purpose-driven nature—one that the hon. Member for Cardiff North set out clearly in her opening speech and to which others have referred. I am concerned that the type of share proposed in the Bill may incentivise investors to inappropriately use the co-operative legal form as a vehicle to attract investment rather than to act for the benefit of its members or community, as co-operatives are intended to. Let me be clear: we are not opposed to community energy schemes, or for that matter any other business seeking to incorporate in the mutual model. However, it is right for the Government to be cautious in proceeding without the possibility for appropriate consultation and consideration, because we have seen real examples of where the model has been used in the wrong way, to considerable consumer detriment.

Finally, I note that there does not appear to be a clear consensus from the co-operative sector in support of the Bill as it stands. I will set out the position plainly as I understand it. In a briefing to MPs, the trade body Co-operatives UK noted that the Bill would be “impractical and counterproductive” and

“would restrict rather than expand the scope for societies to take on mission-aligned investment for environmental and social purposes.”

Co-operatives UK’s preferred approach, as the hon. Lady acknowledged, is to make amendments in Committee to remove the links to environmentally sustainable investment from most of the Bill. However, I believe that would fundamentally contradict the hon. Member’s intentions in drawing the scope of the Bill and is therefore not a viable way forward.

To conclude, let me reiterate my sincere gratitude to the hon. Member for Cardiff North for bringing forward this Bill. There has been a constructive discussion today, and it is important to highlight the value of the co-operative and mutual sector, both to the House and the public. I thank her for the way that she has engaged with me and my officials in recent months. Her passion to support the sector and tackle climate change has been clear throughout. As I have indicated to her previously, I will be happy to continue to work with her and representatives from the sector, of which there are a number across the House, to understand what more can be done. I will continue to champion the work of the co-operative sector more generally and address some of the themes of today’s debate, which have been very valid and worth while.

Angela Richardson Portrait Angela Richardson (Guildford) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard

It is a privilege to follow so many amazing speeches and contributions today. It is also quite unusual to follow the Minister, so I shall get on with it.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Cardiff North (Anna McMorrin) on introducing the Bill. It is clear that she has invested considerable work and time in the process. It is also clear from their contributions today that other colleagues across the House have invested much time in this, too. The importance of environmental considerations are becoming more widely acknowledged, which is welcome. There is no shortage of need—for example, refitting old housing stock and making for a greener future, as the hon. Lady mentioned in her opening speech.

There is also a growing interest in this area from investors, many of whom recognise that not everything that counts can be counted and that the environmental and social impact of their investments should also form part of the reckoning when assessing the returns they make. This creates an opportunity to bring the two together, but sustainable success will only happen if that is done responsibly, and I have reservations as to whether the Bill will do that.

The Bill raises more questions than it answers. The proposal suggests that these green shares are transferable, as is normally the case with shares, but how are they to be priced? How is a fair price to be determined in the absence of a deep and liquid market? What will shareholders have a share of exactly? What rights will these shares carry, and what governance structures will be in place to allow these shareholders to protect their rights? Who gets to govern the investment? The risk of the potential of this being a mini bond has been outlined. Calling something equity does not make it so. There are accounting regulations to be taken into consideration. If debt is bought back at less than its face value, as may happen here, a gain accrues to the issuer while the holder of the loan may nurse a loss that they can reclaim tax against—the Bill may open new ways for mutuals and co-operatives to recapitalise themselves at taxpayers’ expense.

Finally, say that the money is raised and spent. What does success look like? The challenge and opportunity that this form of finance is designed to deal with—the big environmental problems—also has externalities, which by definition cannot be quantified, so how can co-operatives evidence the extra-financial component of the return? There is a risk that capital raises over-promises, which have been described by other Members as greenwashing, which we have to be careful of. I admire the aims of the Bill, but I cannot support it as it currently stands.

Protection of Jobs and Businesses

John Glen Excerpts
Wednesday 9th September 2020

(2 weeks, 3 days ago)

Commons Chamber
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HM Treasury
Bridget Phillipson Portrait Bridget Phillipson - Hansard
9 Sep 2020, 12:03 a.m.

It is always a delight to hear from Conservative Members who think that the Opposition should make those kinds of decisions. My hon. Friend the Member for Oxford East (Anneliese Dodds), the shadow Chancellor, has set out very clearly that we will work with Government to design a scheme that can be targeted more at the sectors of our economy that are in trouble, but only Ministers have access to all the data that can best point us to how the scheme could properly work.

Internationally, we are an outlier in our response. We are far from through this crisis, and it would be a mistake to pull away support prematurely. Doing so will damage our economy in the long run and hit world-leading sectors of our economy. We should not make that mistake, and we urge Ministers to work with us and to think again.

It is not just the Labour party that is urging the Government to change course and provide for such a targeted extension; the TUC and the CBI take the same view, and we even hear from The Daily Telegraph that it is far too soon to be ending furlough. Indeed, with every passing day, it is becoming harder to find people—apart from Conservative Members—outside No. 11 Downing Street who believe that the Treasury has got this right.

Aside from the furlough extension, the Minister has again shirked the opportunity to address the gaps in the schemes. The shadow Chancellor has consistently pressed the Chancellor for support for those who, through no fault of their own, have fallen through the gaps of the schemes that were designed to provide employment support—the excluded. Perhaps they are employees who were changing jobs. Perhaps their business has a high street presence that does not qualify for rate relief. Perhaps they have only this year moved from employment to self-employment. Perhaps they are in one of those situations and their partner is in another.

We understand that these are difficult decisions to get right, but the Government have had six months. Today we heard yet again the same reply about what they mean to do for those people. They have done nothing, they are doing nothing and they propose to do precisely nothing. In the years ahead, Conservative Members may discover that many of their electors have longer memories than they would like.

None of these arguments is one to which the Opposition have come lately or had a belated conversion. Quite the contrary; inside and outside this House, we have spent months calling on the Government to fix the shortcomings in their schemes. The shadow Chancellor has been absolutely clear that we are more than willing to work with the Government, with businesses and with trade unions to get this right.

I will not be able to quote every remark, because time is limited, but I will remind the House how often, and for how long, we have urged the Government to get a grip, change course and, above all, bring in a targeted extension of furlough. On 19 April, the shadow Chancellor said: 

“Our main concern right now is that a number of those programmes are not fulfilling the promise that has been placed on them”

On 20 April, I said that the date set for the introduction of the scheme still set aside many workers. On 3 May, my right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband), the shadow Business Secretary, urged a second wave of support, including where necessary an extension of the furlough scheme. On 12 May, the shadow Chancellor warned again of our concerns, and again on 23 May. On 30 June, my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham West and Royton (Jim McMahon), the shadow Transport Secretary, was already drawing attention to how often we have been making this point:

“Labour has consistently called for an extension to the furlough in the most impacted industries”.

On 15 July, the Leader of the Opposition made the same points to the Prime Minister, warning that

“the decision…not to provide sector-specific support to those most at risk could end up costing thousands of jobs.”—[Official Report, 15 July 2020; Vol. 678, c. 1509.]

On 28 July, he added:

“We need a targeted extension of the furlough scheme for the hardest-hit sectors and proper support in place to help those who are unemployed back into work.”

It is not simply the Opposition who believe that a targeted scheme would be better value for money. The Government’s own civil servants required ministerial direction before pursuing the Chancellor’s poorly targeted job retention bonus. The Chancellor himself has accepted that there will be a deadweight cost that might stretch into the billions, yet the amendment in his name today suggests that any deviation from existing Government policy will cause damage to the UK economy. The self- confidence is breathtaking. Does the Chancellor really believe that his Government have got everything right? It is a pity that he has not graced us with his presence today to make that argument himself. The language of infallibility is not helpful to families who fear for their jobs. Persistence may be a virtue; obstinacy in the face of all evidence is not.

The frustration that people in this country feel at the Government’s refusal to listen, understand and engage is growing all the time. The Government amendment is clear that the man in Downing Street knows best. That is not the sense shared by many businesses and workers right across our country. People do not expect handouts, but they do expect fairness. They expect that in their hour of need the Government will not abandon them, their families or their businesses. The Chancellor has shown all summer that he is not prepared to engage with the concerns of businesses in sectors facing the toughest challenges now and in the months to come.

But what matters is not the Chancellor’s persistence in sticking to decisions made in March. What matters most is a secure future for Britain’s firms and Britain’s families. Today we have again seen the Chancellor’s stubbornness holding Britain back—holding back our people and holding back our economy. It is not too late. I urge Conservative Members, especially those who have only recently arrived in this place, to think of the conversations that they must have had, as I have, with local businesses worried about the months ahead and with families fearful for their jobs, and to back this motion.

John Glen Portrait The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (John Glen) - Parliament Live - Hansard
9 Sep 2020, 12:04 a.m.

It is a privilege to close this debate on behalf of Government. I thank hon. and right hon. Members across the House for their varied and considered contributions. The Government have worked closely with colleagues across the House to help to define the interventions that we have made. I thank my hon. Friends the Members for Cities of London and Westminster (Nickie Aiken), for Dudley South (Mike Wood) and for Moray (Douglas Ross) for making further constructive contributions today.

I think I can discern four themes on which to base my remarks. First, many colleagues have referenced the support from the schemes that the Government have introduced over recent months. The Government have acted decisively to protect people’s livelihoods and support businesses, with what has been one of the most generous and comprehensive responses in the world. The Government have supported people, businesses and our public services with over £190 billion. The OBR and the Bank of England agree that the actions that we have taken in the first phase of our response have helped to safeguard millions of jobs and that without them there would have been far worse outcomes. The OBR has said that the positive action that the Government have taken

“should…help to limit any long-term economic ‘scarring’, by keeping workers attached to firms and helping otherwise viable firms stay in business.”

At the heart of today’s debate is the fact we have supported more than 9.6 million furloughed workers and 2.6 million self-employed individuals through our schemes, as my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Stephen Hammond) and others recognised. We have helped millions of the most vulnerable people in the country, with a more generous welfare system, a hardship fund and financial support through mortgage and credit payment holidays. We have intervened to reduce income losses faced by working households by up to two thirds, with the poorest working households protected the most—a point that was welcomed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Preseli Pembrokeshire (Stephen Crabb). We have produced extensive support schemes, working with businesses, with tax cuts, tax deferrals, direct cash grants and an extensive programme of loan schemes. I will be happy to engage with the hon. Member for Ogmore (Chris Elmore) and the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West (Joanna Cherry) on the specific concerns they raised about various schemes.

Of course, the direct cash grants to businesses that my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary has just announced will give businesses either £1,000 or £1,500, depending on rateable value, for each three-week period that they are closed. That will provide vital support to closed businesses throughout the difficult but temporary experience of local lockdown—measures that have been urged by colleagues such as my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton North East (Mark Logan) throughout these difficult weeks.

Mark Logan Portrait Mark Logan (Bolton North East) (Con) - Hansard

Will the Minister give way?

John Glen Portrait John Glen - Hansard

I am sorry; I will not be taking interventions, given the shortness of the time.

The second theme that I want to draw out is that, in response to the unfolding tragedy of people losing their jobs, the Government have announced a specific plan for jobs. We are one of the first countries in the world to do so. The plan for jobs protects, creates and supports jobs. We introduced the Eat Out to Help Out scheme—another scheme that Treasury officials had to issue a ministerial direction for—and temporarily reduced the rate of VAT on tourism and hospitality. Doing so supported millions of jobs in some of our most jobs-rich industries.

To create jobs, we are driving growth in the housing sector by increasing the stamp duty threshold temporarily to £500,000, creating green jobs with the green homes grant, and providing billions of pounds of capital investment. To support jobs, just last week we launched the kickstart scheme to subsidise the most vulnerable category of 16 to 24-year-olds. In addition, we have been providing employment support schemes, training and apprenticeships, and providing the extra support of job coaches in jobcentres.

