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(1) Within six months of the passing of the Finance Act 2018, the Chancellor of the Exchequer shall undertake a review of the effects of amending the operation of this Part in relation to the excess profits of PFI companies.
(2) For the purposes of the review under this section, it shall be assumed that the operation of this Part would be amended so as to—
(a) deduct the uncompensated excess profit amount of PFI companies from the aggregate of the interest allowances of the group for periods before the current period so far as they are available in the current period for the purposes of calculating the interest capacity of a worldwide group under section 392 (the interest capacity of a worldwide group for a period of account),
(b) provide that, for groups that contain a PFI company, the uncompensated excess profit amount for a period is equal to the group excess profit amount less the aggregate amount by which the group’s taxable profit has been reduced in prior periods as a result of such provisions,
(c) provide that the group excess profit amount for any period will be the aggregate PFI excess profit amount for each PFI company in the group, and
(d) provide that the PFI excess profit amount for a PFI company for a period will be the amount by which the internal rate of return on shares and related party debt in that company (from inception to the end of the previous accounting period) exceeds the internal rate of return set in the relevant PFI contract or, if no such return was specified, 10%.
(3) For the purposes of this section, “a PFI company” means a company which has entered into a contract with a public sector body under the Private Finance Initiative or the PF2 initiative.
(4) The Chancellor of the Exchequer shall lay a report of the review under this section before the House of Commons as soon as practicable after its completion.”
This amendment requires a review about the effects of making provision to discount the excess profits of a PFI company for the purpose of calculating the aggregate of the interest allowance of worldwide groups in the provisions of Part 10 of the Taxation (International and Other Provisions) Act 2010.
Amendment 4, page 105, line 17, at end insert—
“26A The amendments made by paragraph 21A have effect from the day on this Act is passed.”
This amendment is consequential on Amendment 3.
Let me start by reiterating the sentiments that I expressed in Committee when we were debating the bank levy. I said then that it served no one to
“homogenise the people who work in the banking sector as either saints or demons.”—[Official Report,
Vol. 633, c. 814.]
Such a simplification ignores the complexity of our financial services, the individuals who work in them, and the institutional culture that informs the practices within them. About 2,000 people work in the banking sector in my constituency, particularly in Santander, and many of them are my committed constituents.
Similarly, we cannot ignore the important role that banks play in the smooth functioning of our economy. We should avoid a “one size fits all” approach that lumps all banks together for the purpose of a bank-bashing session. The House should have a grown-up, mature discussion about issues such as the bank levy, the indisputable reasons for its introduction, its effectiveness, and why the Government are now desperate to cut it further. First, however—if I can be indulged slightly—I will say a few words about the political context of today’s debate.
Since we last debated the Government’s proposed changes in the bank levy, there have been several developments. This has continued the long saga of what is now recognised as a divided and directionless Government, and it goes to the heart of the whole question of the Government’s finances. We have seen the resignation of the Prime Minister’s deputy, and a botched Cabinet reshuffle in which the Secretary of State for Health refused to budge, another Secretary of State returned to the Back Benches rather than moving to the Department for Work and Pensions, and the Conservative party headquarters wrongly announced that the Secretary of State for Transport would become the party’s chairman. That goes to the heart of the question of the Government’s competence, which also relates to the bank levy.
During the recent Black and White fundraising dinner, at which the bank levy and our review of it were no doubt discussed, and which was held at the Natural History Museum—evidently live dinosaurs were visiting dead dinosaurs—the Prime Minister, addressing the Jurassic attendees, said:
“we are on a renewed mission to fight and win the battle of ideas and to defeat socialism today”.
How did the Government plan to defeat socialism in our modern age—the age of the fourth industrial revolution and the internet of things? The answer was that they held a raffle. While no doubt discussing the bank levy and issues relating to it, they raffled, at £100 a ticket, an eight-gun, 500-pheasant and partridge shoot donated by a millionaire hedge fund supporter who must know a great deal about the bank levy. That is how the Government will defeat socialism: by slaughtering 500 partridges and pheasants.
