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Amendment made: 4, page 550, line 41, leave out from ‘subsection’ to end of line 8 on page 551 and insert ‘(5) insert—
“(5A) In relation to the carriage of a chargeable passenger on an aircraft to which section 30(4F) applies—
(a) if the rate which (apart from this subsection) would apply is the rate set for the purposes of subsection (3)(a) or (b), the following rate is to apply instead—
(i) the rate set by an Act of the Northern Ireland Assembly for the purposes of this paragraph, or
(ii) if no rate is so set for the purposes of this paragraph, a rate equal to twice the rate set for the purposes of subsection (3)(b),
(b) if the rate which (apart from this subsection) would apply is the rate set for the purposes of subsection (4)(a) or (b), the following rate is to apply instead—
(i) the rate set by an Act of the Northern Ireland Assembly for the purposes of this paragraph, or
(ii) if no rate is so set for the purposes of this paragraph, a rate equal to twice the rate set for the purposes of subsection (4)(b), and
(c) if the rate which (apart from this subsection) would apply is the rate set for the purposes of subsection (5)(a) or (b), the following rate is to apply instead—
(i) the rate set by an Act of the Northern Ireland Assembly for the purposes of this paragraph, or
(ii) if no rate is so set for the purposes of this paragraph, a rate equal to twice the rate set for the purposes of subsection (5)(b).”.’.—(Mr Gauke.)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.
The Bill proposes wide-ranging reforms of the tax system to reward work and promote growth. It supports business and growth, creates a fairer, more efficient and simpler tax system, and builds on our commitment to improving the tax policy-making approach. However, it should be seen against the fiscal backdrop that we inherited.
Before I discuss the Bill in more detail, let me remind Members of the challenges that we face. When we came to power, we were confronted by the largest peacetime deficit that the country had ever seen. One pound in every four was borrowed. Members will recall—[ Interruption. ]
Members will recall that the independent Office for Budget Responsibility revealed that the underlying damage to the economy and our challenge in repairing it was much greater than anyone had thought. It was therefore vital for us to take decisive action to restore the economic stability that was needed for recovery, and the Bill is part of that. In order to address the enormous debts that we inherited, confront Britain’s problems and get the economy moving, the Government have undertaken a sustained programme of deficit reduction.
As I said earlier, the Bill supports business and growth. It implements milestones for the corporation tax roadmap, overhauls the controlled foreign companies regime, and introduces the patent box.
My hon. Friend mentioned the controlled foreign companies regime. I support the Government’s efforts to ensure that all the tax that must be paid in the UK is paid in the UK, but, as he knows, concern has been expressed about the possibility that by introducing these rules the Government will inadvertently harm small developing countries which may lose tax revenue. I hope that they will ensure that there is no such side effect.
We debated that in the Committee of the whole House. The purpose of the CFC rules is to protect the UK tax base, as has always been the case, but the Government have a proud record of supporting developing countries, and we have a firm commitment to meeting our international obligations on that front. This country also has a proud record of building capacity in developing countries and improving their ability to collect taxes. In many developing countries, the UK has already made a substantial contribution, and we will continue to do so.
Both the patent box and the CFC changes form part of the Government’s wider plans, which will help UK businesses to operate in an increasingly globalised world. I am sure all Members agree that those measures are essential to restore medium and long-term growth.
Despite the challenging economic backdrop that the Government inherited, we have made significant progress. We have already introduced a further cut in the rate of corporation tax that will give us the lowest rate in the G7, the fourth lowest rate in the G20, and the lowest rate that this country has ever known. By next year, the Government will have cut corporation tax by 6%, helping to make the UK the most competitive country in the G20. According to the OBR’s assessment of the Budget, the reduction will increase the level of business investment by about 1% by the end of the forecast period. That is equivalent to an increase in the total amount of business investment of £3.4 billion between now and 2016.
Many businesses have seen that we are, as promised, open for business. WPP and others have recently announced that they are considering returning to the UK, or that they wish to set up business here. I am delighted to say that Rowan and Lancashire have already come here, and once the CFC rules are in place in 2013, we shall be looking for more businesses to follow them. Following the Bill’s publication in March, one of the big four advisory firms announced that it was engaged in discussions with between 10 and 15 multinational companies that were considering locating substantial operations in Britain as a result of corporate tax reforms. The CBI has commented that these much-needed changes
“will help make the UK a more attractive place for companies to invest, do business and create jobs.”
