Orders of the Day — Finance Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:49 pm on 30th April 2002.

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Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury 3:49 pm, 30th April 2002

No, I will not, because I am dealing with the hon. Lady, which is a pleasurable experience from which I do not wish to be diverted.

A report in The Sunday Telegraph on 21 April offers a lurid account of telephone calls allegedly made by the Paymaster General to Senator Pierre Horsfall, Jersey's senior politician. He is said to have been given an ultimatum that unless his Government signed the European Union code of conduct by 16 April—the day before the Budget—his island would have to face unpleasant consequences, even though, as Crown dependencies, the Channel Islands are not in the European Union. The Channel Islands and the Isle of Man could scarcely be expected to offer to destroy the sector that provides 70 per cent. of their income. It is reasonable for them to rely on the guarantee given by this country 30 years ago when we joined the European Economic Community that their tax sovereignty was untouchable. For the Government to contemplate wrecking the economies of those dependencies is both financially short-sighted and, if I may say so, the most objectionable form of Executive bullying—[Hon. Members: "Hear, hear!"] Well, I wanted to get that off my chest.

On vehicle excise duty, schedule 5 makes changes to the vehicle taxation and registration system to provide that liability to tax the vehicle shall rest with the registered keeper. It creates the offence of failing to re-license a vehicle. It provides that a supplement may be charged where a vehicle keeper fails to re-license a vehicle, and that the amount of such a supplement and the circumstances in which it is payable shall be specified in regulations. The schedule will provide that vehicle excise duty shall be payable on any vehicle on the register, or used or kept on a public road, or on any former mechanically propelled vehicle that remains registered as a vehicle.

The trouble with that is twofold and simply stated. The Government are giving themselves the power to levy vehicle excise duty on vehicles that are neither used nor kept on the public road, and to tax things that used to be, but are no longer, mechanically propelled vehicles. If there is a new Labour logic somewhere in that bizarre and eccentric proposal, the Government will no doubt advise us of it, although the prospect seems improbable. In the circumstances—