IPT: Standard Rate

Finance (No. 2) Bill – in the House of Commons at 2:00 pm on 25 April 2017.

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Question proposed, That clause 58 stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Jane Ellison Jane Ellison The Financial Secretary to the Treasury

Clause 58 legislates for the increase in the standard rate of insurance premium tax from 10% to 12% as the Chancellor announced in the autumn statement 2016. This change will be effective from 1 June this year. Clause 59 will make minor changes to anti-forestalling provisions, so that insurers cannot artificially avoid paying the new rate of insurance premium tax by adjusting contract dates.

The Government remain committed to our fiscal mandate of eliminating the deficit. Much has already been achieved. The Government are forecast to reduce the deficit by more than two thirds by the end of this year, and in 2018-19, debt will fall for the first time in 16 years. However, we cannot be complacent. The Office for Budget Responsibility’s recent fiscal sustainability report highlights the challenges posed by an ageing population, projecting debt almost trebling to 234% over the next 50 years, if no further action is taken.

Photo of Steve Pound Steve Pound Shadow Minister (Northern Ireland)

I am so sorry to interrupt the hon. Lady, but I speak on behalf of the 4th Perivale scout group, which is most concerned about the impact that insurance premium tax increases are having on not just scout groups but other charities. Has she considered this matter since my hon. Friend Peter Dowd raised it, and does she have any good news if not for the whole charity sector, at least for the 4th Perivale scout group?

Photo of Jane Ellison Jane Ellison The Financial Secretary to the Treasury

I am delighted that the hon. Gentleman has had the opportunity to put his local scout group on the record. These issues have been discussed in general terms. In particular, I spoke at the Charity Tax Group conference recently. The point that I made there was that although we are not making exceptions for a number of reasons—some of them logistical—there are many different ways in which the Government exempt tax for charities and try to support them in other ways. The existing tax reliefs that go to charities and community groups in this country are worth many billions, and many are not taken up as much as they should be. In particular, the issue of scout groups got a very thorough airing during the passage of the gift aid small donation scheme measures that we took through the House last autumn. Those measures are designed to help such groups that do a lot of their fundraising outside their headquarters. Although I cannot give him comfort on this issue, I draw his attention to the fact that there are many other ways in which we help to relieve worthy groups. In particular, I refer to that recent change, which I encourage him to discuss with the Perivale scout group, because, as I have said, that was made very much with it in mind, especially with regard to how it collects donations.

Photo of George Kerevan George Kerevan Scottish National Party, East Lothian

Essentially, this is one of the taxes that the Government are keeping in. It is the third insurance premium tax rise in 18 months. Will the Minister justify why the Government are proposing this third increase, which actually increases the rate by 20%—well above the rate of inflation?

Photo of Jane Ellison Jane Ellison The Financial Secretary to the Treasury

I am coming to that, but the Chancellor was admirably clear when he laid the change out for the House when it was announced.

The Government have worked to eliminate the deficit and to invest in Britain’s future. We want to ensure that the public finances remain sustainable and to build resilience to future shocks. We have prioritised tax changes to help ordinary working families, and encouraged businesses to invest in the UK. We are supporting jobs and helping people’s money go further through increases to the personal allowance and the national living wage. We have committed to investing £23 billion for infrastructure in the national productivity investment fund and an extra £2 billion for social care, which will ease pressures on the national health service.

By increasing insurance premium tax, we will ensure that we can maintain the balance between that investment and controlling the deficit. The additional revenue gives the Government the flexibility to invest. IPT is a tax on insurers. They are not in any way obliged to pass on the tax through higher premiums. However, if insurers do choose to pass on the increase, it will be spread thinly across a wide range of people and businesses. In line with the informal agreement between the Government and the Association of British Insurers, firms have been given more than six months’ notice, which gives time to implement the change. The agreement aims to give insurers proper warning of a rate change and to ensure that the correct rate of tax on a policy is known when the policy is arranged.

The changes made by clause 58 will raise approximately £840 million each year to reduce the deficit, while ensuring that we can fund spending commitments. That really is the answer to the intervention by George Kerevan. Insurance premium tax is a tax on insurers, not consumers. It will be insurance companies’ choice whether to pass on the 2% rate increase. Even if the increases were passed on in full, the impact would be modest, costing households less than 35p a week on average.

The changes made by clause 59 will protect revenue by ensuring that insurers cannot artificially avoid paying the new rate of IPT by adjusting contract dates. As I have said, the Government are committed to reducing the deficit, while still investing in the UK. This requires some difficult decisions, including this 2% increase to the standard rate of IPT. The change will be invaluable in funding vital public spending, such as the additional £2 billion committed to social care.

Photo of Kirsty Blackman Kirsty Blackman Shadow SNP Spokesperson (House of Lords)

It is really interesting to hear the Minister say that the change will only cost an average of 35p a week. That is quite a lot, particularly for people who do not have an extra 35p a week. The director general of the ABI said:

UK consumers and businesses already pay relatively high levels of IPT… It cannot be right that people are being forced to pay an increasingly high price for doing the responsible thing”.

As my hon. Friend George Kerevan said, this is the third increase. At the start of this Parliament, IPT was at something like 3%. It was then increased to 6.5% and then to 9.5% during this Parliament. This is a tax on people doing the right thing by insuring their homes and properties. I agree with Stephen Pound, who spoke about a scout group, that this is also a tax on charities and organisations providing a brilliant experience for young boys and girls going through scouting. The change has not been considered in the round; the Government have seen another opportunity to get a few extra pennies in.

Photo of Huw Merriman Huw Merriman Conservative, Bexhill and Battle

The hon. Lady, like me, may have a rural constituency, where there are lots of young drivers experiencing high insurance costs. Would she welcome signs from the Minister that the Government will look at the impact of the change on the young in the future, particularly if it has an impact on social mobility for the young?

Photo of Kirsty Blackman Kirsty Blackman Shadow SNP Spokesperson (House of Lords)

I do not actually have a rural constituency, but I do live near one, so I recognise the issues that are faced by young drivers. We want young people, particularly those in rural areas, to be able to access services, learn to drive safely and afford insurance when they do, so that they can travel and access jobs, opportunities and training. I agree with the hon. Gentleman and also ask the Government to look at this area. We cannot continue to see hikes in insurance premium tax. A 20% hike is absolutely ridiculous, especially as it follows hot on the heels of a number of other hikes in insurance premium tax. The Government need to look at this seriously and commit to not making any further increases in the next Parliament.

Photo of George Kerevan George Kerevan Scottish National Party, East Lothian 2:15, 25 April 2017

I have two points. First, I reiterate to the Minister, who artfully shifted to saying that there was a 2% rise in the tax, that there is a two percentage point rise. It is a 20% rise in the tax. I asked the Minister how she justified that massive, excessive increase relative to inflation. She did not reply—I suspect because, as a Conservative tax cutter, she is embarrassed. I have a further question for the Minister. Will she rule out extending the provision of IPT to reinsurance? Clearly, IPT has been hit on by the Government because it is one of the few things that they have not yet legislated not to increase as a form of taxation. That will doubtless change in the Conservative manifesto. But as long as this is the tax that the Government are hitting on because it is the one they have left, will the Minister state that they will not in future years extend IPT to the reinsurance market, which would net them even more money?

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 58 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 59 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 60