The third theme I want to draw out from the contributions today is the furlough scheme. The furlough scheme will have run for eight months by the time it closes, and it has supported millions of people and their families. It is right to say that it is one of the most generous schemes in the world. As my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich East (Nicola Richards) mentioned, ending the scheme is the right thing to do. On Monday, the chief economist of the Bank of England agreed, saying that to maintain it in its current form would not help either individuals or businesses.

Although I have heard the arguments at a high level for a targeted or sector-specific furlough scheme, I have heard no clear, satisfactory answer to the questions the Chief Secretary posed earlier about which sectors would not be provided with furlough, how we would treat and define supply chains, and when such a scheme would end. Of course, we are not ending our support for furloughed employees; the job retention bonus scheme provides an incentive for businesses that bring employees back from furlough to do meaningful work and ensures that they are supported as the economy gets going. As my right hon. Friend set out, the bonus represents a significant sum that will be vital particularly for small and medium-sized enterprises, which make up 95% of the employers that have claimed for furlough grants and 60% of furloughed workers.

The final thing that I want to emphasise is that our comprehensive and generous economic response has required us to significantly increase our levels of borrowing. In the short run, that has been absolutely the right strategy so that we can protect jobs and incomes, support businesses and drive the recovery, but over the medium term it is clearly not sustainable to continue borrowing at these levels. We will need to return to strong public finances where our debt is in a more sustainable position.

With Government debt now exceeding the size of the UK economy for the first time in more than 50 years, even small changes could be hugely damaging. Thankfully, we were in a strong fiscal position coming into this crisis, which allowed us to act quickly and decisively without hesitation to support jobs and businesses. The difficulties we now face remind us once again that sound public finances are not an optional extra; they are the foundation of a good economic policy.

The Government certainly are not saying “job done”. We know that there is more we need to do to protect jobs and businesses, and today’s debate has helped us to focus on some of the future ideas and solutions.

The economic challenges that we face are extraordinary and unique in our history, but the Government have been proceeding since March with a clear plan to address those challenges. We are providing one of the most comprehensive economic responses to the coronavirus of any country in the world, and we are determined to do everything we can, not just to get through and recover the economy, but to rebuild a better, fairer and prosperous economy, as we deliver on our governing mission to level up and unite the country. That is why we are supporting the Government amendment this afternoon.

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

Apologies to the 56 Members who did not get in on this debate today. We will now put the original question to the House.

Question put, (Standing Order No. 31(2), That the original words stand part of the Question.

The House divided: Ayes 249, Noes 329.

Stamp Duty Land Tax (Temporary Relief) Bill

(2nd reading: House of Commons)
John Glen Excerpts
Monday 13th July 2020

(2 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Bill Main Page
HM Treasury
Dame Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton) - Parliament Live - Hansard

Under the order of the House today, amendments and new clauses to be moved in Committee of the whole House may now be tabled. Hon. Members should table through the Public Bill Office inbox: PBOHoC@parliament.uk. In order to be eligible for selection, Members should table amendments within the next 10 minutes.

John Glen Portrait The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (John Glen) - Parliament Live - Hansard
13 Jul 2020, 12:04 a.m.

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

There is no doubt that the spring and early summer of 2020 will be forever remembered as one of the most testing periods in our nation’s post-war history. Covid-19 is both a health crisis and an economic crisis. It has tested the public and private sectors in equal measure, just has it has tested the population as a whole. But the virus has been brought to heel, and thanks to our collective efforts we are now in a position where it is safe to reopen our economy.

From the outset of this crisis, the Government have sought to protect business, jobs and incomes. The coronavirus jobs retention scheme and self-employment income support scheme have between them preserved millions of livelihoods through the lockdown. Meanwhile, our VAT deferrals and business rates reliefs, alongside the coronavirus business interruption loans and bounce-back loan scheme, have carried many businesses through the hardest months, so that they now have a fighting chance to recover.

In the autumn, the Government will bring forward a Budget and a spending review that will set out a longer-term strategy for the United Kingdom’s economic recovery.

However, this pandemic is not yet over. Even as we step out of lockdown, a great deal of disruption and uncertainty remains. Many businesses have yet to reopen their doors. Up and down the country, people are worried about whether their jobs will be secure when they return to work, and that is why my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer came to the House on Wednesday to set out the Government’s plan for jobs. As a first step, the Government are introducing a one-off job retention bonus of £1,000, available to employers for each furloughed employee who is still employed as of 31 January next year.

There will also be new, high-quality jobs for hundreds of thousands of young kick-starters. We will invest £1 billion to double the number of work coaches and support the unemployed. There will be more apprenticeships, traineeships and skills funding, and we will bring forward £8.6 billion of investment in our public services and infrastructure to trigger new job creation projects around the country. However, we know that some sectors of the economy have been hit particularly hard, and that is why the Government will support the hospitality and tourism sectors by cutting VAT on food, accommodation and attractions from 20% to just 5% for the next six months. It is why the Government have put in place a £1.57 billion rescue package for theatres, museums and other cultural industries, in recognition of the 700,000 people employed in those sectors and to safeguard the incalculable contribution they make to our national life.

Chris Grayling Portrait Chris Grayling (Epsom and Ewell) (Con) - Hansard

May I congratulate my hon. Friend and his colleagues on the Treasury Bench for what I think has been an exemplary response to an unprecedented crisis? He describes the challenges that still remain in the economy. Many people still face tough times, particularly in the events sector, where businesses remain as yet unopened. Many of the people who work in the events and entertainment sector have not, for various reasons to do with their employment or tax status, been able to take advantage of the schemes we have seen over the past few months. Will my hon. Friend, together with his Treasury colleagues, look at whether there are additional things we can do to support those sectors and those people in the months ahead, because for them times are still tough?

John Glen Portrait John Glen - Hansard

I thank my right hon. Friend for his kind remarks. There is more work to be done, and I acknowledge the challenges faced by different industries in different ways. We will continue to look very carefully at further interventions that we could make and shall make in the Budget later this year.

I turn to the housing market, which is another example of a sector that has experienced considerable disruption and which brings me to the subject of this Bill. The Government’s plan for jobs will support the construction sector by injecting new confidence and certainty into the housing market. It will do so by ensuring that anyone buying a main home for under £500,000 before the end of March next year will pay no stamp duty whatever.

A thriving housing market is critical for growth and jobs in this country. Most obviously, a healthy labour market relies on people being able to move home to be closer to the jobs that match their skills, but the building industry is itself a major contributor to jobs and prosperity in the country, adding £39 billion a year to the UK economy. House building alone supports up to three quarters of a million jobs, and let us not forget the many related sectors that benefit from property transactions: estate agents, removal companies, furniture retailers, DIY stores, self-employed decorators and so forth. The lockdown sadly brought much of that trade to a juddering halt.

Rightmove estimates that 175,000 sellers were prevented from coming to the market between March and May this year. Meanwhile, HMRC data shows that residential property transactions in May were about 50% lower than the same month last year. For the first time in eight years, house prices have fallen.

Matt Western Portrait Matt Western (Warwick and Leamington) (Lab) - Hansard
13 Jul 2020, 5:39 p.m.

The Minister is making a fair argument in support of the construction and housing sector, but, as he just described, the sector is down by 50% in terms of sales. He will appreciate that the automotive and car sector was down by 97% over the two months of April and May and down by 30% in June. Does he not think that that sector is worthy of support as well?

John Glen Portrait John Glen - Hansard
13 Jul 2020, 5:40 p.m.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his observations, which he made last week as well. Of course the Government look at all industries. The automotive industry is a key industry, and we are in dialogue with companies across the country looking at the appropriate interventions necessary. Obviously, commercial sensitivities sometimes prevent us from discussing those at the Dispatch Box.

With restrictions easing, the Government have been able to reopen the housing market, and there are signs of tentative movement. Transactions in May were 16% higher than in April. It is crucial to our recovery that we maintain this momentum. People should feel confident to move, to buy, to sell, and to renovate and improve their homes. This is why the Government are cutting stamp duty land tax by temporarily increasing the nil rate band for residential property from £125,000 to £500,000, with effect from last Wednesday—8 July—until 31 March 2021.

Kevin Hollinrake Portrait Kevin Hollinrake (Thirsk and Malton) (Con) - Hansard
13 Jul 2020, 5:40 p.m.

I draw the House’s attention to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial interests. I am very supportive of these measures. One of the risks to the housing market is the withdrawal by the lenders of high loan-to-value mortgages, especially for first-time buyers. We know that 90% and 95% loans can become a self-fulfilling prophecy that damages the market. Will the Minister do whatever he can to make sure that our banks support high loan-to-value mortgages throughout this time?

John Glen Portrait John Glen - Hansard

I am grateful, as ever, for my hon. Friend’s intervention. Of course, he has enormous expertise in this sector. He is right to say that there is a threat given the changes in the profile of LTV mortgages that are being offered. We hope that that will return to more of the normal schedule that we would have seen pre-pandemic. We will be actively looking at this, and I am in conversations with the banks and building societies about it.

Siobhain McDonagh Portrait Siobhain McDonagh (Mitcham and Morden) (Lab) - Hansard
13 Jul 2020, 5:42 p.m.

Does the Minister agree that this is actually more than a threat for first-time buyers at the moment—it is a reality? First-time buyers are queuing online for websites of lenders in an effort to get the small number of 5% deposit mortgages. Providing more incentive to people who already own their own home or are part of the buy-to-let market effectively crowds out first-time buyers.

John Glen Portrait John Glen - Hansard
13 Jul 2020, 5:42 p.m.

I thank the hon. Lady for her point. I would look at it in terms of opening up the market, creating more churn and momentum that allows all participants to be able to get on the housing ladder.

The Government’s cutting stamp duty land tax in this way will mean that nine out of 10 people buying their main home will pay no stamp duty at all, and buyers can save up to £15,000. In my own constituency, the average family looking to buy a home worth £349,000 will go from paying £7,450 in stamp duty to absolutely nothing. Indeed, this Bill will take most properties outside of London and the south-east out of stamp duty entirely.

The Bill is the latest in a long line of measures from this Government designed to support current and prospective homeowners in this country. Historically, stamp duty has been charged at a single rate on the whole purchase price of a property, with different rates for different value bands. The same rate of tax was charged irrespective of the number of properties owned by the buyers. In 2014, the Government reformed stamp duty land tax on residential properties, cutting the tax for 98% of buyers who pay it, unless they are purchasing additional property. In 2015, the Government introduced the higher rates of SDLT, which apply on purchases of additional residential properties such as second homes and buy-to-let properties. Finally, in 2017, the Government introduced first-time buyers relief. This increased the price at which a property becomes liable to pay stamp duty, for first-time buyers, from £125,000 to £300,000, with a reduced rate between £300,000 and £500,000.

Together, these reforms have made the tax system fairer and more efficient. They have cut the cost of home ownership for first-time buyers, helping more than 500,000 families to secure a foot on the housing ladder. This Bill will cut the cost of home ownership further, at a time when personal finances are under considerable pressure. In doing so, it will inject new momentum into the property market, protecting thousands of jobs in both the construction industry and the wider economy.

This stamp duty cut is one of several measures in the Government’s plan for jobs that will benefit families and businesses across the country. From September, homeowners and landlords will be able to apply for a green homes grant of up to £5,000 to make their homes more energy efficient. For low-income households, we will go even further, with vouchers covering the full cost up to £10,000. This, too, will support local jobs, as well as reducing carbon emissions and cutting energy bills for hard-pressed families.

Craig Mackinlay Portrait Craig Mackinlay (South Thanet) (Con) - Hansard

I wonder if the Minister could clarify a couple of points. On the 31 March date, we all worry that this will end up being a cliff edge, as the date approaches. Will that be the date of exchange, which is usual, I think, in these matters? Is he not concerned about that cliff edge? For some people, for no reason of their own, late finishing of their property will mean they fall the wrong side, very expensively?

John Glen Portrait John Glen - Hansard

I thank my hon. Friend for his point. We are in a situation where, if the transaction is substantially completed by 31 March, it will be able to qualify for the relief.

