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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 7:45 pm on 12th July 2010.

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Photo of Stephen Timms Stephen Timms Shadow Financial Secretary, Shadow Minister (Digital Britain) 7:45 pm, 12th July 2010

I am grateful for that clarification. However, my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham East described the background, pointing out the rather surprising fact that, after the tough talk, banking shares rose. He cited some of the analysts and mentioned the note from BNP Paribas, entitled

"UK Bank Levy: Bark Worse Than Its Bite?"

The note explained the reasons for that. It states:

"As things turned out for all the pre-election vitriol aimed at the UK banking system, the impact of today's measures appears materially lighter than expected."

The ratings agency Fitch said the levy would have "no impact" on the ratings of any UK bank. FT.com reported ideas being developed by the Swiss bank, UBS, to reduce the impact of the levy through some careful so-called "balance sheet management." My hon. Friend the Member for North Durham pointed out that the banking levy is supposed to be based on bank balance sheets, so I suppose that it is no surprise that organisations such as UBS are thinking about what they can do to manage to balance sheets in such a way as to reduce the impact of the levy. That takes us back to our earlier debate on avoidance and evasion, and why legislation often turns out to be more complex than people originally intend: it has to address such behaviour.

My hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham East also rightly made the point that several banking analysts were quoted after the Budget as saying that the cut in corporation tax from 28 to 24% would "negate" the impact of the levy on bank profitability. We need to know the truth of the matter, and that is why the amendment calls for a report. It is certain that the amount payable under the levy will be offset-at least in part and possibly wholly-for banks making a profit by the reduction in corporation tax in the next few years. It is entirely plausible for the amount due under the levy to be more than offset for some banks-possibly for all banks-by the reduction in corporation tax under the clause, together with reductions over the next few years.

The Chancellor said in his Budget speech that the contribution under the new levy would "far outweigh" the benefit from corporation tax reduction, but to put it kindly, it is by no means clear that that will be the case. I would not favour a different, higher rate of corporation tax for the banks. That would raise several difficulties, but given that the Chancellor has made clear his view that the banks should make a larger contribution in the light of what has happened, that the increase in the tax they bear should "far" outweigh the reductions they enjoy-of which the clause outlines the first-I hope that the Exchequer Secretary will agree that a report along the lines suggested in the amendment, and in the strikingly similar amendment that the hon. Member for St Ives tabled, would be a valuable contribution to transparency and to understanding the impact of the Budget measures. I also hope that the Minister sets out as much information as possible to illuminate the impact of the corporation tax cut on the banks in comparison with the bank levy.

The nub of the issue is this: can the Minister substantiate the Chancellor's claim that the impact of the bank levy will "far outweigh" the impact of lower corporation tax? If the Minister is unable to accept amendment 34, I should like to press it to a Division.

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