I want to start by accepting the invitation of Stephen Hesford and by being as positive as I can, at least at the outset of my hopefully brief contribution. I shall consider aspects of the Bill that I welcome and believe to be positive.
The Government have shown their intent to penalise, through vehicle excise duty, vehicles that are the most heavily polluting—a worthwhile aim. It is also worth while to pursue a 0 per cent. rate for the least polluting vehicles. It would be an even more generous offer if any such vehicles were available but, none the less, I commend the intent.
Like the hon. Member for Wirral, West, I welcome the news that the Government intend to tackle the serious and growing problem of intra-EU missing trader frauds. I approach the matter from a former legal perspective, and I have seen first hand the way in which those frauds have grown. It is important that the Government take action to make such fraud less attractive and feasible. I am glad that they are attempting to do that.
I also welcome the Government's attempts to support research and development, which is so important. I accept that the tax relief offered to those who conduct such activity is welcome. However, tax relief on research and development and aspects thereof is valuable only if the financial benefit that can be gained is not outweighed by the administrative effort necessary to obtain it. Ministers know that a great deal of time is already lost, and that there is already huge pressure on those who conduct research and development to complete all the administration involved. Not only are domestic rules to blame. For example, the European clinical trials directive must accept much of the blame. However, the Government can do more, not only by offering greater, but— crucially—simpler tax relief.
What is true for research and development also applies more generally and I revert to the theme that many hon. Members have raised. The tax system that the Chancellor created is buckling under the weight of its refinements. The system's complexity goes beyond simply causing inconvenience. It now risks damaging the welfare of not only our businesses but the most vulnerable in our society. Businesses, especially small businesses, in my constituency—and, I suspect, those of many other hon. Members—spend far too much of their time trying to calculate their financial obligation to the state. That time could be spent much more profitably on generating wealth and employment which would go towards the sustenance of the state in any case.
I am glad to see the Paymaster General in her place this evening, because she is the Minister responsible for the Government's efforts to assist the most vulnerable people in the tax system through tax credits. I cannot be the only Member of the House whose postbag is full of complaints from those who have been overpaid, underpaid or in some other way wrongly paid through the tax credit system—indeed, I know that I am not; I recall Julia Goldsworthy saying that she had a similar problem. The problem is that the mistakes that the system has made cannot be corrected, sometimes for months or even longer, because even those employed by the Government to run the system cannot find their way through the maze of rules and regulations that the Government have created. The difficulty experienced by my constituents is that the complexity of the system is not helping those who most need its help.