Almost four months ago, the Government took the extraordinary step of ordering businesses across the country to close for an extended and unspecified period of time. Millions of people put their lives on hold for the greater good, but now that the virus is under control, the time has come to reopen our economy. Providing infection rates remain low, people should be able to get on with their lives, wherever possible. There are few aspirations more important to the British people than home ownership, and this Bill will ensure that those looking to buy a family home will see their stamp duty bill disappear altogether. It is part of our plan to turn our national recovery into millions of stories of personal renewal. In doing so, it will stimulate the housing market, safeguarding many thousands of jobs and helping Britain to bounce back stronger than before. For all these reasons, I commend the Bill to the House.

Dan Carden Portrait Dan Carden (Liverpool, Walton) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard
13 Jul 2020, 12:05 a.m.

I welcome this opportunity to debate one of the key planks of the Government’s summer economic update presented to this House last week.

As the Opposition, we have repeatedly said that we will work with the Government where we can to support people through a crisis the like of which none of us has ever known. That is exactly why we called on the Chancellor to abandon his one-size-fits-all approach to support for businesses and workers. It is why we called on him to recognise that this is a sectoral crisis that affects some areas of the economy much more than others, and it is why we called on him to come forward with a full back-to-work Budget that would really target Government support to those who need it most.

Instead, what we got was a limited statement that fell far short of grasping the scale of the challenge the country faces at this time of national crisis. We got blanket giveaways, such as the job retention bonus that risks handing billions of pounds to companies for employees who would have been brought back to work anyway. And we got this Bill, which the Government hope will get the housing market back on its feet and support wider economic growth.

Let me be clear from the outset that we do not oppose the principle of additional support for homeowners and buyers, and action to stimulate the housing market. Many people hoping to buy their first home or move home will have been stopped in their tracks by Government advice at the outset of this crisis not to move house—a measure rightly designed to keep people safe. Since then, those wishing to buy or sell have been trapped in a state of limbo for months on end. Many transactions will have collapsed during the hard lockdown period, with significant potential financial losses in conveyancing fees, solicitor fees and other costs involved in buying or selling a home. We understand those difficulties and uncertainties. The impact of the events of the past few months on house prices and on household incomes will mean that many people can no longer afford to move. Their dream home may now have to remain just that—an impossible dream—so it is right that we consider carefully how we can help them, but I do not think the Government have given careful consideration to the Bill or its impact on the housing market.

The Bill existed only in the Chancellor’s mind a week ago. It is a Bill that the Chancellor did not intend to present to the House today; it was supposed to be part of the autumn Budget process later this year. We know that because the Government themselves told us—or at least someone in Government did. We only have to cast an eye back to The Times article last Monday on the Chancellor’s plans for a

“Stamp duty ‘holiday’ to help rebuild economy”,

to be introduced “in the autumn Budget”.

As is so often the case with this Government, whoever briefed the press about the plans had not read the small print. Had they done so, they surely would have realised that announcing a stamp duty holiday three months early would crash the housing market this summer. It was left to others to point out the flaw in the Chancellor’s cunning plan. My hon. Friend the shadow Chancellor was quick to respond, saying:

“Even the possibility of a stamp duty change later this year”

would

“shut down the housing market in one fell swoop.”

Helen Miller, deputy director and head of tax at the Institute for Fiscal Studies, called the plans “mad.” The former Member for South West Hertfordshire and former Chief Secretary to the Treasury, David Gauke, said:

“Even 2 days of speculation”

over such plans would be

“unhelpful but 4 months…would be hugely counter-productive.”

The Economy

John Glen Excerpts
Wednesday 8th July 2020

(2 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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HM Treasury
Wes Streeting Portrait Wes Streeting - Hansard
8 Jul 2020, 12:04 a.m.

My hon. Friend is absolutely right, because, as events in Leicester have shown, the virus has not gone away. Local lockdowns, or, God forbid, another national lockdown in the event of a second peak, would deliver a knockout blow to so many businesses struggling to get back on their feet, and as my hon. Friend has just alluded to, those businesses will continue to struggle unless the public are given the confidence they need to go out and start spending money again.

Since the start of this crisis, the Government have been too slow: too slow to take the threat of covid-19 seriously; too slow to lockdown; and too slow to ramp up testing. Our criticism of the Government’s approach to track and trace is not unreasonable; this is not mission impossible. Today, the German embassy in the UK is tweeting to invite British citizens to download its Corona-Warn-App before visiting Germany, and British people are replying to the German embassy here in London asking if they can use it here in the UK. We are not even demanding the world-beating track and trace system the Government promised; we just want a system that works.

In a spirit of national unity and common purpose, we sought to work with the Government wherever possible. We have helped expedite emergency legislation through the House, and we have supported many of the measures taken to respond to the health emergency and to the economic crisis. Where Government have fallen short, we have suggested alternative approaches, and to be fair to the Government they have been prepared to listen. They listened when they introduced the job retention scheme, which we had called for and the TUC helped design, and later when the Chancellor came back with support for the self-employed that has been a lifeline to so many.

In the same spirit, we called on the Chancellor to take immediate action to tackle youth unemployment, and we pointed to the future jobs fund introduced by the last Labour Government as a model. Today’s kick-start announcement is exactly that, and we welcome it. In fact, the greatest compliment I can pay to the Chancellor from this Dispatch Box is that in announcing the kick-start scheme earlier he sounded like Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling. Maligned by the Conservatives at the time, history has been kinder to them than the Conservative Opposition of the day were; their leadership is rightly recognised by the Chancellor today, and that is to his credit.

But I do want to impress on the Chief Secretary the following point before he returns to the Treasury. The success of Labour’s future jobs fund was in no small part thanks to the hard work of the third sector and local authorities in delivering it, all of which are now in a far worse position than they were when the financial crisis hit. They have already stepped up in response to this crisis. Charities have been on the frontline of responding to covid-19, at the same time as the virus has plunged so many of them into financial crises of their own. They are at the heart of community resilience, public service delivery and tackling some of the biggest challenges of our time; we need them to come through this crisis and out the other side, so that they can help our country to do the same.

Councils were asked to do whatever it takes, whatever the cost, and they did. They have delivered food parcels to those shielding and made contact with those isolated and at risk. Their workers have kept essential services running at personal risk to themselves, and they have delivered Government grants to the businesses that need them with remarkable speed and efficiency. We have also seen endless examples of their creativity and ingenuity throughout their crisis response. The Mayor of London has worked closely with London boroughs to get rough sleepers off the streets and into safe harbour, and they are working together now to end rough sleeping for good. My own local council procured step-down accommodation for covid patients leaving hospital in order to delay the immediate discharge of those patients into care home settings to help control the spread of the virus. The Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, provided a loan to a local business to help it scale-up PPE production during the national shortage. While the Government dithered and delayed over supports for arts and culture, the Mayor of Liverpool City Region, Steve Rotheram, was already delivering it through his music fund and film and TV development fund. Councils such as Staffordshire County Council and Brighton and Hove City council have provided additional support to community groups and third-sector organisations, recognising the important role that they are playing in the crisis response.

Today, those local authorities are in far worse shape after a decade of cuts from Conservative Government and the double whammy of rising costs and lost revenues as a result of this crisis. The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government promised to reimburse them, but so far he has failed to deliver and, after a decade of Tory cuts, they cannot afford to pay for the opportunity to sit next to him at the next Conservative fundraiser in the hope of a favourable decision coming out of the Government.

John Glen Portrait The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (John Glen) - Hansard

Cheap.

Wes Streeting Portrait Wes Streeting - Hansard
8 Jul 2020, 12:04 a.m.

The Economic Secretary to the Treasury said that it is cheap. I am not sure that a seat at a Conservative party fundraiser is particularly cheap, and it is certainly a price too high for lobbying the Government, but there we are.

Let me turn now to the comments made by Torsten Bell, the chief executive of the Resolution Foundation. He said that the £2 billion kick-start scheme is “a very welcome return” to the approach of the future jobs fund, but he notes that creating those opportunities will be a huge delivery challenge. He says that it will need loads of these jobs to be created by local authorities, and he is right. The success or failure of the kick-start programme will depend on the strength of local government to help deliver it, so it is time for the Government to put their money where their mouth is and fund local government properly.

Break in Debate

Bridget Phillipson Portrait Bridget Phillipson (Houghton and Sunderland South) (Lab) - Hansard
8 Jul 2020, 6:44 p.m.

I think we can recognise from all the contributions today that the pandemic is the biggest crisis we have faced in our lifetime. My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol South (Karin Smyth) talked about the need for the health of our country and our economy to be taken together, as well as about the contribution of women to our economy. That was a point also picked up by the right hon. Member for Romsey and Southampton North (Caroline Nokes), the Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee.

My hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle upon Tyne North (Catherine McKinnell) also drew our attention to the fact that Government measures are having a real impact on the north-east of England and called for infrastructure investment in our region, to which I am naturally and understandably sympathetic. My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Olivia Blake) drew our attention to the incredibly challenging situation facing our universities. We also heard from my hon. Friends the Members for Warwick and Leamington (Matt Western), for Luton South (Rachel Hopkins) and for Coventry South (Zarah Sultana) on the need to secure a green transition. My hon. Friends the Members for Luton South and for Warwick and Leamington talked about the need to invest in electric vehicles, in the charging infrastructure and to see greater support for the automotive sector and manufacturing.

My hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle (Emma Hardy), who is a doughty champion of the caravan industry, drew our attention repeatedly to the need for Ministers to respond to the challenges facing that sector and to do more to support business through this crisis. My hon. Friends the Members for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney (Gerald Jones) and for Blaenau Gwent (Nick Smith) drew our attention to the fact that the shared prosperity fund is vital and that we urgently need clarity from Ministers on this issue. My hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney also rightly drew our attention to the positive action being taken by the Labour Government in Wales.

The British public have the expectation, quite rightly, that politicians will be working responsibly to overcome this crisis. That is why we have supported the Government where possible and remain committed to working constructively to find solutions to the challenges that we face. We do acknowledge that some of the steps taken by the Government earlier in the crisis, such as the job retention scheme and the self-employment income support scheme, were the right thing to do. We called for those measures and we were proud to support them. Where we criticise—where we offer constructive criticism—it is because we know that, for Britain to succeed, the Government have to do better. Our priorities are those of the British people: protecting health and protecting the economy.

We know that we are facing a sharp and deep downturn and that the UK faces one of the largest hits to output of all industrialised countries. We also know the impact that this crisis has had on working families and on communities that have paid the price of Tory Government since 2010. I am talking about the poorest families who have seen their earnings plummet and household debt rise and the parts of the country, such as the area that I represent, that have been neglected by Governments since 2010 and are projected to face greater unemployment and competition for jobs in the coming months. There are 17 jobseekers for every single vacancy, and that is before we see additional unemployment. The young and the low paid, who are far more likely to work in sectors that have been shut down, face the toughest job market in a generation, and women, particularly mothers, are more likely to have quit or lost their jobs or been furloughed since the start of the lockdown. We can all recognise the disproportionate impact that this crisis has had on black, Asian and minority ethnic women who have been hit even harder. That is why, for weeks, we have been calling for a back-to-work Budget that supports those at the sharp end of this crisis, so that we can build a fair recovery, one of which we can all be proud.

Already, the Chancellor’s counterparts around the world have laid out broad and ambitious packages to boost their economies and support vital sectors in facing the challenges that are yet to come. As usual, since the crisis, Ministers have been slow off the mark. They have had plenty of time to plan for a sustainable green recovery that benefits communities up and down our country. Labour called for many of the measures that were announced today and, as a constructive Opposition, we welcome them, but no one can ignore the major blind spots in this statement. It is part of a running trend. Throughout the crisis, the Government have consistently been too slow, putting off the tough calls. This has made lockdown longer and the economic harm greater. It is why we must get our response right now. We need Britain to move on from the crisis not be scarred by it for generations.

