Finance (No. 3) Bill

Part of Industrial Relations (Voting Procedures) – in the House of Commons at 10:18 pm on 26th April 2011.

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Photo of David Gauke David Gauke The Exchequer Secretary 10:18 pm, 26th April 2011

We have had a very useful debate this evening with a number of contributions. In particular, I thank my hon. Friends the Members for Newton Abbot (Anne Marie Morris), for Watford (Richard Harrington) and for Waveney (Peter Aldous), who spoke about the measures for small businesses in the Budget and the Finance Bill, my hon. Friend Stephen Williams, who brought his expertise in tax matters to the debate in a wide-ranging speech, my hon. Friends the Members for North East Somerset (Jacob Rees-Mogg) and for Elmet and Rothwell (Alec Shelbrooke), who, in their different—but both eloquent—ways, set out how a Government must live within their means, and my hon. Friend Matthew Hancock, who brought his economic expertise to the fore by highlighting the circumstances in which we find ourselves.

I remember our debate on last year’s Finance Bill following the June Budget, and this has been a somewhat shorter debate. I listened with great care to the speech of Ms Eagle and I think that only two of her 26 minutes were devoted to the Finance Bill. I wonder whether the Labour party’s interest in these matters is diminishing. If so, I would like to think that that is because much of the content of the Bill is uncontroversial, and because we have relatively few areas of contention. The Bill has been widely welcomed. It promotes growth alongside fairness, encourages investment and responsibility and provides for those who need help by supporting a more balanced economy on the basis of a credible and sustainable position.

We have set out our plans to reduce corporation tax—by 2p this year—moving us towards having one of the most competitive tax systems in the world once again, and meeting our objective of having the most competitive tax regime in the G20. We have set out our reforms of the taxation of foreign branches and our interim changes to the controlled foreign companies rules, which are resulting in companies looking to move back to the UK, not away from it. Britain is open for business again. We have set out our plans to double the amount of entrepreneurs’ relief to £10 million, and we have increased the research and development tax credits for small and medium-sized enterprises to 200%. Clause 42 increases the relief available through the enterprise investment scheme to 30%. Of course, tax rates matter as much to small companies as to large ones. Last year, we announced that instead of increasing the small profits rate we would cut it, and clause 5 reduces it to 20%.

Clause 1 increases the personal allowance by £1,000, which is the largest ever increase. In doing that we are removing 800,000 people from income tax altogether, as a step towards meeting our objective of a personal allowance of £10,000. Indeed, we announced in the Budget further measures toward achieving that objective.

Although supporting business is a necessary part of all this, it is important that the sectors with circumstances on their side contribute sufficiently to helping society. That is why we have increased the supplementary charge on profits from oil and gas extraction in the North sea. That will fund the 1p cut in the fuel duty that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor announced in the Budget and will delay the increase legislated for by Labour. As of 1 April, average pump prices have been approximately 6p a litre lower than they would have been had we continued with the previous Government’s escalator.

On VAT—this point was ignored entirely by the shadow Chief Secretary—it is remarkable that the shadow Chancellor still wants to talk about reducing VAT on fuel, which would take six or seven years to negotiate if it could be achieved at all. There is an easier way of cutting tax on fuel: it is by reducing fuel duty, and this Government have done it.

There are long-term proposals in the Bill dealing with annuitisation, the national employment savings trust and the taxation of pensions. At the other end of the scale, clause 40 introduces individual savings accounts for children, and my right hon. Friend the Chancellor has announced that support will be available for looked-after children through junior ISAs.

We are providing for a better environment. Clause 77 introduces a carbon price floor, which will provide the incentive for billions of pounds-worth of investment in cleaner sources of energy. The fact that we have ensured that the climate change levy maintains its real value adds to that incentive.

The Bill also helps to address other issues. The new duty on high-strength beers will help to tackle problem drinking by adding 25p to the price of a can of super-strength lager. That is coupled with a reduction in the duty on lower-strength beers to help to encourage the more responsible consumption of alcohol. I cannot promise my hon. Friend the Member for Elmet and Rothwell that there is anything in the Bill on draught beer, although we note his comments. I can only suggest that as he is dieting for his wedding, perhaps he should stay off the draught beer for another month or so. On behalf of the whole House, I wish him well. It is clearly the wedding of the year, and everyone will be looking forward to it.

We have set out to have a better tax system in the way that we make tax law, through a more deliberative and consultative approach, with greater emphasis on simplification. First, the corporate tax road map published last year set out changes to the regime. By introducing the changes to foreign branches and controlled foreign companies, the Bill takes the first steps alongside the corporate tax road map. Secondly, we published the majority of clauses in draft in the autumn. The Government have allowed proper time for better developed proposals and consultation. More than 200 responses were received on the draft clauses. Through the tax professionals forum which we set up, I received a large number of positive comments on our decision to consult.