The Government aim to create a tax system that is easy to understand and with which it is easy to comply, and the Bill contributes to that. It provides real help for families and business. It raises the personal allowance to £8,105—which, curiously, was not mentioned very frequently in Committee—and, combined with the further increase of £1,100 next year, will mean a tax cut for 24 million people and 2 million people being taken out of income tax altogether.
The hon. Lady made many contributions in Committee, although I am not sure that she ever dwelt on this particular issue, but I will give her the opportunity to do so now.
If we do not want people earning £20,000, £25,000 or £30,000 a year to be paying for benefits to go to much wealthier households, the alternative would be an extension of the tax credit system. That would have placed a much greater burden both on households and the Government. Of the available alternatives, we have gone for the simpler option.
We are deferring the 3p per litre duty increase that was planned for August to January next year. Action by this Government to reduce the deficit and rebuild the economy is already benefiting businesses and families and keeping mortgage rates low. As hon. Members know, this Government have also had to make difficult decisions so we can tackle the deficit left to us by the previous Administration. They include withdrawing child benefit from households earning more than £50,000. That is a fair way to make savings, so we can meet our targets to cut the deficit.
We are also taking steps to ensure that the wealthy pay their fair share too. The Budget package ensures that the wealthiest will pay five times more than the cost of reducing the additional rate of income tax. The introduction of a new higher rate of stamp duty land tax of 7% on properties sold for more than £2 million will raise over £1 billion in the next five years. At the same time, this Government are also tackling avoidance, as demonstrated in the Bill. The new SDLT enveloping entry charge rate of 15% will deter those seeking to put their high-value property into corporate structures to avoid tax. Also, debt buy-back measures will raise over £500 million from banks that try to avoid paying the tax due, and the introduction of the UK-Switzerland agreement will ensure we can address the tax loss from those who put their money into Swiss banks to evade tax.
There has been extensive scrutiny of this Bill, including about 44 hours in Public Bill Committee. From looking at some of the new clauses tabled for today, I am happy to see that the Opposition continue to stick to their same theme on this Bill, which is to ask for reports, rather than focusing on policies. We have seen 34 Opposition-requested reports over the last 10 weeks, but no real policy alternatives. Yesterday, we were discussing Groucho Marx, and I wonder if the Opposition ever needed to be reminded of the quote:
“The problem with doing nothing is that you never know when you are finished.”
In order to make progress with Government business in good time, we agreed with the Opposition, through the usual channels, to programme parts of this Bill.
It is a delight to see my hon. Friend Jacob Rees-Mogg once again in his usual place. As he rightly said yesterday, this legislation is the body, soul and guts of this Budget.
I thank all who participated in Committee and on Report.
This Government have taken tough decisions to bring the deficit down, and we are sticking to that plan even though some Opposition Members would rather give up on deficit reduction and continue to borrow in the same unsustainable way that we borrowed up until 2010. This Government remain determined to stick to that plan. I thank the hon. Lady for giving me the opportunity to underline that point.
I thank all those who have been involved in every stage of this Bill, including both Front Benchers and Back Benchers engaged in this matter, not to mention various others. I wish briefly to mention a couple of Treasury officials. First, I congratulate Mr Edward Troup, who, as announced earlier this week, has accepted the post of tax assurance commissioner and second permanent secretary at Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. His wealth of experience and enthusiasm will be a great asset for HMRC, but a sad loss to the Treasury. I also thank Jamie Miller, who has been the Bill manager for this Bill, and indeed has served on the past six Bills over the past four years. Despite that, he has remained remarkably cheerful, notwithstanding the provocation that all of us have given on that front.
In conclusion, this is a good Bill that builds a stronger and more balanced economy. It will strengthen the UK, making us more competitive and more ready to face the challenges ahead, and I commend it to the House.
I thank my hon. Friends the Members for Pontypridd (Owen Smith), for Newcastle upon Tyne North (Catherine McKinnell) and for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Cathy Jamieson) and others for serving on the Public Bill Committee with me over the past several weeks. I also thank our able Chairs for supervising us during that process and the Commons Clerks for their advice and assistance throughout the process in Committee and in the House.