We have set out tests for what we expected from the Government today: a back-to-work Budget that focused on retaining jobs, sustaining jobs and supporting new jobs. For weeks, we have been calling for an effective scheme that ensures that people are able to find decent work, even in the challenging labour market ahead. That is why we called on Ministers to learn from the example of Labour’s future jobs fund, which supported hundreds of thousands of young people into training and employment opportunities. We are glad that the Government have finally heeded our call for such a programme, but the fund does not address the scale of the youth unemployment challenge. More than 400,000 young people were already out of work pre-crisis, and a further 800,000 are set to enter the labour market. There is one specific point on the detail that I hope the Minister can address: will companies be able to use kick-start funding to support apprenticeships? I hope he will be able to answer that question when he responds. Welcome as it is for younger workers who will benefit, it does not address the concerns of many workers, especially older workers, whose jobs are now at risk and who face a very uncertain economic future.

A plan on job creation should have moved in lockstep with our commitment to tackling the climate emergency, but again, Ministers have fallen short. The recent Committee on Climate Change report laid bare how badly the UK is falling behind, and with this package, we continue to do so. The French Government have promised €15 billion for a green recovery. The German Government—€40 billion. The UK Government—£3 billion so far. Tackling the climate emergency should have been at the heart of the Government’s economic response. Decisive action to drive towards net zero goes hand in hand with job creation, providing upskilling, training and new opportunities, yet the Government approach in this area is sadly lacking.

While we have heard a great deal today about supporting job creation, which is urgent and vital, the Government’s No. 1 goal must also be to prevent people from becoming unemployed in the first place. We have seen a wave of job losses right across a number of sectors, including retail, food service, aerospace and hospitality in the last week alone, with every job lost a tragedy. We know that unemployment does lasting damage not just to individuals, their livelihoods and families, but to whole communities, and the best way to keep unemployment down is to keep people in work.

That is why the Chancellor should have abandoned his one-size-fits-all wind-down of the furlough. We want British business back on its feet, but the Government’s failure to adopt a strategic approach will hamper this. We should have had a more targeted strategy that addresses the fact that some sectors that are not at full capacity should not be treated in the same way as those that are. We need ongoing, targeted support. This is not about picking winners. It is about protecting those who have lost through no fault of their own, and the job retention bonus scheme risks a transfer of money into the hands of companies that would have brought their staff back anyway.

We have been too slow into lockdown, too slow on PPE and too slow on testing, and it is failures on public health that risk a repeat of the local lockdown we have seen in Leicester. Such further occurrences will be a hammer blow to businesses that are just scraping by. We have said we will be a constructive Opposition and part of that is making the Government aware of where this response is falling short. This crisis has highlighted the chronic underfunding of our public services, where our older citizens have been denied the care that they need and where precarious low-paid work is the norm for too many people. But out of this crisis, there is a chance to build a better country.

John Glen Portrait The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (John Glen) - Hansard
8 Jul 2020, 12:04 a.m.

It is a privilege to close this debate on behalf of the Government and I thank hon. Members from across the House for their varied and considered contributions, which I will reflect on in a few moments.

At the outset of this crisis, the Government introduced a £160 billion package of measures to protect jobs, incomes and businesses from the harm and disruption caused by covid-19. Thanks to the action that we took, millions of jobs and livelihoods have been safeguarded through the worst months of the pandemic. Most importantly, our frontline services have received the money that they need to tackle this virus head-on and to support the most vulnerable in our society, but we have always been clear, as the Chancellor reiterated today, that we are ready to take further action as the circumstances developed.

Throughout this crisis, we have listened to hon. Members across the House, just as we have listened to businesses and those working in public services. That is why we announced the bounce back loan scheme in response to some of the challenges with the CBIL scheme to help the very smallest firms and sole traders who might not otherwise be able to access the finance that they needed. It is why we announced that both the coronavirus jobs retention scheme and the self-employment income support scheme would be extended into the autumn. It is worth remembering that we still have three and a half months to go on those schemes. It is why my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport came to this House on Monday to announce a bespoke package of support for theatres, museums and our hard-hit creative industries. As a former Arts Minister, it is great to see the National Gallery leading the way by opening today.

Today marks a new phase in our new economic response as we look to the future and to our recovery with a plan for jobs. It is a plan that will build on the success of our jobs retention scheme by rewarding and incentivising employers to keep previously furloughed staff in work through the autumn and into the new year by paying them a jobs retention bonus.

Karin Smyth Portrait Karin Smyth - Hansard
8 Jul 2020, 12:05 a.m.

Will the Minister give way?

John Glen Portrait John Glen - Hansard

I will not, given the time.

It is a plan that puts young people front and centre, with a kick-start scheme that will pay employers to create quality jobs for 16 to 24-year-olds at risk of long-term unemployment, alongside new funding for apprenticeships, traineeships and sector-based work academies. We shall be issuing guidance very shortly on how those schemes will interact with the extra support that we are putting into jobcentres. It also means that we shall invest in infrastructure, decarbonisation, and maintenance projects that will serve the needs of communities across the country, while creating jobs and apprenticeships here and now.

Through our collective efforts, coronavirus has been brought under control in this country, but it has not disappeared completely. Even as our economy reopens, many businesses and families will continue to face significant challenges. The Chancellor made it clear today that the Government are not driven by ideology; we are guided by the simple desire to do what is right. For that reason, we will continue to take significant steps to support the economy in the weeks ahead. We will, for example, inject new certainty and confidence into the housing market by increasing the stamp duty threshold to £500,000 for first-time buyers. That recognises the additional expenditure in the economy derived from a house purchase, and, we anticipate, will have a significant effect.

Few sectors have been harder-hit, though, than retail, hospitality and entertainment, so, from next Wednesday, VAT on food, accommodation and attractions will be cut from 20% to 5%. I welcome the positive comments from across the House for that measure. Through the month of August, everyone in the country will be entitled to a Government-funded discount of 50% in restaurants, pubs and cafés, Monday to Wednesday. The “eat out to help out” discount is the first of its kind in this country, and proof that the Government will leave no stone unturned in our efforts to protect people’s jobs and livelihoods.

I shall now mention some of the themes of this afternoon’s debate. My hon. Friends the Members for Stoke-on-Trent South (Jack Brereton), for High Peak (Robert Largan) and for Keighley (Robbie Moore) emphasised the need for investment in local infrastructure and levelling up, and that means investing now to prevent long-term damage to the economy and support the private sector. That is why the Government have brought forward the shovel-ready projects.

On the theme of sustainable public finances and recapitalisation, my right hon. Friends the Members for Wokingham (John Redwood) and for Chipping Barnet (Theresa Villiers) and my hon. Friend the Member for North East Bedfordshire (Richard Fuller) recognised the challenges ahead with respect to the third phase that the Chancellor referred to today, and we shall be responding in the Budget later this year. My hon. Friend the Member for North East Bedfordshire raised a particularly important point about the need to encourage the private sector to generate the jobs ahead.

My neighbour, my right hon. Friend the Member for Romsey and Southampton North (Caroline Nokes), made a passionate speech, referring to the need to address urgently the challenges faced by the beauty industry. She also mentioned the disproportionate impact on women, people from the BAME community and the disabled, and we shall be responding to the excellent report that her Committee, the Women and Equalities Committee, produced in the spring.

There was a moment of synergy between my hon. Friends the Members for Buckingham (Greg Smith) and for St Albans (Daisy Cooper) as they backed the “eat out to help out” campaign, and my hon. Friend the Member for South Dorset (Richard Drax) emphasised his commitment to that in terms of support for pubs.

There were also references to the need for resilience with our local authorities, who have received £3.7 billion in new grant funding. We will work closely with local authorities as we move into the next stage.

Nick Smith Portrait Nick Smith - Hansard

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

John Glen Portrait John Glen - Hansard

I am afraid that I will not give way because of the amount of time I have left.

I wanted to respond to the point raised by the hon. Member for North East Fife (Wendy Chamberlain)—who is not in her place—on the Treasury’s responsiveness to her constituents’ correspondence. We have had a volume increase of eight times over this crisis, but we will be working very carefully to improve our responsiveness.

Over the past few months, our economy has endured unprecedented levels of disruption and uncertainty. People and businesses have experienced considerable hardship and worry, and many will continue to do so for some time yet. However, over the past few months we have seen the best of our economy. We have seen banks and building societies providing support with mortgage holidays. The hon. Member for Glasgow South West (Chris Stephens) mentioned the important role of credit unions; we will be working closely with them as we move to the next stage. Businesses large and small turned over their production lines to the manufacture of ventilators, PPE and antibacterial sanitiser, and supermarkets, chemists, couriers and utility companies have also assisted; but we now need to move forward. As the Chancellor has unveiled a plan to protect, create and support jobs, everyone in this country has the opportunity for a fresh start. The task is not yet done. It will take time, and there will be more to come from the Government in the Budget and spending review in the autumn.

Oral Answers to Questions

John Glen Excerpts
Tuesday 7th July 2020

(2 months, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
HM Treasury
Dr Luke Evans Portrait Dr Luke Evans (Bosworth) (Con) - Hansard

What assessment he has made of the potential merits of providing sector-specific access to extended bounce-back loans as part of the Government’s covid-19 recovery strategy. [904349]

John Glen Portrait The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (John Glen) - Hansard

The bounce-back loan scheme is aimed at helping the smallest businesses across different sectors of the economy to access the finance they need, and we have seen 1 million loans worth almost £31 billion approved since the scheme was launched on 4 May. We are carefully monitoring the use of this scheme by businesses and will keep all policies under review.

Dr Luke Evans Portrait Dr Evans [V] - Hansard

I am grateful for the Minister’s answer. Undoubtedly, bounce-back loans have been a success of this pandemic. However, I have a concern that normally viable small and medium-sized enterprises will face acute problems due to covid and may need to make redundancies. The payments associated with redundancies may, in turn, cause normally viable companies to become insolvent, thus losing all jobs and putting more pressure on the state. With that in mind, will he consider a fund or time-limited mechanism to ensure that SMEs can provide redundancy payments due to covid, thus allowing them to remain solvent, protecting them from further job losses and providing some short-term stability for them to bounce back in the future?

John Glen Portrait John Glen - Hansard

I thank my hon. Friend for his question. Of course we recognise the importance of SMEs—there are 5.6 million businesses across the country with fewer than 10 employees, and we need their dynamism and entrepreneurial spirit as the economy starts to recover. The Government have said from the start that they will do whatever it takes to support business. The Chancellor has introduced a significant package of measures, which will be under review, and there will be further announcements in due course.

Sir Edward Leigh Portrait Sir Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) (Con) - Hansard

Whether he plans to (a) reform and (b) simplify inheritance tax. [904350]

Break in Debate

Ben Lake Portrait Ben Lake (Ceredigion) (PC) - Hansard

What plans he has to issue a green bond. [904357]

John Glen Portrait The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (John Glen) - Hansard

The Government have been carefully considering the potential issuance of a UK sovereign green bond. At present, we have no plans to do that, but we continue to monitor the case for one, and we will keep it under urgent review.

Ben Lake Portrait Ben Lake - Hansard

I am glad that the Government will keep this matter under consideration because, as evidenced recently by Quebec, green bonds can be effective in raising capital investment and investment for operational expenditure to further the green transition. Will the Government also consider enabling the Welsh Government to issue such a bond to help the effort for a greener economy?

John Glen Portrait John Glen - Hansard

Clearly, debt and the handling of it is a significant challenge for the Government at this time. The core gilt programme is the most stable and cost-effective way of dealing with our financing needs. The hon. Gentleman makes a reasonable point. We will continue to look constructively at all options and at the changing environment as a consequence of this crisis.