I am not sure whether he was trying to convince his colleagues or himself. And so it goes on. It is little wonder that the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union has suggested that Ministers would have to be locked in a room for any agreement to be reached—that is, if they could all find the same room. I would agree with that suggestion, on the condition that we could throw away the key. Meanwhile, the Treasury has been briefing the press that the spring statement will be scaled back to include no Red Box, no official document, no spending increases and no tax changes—and perhaps no embarrassing U-turns either—as well as, no doubt, an inability, yet again, to talk about the bank levy, what we could do with it, and how we could make progress with it.
Rather than the Government outlining a long-term economic plan, we have yet another Finance Bill engineered for the benefit of the few. There is little in the Bill to tackle our dreadful productivity performance, stuttering growth, high inflation and lack of investment in our infrastructure and people, but if we raised more from the banking levy, we could do something about that. In that context, the Government have come up with the bright idea of offering another tax break to the banks by further limiting the scope of the bank levy. That would ensure that, from 2020, banks will pay the levy only on their UK balance sheets, not their overseas activities.
Our position on the bank levy has been clear: we have consistently argued for a more proportionate levy and pointed out that the levy, which would introduced in 2011, would raise substantially less than Labour’s bankers’ bonus tax. In short, we have always stood against the Government’s divisive austerity fetish.
I must gently point out that the Labour party’s position on the bank levy has been anything but clear. Labour Members opposed the levy when it was first introduced. They then called for it to be retained, and their amendments today propose neither retaining nor abolishing it. As the hon. Gentleman’s party’s position is entirely unclear, perhaps he could take this opportunity to clarify it.
We opposed the levy because it was a reduction in the taxes that the banks were paying. I know the hon. Gentleman wants to be generous to people who already have money and very ungenerous to those who do not have money, but he should give considerable thought to that before he makes such interventions, because it does not do his party’s reputation any good, as that sort of approach is mean and miserly.
That was why we voted against the levy during our consideration of the 2011 Finance Bill, which introduced the bank levy along with cuts to corporation tax and tax giveaways for the most well-off—that is the context. It was also why we expressed concern in 2015 about the Government’s cuts to the bank levy and the introduction of the corporation tax surcharge, and it is why we will vote against this measure today. We will support my hon. Friend Stella Creasy, who will—I suspect forlornly—call for a review of the effects of making provisions to discount excess profits of a private finance initiative company for the purpose of calculating the aggregate of the interest allowance of worldwide groups under the provisions in part 10 of the Taxation (International and other Provisions) Act 2010. We support that as a step in the right direction to tackle the whole construct and operation of PFI schemes, which was a policy announced last September by my right hon. Friend John McDonnell, the shadow Chancellor.
The bank levy was not the brainchild of a Conservative Government. It was not introduced because the previous Chancellor had been suddenly moved by public outrage about reckless decisions made by some in the banking sector who plunged us into the world’s greatest economic crisis in modern times. That is the context for this issue. The levy was not designed to ensure that banks received enormous and unprecedented bailouts from the taxpayer, such as when the Government purchased £76 billion of shares in RBS and Lloyds. It was instead designed to make banks pay their fair share, and I refer Members to the comments about schedule 9 on pages 83 to 93 of the explanatory notes, where that is laid out clearly and unambiguously.
In fact, the very concept of a bank levy was developed at the G20 summit in Pittsburgh in 2009. It was championed by the previous Labour Government, who subsequently introduced the bankers’ bonus tax. In the austerity Budget of 2011, the coalition Government decided to dump the bankers’ bonus tax and to adopt the bank levy. At that time, Labour made it clear that the levy threshold was far too low when compared with the money that would have been raised if the Government had stuck with Labour’s bonus tax. Ministers folded under pressure from the banks and set the levy at a lower rate of £2.6 billion.