The Bill has been on quite a journey since it was first presented to the House just a few months ago. I fear that the Exchequer Secretary spoke too soon last December when he announced that
“the Government’s more open, predictable and simple approach to tax policy making is working well.”
He said that by publishing tax legislation in draft form first,
“we are giving greater certainty and stability to taxpayers and businesses”.
I do not think that taxpayers and businesses, or indeed Members of this House, realised that the Finance Bill itself was still only a draft when it was published in March. This Finance Bill has been through so many stages of crossing out and rewriting that it would have been easier for the Government to have scrapped it and started again, perhaps with some measures that would have supported jobs and growth.
As we have heard throughout the Committee and Report stages, the Budget has been a total and utter shambles. When we first saw this Bill back in March, it contained provisions to raise VAT on hot food, on static caravans and on improvements to listed buildings.
What was in the Budget back in March was a consultation exercise on VAT on static caravans and so on. I am glad that after that exercise the Government listened and amended their proposals, but it was a consultation. This Government, unlike the previous one, listen to what people say in consultations.
That is the first time I have heard a Finance Bill being called a consultation—I do not even know where to start.
The Budget in March also included a 3p rise in fuel duty in August and limits on charitable donations. All this was necessary, we were told, to deal with the deficit. Yet the Bill before us, as we reach Third Reading, contains none of those measures. We have had a series of abrupt reversals that, according to one estimate, will cost the Exchequer nearly £700 million.
Opposition Members argued that these measures were misconceived from the start, and that adding to the costs faced by families and small business at this time would make it even harder for our economy to climb out of the recession that this Government have dug us into. But it must be a matter of regret that so much uncertainty and confusion has been created for those affected, doing real damage to businesses, charities, pensioners and families, and that at a time of tight public finances the Government’s financial and fiscal planning seems to be in such disarray, with no one at all clear what the Government’s priorities actually are.
Despite the Government’s belated change of heart on those matters, the Bill remains a deeply flawed, unfair and utterly inadequate response to the problems facing our country today and that is why the Opposition will vote against it this evening. The Bill still offends against the most basic principles of fairness by giving priority to a reckless and irresponsible tax cut worth tens of thousands of pounds for a few thousand millionaires while at the same time asking millions of ordinary people who are already under pressure from rising prices, falling wages and cuts to tax credits and benefits to make further sacrifices and endure further hardship.
The Bill breaks a promise that the Chancellor made in the Budget last year to Britain’s pensioners that their age-related allowance would rise in line with inflation for the rest of this Parliament and instead imposes a stealth tax that will hit 4.5 million people over the age of 65, all of whom live on modest pension savings. The Bill is breaking the principle of universal child benefit and still means that one-earner families will lose thousands of pounds a year while a two-earner family on almost twice as much will keep all their benefit. It is a botched, half-baked measure dreamt up for a party conference speech but the measures are described by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales as a “policy disaster” that are
“in danger of becoming a practical disaster when they come into effect”.
We have raised a number of other concerns about the Bill, such as the controlled foreign companies changes and the impact that they will have on developing countries. What is most wrong with the Bill, however, is that it represents a massive missed opportunity to end the recession and get our economy working for ordinary working families, pensioners, businesses and young people. It could have been a Bill that took the tough decisions necessary to ensure that those who could make a fair contribution to deficit reduction did so, so that those hit hardest by the current crisis were not put under even more pressure.
It could have been a Bill that cut VAT, giving immediate relief to hard-pressed families and giving our economy the stimulus it needs to get growth under way again and to make unemployment fall. It could have been a Bill that redirected money wasted on excessive bank bonuses and put those resources to better use, helping young people get back to work and constructing new affordable homes.
The Government are borrowing £150 billion more. That is the cost of the Government’s failed economic policies. The reality is that with more people out of work claiming benefits and fewer people in work paying taxes, Government borrowing is higher and not lower.
