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Clause 2 — Consequential etc power

Living Wage (Reporting) – in the House of Commons at 1:45 pm on 3rd February 2015.

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Photo of David Gauke David Gauke The Financial Secretary to the Treasury

This group comprises four minor technical amendments to clause 2 and schedule 1, which deal with simplifying the collection of class 2 national insurance contributions payable by the self-employed.

It might help the House if I briefly outline the four amendments. Amendments 2 and 3 are the Government’s response to the report, published on 27 November, by the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee on the delegated powers contained in the Bill. The report drew to the House’s attention the power in clause 2 to amend primary and secondary legislation as a consequence of the reform of class 2 NICs. This power is currently subject to the negative procedure. The Committee said that the justification in HMRC’s “Delegated Powers Memorandum” was not sufficient for the negative procedure to apply where the power allows for the amendment or repeal of primary legislation, and the Committee recommended that in this instance the power be subject to the affirmative procedure. The Government have considered and acted on the Committee’s report. Lords amendment 2 provides that regulations made under clause 2 that amend or repeal primary legislation be subject to the affirmative procedure. Lords amendment 3 provides that the negative procedure will continue to apply to any use of the power set out in clause 2 where a statutory instrument does not contain any regulations amending or repealing primary legislation.

Lords amendments 4 and 5 are minor technical amendments dealing with the simplification of the collection of class 2 NICs payable by the self-employed. This is a matter that I have previously debated, if not at great length, with Shabana Mahmood. Amendment 4 amends schedule 1, which inserts new section 11A into the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992. It will ensure that the relevant self-assessment penalties apply to class 2 contributions collected through SA by adding a missing reference to the SA under-declaration penalty contained in schedule 24 to the Finance Act 2007. It was always the Government’s intention to align penalties for class 2 contributions more closely with those for SA as part of the reform of class 2 so that the self-employed are not subject to two different regimes, but this penalty was unintentionally omitted. Lords amendment 5 makes a corresponding amendment to the Social Security Contributions and Benefits (Northern Ireland) Act 1992.

With that explanation, which I know the House was keen to hear, I hope it will agree with the Lords amendments.

Lords amendment 2 agreed to.

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons, Speaker of the House of Commons

It is always a joy to hear the Minister develop the argument, but he is exercising a self-denying ordinance. I must say that the way he has addressed matters thus far—comprehensively and courteously, in his usual manner—has been accompanied by a slight increase in the number of Members present for the next business. It is not for me to suggest that those two phenomena are causally related, but some people might think they are. I suppose if one is in a tight corner and hoping that the Minister will develop the arguments fully, one can always best depend (a) on a Treasury Minister and (b) on a lawyer, and he is both.

Lords amendments 3 to 5.

Photo of David Burrowes David Burrowes Conservative, Enfield, Southgate

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Has any consideration been given to disapplying Standing Order No. 16(1), which allocates 90 minutes to consideration of the mitochondrial donation regulations? When similar regulations, concerning embryo research, came before the House in 2000, some 3 hours and 19 minutes were taken. Through the usual channels, the House has previously disapplied Standing Orders when dealing with issues of great significance, not least in this area. Obviously, many are concerned about the significant impact of these regulations, not least in respect of mothers at risk of passing on serious diseases to their children. This matter is of great significance to the country, because, for the first time in the world, we would be permitting human germ-line genetic modification. Given the significance of these matters, not just for those in the House but for the public, and in the interest of considering them in detail, I would have thought these matters deserved fuller debate and scrutiny, although I respect the fact that we will be turning to a general debate on rural phone and broadband connectivity afterwards. Given all that and the significant safety and legal issues, as well as ethical issues, surely we need longer than 90 minutes. Has any consideration been given to disapplying Standing Orders?

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons, Speaker of the House of Commons

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman both for his point of order and for his usual courtesy in notifying me in advance of its intended content. I am very sympathetic to the hon. Gentleman, but I fear—I say this in all sincerity—that I am unable to help him. The hon. Gentleman is right that it is within the power of Ministers to propose an extension of time available for a debate to which the 90-minute limit under Standing Order No. 16 applies. Notice is required, and there is no such motion on today’s Order Paper. I am clear that that is extremely regrettable, so far as the hon. Gentleman is concerned and many other Members may feel likewise. But we are where we are. In practical terms, the possibility of proposing such an extension is in the hands of the Government business managers, and is not available to Back Benchers.

The hon. Gentleman knows my views about the importance of empowering Back Benchers, and I have never been much fussed about empowering Ministers in any Administration, as the hon. Gentleman knows. Obviously, however, the Speaker has to operate within the established procedures of the House. As far as I can see—I have taken advice on the matter—today’s business must therefore conclude after an hour and a half.

The Minister is always a most courteous Minister, and she will have taken note of what has been said. Knowing the Minister as I do, I know she is planning to be pithy in her remarks to facilitate the majority of Back Benchers. About 18 Members wish to speak in the debate. If Members help each other, it will maximise the number of contributors. I fear we will have to leave it there for now.