The threshold was established—here we come to the issue of experts and taking expert advice—despite Treasury officials openly acknowledging it to be far too low. Under the original Treasury plans, the levy would have raised £3.9 billion a year, which is nearly £1.3 billion more than the £2.6 billion that has been indicated. But the then Government, lobbied by the privileged few, ensured that the threshold remained low. At 0.078% for short-term liabilities and 0.39% for long-term liabilities, the level that was set was—not to put too fine a point on it—a pretty tasteless joke compared with that of other countries that introduced a similar levy. It was less than a third of the level set in France, substantially smaller than the level in Hungary, which was set at 0.53%, and even lower than that of the United States of America. In 2015, under pressure from some of the Government’s friends in the finance sector, the then Chancellor cut the bank levy rate, and the current occupant of No. 11 has continued on that particular sojourn. In so doing, he has ensured that, by 2020, the UK’s biggest banks will have received a tax giveaway worth a whopping £4.7 billion. That £4.7 billion could been spent on our public services, and notably on children’s services, which have been cut to the bone.
The hon. Gentleman says that the banking sector has received a whacking tax cut. I will dispute that further in my later comments, but the figures are these: in 2009-10, the banking sector paid £17.3 billion in tax; last year, it paid £27.3 billion. That represents a 58% increase. So, far from having a tax giveaway, the banks are now paying more in taxes than they were six years ago by some margin.
That is not surprising: the banks returned to profitability because the taxpayer bankrolled them. That was how they got back into profitability, and they must pay their fair share of taxes as a result. The constituents of every Member of Parliament paid towards that, and when the profits came back in, the taxes went back up. We have helped the banks out, and they have to help our public services out.
The Government claimed that their introduction of the 8% corporation tax surcharge would offset the cuts to the bank levy. If we look at the autumn’s Budget Red Book and the forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility, however, we clearly see that the surcharge will not match the fall in the bank levy. According to forecasts, the surcharge is set to increase by £300 million a year, while the receipts that the Exchequer receives from the levy will fall by £1.7 billion a year. That leaves a £1.4 billion gap. That is a fact that is printed in the Government’s Red Book and, as John Adams opined, “facts are stubborn things”.
In 2018, we are still feeling the economic consequences of the actions of the banks. Every day, the Government tell us that there is no money for productive investment and that austerity must continue, yet they have conspired to undermine and limit any remuneration from the banks that caused this sorry state of affairs in the first place. Once again, the Opposition’s ability to amend this Bill has been hamstrung and blocked by the Government’s continued use of arcane parliamentary procedure.
The person who said that there was no money left was actually the occupant of the Treasury who left a note for the incoming Conservative-Liberal coalition Government in 2010. The reality is that of course there is money. We raise taxes and we spend them exceptionally wisely as a Conservative Government, particularly on infrastructure which, as the hon. Gentleman must surely agree, is now at record levels. It is just that we are still having to clear up the mess that was left by the last Labour Government.
The right hon. Lady can believe what she wants, but who will pay any attention to the Chief Secretary to the Treasury who took over from a Labour Chief Secretary to the Treasury, but was out of that job within two weeks because of issues around his parliamentary expenses? Does she expect us to pay any attention to that whatever? [Interruption.] That was what happened. David Laws—
The right hon. Lady can come back later on. This is not a dialogue, as you would no doubt tell me, Madam Deputy Speaker.
We have a timid, feckless and self-obsessed Government who are frightened of their own shadow. They continue to give more money back to the banks, notwithstanding the fact that they keep telling us that the resources coming into the Government are insufficient to support our public services.
We are seeking three things by moving new clause 3. First, we want to require the Government to carry out a review of the bank levy, including of its effectiveness in relation to its stated aims. Secondly, we want to establish the extent of the effect of the 2015 cuts on revenues from the levy. Thirdly, we wish to calculate how much would have been raised if the Government had stuck with Labour’s bankers’ bonus tax. Such a report would put under the microscope for all to see the Government’s malpractice—that is what it amounts to—in cutting frontline services while offering tax giveaways to banks that can more than afford them. It would require the Minister to acknowledge that far more would have been raised under Labour’s bankroll tax and, just as importantly, that the Government’s current bank levy has done little to influence and mitigate the risky banking practices that remain in use in our financial services industry.
It is also unsurprising and indicative of this Government that they have failed to keep a record of the banks that regularly pay the levy or a full list of how much they have actually paid. We would like that information, which is why, in the name of transparency—a concept alien to the Government—the Opposition have tabled new clause 4, which would create a public register for the bank levy. Once we can see the true cost of the Government’s policies, we can grasp the extent of their choices, and how they have favoured a small privileged group over the many citizens who are in desperate need of support. That goes to the heart of the new clause.
