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Clause 1 — Main rate of corporation tax for financial year 2011

Part of Finance Bill – in the House of Commons at 7:00 pm on 12th July 2010.

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Photo of Andrew George Andrew George Liberal Democrat, St Ives 7:00 pm, 12th July 2010

I want to speak in support of amendment 50, which is tabled in my name and those of my colleagues. I congratulate Chris Leslie on the manner in which he proposed his amendment. The broad thrust of the case that he seeks to probe and possibly to press to a vote later on-we do not know-is, I think, worthy of being probed. The House should obtain a great deal more information on the issue before we make a decision.

I have asked a large number of parliamentary questions on the subject and, more particularly, on the banking levy and the basis on which assessments have been made to set that proposed levy at the level at which it will be set. It is rather frustrating for many of us who wish to engage in the debate on corporation tax and to cross-reference it with the banking levy that both measures are not contained in the Bill. I understand, of course, that there will be a consultation on the banking levy before its implementation in January, and I am sure that the Minister will say that they could not both be contained in the Bill because it was proposed that the arrangements would be undertaken in such a manner. However, leaving aside the politics of the issue, the broad thrust of the argument, on which I understood that all parties were agreed, is that when we came to set the first Budget after the general election, those who dropped this country in it and caused the public finances to be in such a serious state would do most to help us to get out of it and to help to restore our public finances. We should be looking to those sectors that are most culpable to make the greatest contribution.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer was absolutely right to conclude that what we should seek to achieve in the Budget is that those who can afford it most should contribute most, with the vulnerable protected. Although I do not want to return to a Second Reading-type debate and to relate this measure to all the other measures and to the public spending re-profiling or cuts that are due in the autumn, on which we are to get more detail, that is the context in which this issue has to be considered.

Amendment 50 is remarkably similar to amendment 34, tabled by Stephen Timms. I tabled amendment 50 because we need to probe and fully understand the likely impact of the banking levy and the corporation tax cut on the banking sector. We need a better assessment of that. It was interesting that the hon. Member for Nottingham East, in response to proper and reasonable questions about the relationship between the impact of the bank levy, as opposed to that of the corporation tax cut, on the banking sector was unable to give a quantifiable answer. That is because the Treasury do not provide one. In the responses to the questions that I have asked on the issue, that relationship has not been clear. That is why it would be better for us to say honestly that if we are properly going to come to a measured conclusion, it would be far better to have the best possible estimates of the likely impact of both measures beforehand, so that we can measure one against the other and make a proper, balanced and reasonable assessment of the impact at the end of the process.

I do not wish to delve into the party politics of what people said and did not say prior to the election, although that adds to the excitement and interest in this Chamber, but the Business Secretary, my right hon. Friend Vince Cable, was right in predicting a lot of what needed to happen and in encouraging the then Government to take the action that they ultimately took on Northern Rock and in relation to other interventions. The hon. Gentleman was wrong to place the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats together in the previous Parliament as taking the same line on the issue. As a candidate in the last general election, I was particularly keen that we went into it seeking to ensure that the banking sector made a significant contribution to restoring the public finances. I was looking forward to that, and I was very pleased to see the banking levy in the Budget, along with a large number of other measures, such as raising personal allowance and the pension guarantee; the Liberal Democrats were pleased to see those. The hon. Gentleman is right, however, that one thing that came out the day after the Budget was the sense that the banking sector was breathing a sigh of relief.

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