Andrew Bowie Portrait Andrew Bowie (West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine) (Con) - Hansard

What fiscal support he has provided to Scotland during the covid-19 outbreak. [904358]

Break in Debate

Jane Stevenson Portrait Jane Stevenson (Wolverhampton North East) (Con) - Hansard

What fiscal steps he is taking to support innovative and fast-growing firms during the covid-19 outbreak. [904373]

John Glen Portrait The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (John Glen) - Hansard

On 20 May, the Government launched the future fund. The fund is an investment scheme for high-growth companies impacted by the pandemic. It provides between £125,000 and £5 million in Government funding through convertible loans, with third-party investors at least matching the Government funding on each loan. As of 5 July, £379 million-worth of convertible loans had been approved through the future fund, and the Government have also made £750 million of support available for innovative firms through Innovate UK grants and loans.

Jane Stevenson Portrait Jane Stevenson - Hansard

Unemployment in Wolverhampton North East was three times the national average as we came into the pandemic, and many businesses have expressed their gratitude for the wide range of support. As we emerge from the pandemic, can my hon. Friend reassure me that this will be the party that champions innovators, start-ups and SMEs, so that we can get job opportunities and more prosperity in seats such as Wolverhampton North East?

John Glen Portrait John Glen - Hansard

My hon. Friend makes a very good point and case for her constituency. As the Prime Minister set out last week, we will double down on levelling up and give everyone growing up in this country the opportunity that they need. The Prime Minister announced the acceleration of £96 million of investment from the towns fund, including nearly £13 million on kick-start activity in the west midlands.

Sir Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker - Hansard

Order. May I just say that the Members not reached are pretty upset at others taking too long? They were desperate to get in, but there we are. I am sorry about that.

Exiting the European Union: Financial Services and Markets

John Glen Excerpts
Tuesday 16th June 2020

(3 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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HM Treasury
Dame Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton) - Hansard

I understand it is the will of the House that motions 3 and 4 be taken together. The debate will last up to 90 minutes. When motion 3 has been decided, I will call the Minister to move motion 4 formally. If a Member objects, the motions will be taken separately.

John Glen Portrait The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (John Glen) - Hansard
16 Jun 2020, midnight

I beg to move,

That the draft Over the Counter Derivatives, Central Counterparties and Trade Repositories (Amendment, etc., and Transitional Provision) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020, which were laid before this House on 24 March, be approved.

Dame Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton) - Hansard
16 Jun 2020, midnight

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following motion:

That the draft Financial Services (Miscellaneous Amendments) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020, which were laid before this House on 6 May, be approved.

John Glen Portrait John Glen - Hansard
16 Jun 2020, 12:01 a.m.

I welcome my opposite number, the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton South East (Mr McFadden), to his place. He has a distinguished history of public service and I look forward to a constructive dialogue with him today and on future occasions.

As the House will be aware, the Treasury has been undertaking a significant programme of financial services legislation since 2018, introducing almost 60 statutory instruments under the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. It has been an enormous privilege for me to do the vast majority of those measures. These SIs were made prior to exit day—31 January 2020—and covered all essential legislative changes needed to ensure a coherent and functioning financial services regime at the point of exit, had the UK not entered a transition period.

The European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020 received Royal Assent in January this year. The 2020 Act contains a general rule that delays those parts of the SIs that would have come into force immediately before, on or after exit day, so that they instead come into force by reference to the end of the transition period, which we leave at the end of this year. Over the course of this year the Treasury will therefore, where necessary, continue to use powers under the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, as amended by the 2020 Act, to prepare for 1 January 2021. This will involve the Treasury bringing forward a small number of SIs that, in particular, will ensure that recently applicable EU legislation will operate effectively in the UK at the end of the transition period. The SIs before the House today are two such instruments. The approach taken in these SIs is aligned with the general approach established by the EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018, providing continuity by retaining existing legislation at the end of the transition period but amending where necessary to ensure effectiveness in the UK-only context.

I turn to the draft Over the Counter Derivatives, Central Counterparties and Trade Repositories (Amendment, etc., and Transitional Provision) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020. From now on, I will refer to this instrument as the OTC SI. In preparation for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU on 31 January 2020, Parliament approved several EU exit instruments to ensure that the European market infrastructure regulation would continue to operate effectively in the UK at the point of exit. EMIR was updated on 1 January this year by a regulation known as EMIR 2.2, which now applies in the UK. The OTC SI that we are discussing today address deficiencies in the UK’s post-transition framework arising as a result of that update.

EMIR is Europe’s response to the G20 Pittsburgh commitment in 2009 to regulate over-the-counter derivative markets in the aftermath of the last financial crisis. EMIR mandates the use of central counterparties, known as CCPs, to manage risk between users of derivative products. EMIR has been effective in increasing the safety and transparency of derivative markets, thereby reducing the associated risks that users may face, and UK CCPs play an essential role in reducing systemic risk and ensuring the efficient functioning of global financial markets.

EMIR 2.2 introduced an updated third country or non-EU CCP supervision framework, including an updated recognition regime. This means that EU authorities can have greater oversight over third country CCPs that are systemically important to the EU. Perhaps the most substantial update in EMIR 2.2 is the ability for the European Securities and Markets Authority to tier third country CCPs according to their systemic importance to the EU as part of the recognition process. ESMA will now take on certain supervisory responsibilities for systemic third country CCPs known as tier 2 CCPs.

This OTC SI updates the UK’s recognition framework in line with EMIR 2.2 by transferring ESMA’s new powers to the Bank of England after we leave the transition period. That includes the ability to tier non-UK CCPs as part of the recognition process, and to supervise non-UK CCPs that are systemically important to the UK. The Bank of England has already been given the power to recognise non-UK CCPs wishing to operate in the UK in an earlier SI under the EU (Withdrawal) Act. EMIR 2.2 also empowers the Commission to adopt delegated Acts setting out the details of how the framework will function in practice. This includes how tiering and deference to the rules of home authorities referred to as “comparable compliance” will function. This instrument transfers the power to establish these frameworks to the Bank of England.

Since the Bank already has responsibility for safeguarding financial stability in general, and managing systemic risk in CCPs in particular, this is an appropriate conferral of functions as it allows the Bank to manage the systemic risk posed by some non-UK CCPs in a way that is appropriate for the UK. The statutory instrument therefore transfers the remaining Commission functions—including the power to deploy the so-called location policy—to Her Majesty’s Treasury.

Under EMIR 2.2, ESMA can recommend to the Commission that a third-country CCP that is felt to be substantially systemically important should lose permission to offer some services to EU clearing members, unless those services are offered from inside the EU. This is referred to as the location policy, the inclusion of which in EMIR 2.2 the UK did not support because of concerns that it could lead to market fragmentation and reduce the benefits provided by the global nature of clearing. However, the powers in the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 under which we introduced the SI extend only to the addressing of deficiencies arising from withdrawal. During the passage of that legislation, commitments were made that the powers would not be used to make significant policy changes, so I am not going to deviate from that.

The OTC SI transfers the powers to use the location policy to the Treasury, subject to advice from the Bank of England and appropriate procedural safeguards and transitional provisions. I assure the House that because of the very different nature of the UK’s clearing markets, it is hard to foresee circumstances in which the Bank would appropriate the use of that tool in practice. EMIR 2.2 also makes changes to internally used supervisory and co-operation mechanisms but, as the UK is no longer part of the EU, those provisions are removed by the SI.

Finally, the OTC SI updates the recognition powers set out in the temporary recognition regime, which was established by a previous SI to enable non-UK CCPs to continue their activities in the UK after exit day, while their recognition applications are assessed. This SI updates the recognition requirements in line with the new EMIR 2.2 provisions. The Treasury has worked closely with the Bank of England to prepare the instrument and has also engaged with the financial services industry, as we have done throughout. The draft legislation has been publicly available on the legislation.gov.uk website since 24 February, and the instrument was laid before Parliament on 25 March.

In summary, the OTC SI is necessary to ensure that existing EMIR legislation will continue to function effectively in the UK from the end of the transition period, following the updates made in EMIR 2.2. In particular, it will ensure that the UK has the tools necessary to manage the financial stability risks posed by some of the largest non-UK CCPs.

Let me turn my attention towards the second of tonight’s SIs, the Financial Services (Miscellaneous Amendments) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020. Although this SI makes amendments to approximately 20 pieces of legislation, the number and nature of the amendments are modest and minor. They act to preserve the effect of recent changes to EU legislation in the UK, and in doing so limit any impact on business that would otherwise arise at the end of the transition period.

Primarily, this SI fixes deficiencies in recently applicable EU legislation, which is congruous with the Treasury’s approach to previous financial services EU exit instruments and the approach required by the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. It also revokes pieces of retained EU law and UK domestic law that it would not be appropriate to keep on the statute book at the end of the transition period.

This SI contains a small number of minor clarifications and corrections to previous financial services EU exit instruments. The House will be aware of the unprecedented scale of the legislative programme that the Treasury has undertaken, which has been carried out with rigorous checking procedures. However, errors are unfortunately made on occasion, and when they arise it is important that they are corrected as soon as possible. This has happened previously, and I will continue to be completely transparent when such shortcomings become apparent.

I note that this SI also includes provisions initially included in the Cross-Border Distribution of Funds, Proxy Advisors, Prospectus and Gibraltar (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019, which were laid using the made affirmative procedure in October 2019, when at the time it was necessary to ensure that the SI was in place prior to the previous exit date of 31 October. That SI subsequently ceased to have effect, but it is important that those provisions, which include amendments to the UK’s prospectus regime to ensure it remains operational in a wholly domestic context, are in force before the end of the transition period. Those provisions have therefore been included in this IS.

I would like to say a few words on the amendments that this SI makes to a previous EU exit instrument, the Equivalence Determinations for Financial Services and Miscellaneous Provisions (Amendment etc) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019, which I shall now refer to as the equivalence SI. The equivalence SI allows the Treasury to make equivalence directions for EEA states during the transition period for specified provisions. Today’s SI adds additional equivalence regimes to the scope of the power for the Treasury to make equivalence directions for EEA states during the transition period. This is through the inclusion of provisions relating to central securities depositories, which are entities that hold financial instruments and trade repositories that collect and maintain records of derivative trades.

This SI also amends the existing drafting on the length of the direction power to tie it to the end of the transition period. This will enable Ministers to make directions during the transition period to come into force at the end of the transition period, granting equivalence to the EEA for those regimes. Finally, this SI clarifies that the Treasury can impose limitations on the application of state-level equivalence decisions in granting equivalence to the EEA—for example, in response to EU conditions placed on the UK. As with the OTC SI, the Treasury has been working closely with the financial services regulators in the drafting of this instrument and has engaged with the financial services industry.

In conclusion, the Government believe that these instruments are necessary to ensure that the UK has a coherent and functioning financial services regulatory regime at the end of this year when we leave the transition period, and I hope that the House will join me in supporting them. I commend the regulations the House.

Pat McFadden Portrait Mr Pat McFadden (Wolverhampton South East) (Lab) - Hansard
16 Jun 2020, 7:11 p.m.

Like many who have spoken in the Chamber today, on the fourth anniversary of her death, my thoughts are very much with our former colleague Jo Cox and her family.

As we heard from the Minister’s opening statement, these statutory instruments are quite technical in nature. I would like to thank him for his welcome, and to thank him and his officials for providing some briefing on their meaning and effect. Overall, these instruments seek to replicate at national level the regulatory regime for financial services to which we currently subscribe—and which in many cases the UK designed—at EU level. Until the end of the transition period, we will of course continue to follow the EU’s regulatory rulebook. This is about what will happen in January if, as the Government confirmed last week, the end of this year marks the end of the transition period.

As the Minister outlined, the regulations cover areas such as money laundering, supervision, central counterparties, the cross-border distribution of funds and the desire to maintain the pre-Brexit relationship between the UK and Gibraltar on financial services. In most of these cases, they are taking the supervision of the rules governing these areas from EU bodies and transferring them to either the Treasury, the Bank of England or the Financial Conduct Authority.