My concerns about the bank levy do not merely relate to how the banking sector is taxed and regulated; they speak directly to this Government’s approach. Government is the business of making choices, and in this case the Government have chosen to put in place a giveaway worth billions of pounds for the wealthy few instead of helping to end austerity for the many, or even for a few of the many. Looking at it from any angle, this is a shameful set of affairs, and it becomes even more shameful when it appears that the money foregone to banks through a cut to the levy could have been used to support our children’s services, which are in a state of atrophy as a direct result of the Government’s choices.
Only in the past two or three days, the Government have admitted to my hon. Friend Tracy Brabin, the shadow early years Minister, that cash-strapped local authorities have been forced to close more than 500 children’s centres. Those closures are a direct result of cuts to the funding of children’s services. Research published by Barnardo’s in December found that funding for children’s centres in England had been halved since 2010 from £1.2 billion to £600 million. That is why we want a review in relation to the bank levy.
The picture is set to worsen. Last week, Norfolk County Council approved plans to halve its £10 million budget for children’s centres to try to cope with the cuts being passed to them by the Government. On the same day, councillors in Somerset unanimously agreed to close two thirds of its children’s centres. That is why we want to look at the bank levy and why we want a review. We do not yet have an assessment of the specific impact of austerity in Northamptonshire, where the Conservative council faces meltdown as a direct result of the Government’s agenda. It is safe to say that children will no doubt be suffering as much as the wider population as public services edge closer to collapse. That is why we want a review of the banking levy.
As services have been decimated over the past seven years, we have seen a doubling of serious child protection cases and twice the number of children put into care protection plans. We want a review so that we can compare and contrast. Last year, 70,000 children were placed into care. Support for foster care, adoption and Sure Start children’s centres has all been reduced, and we have to work out how to support such services. Youth centres are closing, and short breaks for disabled children that are provided by local councils to give parents a break are going. Is that what we want? That is why we want to examine the banking levy.
Taken together, the cuts mean that some of the most vulnerable children in our country are paying the price for seven years of the Government’s economic strategy. Meanwhile, the bank levy is being cut, so we want to examine that and check things out. That is why we are challenging the Government to support our review. Asking children to pay the price of reducing the levy is unacceptable mismanagement. In fact, Sir Tony Hawkhead has described the “devastating cost” to children’s services, which he says have been left
“on an unstable and dangerous footing.”
Prevention and protection services, which are vital to the proper care of our nation’s children, could be provided for if the banking levy were not cut. That would be a welcome relief to those services.
We demand that the Government change course on the banking levy. That might make them unpopular with some people, but children come first, not the Government’s friends. That is why we are asking for this review. A review is the right thing to do for millions of children who need Government support to have the best chance in life. Should the Minister decide to do the right thing and match Labour’s plans to invest in children’s services, he will receive our full backing.
The anti-avoidance measures in the Bill are feeble and listless when we consider the scale of the problem at hand. Both the Panama papers and the Paradise papers revealed tax avoidance on an industrial scale being operated in British overseas territories and Crown dependencies, yet the Government have responded with feigned interest and a handful of measures. The Minister, in his effort to keep up the appearance of being seen to do something, has instead reinforced the view that this Government are on the side of the tax avoiders, not the taxpayers. [Interruption.] I can hear the Minister chatting away from a sedentary position. I am not sure whether that is because he does not agree with me, but he knows it is true. There is no question about it.
For example, only a third of the £1 billion originally forecast from some of the measures the Government presented to the House will be raised, and the gap between the tax take originally expected from the 28 anti-tax avoidance measures introduced since 2010 and the revised forecast is £2.1 billion. That is 25% less than the Treasury previously forecast. It is a complete shambles.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for being generous with his time. He is trying to suggest that the Government have a bad track record on clamping down on avoidance and evasion. The key measure of that is the tax gap, which was 8% under the last Labour Government and has now fallen to 6%—that is the lowest in the world. Will he congratulate the Financial Secretary to the Treasury on that achievement and acknowledge that this Government are doing a better job in this area than the last Labour Government?
