Clause 7 — Charge and main rates for financial year 2010
Surface Water and Highway Drainage Charges (Exemption) Bill
John Howell (Henley, Conservative)
I apologise for not having realised that in order to participate in this debate one had to be an expert on Canada, but having returned from Canada only on Saturday morning let me give the Committee the benefit of an update on the situation there. The economic situation was encouraging, as were the conversations that I had with Ministers, including those in the finance team. They had a realistic view of Canada's position and direction and were keen to go out around the world and "sell" the country. Canada started with a good situation in terms of its approach to the current crisis. The stock market was doing rather well last week—not that I had time to undertake any speculation—and unemployment was under control.
There is one great difference between Canada and the UK: Canada has a Conservative Government. One of the Committees that I have served on over the past few months considered the Corporation Tax Bill. Nothing new was introduced into that Bill—it was part of a tidying-up exercise; "simplification" was the euphemism used—but the fact that it had some 1,300 clauses shows that we have some problems in our corporation tax system. It was evident that what was required was not just telling the press about closing loopholes but genuine simplification of a regime of allowances and reliefs that interact with each other, are extremely complex and set a very confusing picture for foreign investors who come to this country. It is a shame that the opportunity was not taken to make more of simplifying the corporation tax system as part of the way out of the current crisis.
There is huge scope for simplifying the system even further. For several years, I was an inspector of taxes— [ Interruption. ] I hear cries of "Shame!" from my hon. Friends. I remember that when I first started, all the income and corporation tax Acts could be put into a reasonably small box that could be put into one's briefcase and taken home. That is no longer so, which is a great shame. Even then, one had to deal with huge areas of enormous complexity, such as transfer pricing.