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With this it will be convenient to consider Lords amendments 3 to 5.
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
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.
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.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Has any consideration been given to disapplying
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
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.