That does not take international profit shifting into account, as the hon. Gentleman knows. He should consider that.
The figures I have mentioned not only add to the growing hole in our public finances but demonstrate the Government’s complete lack of interest in taking on tax avoiders. I am glad the hon. Gentleman raised the last Labour Government’s record. So what was our record on tax avoidance? It might surprise Conservative Back Benchers to hear that Labour brought in anti-tax avoidance measures in the 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010 Budgets. Most notably, in March 2004, the Labour Government introduced a disclosure scheme that required anyone marketing a tax mitigation scheme to give HMRC advance notice, giving the Revenue authorities an opportunity quickly to counter the scheme with new legislation. The Primarolo statement in December 2004 announced that the Government would introduce legislation, with retrospective effect, to counter any future scheme.
Labour’s tax transparency and enforcement programme has outlined 16 measures that the Government could take immediately to crack down on tax avoidance, including holding a public inquiry and publishing a public register of offshore trusts. In that fashion, new clause 6 would require the Government to commission a review of the effectiveness of the Bill’s anti-avoidance provisions and their impact on reducing the tax gap. I am proud of Labour’s measures on tax avoidance, and I am proud to stand here and say that.
Members should ponder this question: how can the Government possibly justify cuts in the banking levy while, on average, 30% of our children—it is even more in some constituencies—live in poverty? That question will not go away, however much the Government want it to.
As always, it is an enormous pleasure to follow Peter Dowd, whose speeches are always entertaining and occasionally informative. He spent a great deal of time talking about the bank levy and the various new clauses standing in his name on that topic. I wish to start by addressing the central thesis of his comments on the bank levy: his suggestion that banks are not paying their fair share, particularly as two of them received state money from about 2009.
It is a matter of incontrovertible fact that banks, as organisations, are paying more tax proportionately than other kinds of corporates. It is of course right that they do, for the reason that the hon. Gentleman and my right hon. Friend Anna Soubry mentioned: they did receive taxpayer money. They pay this extra money, compared with other businesses, in two ways. The first is through the surplus profit tax of 8%—they pay about a third more corporation tax proportionately than a non-bank corporation does. The second is through the bank levy. Although the bank levy is being reduced, it will remain in force, so banks will continue to pay proportionately more tax than non-bank businesses after the implementation of this Budget. That is a vital point to get across.
The hon. Gentleman also tried to link funding for children’s services to the bank levy. In one of my interventions, I gave some figures on the total amount of tax that banks are paying. We can argue about why they are paying that extra tax. Clearly, it is at least in part due to the surplus profits rate and to the bank levy. It may also, in part, be due to the fact that the banks’ profits have increased. Whatever the cause, the bare fact is that they are paying £7 billion or £8 billion a year more in tax now than they were some time ago. So suggesting that children’s services have been deprived of money as a consequence of changes to bank taxation simply does not bear scrutiny, given that the financial services sector is paying significantly more tax than it was before, whatever the cause of that may be.
The hon. Gentleman is, as he knows, unfairly paraphrasing my hon. Friend the shadow Chief Secretary. What my hon. Friend has pointed out is that politics is about choices and that this Government have decided, through this set of proposals, to reduce the amount of tax the banks will pay, in a situation where many core services in this country—public services that are supported by Members on both sides of the House—are on their knees. So references to the background situation or attempts to paraphrase what my colleague said are not correct. He is simply making an analysis of the choices this Government have made, which do not bear scrutiny.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention but, as I say, the central, key, cold, hard fact, which will not go away, is that financial services are paying £8 billion or £9 billion more in tax now than they were before. That is money that can be spent on children’s services in his constituency or in mine, on the NHS or on schools. We should welcome the fact that the sector is producing this extra taxation, partly because it has become more successful and partly because the rate of tax has progressively been increased over the past seven or eight years.
