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New Clause 21 — Tax

Part of Road Safety – in the House of Commons at 1:56 pm on 18th May 2011.

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Photo of Bob Neill Bob Neill The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government 1:56 pm, 18th May 2011

I am grateful, Mr Speaker.

I will encapsulate the technicalities as swiftly as I can, but it suffices to say that these amendments are necessary to ensure that those commercial activities that are undertaken by the GLA are done so within a taxable environment. As a local authority, it would normally have tax-exempt status, but some of those activities are not of a local authority nature but more of a commercial nature and so have to be properly taxable. There is a long-established tax principle in that regard to ensure a level playing field between the public and private sectors in relation to commercial activities. That is particularly important in this case because the GLA will inherit, as a consequence of our devolution measures, a significant portfolio of land interests, some of which operate on a commercial basis and are subject to corporation tax and capital gains tax. It is not a new state of affairs. Section 157 of the 1999 Act made like provision in relation to the activities of Transport for London. That is the background to what we are doing.

In a nutshell, the list of specified commercial activities, which will be set out in a detailed order, will be worked up by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs and the

GLA during the passage of the Bill, but essentially the activities of the London Development Agency and Homes and Communities Agency will be transferred to the Mayor. That is how new clause 20 kicks off the whole proposition.

New clause 21 introduces new schedule 2, which will neutralise certain tax consequences—the other side of the coin—that might otherwise arise from the transfer of various property, rights and liabilities from the Office for Tenants and Social Landlords, the Homes and Communities Agency and the London Development Agency to other public bodies. There is a measure to enable the Treasury to make similar tax provisions for future mayoral development corporations. As we know, one is proposed, and we will come to that in a moment, but the provision will technically permit others to be set up and, therefore, embrace properly, within a legal framework, all those related activities.

Essentially, every Government new clause and amendment with which we are concerned relates to that process. The Opposition have tabled a couple of amendments, which I can deal with conveniently either now or in due course once they have been spoken to, but suffice it to say that the only Government amendments that do not form part of the tax treatment provisions are amendments 212 and 213. They relate to the mayoral development corporation, which is proposed for establishment, and I hope that we can find some common ground, because in Committee there was a discussion and Members generally accepted as desirable both the idea that the Mayor of London should have the power to establish a mayoral development corporation, and the current Mayor’s intention to establish such a corporation broadly relating to the Olympic park in east London.

The provision is more widely cast than that, for good reasons, and it will permit the establishment of other mayoral development corporations. None is envisaged by the current Mayor and I am not conscious of any envisaged by potential Mayors, either, but it would be on the books for the future.

The question that arose, and which the Government seek to address with the proposed changes, was what are the appropriate means of holding the Mayor to account for mayoral development corporation proposals. If a future Mayor—I am sure that it would not be the current Mayor—were to come up with a proposal for a mayoral development corporation which was thought objectionable, by what means would a control or brake be put on that process?