On the detail, I have a few questions I would like to put to the Minister. On the money laundering provisions, why is the current duty to co-operate with supervisors in other countries being removed and replaced with the weaker power to co-operate if we so choose? In what circumstances would we not want to co-operate to tackle money laundering, which can fund everything from international terrorism to the drugs trade? On cross-border distribution of funds, can the Minister confirm that these statutory instruments enshrine the loss of passporting rights for our financial services that will result from the Government’s decision to withdraw from the single market as well as from the EU itself? On equivalence determinations, can he confirm that, although these SIs create a regime for the UK to make decisions on the regulatory regime in other countries, as yet we have no guarantee that our own regulatory regime will be regarded as equivalent by the rest of the EU?

We can only hope that this exercise in taking back control is a little more convincing than last week’s decision on border checks from the Cabinet Office. After having four years to prepare, the Government dropped their plans for border checks on goods because we simply could not implement them, even though our own goods will be subject to border checks when we export them overseas.

Paragraph 36 of the political declaration, on which the current negotiation is based, states that the UK should have concluded its equivalence assessments by the end of this month. If we are only now legislating to take the powers to do that, can that exercise possibly be completed in just two weeks’ time?

Taken together, these changes and others in similar statutory instruments represent a significant increase in the functions and power of the Treasury, the Bank of England and the Financial Conduct Authority. What accountability arrangements will there be for those bodies in the exercise of their new powers? Alongside the transfer of functions, accountability must surely be enhanced if claims of restoring parliamentary sovereignty are to mean anything in reality.

More broadly, there is an obvious contradiction at the heart of all this. These regulations are intended to ensure continuity for UK financial services at the end of the transition period, yet the Government’s stated intention for withdrawal is to erect new trade barriers between our financial services and the rest of the EU, so even as we replicate at UK level the EU regulations that we played such a big part in designing, we are pursuing a course that will be incapable of replicating the market access that we have at the moment.

That is not my judgment; it is the stated aim of Government policy. It is the equivalent of one of the shops reopening this week and putting lots of new stock in its window but telling a substantial proportion of its previous customers that they are no longer welcome to shop in the store. For all the debate there has been about Brexit, its impact on services has not been debated nearly as much as it should have been.

We are not dealing here with just-in-time supply chains and trucks on ferries; we are dealing with regulations and rules. We are taking the area that makes up 80% of our economy and, in the case of financial services, a sector in which we trade at a substantial surplus with other countries, and inserting new barriers between us and our nearest customers. The fact that the sector is resigned to that and has established alternative bases in Dublin, Luxembourg or wherever does not change the reality of it.

We do not intend to divide the House on these measures, because regulatory continuity is better than not having a regime in place at all, but no amount of duplication can avoid the basic fact that although we can replicate the rules, we cannot replicate the market access to which these rules apply at the moment and for which they were designed in the first place.

Break in Debate

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP) - Hansard
16 Jun 2020, 12:08 a.m.

Before we start, may I say that, on the fourth anniversary of the death of Jo Cox, I associate my party with what has been said and convey to all her family and friends our sincerest thoughts at this present time. She certainly was a wonderful and marvellous voice in this House. Everyone can honestly say from the bottom of their heart that they miss her contributions. Even four years later, that soreness and that sense of missing are still there.

May I say that it is good to see the Minister in his place? There would not be a banking debate where he and I were not involved in some way. I am pleased to see the new shadow Minister, the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton South East (Mr McFadden), in his place, and I wish him all the best in the future as well.

I thank the Minister for bringing this issue forward. Although this measure merely ensures that the protection established under current legislation continues, it gives me the opportunity to highlight the work that must be done for consumers in the financial industry—the Minister will know of that. We are pleased with some of the progress that has been made, but we look for more. He will have listened to me numerous times on the failings of banks, and sometimes on the need for the auditing sector and the financial sector as a whole to do the right thing for the little man. From Lloyds to HBOS, with many in between, it has long been my aim in this House to see the introduction of effective mechanisms to protect those who are not on the level playing field.

The issue of over-the-counter derivates is another area that needs special consideration, and I hope the Minister will respond on it, as we need enhanced protection. An OTC derivative is a financial contract arranged between two counterparties with minimal intermediation or indeed regulation. OTC derivatives do not have standardised terms and they are not listed on asset exchange, so an inherent aspect of them is the lack of formal regulation. Although the regulation offers lip service to that, as with so many other banking aspects it is my belief that more is needed, and many right hon. and hon. Members agree with that view. Hon, Members already know that some derivative products in the past were the basis of a number of problems during the financial crisis in 2008-09, and we now find ourselves in another crisis, perhaps something equal to that time. As the Minister knows, I have recently written to him about the 200 to 300 legacy cases for the Business Banking Resolution Service. I would like him to respond on that or to indicate when I can expect a response on the way forward. If that is possible, I would appreciate it.

This debate is about our position post-Brexit, and therefore Westminster will have control. It is our responsibility, as elected representatives, and the responsibility of the Government and legislators, to ensure that the FCA and other regulatory bodies have the appropriate regulatory powers in the future for consumer protection. I look forward to the Minister’s reply on the BBRS. The legislation is great to continue, but I believe we need more. It is not enough, but it is a giant step in the right direction.

John Glen Portrait John Glen - Hansard
16 Jun 2020, 12:05 a.m.

It is a pleasure to be able to respond to the points made by the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton South East (Mr McFadden), and the hon. Members for Glasgow Central (Alison Thewliss) and for Strangford (Jim Shannon). The latter made a number of points about the conduct issues associated with banks and his exchanges with me on the BBRS. I am sensitive to the fact that in the context of the loans and interventions the Government have made there are conduct challenges, but I think it would be appropriate for me to address that on a separate occasion. However, I note his correspondence.

The right hon. Gentleman addressed three clear questions to me, one of which was about the money laundering reference and the language. Just because we do not have an obligation, it does not mean to say that we do not have a desire to co-operate. The bottom line is that if there is not a reciprocal obligation on the other side, it would be perverse for us to insert language creating that obligation. As he made clear, we have consistently been leaders in regulations in financial services, in particular, and we would look to continue to press for ever higher standards in that regard.

The right hon. Gentleman’s second point was about the issues of the loss of passporting and the nature of the cross-border dynamics. Clearly, we are working through the equivalence process, which the Government are committed to. We are working closely with the Bank of England, the PRA and the FCA.

The SIs are required to ensure that the UK has a functioning equivalence framework during the transition period, and they are not linked to the ongoing UK-EU negotiations on financial services. I will come to the right hon. Gentleman’s further points and those of the hon. Member for Glasgow Central about the bigger picture at the end.

On the right hon. Gentleman’s third point about equivalence and the ability for us to make decisions, we have just updated what we had on the basis of changes that have happened since we left. EMIR 2.2, which is the location policy that was introduced, was something that we voted against, but we are now obliged to have it because those are the terms of reference that we adopted through the passage of the legislation. As I said in my earlier remarks, however, I think it is improbable that we would use that. We hold most of the systemic CCPs and we would probably not have a need to use that in an offensive way.

The hon. Member for Glasgow Central made some broader points. She pointed out the mistakes that we have made and that this had happened before. During the 60 SIs—she has participated in the vast majority of them—these have been the exceptions. This legislation was laid out in advance. It was available and accessible to everyone. My officials and officials from the regulators have worked very hard, but I concede that these mistakes need to be rectified.

On the sentiments around the notion that we will not achieve the same level of access, having the freedom to set our rules does not mean that we are automatically predetermined and predisposed to divergence. Indeed, across the globe in financial services regulation, we have taken a leadership role at the Basel Committee and in other regulatory environments. I anticipate that that is the posture that we will wish to take in future. Within the EU, when we were members, we had a leadership role in financial services.

The Government are committed to supporting the growth of financial services not only in the City but outside the south-east. The hon. Lady is correct to say that we wish to see more jobs and financial services across the United Kingdom, including in Glasgow and Edinburgh.

I have addressed the substantive points that have been raised. There was a wider discussion about the nature of the financial services negotiation and the wider negotiation, but I do not think that is in scope tonight. I hope that I have conveyed that the instruments are necessary to ensure that the UK has a coherent and functioning financial services regulatory regime at the end of the transition period, and that hon. Members across the House will join me in supporting the regulations. I commend them to the House and I hope that the conversation has been informative.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That the draft Over the Counter Derivatives, Central Counterparties and Trade Repositories (Amendment, etc., and Transitional Provision) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020, which were laid before this House on 24 March, be approved.

EXITING THE EUROPEAN UNION (FINANCIAL SERVICES AND MARKETS)

Resolved,

That the draft Financial Services (Miscellaneous Amendments) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020, which were laid before this House on 6 May, be approved.—(John Glen.)

Oral Answers to Questions

John Glen Excerpts
Monday 18th May 2020

(4 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
HM Treasury
Daniel Zeichner Portrait Daniel Zeichner (Cambridge) (Lab) - Hansard

What recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy on the effectiveness of the coronavirus business interruption loan scheme. [902702]

John Glen Portrait The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (John Glen) - Hansard

The Treasury is working closely with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to monitor the uptake and effectiveness of the coronavirus business interruption loan scheme. The scheme has already helped thousands of businesses since its launch on 23 March and is continuing to ramp up. As of 10 May, almost 36,000 facilities with a value of over £6 billion have been approved through the CBILS. SMEs now have a choice of over 60 lenders offering finance under CBILS, and further announcements on numbers will happen later this week.

Daniel Zeichner Portrait Daniel Zeichner [V] - Hansard

Despite that, the uptake of the coronavirus business interruption loan has been disappointing, leading to the bounce-back loans. Could we have much more accurate reporting on this, much more like the health statistics and perhaps also by region, so we can see what is actually happening?

John Glen Portrait John Glen - Hansard

We are looking very carefully at the figures and we publish them on a weekly basis. I am having conversations with banks on a regular basis, and we are having a roundtable this week to monitor progress. We will look to make further interventions should that be necessary, but absolutely it is important that the loans get out quickly, as they have been designed to do.

Cat Smith Portrait Cat Smith (Lancaster and Fleetwood) (Lab) - Hansard

What recent discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on the number of small companies that pay business rates collectively through landlords that have been able to access cash grants through local authorities during the covid-19 outbreak. [902707]

John Glen Portrait The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (John Glen) - Hansard

The Government have recently allocated up to an additional £617 million to local authorities to enable them to give grants to businesses excluded from existing schemes. That will enable many thousands of businesses in the situation described by the hon. Member to receive cash grants.

Sir Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker - Hansard

We go over to the wonderful county of Lancashire and Cat Smith.

Cat Smith Portrait Cat Smith [V] - Hansard

Will the Minister ask local authorities to report on the extent to which landlords are passing on the grants to tenants, because it is not just in Lancaster and Fleetwood that we are seeing widespread evidence that that is not occurring?

John Glen Portrait John Glen - Hansard

The hon. Lady makes a reasonable point. We are monitoring the effectiveness of all these schemes, and the way that local authorities are using their discretion in giving out those grants, but this is a matter that we will continue to examine carefully.

Kate Green Portrait Kate Green (Stretford and Urmston) (Lab) - Hansard

What assessment he has made of the effect of the covid-19 outbreak on regional economies. [902687]

Finance Bill

(2nd reading: House of Commons)
(Programme motion: House of Commons)
John Glen Excerpts
Monday 27th April 2020

(5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Bill Main Page
HM Treasury
Bridget Phillipson Portrait Bridget Phillipson (Houghton and Sunderland South) (Lab) - Hansard
1 Jan 2000, midnight

I would like to begin by thanking all the staff who have worked so hard to put arrangements in place so that parliamentary scrutiny can continue. I would also like to extend my thanks for the efforts made by key workers across the country, for which all of us in this House are grateful.

We have had a good debate today in what are difficult and unusual circumstances. My hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Rushanara Ali) made a passionate appeal for the Government to avoid the mistakes of the last decade, highlighting the pressures faced by local councils, as did my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch (Meg Hillier), who underlined the real challenges we face around housing, with far too many families forced to live in overcrowded and cramped conditions.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Warley (John Spellar) was right to emphasise the importance of businesses and trade unions working closely together at this time and the tremendous work of the TUC, particularly in recent weeks. I hope the Minister will take heed of the point my right hon. Friend made about the role for Government in stimulating demand as we emerge from this crisis.

My hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield (Mr Sheerman) is a tireless campaigner for children and young people, and he used his speech to press for greater opportunities for them, following this difficult time for so many families. My hon. Friends the Members for Nottingham South (Lilian Greenwood) and for Leeds East (Richard Burgon) called on the Government to look carefully at gaps in existing provision and the urgent need for a social security system that properly supports families through this crisis and beyond. My hon. Friend the Member for Oldham East and Saddleworth (Debbie Abrahams) also picked up that point, reminding us that far too many children—including those in working families—are already growing up in poverty.

We heard a great number of speeches from Members on both sides of the House highlighting the acute pressures faced by businesses. My hon. Friends the Members for Cardiff South and Penarth (Stephen Doughty), for Gower (Tonia Antoniazzi) and for Islwyn (Chris Evans) emphasised the real difficulties in accessing lending for business, but they were also clear about the additional support that the Labour Government in Wales are providing at this time of crisis.

My hon. Friends the Members for Birmingham, Ladywood (Shabana Mahmood) and for Liverpool, Riverside (Kim Johnson) stressed just how difficult it is for many firms—especially small businesses—to access the cash that they need to stay afloat. In Committee, I hope we will be able to discuss in more detail the concerns that my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Ladywood rightly raised about the inadequacies of the proposed digital services tax.

My hon. Friend the Member for Poplar and Limehouse (Apsana Begum) drew our attention to the disproportionate impact of coronavirus on black and minority ethnic communities, which will only serve to exacerbate the existing social and economic injustice that those communities face. We heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Jarrow (Kate Osborne) about pre-existing regional inequality and the fact that the Government must do all they can to limit unemployment in areas such as the north-east, where the current level is already too high. Finally, the speech that we just heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Ian Byrne) reminded us all of the debt that we owe to our incredible key workers.

Those contributions highlighted the scale of the challenge that our country faces today and the responsibility that the Government have to ensure that we as a country can overcome them. That is why the Opposition have sought to take a constructive approach at this time of national crisis, encouraging the best possible response from Government and pressing for the support announced to work effectively.

That brings us to the context of the Bill—whether it does enough to help those at the sharp end of the current crisis, to put our tax system on a fairer and more progressive footing and to shape our economy for the rather different world of the future. The changed circumstances and the new personnel on the Government Front Bench should not fool any of us about where this Budget comes from or which party is responsible for the underlying weaknesses in the shape and nature of the economy going into this crisis. The Conservative party has now been in power for 10 years. The inadequacies of our tax system and of our society, and the structural weaknesses in our economy, are its responsibility.

Labour’s economic priorities for the current crisis are straightforward, as the shadow Chancellor, my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford East (Anneliese Dodds), set out again today. We want to keep people in work, and the schemes that the Government have laid out are welcome but need improvement, especially as circumstances change in the months ahead. We want to get cash to struggling businesses, and we are concerned that, as we have heard today, too many firms are not getting the support that they need. We want to make our social security system sufficient to provide proper support to families, because we know that for too many it simply is not enough—and the current crisis is making things worse, not better.

The Budget focuses on maintaining the status quo and delivering limited reforms, rather than the ambitious reforms that we need. The Institute for Fiscal Studies has said that the tax measures announced in last month’s Budget look

“piecemeal…it is not clear they are part of any long term thought through strategy.”

The dire forecasts made by the Office for Budget Responsibility about the state of public finances owing to the covid-19 outbreak show how grave the challenge is likely to be, and they have already rendered the predictions included in the Budget out of date.

Our concern is that the Bill, even in a time of national crisis, is not enough. It is not enough to solve the immediate financial and economic problems that the covid-19 outbreak presents. It is not enough to solve the searing inequalities in our country, inflicted by 10 years of Conservative government. We need a more ambitious approach to making our tax system fairer and building a society and economy fit for the future—an approach that recognises that the consequences of covid-19 and the lockdown are being felt most by those who can ill afford it: those on low pay, those with insecure employment and those who face additional costs to access public services.

Too many of the people on whom our country’s response to the virus depends have seen their true worth to our society ignored for far too long. Too many are today among the poorest in our society and risk being the worst-affected by the coming recession. Others, such as those joining the labour market for the first time and lower earners, are likely to feel the impact for years to come.

We accept that much of the Bill was drawn up before the current pandemic, and we know that Ministers do not have a crystal ball with which to make policy, but they must know, as the country knows, that the Bill was an inadequate starting point even when it was drafted and that it fails to respond to the deep-seated problems of our country. Far more needs to be done to clamp down on tax avoidance, individual and corporate, which deprives our public services of the funding that they need, but there is little in the Bill to suggest that the Government have the appetite for pursuing that at the scale that is needed.

It is welcome that the Government maintain corporation tax at 19%, rather than cutting it to 17% as initially planned. Perhaps that suggests that Ministers have accepted the arguments made by many Opposition Members for many years that whittling down the rate, which is already among the lowest in the G20, is not the best approach. It has not given us a productivity miracle. It has not tempted companies to set up shop here on a scale adequate to balance the flow of companies moving away as a result of Brexit. What it has given us is overstretched public finances and underfunded public services. Instead, we should be asking that profitable companies, especially those for which the current situation has provided an unexpected windfall, contribute more to help to provide our public services with the funding that they need.

The digital services tax is a long-overdue step to make the tech giants pay their fair share. We welcome the intent behind it, but like so much of the Bill, it does not go nearly far enough. The tax and spend trade-offs that have been forced on us by the covid-19 pandemic cannot be put off for long, and when Ministers come to these decisions, they should learn from the mistakes of the past. The Labour Government’s immediate response to the 2008 financial crisis showed the good that Government can do, but since 2010, a decade of Conservative cuts has made the economic damage from that crisis fester.

Too many in our country have seen little improvement in living standards for a decade now. The Bill, and the further fiscal measures that the Government are likely to have to bring to the House in the months to come, should be about ensuring that the burden of current costs and the benefits of the recovery to come are fairly shared across our society. This Bill is not that. It is very far from being the basis on which our country can draw a social contract fit for the future. From these Benches, we will continue to call for a better settlement for today and a better plan for tomorrow.

John Glen Portrait The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (John Glen) - Hansard
27 Apr 2020, midnight

It is a privilege to close this debate on behalf of the Government. This is my first opportunity to congratulate the newly appointed shadow Treasury team and to welcome the hon. Member for Houghton and Sunderland South (Bridget Phillipson) to the Dispatch Box. I also welcome the hon. Member for Oxford East (Anneliese Dodds)—I spent a lot of time with her in Committee debating Brexit matters before Christmas—to her role and welcome the constructive tone that she took in opening this debate.

In last month’s Budget, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor initiated a coherent, co-ordinated and comprehensive economic response to the challenges of covid-19. As the shocking impact of the virus around the globe has become more apparent, the Chancellor has announced further unprecedented packages of support, doing so most recently this afternoon, with the new bounce-back loan scheme and refinements to make the CBIL scheme more accessible—points that I am sure my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone) and the hon. Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch (Meg Hillier) will welcome, given what they said in their speeches. Such measures may not be to the taste of true free marketeers such as my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr Baker), or even my right hon. Friend the Member for North Somerset (Dr Fox), but when they and my hon. Friends the Members for Yeovil (Mr Fysh) and for North East Derbyshire (Lee Rowley) welcome them, we know that such measures must be necessary.

The hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Rushanara Ali) was among those who argued that we should invest in public services to protect frontline services—and we are. The Government have allocated more than £14 billion from the covid response fund to go towards public services, including the NHS and local authorities.

I recognise that some sectors of our economy are experiencing enormous disruption. My hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale West (Sir Graham Brady) highlighted the challenges faced by the aviation sector, which is of course eligible for the coronavirus jobs retention scheme, under which the Government will pay up to 80% of staff wages up to £2,500 a month. We have offered support to households, too, by increasing the universal credit allowance by £1,000; providing meals or vouchers for eligible home-schooled children in place of free school meals; and making nearly £1 billion extra available for local housing allowance.

I acknowledge that the task is by no means complete. As my hon. Friend the Member for Broxbourne (Sir Charles Walker) eloquently argued, our wellbeing and our economy are not in competition. The Government will do whatever it takes to safeguard people’s health and livelihoods as the situation develops. We will continue to back NHS workers and those who support them on the frontline—for example, by exempting from vehicle excise duty medical courier vehicles that transport medical products and by reforming the tapered allowance so that doctors can spend more time treating patients without facing a higher tax burden.

As my hon. Friend the Member for North East Derbyshire reminded us with his reference to the 93-year wait for a bypass in his constituency, the Bill also delivers on commitments made to the British people at the general election in December. It is vital that these measures are not delayed. The Bill furthers the Government’s ambition to unleash the potential of our economy by increasing the credit rate for research and development expenditure credit and for the structures and buildings allowance—measures welcomed by my hon. Friends the Members for Meriden (Saqib Bhatti), for Stourbridge (Suzanne Webb) and for Penistone and Stocksbridge (Miriam Cates).

The digital services tax will improve the fairness and sustainability of our tax system by ensuring that digital businesses that access the UK market make a fair contribution to the Exchequer. It is anticipated to collect £2 billion in revenue. I welcome the support expressed from all parts of the House for the concept of a digital services tax, and thank the Chair of the Treasury Committee, my right hon. Friend the Member for Central Devon (Mel Stride), for his remarks on the subject. I acknowledge the work that he did on the matter while in government. I also note his reference to the need for better data on the loans scheme; the Government will address that and his letter will be responded to shortly.

The Bill reduces the tax burden on some of the most vulnerable and deserving members of our society, including the Windrush generation and victims of the troubles, for whom compensation will no longer be subject to income, inheritance or capital gains taxes. Kindertransport payments made by the German Government will no longer be subject to inheritance tax either.

This Bill helps in the Government’s efforts to move towards a greener and more sustainable economy, as mentioned by the right hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Sir Edward Davey), and confirms that the CO2 emissions figures for vehicle excise duty will be based on the worldwide harmonised light vehicle test procedure for all new registered cars from 1 April 2020. In addition, zero-emission cars will no longer be subjected to the VED expensive car supplement. These measures will help to ensure that, as our economy develops and grows, it does not jeopardise our environment. I know that many of these measures will attract widespread support across the House. I thank Opposition Members for the constructive and collegiate approach that they have taken over the past few weeks. In that spirit, let me address some of the valuable points raised further in today’s debate.

The shadow Chancellor raised a number of important issues, including tax avoidance, which was also raised by the right hon. Member for Warley (John Spellar). This is a priority for the Government, and in last month’s Budget the Chancellor announced further measures, including legislation to strengthen HMRC’s existing anti-avoidance powers. The Government also plan to issue a call for evidence on the next steps to reduce or end the use of disguised remuneration schemes.

The shadow Chancellor also touched on the subject of entrepreneurs’ relief, a point echoed by my hon. Friend the Member for Weston-super-Mare (John Penrose). Most of the cost of this relief previously came from those making gains over £1 million. With such extreme gains now ineligible for this relief, we can ensure that the support is targeted where it was intended: at small businesses.

My hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs (Andrew Griffith) raised the prospect of a unified income tax and national insurance regime. The Government are indeed committed to a tax system that is simple and easy to use, which is why we created the Office of Tax Simplification in 2010 and put it on a permanent statutory basis in 2016. We have implemented more than half of the 400 recommendations that the OTS has made to date.

Tonight, this House once again has the opportunity to come together in the national interest. This Bill gives us the tools we need to mitigate the worst effects of the virus today, but it also lays the foundations that will allow our economy to return to strength in the months and years ahead. This is a Bill that will ensure that we truly have a 21st-century tax system: one that is not only competitive but fair and sustainable—a Bill that will help to deliver our commitment to zero carbon emissions by 2050, positioning the United Kingdom at the forefront of clean and sustainable future growth; a Bill that will help Britain to bounce back, levelling up investment and opportunity and putting in place the pro-enterprise policies that will ensure that this country remains one of the best places in the world to start and grow a business, a point made very eloquently in an informed speech by my hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire (Anthony Browne).

