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Finance Bill

Part of Bill Presented — Constitutional Convention (No. 2) Bill – in the House of Commons at 1:49 pm on 21st July 2015.

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Photo of Shabana Mahmood Shabana Mahmood Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury 1:49 pm, 21st July 2015

I do not want to get into a tit-for-tat debate with the hon. Gentleman, but the SNP did not support our reasoned amendment last night. In my opinion, the measured and sensible way to take the Finance Bill forward, as we have done with previous Finance Bills in the previous Parliament, is to scrutinise it in detail. There are more opportunities with Finance Bills because we have Committee of the Whole House as well as the Public Bill Committee, and we shall press important measures in the Bill to a vote when we reach the latter stages of the Bill’s passage; but given that there are very important measures that we do support, it is important that we signal that by allowing the Bill a Second Reading.

One issue to which we will return in Committee of the Whole House is bank taxation. The Government will decrease the rate of the bank levy from January 2016 and will at the same time introduce a surcharge on profits of banks over a threshold of £25 million, which represents a switch from a tax on balance sheets to a tax on profits. Those measures are contained in clauses 16 and 17.

We will debate those in detail in Committee of the whole House in September, when we will seek to increase transparency regarding revenues from the banking sector. We will also push the Government for further details about the impact that these measures will have on the diversity of the financial sector, including any disproportionate impact on building societies. That is one of the things that people have been warning about since the measures in the Bill were unveiled.

As the Institute for Fiscal Studies has highlighted, by 2021 there will have been 13 tax rates in 10 years as the bank levy is gradually reduced from 0.21% to 0.1% by January 2021. This measure will cost £1.8 billion from 2021 onwards. Because from 2021 UK banks will be taxed on liabilities in the UK and not worldwide, that represents a fairly significant giveaway that it is important to test further in Committee. In contrast to what is happening to the bank levy, the 8% corporation tax surcharge, in effect, on bank profits from January 2016 raises £1.3 billion. There are a number of questions on the rationale for moving to this form of taxation for banks, as well as on the original intention of the bank levy and whether that will continue to be met in the new regime. It is important that hon. Members have the chance to test this further in Committee. The Minister will know that the bank levy was designed to discourage risky leverage, but whether it has been successful in doing so is a matter for some debate. Moving to a system of having a tax on profits possibly introduces a risk that there may be some discouragement from declaring UK profits. It will be important to analyse what risk that might pose in the banking sector.

There is a particular problem with regard to challenger banks, which were not subject to the bank levy but will fall within the new surcharge. Challenger banks are important for the overall health of the financial sector, because we need them to challenge the dominance of the big four or five banks. The Government will say, rightly, that the £25 million threshold is partly designed to prevent too much of the impact from being felt by challenger banks. Nevertheless, the Government will also be aware that a lot of the commentary since publication of the proposals has focused on the genuine concerns of challenger banks, which are worried that despite the £25 million threshold, they will still be disproportionately affected, with a significant impact on consumer choice as well. We will need to look at those issues further.