The hon. Gentleman made a point about choices and his intervention was unpinned by an assumption: that if we increase the rate of taxation, we invariably raise more revenue. I challenge that assertion, as the famous Laffer curve clearly does. It is clear to me that it is possible to reduce the rate of taxation and at the same time collect more tax, because we, thus, incentivise investment and growth. There is no better illustration of that than the trajectory of corporation tax, taken as a whole, over the past seven years: the rate of corporation tax has come down from 28% to 19%—it is heading down to 17% in a couple of years—yet the cash take from corporation tax over that same period has gone from about £35 billion to about £53 billion or £55 billion. That goes to show that we can cut the rate of tax and, by stimulating the economy and investment, actually collect more money. Similarly, it does not follow that putting up the rate of tax necessarily means that more money is collected, because that might disincentivise investment and job creation.
I feel that we have had this discussion in many of the debates on the many Finance Bills we have debated over the past 12 months. No one on the Opposition Benches denies the existence of the Laffer curve; we simply point out, as a point of fact, that the very large reductions in corporation tax that the Government have introduced have cost the country revenue. That is not in dispute. The analysis is clear that it is not the case that, had the corporation tax level remained as it was when the Conservatives came to power, more tax would not have been generated.
On new clause 3, as the hon. Gentleman knows, the bank levy is a levy on the risk-assessed capital that is on the big banks’ balance sheets. The Laffer curve would not apply to the calculation of what the return would be if the levy remained the same.
Let me take each of those points in turn. The hon. Gentleman asserts that, had the corporation tax rate remained at 28%, we would now be collecting more than £53 billion. That is an assertion, and not one with which one can agree without contention. For example, because of the lower corporation tax rate, plenty of businesses have made investments that they would not have made otherwise. Several companies had located their corporate headquarters outside the UK—
Just a moment; let me respond to these two points.
Those companies had located their corporate headquarters outside the UK and so paid corporation tax outside the UK, but in response to the Government’s cutting the rate of tax, they came back onshore and now pay corporation tax here. It does not follow at all that a higher corporation tax rate—28% in the case mentioned by Jonathan Reynolds—would lead to a higher tax yield. The direction of travel shows that, as the rate has come down, the amount collected has gone up. I just do not agree with the suggestion that, if the corporation tax rate were 28%, we would be collecting £60 billion or £70 billion.
If the hon. Gentleman will let me answer his second point, I shall happily take an intervention. He suggested that, because the bank levy is a tax on a balance sheet, there is no Laffer curve effect. I dispute that. Banks are mostly international—for example, our largest bank, HSBC, is a very international bank—and they can choose where they deploy capital. Their finance director will sit and decide where to allocate capital around the world. If the taxation or regulatory regime in a particular jurisdiction leads to the returns in that jurisdiction being unattractive, they will rationally respond to that by allocating their resources—in this case, their bank equity—somewhere else. There is unquestionably a Laffer curve effect in relation to the bank levy.
Before I take the two interventions that I promised to take, and will, let me just say that all that links to a related point mentioned by the shadow Chief Secretary, the hon. Member for Bootle: the disapplication of the bank levy to the non-UK part of a UK-headquartered bank’s balance sheet. In these international times, a bank such as HSBC can choose where it is headquartered and domiciled. HSBC was famously thinking about moving two or three years ago. HSBC is a good example because I think the majority of its balance sheet is non-UK—it has huge operations in Africa and the far east. Were we to continue to levy the bank levy on HSBC’s non-UK balance sheet, there would be a powerful, perhaps even irresistible, temptation for it to change its arrangements such that those profits and that balance sheet were booked through some other centre, such as Shanghai, or probably more likely Hong Kong, or possibly Singapore.
It is beneficial to the UK to have those HSBC assets booked here, because, of course, we get the corporation tax, including the corporation tax surcharge, booked through London, and there are clearly jobs connected with that. If we leave the bank levy on the non-UK balance sheet—the business is done overseas but booked here—and drive the booking overseas, we will lose that corporation tax and those jobs. The change to the bank levy is a sensible measure that will protect London’s status as an international financial centre, because the relevant part of the balance sheet is very internationally mobile.
I think there are two, or perhaps even three, interventions stacking up, so I shall happily take them all.