We have seen that this Government’s plan has failed, as unemployment remains far too high, with a million young people out of work. It has failed, and the economy is back in recession—we are one of only two countries in the G20 that are in recession—and the Government are borrowing more. In fact, in the first two quarters of this financial year, the Government are borrowing £4 billion more than they were last year. Their plan has failed and it is time to try an alternative that gets the economy moving again and that gets people back to work and paying taxes so that the economy can grow and the deficit can be brought down sustainably.
We have proposed a bank bonus tax because we think that it is right that those people with the broadest shoulders should pay a little more. On the day that Bob Diamond has resigned after taking £100 million of bonuses in just a few years, would it not have been far better tonight if we had supported the bank bonus tax and used that money to fund a programme of youth jobs to get our economy working again?
We could have used the Budget and the Government could have used the Finance Bill properly to accelerate infrastructure investment to help the struggling construction industry and to create much needed jobs in our economy. Instead, we have a Bill that will go down in history as a monument to this Government’s incompetence, complacency and inability to grasp that what the current economic situation demands is a Government who stand up for ordinary working people. The Bill fails on fairness and asks millions to pay more so that millionaires can pay less. It fails to address the real challenges that this country faces—a recession made in Downing street and a Government with no plan to get us out of it.
Before I turn to the broad sweep of the Bill, I want to mention again clause 180, to which the Minister referred in his winding-up speech in response to my hon. Friend Mr Reid. Many of us will have been written to by a coalition of charities such as Christian Aid and ActionAid, with which I have been working closely on the effects of the clause. The reason for that concern is felt internationally. The OECD has estimated that developing countries lose three times the amount of aid that they receive from developed countries through tax avoidance in their own countries.
In 2011, the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the OECD came together and said that the G20 countries have an obligation to ensure the smooth running of the international tax system. It was therefore appropriate for G20 countries to undertake spill-over analyses of proposed changes to their own tax systems and the possible impact of those changes on the fiscal circumstances of developing countries.
If the hon. Lady was so interested, she could have studied the Hansard record of the debate. The purpose of my amendment at that stage of the Bill was to probe the intentions of the Government and to get on the record statements from my hon. Friend the Minister that the Treasury and the Department for International Development were going to work more closely together. The hon. Lady’s party made it clear that it would not support my amendment in order not to hold up that controlled foreign companies change going through. I suggest that she has a word with her Front-Bench team.
I move on to new clause 6, which I tabled. Because of the length of time spent once again discussing the bank bonus levy and Labour’s five-point plan, we did not get to it this evening. Perhaps the hon. Lady might like to think about why that was the case. New clause 6 called for joined-up working between the Treasury and the Department for International Development. You, Mr Deputy Speaker, I and many other hon. Members and Members of the House of Lords were in Committee Room 14 this morning to listen to President Carter, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former Irish President Mary Robinson, three of the Elders, who were talking about human rights and in particular developing nations. They specifically praised the record of this Government as the first major Government in the world to reach the 0.7% target for overseas aid. I urge upon my colleagues in Government again that we build upon that achievement by making sure that our aid is well spent and raises the capacity of overseas Governments to develop their own tax collection capability so that they are not so dependent on us in the future.
As others wish to speak, I turn to the wider measures in the Bill. For those of us who have been on the entire journey, it has been a long trip from the Budget to Second Reading, to Committee of the whole House, to 18 sittings of the Committee, and to the past two days. Some of the things that were there at the start did not make it all the way through to the end. Maybe somewhere in Cornwall there is someone sitting in a caravan, eating a pasty washed down by sports drinks, filling in a gift aid form, perhaps to a church restoration fund. Such a person ought to be happy that this Government listen.
Some things, to be fair, were consistent all the way through that process. We heard them again this evening from Rachel Reeves—Labour’s five-point plan. As a boy, I was brought up to go to Sunday school, so I cannot help but be reminded of the parable of the feeding of the 5,000; they start off with such a small amount and expect it to achieve so many things, but without the benefit of miraculous intervention.