Through the action that the Government have taken, and with the support of the whole House, we will defeat this virus. We have heard speeches from the Shetlands to Central Devon, and from many constituencies in between. Everyone is committed to ensuring that the Government do everything they can to relieve the distress that our nation is now enduring. We will shepherd our country safely through this period of uncertainty and disruption. The United Kingdom will emerge from this crisis stronger, more resilient and more united than before. For all these reasons, I commend the Bill to the House.

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

I, too, would like to associate myself with the comments of the shadow Minister in thanking all those who have made today’s proceedings work so smoothly. Thank you very much.

Oral Answers to Questions

John Glen Excerpts
Tuesday 24th March 2020

(6 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
HM Treasury
Mr Alistair Carmichael Portrait Mr Alistair Carmichael (Orkney and Shetland) (LD) - Hansard

12. What discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on fiscal support for the development of marine renewables. [901732]

John Glen Portrait The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (John Glen) - Hansard

The Government take seriously their climate change responsibilities, including the target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. That means enabling a diverse range of low-carbon technologies, and we see the use of marine renewables in the future energy mix, though developers must demonstrate how those can compete with the low prices achieved by wind and solar technologies.

Mr Alistair Carmichael Portrait Mr Carmichael - Hansard

In order to compete with those technologies, these renewables have to get from the research and development stage to commercial deployment. The industry knows that and has come up with a mechanism known as the innovation power purchase agreement. Is there any reason why the Government are not engaging with that? I have to tell the Minister that these developers are not going to hang around in this country forever. If they cannot make that step here, they will go elsewhere and do it.

John Glen Portrait John Glen - Hansard

I am very aware of the 1,700 people who work in this area in the right hon. Gentleman’s constituency and across Wales and Scotland. I am also aware that he wrote to the previous Exchequer Secretary, who moved post before he could get a reply. At the moment, renewables are five times more expensive than wind and solar, but the Government will engage in a dialogue with the industry as we look to resolve this and move forward constructively.

Sir Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker - Hansard

I call Andrew Rosindell. He is not here.

Paul Bristow Portrait Paul Bristow (Peterborough) (Con) - Hansard

14. What steps he is taking to increase wages for low-paid workers. [901734]

John Glen Portrait The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (John Glen) - Hansard

Low-paid workers will continue to benefit from above-average pay rises, with the national living wage set to reach two thirds of median earnings and to be extended to workers aged 21 and over by 2024, providing economic conditions allow. That is projected to benefit nearly 4 million low-paid workers.

Paul Bristow Portrait Paul Bristow - Hansard

I thank the Minister for that response and for everything he is doing to protect jobs in Peterborough and across the country. I was proud to stand on our manifesto in December and, in particular, on our commitment to protect the low paid. The Government have taken vital steps in the short term to protect jobs. Will he confirm that this Budget is also providing a £200 tax cut for the typical family in Peterborough?

John Glen Portrait John Glen - Hansard

Absolutely. I can confirm to my hon. Friend that a typical employee will be about £104 better off next year through the cut in national insurance and the freeze in fuel and alcohol duties, and the abolition of other taxes, such as the tampon tax, will also be of benefit to many of his constituents, for whom he has been fighting hard since he came to this place.

Kevin Brennan Portrait Kevin Brennan (Cardiff West) (Lab) - Hansard

Many low-paid workers are self-employed. When I raised this matter with the Leader of the House yesterday, he said:

“The Government are inevitably conscious that when we close places by order and that has an effect on people’s livelihoods, there is a societal responsibility.”—[Official Report, 23 March 2020; Vol. 674, c. 27.]

Many of these low-paid self-employed people work in the music industry. I know that we have an urgent question coming up, but I say to the Minister that they will be looking for more reassurance than we have heard so far this morning that the Government are going to introduce a scheme and do it soon.

John Glen Portrait John Glen - Hansard

My right hon. Friend the Chancellor has set out clearly not only the range of measures that we have taken but our determination to come up with an enduring solution that addresses the range of challenges. The whole Treasury team is fully aware of how distressing and challenging people are finding it out there and we are working as fast as we can to come up with a solution that works for everyone.

David Linden Portrait David Linden (Glasgow East) (SNP) - Hansard

If the current coronavirus and financial crisis has taught us one thing, it is that we need to look again at zero-hours contracts and the difficulty that they put many of our constituents in. I very much welcome the measures that have been brought forward on support for businesses and employees, and I very much hope that we will hear about support for the self-employed in the response to the urgent question this afternoon, but there is a lot of concern among zero-hours workers. Will the Minister outline what support the Government are going to bring forward for zero-hours workers in Glasgow East?

John Glen Portrait John Glen - Hansard

If they are on pay-as-you-earn, they are eligible for the job-retention scheme, but the hon. Gentleman makes a fair point about the range of concerns that exist, and we continue to look carefully at what we can do to enhance the measures that have already been announced. He will be aware of the enhancements to the welfare package—my right hon. Friend the Chancellor has announced that an additional £6.5 billion has been put in so far—and we will continue to look at what more can be done.

Bill Esterson Portrait Bill Esterson (Sefton Central) (Lab) - Hansard

I encourage the Minister not to make the perfect the enemy of good in the design of the scheme. Many self-employed workers are worrying about their inability to put food on the table this week. They are finding the universal credit system completely overwhelmed, so I encourage Ministers to announce the scheme and make sure that the cash gets through. It has to be soon; otherwise, people are going to be in real hardship.

John Glen Portrait John Glen - Hansard

The hon. Gentleman makes a reasonable point. That issue is why we have tried to move forward on interventions that could be done quickly and have done them as quickly as we can. In respect of universal credit, we have increased the UC standard allowance from £317.82 to £409.89 per month for single claimants. We have increased the local housing allowance, we have relaxed the earnings rules for self-employed UC claimants, and we will continue to look at every measure that we can to make an impact in the lives of those people who are suffering as the hon. Gentleman describes.

Patrick Grady Portrait Patrick Grady (Glasgow North) (SNP) - Hansard

The Minister talks about looking at every measure that we can, but the Chancellor just appeared to rule out a universal minimum basic income. Is that not quite disappointing? The way to answer these questions—the way to avoid thousands of people being laid off, ending up on universal credit and potentially getting trapped in the benefits system—is to provide a minimum income guarantee for everyone. That would also help to provide a fiscal stimulus in the economy once we start to get through this crisis.

John Glen Portrait John Glen - Hansard

My right hon. Friend the Chancellor set out clearly the reasons why we have some concerns about, and indeed would not want to have, that universal guarantee. We want to make sure that the interventions we make are targeted at those who are most in need at this time, and not giving money unnecessarily to people who are wealthy.

Joy Morrissey Portrait Joy Morrissey (Beaconsfield) (Con) - Hansard

T1. If he will make a statement on his departmental responsibilities. [901737]

Break in Debate

John Spellar Portrait John Spellar (Warley) (Lab) - Hansard
24 Mar 2020, 12:05 a.m.

Yesterday in the Chamber, I and my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Liam Byrne) raised the question of escalating prices in local shops and concerns about profiteering. We understand that the Competition and Markets Authority may be looking into this issue, but may I ask the Minister to urge it very rapidly to look at where this is taking place? Is it local shops, wholesalers or cash and carry, or suppliers? Is it even to do with the international market in terms of perishable goods? This is a matter of real concern. Once the Government have found out where the problem is, will they bring forward measures to crack down on this profiteering?

John Glen Portrait The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (John Glen) - Hansard

The right hon. Gentleman makes a very reasonable point, and sets out a range of issues. The Government will be looking into this, and I will liaise with my colleagues in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to ensure that they are focusing on all the dimensions of the problem that he has outlined.

Sir Desmond Swayne Portrait Sir Desmond Swayne (New Forest West) (Con) - Hansard

T6. The Chancellor has been more creative and accommodating than his equivalents in any other jurisdiction. Setting aside the question of fairness, how practical is it to use historical tax data to try to impute a wage equivalent for the self-employed? [901746]

Break in Debate

Christian Matheson Portrait Christian Matheson (City of Chester) (Lab) - Hansard

One of the problems with this crisis is that we do not know how long it is going to last. I have businesses in my constituency—events companies, conference companies and sporting companies—that have long lead-in times to organise their events, but they cannot cancel them yet and thereby claim insurance because there is no Government guidance. Do the Government have any plans to give guidance, particularly to the insurance companies and events companies, that will perhaps say, “No events for the next six months”?

John Glen Portrait John Glen - Hansard

We are working closely with the insurance industry, and obviously events companies are underpinned by contractual obligations. We established that if they have cover relevant to non-specified diseases, the announcements by the Prime Minister and the Chancellor have triggered those policies to be paid out, but I am happy to look at any specific cases that individual Members want to bring to me, which I can take up with industry representatives.

Stephen Crabb Portrait Stephen Crabb (Preseli Pembrokeshire) (Con) - Hansard

In the wake of the last economic crisis, when we needed the banks to stand on the side of small businesses, too often they did not, and many of us have seen too many examples of small businesses being bullied into bankruptcy. What can my right hon. Friend the Chancellor say about the posture he wants to see from the banks at this time?

John Glen Portrait John Glen - Hansard

The Chancellor and I have had dialogue with individual heads of high street banks. I have been speaking to the head of UK Finance this morning and will be convening a meeting of bank representatives later today. We anticipate that the banks should be taking the most sympathetic forbearance measures possible, and we have set out very clearly, as my right hon. Friend the Chancellor did, that the loan scheme is interest-free for the first 12 months, with no fees or repayment penalties. I expect the banks to step up to the mark, as I know they will. We have to remember that many of the people actually delivering this service in high street branches or in call centres are not very well paid and are working flat-out to deliver a key service to our nation at this time.

David Linden Portrait David Linden (Glasgow East) (SNP) - Hansard

The message from the Prime Minister last night for our constituents to stay at home could not have been clearer, but many of our constituents who are staying at home will have increased energy bills as a result. The hon. Member for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross (Jamie Stone) is co-ordinating a cross-party letter to the Government asking for a reduction in VAT on energy bills. Are they willing to look favourably upon that to support our constituents, who will have higher energy bills as a result of staying at home?

Coronavirus: Employment Support

John Glen Excerpts
Thursday 19th March 2020

(6 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
HM Treasury
Greg Clark Portrait Greg Clark (Tunbridge Wells) (Con) - Hansard
19 Mar 2020, 12:09 a.m.

(Urgent Question): To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement about support for the wages of employees.

John Glen Portrait The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (John Glen) - Hansard
19 Mar 2020, 12:09 a.m.

This is an uncertain time for our country, but the Government are clear that they will do whatever it takes to protect our people and businesses from the coronavirus pandemic. On Tuesday, the Chancellor of the Exchequer set out further steps in the Government’s economic response, building on the initial response he outlined in the Budget last week, which included standing behind businesses, small and large, with an unprecedented package of Government backed and guaranteed loans to support businesses through this crisis. I have been working very closely with him and the banks, and they are very clear about their responsibility to make these measures work. The Government have made available an initial £330 billion of guarantees, equivalent to 15% of our GDP. That means that any business that needs cash to pay salaries will be able to access a Government-backed loan on attractive terms. The Government will do whatever it takes to support our economy through this crisis and stand ready to provide further support where necessary. As the Chancellor announced, we will go much further to support people’s financial security working with trade unions and business groups. Following his appearance at the Treasury Select Committee yesterday afternoon, the Chancellor spoke to the trade unions, and he will today be meeting the TUC, the CBI, the British Chambers of Commerce, and the Federation of Small Businesses. This will be with a view to urgently developing new forms of employment support to help protect people’s jobs and incomes through this period. I am sure that you will appreciate, Mr Speaker, that these are unprecedented times. The Chancellor has said that he will look at further steps to help protect jobs and incomes, and he will announce further details in due course.