Clause 41 - Intangible fixed assets
Finance Bill
7:15 pm

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Nicholas Winterton

Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield, Conservative)

I welcome the hon. Member for Rayleigh (Mr. Francois) for the first time in this Committee.

Photo of Mark Francois

Mark Francois (Shadow Minister, Treasury; Rayleigh, Conservative)

Thank you, Sir Nicholas. I spoke on clauses 11 and 69 in the House, but as this is my first formal contribution in Committee, I take this opportunity to reciprocate and welcome you, Sir Nicholas, to the Chair. I also thank you for your good-humoured chairmanship. You have demonstrated that light-touch regulation often works best.

Clause 41 deals with intangible fixed assets such as goodwill, customer lists, patents and certain quota payments. In 2002, the Government introduced a new regime for dealing with those, and that allowed companies to obtain corporation tax deductions for certain intangibles. The Government sought to amend the regime in 2003, to close what they believed were a number of loopholes; clause 41 is a development of that process.

The Conservatives do not object specifically to the provisions in clause 41, but we have a particular question about the treatment of single farm payments, which are due to begin in the UK around February 2006—within the current tax year. Subsection (4) is designed to prevent capital gains being rolled over into payment entitlements under the single farm payments scheme. However, there has been considerable confusion over the proposed tax treatment of those payments.

I raised that issue at Environment, Food and Rural Affairs questions on 9 June and was told by the Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the hon. Member for South Dorset (Jim Knight), that a dedicated tax bulletin on the proposed   tax treatment of the single farm payment was due to be issued before the end of June to give farmers and their advisers time to plan. I therefore take this opportunity to inquire of the Minister whether that bulletin has yet been issued.

Photo of Ivan Lewis

Ivan Lewis (Economic Secretary, HM Treasury; Bury South, Labour)

It is good to get some exercise, Sir Nicholas; I am freed from the risk of deep vein thrombosis. Having sat in the Committee so long, I am certainly beginning to feel the effects of jet lag.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Rayleigh on his debut in this Committee and I thank him for the way in which he presented his question and for giving me a little advance notice. I shall give him a very concise answer. As I understand it, the guidance that he asked about has not yet been issued, although our intention is to issue it as soon as possible. However, there may be some confusion about what guidance we are speaking about, so I shall try to clarify that.

On 22 March, an order was issued that was specifically about adding the entitlement to single farm payments to the list of business assets eligible for capital gains roll-over relief. Was that the guidance that the hon. Gentleman was seeking? Basically, an explanatory memorandum was issued with that order back in April. If the hon. Gentleman’s question was on that specific point, then I think that I have taken care of it; but if it was a more general question about guidance and SFP, then I can tell him that the more general guidance has not yet been issued and it is our intention to issue it as quickly as possible. I hope that that answers his question.

Photo of Mark Francois

Mark Francois (Shadow Minister, Treasury; Rayleigh, Conservative)

To clear up the question as quickly as possible, at Environment, Food and Rural Affairs questions on 9 June I asked what the status of the issue was. The DEFRA Minister replied:

“Tax issues are of course a matter for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer rather than this Department, but I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will be pleased to hear that a dedicated tax bulletin on the single payment scheme will be published on 24 June, and I trust that it will answer his questions.”—[Official Report, 9 June 2005; Vol.434, c.1382.]

That, specifically, is what we are talking about. I think that that clarifies the matter.

Photo of Ivan Lewis

Ivan Lewis (Economic Secretary, HM Treasury; Bury South, Labour)

I would never contradict a DEFRA Minister, and therefore I can tell the hon. Gentleman that the guidance has not yet been issued. I shall chase it up, and as soon as I find out when it will be published I will inform the hon. Gentleman.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 41 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 42 ordered to stand part of the Bill.