When all these measures are long forgotten, having simply been about tens of millions or hundreds of millions of pounds, it is the really significant measures in the Budget, which involve billions of pounds, that will be remembered in the sweep of history. The most significant of those is the progress towards raising the income tax threshold towards £10,000. My party, the Liberal Democrats, can take particular pleasure in the fact that the Budget and the Finance Act, as the Bill is soon to become, set us off towards another milestone on the route to achieving the £10,000 tax-free threshold. It will already lift 800,000 people out of income tax, and it will do so for 1.1 million people over the coming year and 2 million next year, allowing more people to retain the benefits of their work. We also saw in the Budget the introduction of effective wealth taxes, new rates of stamp duty, a new clampdown on stamp duty avoidance, something the previous Government shirked on many occasions, and new restrictions on reliefs against tax.
When the history of this Government and this Budget is written, it is the rise in the threshold to £10,000 that will be long remembered when all the ephemera we have been dealing with, and which Opposition Members have been so keen to raise over the past 12 weeks, are long forgotten. The raising of the threshold, which will lift people out of taxation, is the big issue that will be remembered for many years to come.
I know that on Third Reading we cannot debate the issues again, but I want to ask a quick question on a commitment the Government gave last year during a debate in which recognition of marriage in the tax system was discussed. They gave a commitment to bring in the necessary changes to introduce transferable allowances, the need for which is urgent. I would like to remind the Government of their commitment to recognise marriage in the tax system and press the Minister to respond on the matter. The Prime Minister said:
“I have always supported the idea of supporting marriage through the tax system, specifically supporting the idea of a transferable tax allowance. The idea of a transferable tax allowance is in the coalition agreement.”
I am sure that the Minister will be able to reaffirm that. The Prime Minister continued:
“It’s something we would like to do in this parliament”.
As he is the Prime Minister of the coalition, I am sure we can look forward to a commitment on that at some time in the future.
The Government have made a number of U-turns, or J-turns, as some Members called them—or, as Andrew Percy called them, recalibrations. It does not matter what we call them, so long as they are done for the right reasons, and the Government’s U-turns so far have been for the right reasons and we welcome them.
However, perhaps it is now time to have a commitment from the Government on transferable allowances. If the Minister is unable to tell us exactly when the Government will introduce legislation to recognise marriage in the tax system, will he provide clarity on a different but related point? Recognition of marriage in the tax system will require HMRC to make various operational changes, particularly in the IT systems. Can he reassure us that this preparatory work is already under way so that when the Government bring forward legislation to recognise marriage in the tax system there is no further delay? If he cannot do so tonight, will he make it an urgent priority to make a statement to the House setting out the time that will be required to change the IT systems and announce that he has instructed that work to begin in readiness for the introduction of the transferable allowance legislation?
When listening to Stephen Williams, I was reminded of the rather depressing speeches and interventions from some of his Tory colleagues in our previous debates on youth unemployment and the bank bonus tax, who showed very clearly that they do not live in the real world. They have no idea of the impact on young people of the chronic levels of unemployment they now face or the depressing reality that this is a repeat of what happened under the Tories in the ’80s and ’90s.
The shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury mentioned Bob Diamond’s £100 million in bonuses, which, under the real jobs guarantee scheme, would create 25,000 jobs for young people. I wonder whether Government Members consider that a better use of £100 million in bankers’ bonuses, because I certainly do.
We have already seen new schemes from the Government which are depressingly familiar; they remind me of the youth opportunities programme and its successor, the youth training scheme, in the early ’80s, and of how benefits were withdrawn from young people during those years when there were no jobs. There are no jobs for young people in my constituency or in many parts of the country.
People in the hon. Lady’s part of the world must be incredibly lucky, because it must be the only place in the country where that is the case.
In reality, every Member knows that the youth unemployment figure has gone over the 1 million mark; that is a fact which everyone here accepts.
I ask the hon. Gentleman, when he intervenes, to explain why one of this Government’s first acts was to scrap the successful future jobs fund, which the previous Government introduced and Members who are now on the Treasury Bench said they would keep.
I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way, after some careful thought. In answer to his question, in my constituency the biggest difficulty with the future jobs fund was that, first, the placements were not real jobs but national service, because they were from the Government or charities; and, secondly, they had no future. They did not, therefore, meet even the definition of their own title: future jobs fund.
The hon. Gentleman has heard about the situation in South Derbyshire. The situation in Gloucestershire is that the number of apprenticeships has risen massively over the past three years and has continued to go up by 20% over the past year, and that youth unemployment has fallen by 150 people every month for the past three months. It is not perfect, but things are getting better.
I cannot decide which of those 14 questions to answer, but as a former banker the hon. Gentleman is in a good position to comment on the financial crisis, which was caused by some of his former colleagues. What he says gives no comfort. He mentions national service, and I went back to the ’80s and ’90s, but he has gone back far further than that, to something that really did not solve any problems for young people.
I speak to people in my constituency all the time, and they tell me just how hard it is to find jobs. I have employed somebody who was on the future jobs fund, and they have been extremely successful, but people who have been out of work for more than six months, whether they have left school, college or graduated from university, find it almost impossible to get jobs.
The reality is that, in this situation, just as in previous decades under previous Conservative Governments, employers are already turning to people who have just left school or college or just graduated; they are not looking at people who have been out of work for a long period. The depressing reality is that we will see another generation of young people consigned to the scrapheap unless this Government take the action that the Labour party proposes in repeating the bankers’ bonus tax.
My hon. Friend gained vast experience of dealing with young people before coming to Parliament, and she has been a strong advocate for them ever since. Her experience is very similar to mine. It is absolutely disgraceful that we have Ministers sitting there laughing at what is happening to young people up and down this country, who cannot get jobs because we have a Government who entered office when the economy was growing strongly—[Hon. Members: “Oh!”]—despite a global economic downturn and a global economic and financial crisis caused by the friends of people like Richard Graham.
I am not sure what that has to do with what I was talking about. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman can agree with me that what we need is action from this Government—action to help young people find jobs.
Charlie Elphicke, who is no longer here, mentioned several times the fact that the banks are not lending and said that that is the problem, but he forgot to say that the reason the banks are not lending is that they have no confidence in this Government—the Government who have pushed us back into a double-dip recession so that we are now one of only two countries in Europe in that position, the other being Italy. That lack of confidence is why banks would rather shore up their own position—and, of course, pay exorbitant bonuses to their top executives.
The banks are not lending to the small businesses that need the money to create the jobs and drive the growth that is needed. Unless the banks start to do that, the Government need to step in.
That is why the proposal from Labour is so important. It is why repeating the bankers’ bonus tax would make so much difference to young people and to this country as a whole. But what did we get from this Government? The cut in the 50p tax rate. Three hundred thousand of the wealthiest people in the country will benefit from a tax cut paid for by the rest of us, particularly the poorest and pensioners through the granny tax. That is the reality of the Government’s proposal, which they are pushing through tonight. That is why we should oppose the Bill.
What I expected was an end to the sort of heckling we have heard from Ministers, who clearly enjoy the prospect of young people being out of work. I would like to think that that is not what they really think. I had hoped for a degree of fairness from the Government—perhaps I was being unreasonably optimistic. There is nothing fair in 300,000 of the wealthiest—
The fair thing in the Budget is that the personal allowance for income tax is being raised by a record amount, taking a large number of low-paid people out of paying tax altogether and giving a tax cut to many more. That is what makes this Budget fair.
If it were true that it helps the poorest people in our society, perhaps the hon. Gentleman would have a point, but it does not help many of the very poorest and it does not help those young people I was talking about who cannot find a job because the Government will not take action and because they cut the future jobs fund when they first came into office.
What we really needed from this Government was a Budget of fairness. Instead, we got that tax cut. What they should be doing is repeating Labour’s bankers’ bonus tax, which raised £3.5 billion—[ Interruption. ] Government Members do not have to take my word for it; they can take the word of the independent Office for Budget Responsibility, which they themselves set up. They are even questioning their own organisation’s figures. That £3.5 billion was nearly twice as much as the £1.8 billion raised by the bank levy. The bank levy is a start, but the Government could repeat the bank bonus tax and use the money to get young people back to work and the housing industry going. The temporary VAT cut would help small businesses that cannot get loans from the banks.
I know that people want to get home. [Hon. Members: “Hurrah!”] Always happy to oblige. We have had a Budget for the wealthiest in our society. The Bill gives help to the top 300,000 earners, but does nothing for young people or those out of work.
During the various debates on the Bill, there have been references to the 1980s and the 1970s. Does my hon. Friend agree that there were probably comments like the ones we heard tonight in the 1930s, when people in the south of England said that there was no depression?