I am extremely grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. This argument is integral to the economic prosperity of the UK. On the point that he has just raised, I say clearly that we should wish to keep that substantial national asset, which is our financial services industry, in the UK, but it is Brexit that will drive it away. HSBC’s plans at the minute, in terms of relocating staff, are entirely linked to wholesale banking functions under Brexit. However, if there is one phrase that I would wish to etch on to the door of this Chamber, it is that causation and correlation are not the same thing, and that applies to his corporation tax argument. The average rate of corporation tax in OECD countries is 25%. There is a diminishing return from reducing it. When even Conservative councils are effectively going bankrupt, surely that requires greater reflection and self-analysis of the disastrous trajectory of some of the Government’s tax policies over the past eight years.
A number of points have been raised there. On the point about correlation and causation, of course I understand that they are not the same thing. However, in my remarks about corporation tax reductions, I did point to some of the causal links. The two causal links that I cited were, first, encouraging investment and, secondly, companies choosing to move their domicile—for example, from Switzerland back to the UK. Therefore, there are two causal explanations as to why a reduction in the rate of tax might lead to an increase in the tax yield.
The explanatory statement for new clause 3 says:
“This new clause requires the Government to carry out a review of the bank levy, including its effectiveness in relation to its stated aims, the revenue effects of the changes made in 2015 and the comparable effectiveness of the bank payroll tax.”
The stated aim, as set out in the Government’s own document, is as follows:
“Its purpose is to ensure that banks and building societies make a fair contribution, reflecting the risks they pose”.
We are asking for a review. If the hon. Gentleman is so sure of his facts and his case, why not have the review and see who is right in this debate?
The Government conduct analyses and reviews the whole time. I am not sure whether we need to put the review into primary legislation. As the hon. Gentleman refers to new clauses 3 and 4, which stand in his name, I will turn to them now.
The new clauses call for various reviews and registers. Of course, analysis is important. That analysis, I believe, takes place in the Treasury already—I am sure that the Financial Secretary will comment on that in due course. What is interesting about the new clauses tabled by the Opposition is not so much what is in them, as what is not in them—it is the dog that did not bark, if I can borrow from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
I mentioned in an intervention that the Labour party appears to have taken a number of different positions on the bank levy: it voted against it in 2011; it voted against the surplus tax in 2015; and then it stated in public that it wished to leave the bank levy in place, despite having voted against its introduction, which strikes me as rather confused. I was rather hoping that its new clauses and amendments might enlighten us on what its position actually is on the bank levy. This is primary legislation. This is a finance Bill soon to become, I hope, a finance Act. The Opposition had a chance here in this Chamber today to explain to the House and to the country how they think our tax system should work in relation to the bank levy. They could have tabled an amendment, had they chosen to, saying that they wanted to leave the bank levy in place as it was, or they could have tabled an amendment abolishing it altogether, yet they have done neither of those things; they have simply called for analysis. I am disappointed that their plans have not been elucidated.
The hon. Gentleman cannot have it both ways. The Government introduced an arcane procedure, which was first used, I think, by Winston Churchill in 1929, effectively to stop us moving any substantive amendments. Does he not recognise that, whatever we wanted to do, we would not have been able to change things anyway, because the Government were not permitting us to do so?
I am not sure. This is a moment when my hon. Friend Mr Rees-Mogg is required to advise on such matters. I do not share his expertise in parliamentary procedure. However, the shadow Chief Secretary did not specify in his quite extensive—and, at times, amusing—remarks the official Opposition’s position on the bank levy. There is certainly no parliamentary procedure that prohibited him from doing so, so he could quite easily have chosen to specify his exact view—whether the bank levy should continue as it is, go or do something else—yet he did not do so. I am rather disappointed by the lack of clarity on that point.
The hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde said a few moments ago in one of his many interventions that HSBC might contemplate its jurisdiction in the light of Brexit. In fact, HSBC was debating where to domicile itself well before the referendum. If anyone or anything threatens the City of London’s status as a global financial centre, it is not the matters being debated today and it is not Brexit. In fact, it is Jeremy Corbyn and the comments he made a day or two ago, which, in the words of one commentator, threatened to turn London into a new version of Pyongyang. That is what he said. It was in the Evening Standard—a newspaper edited by a highly reputable journalist.
PwC has done some analysis of the tax contribution made by the financial services sector, finding that it paid £72.1 billion in taxes last year. That is about 9% of the UK’s total tax take. It is no laughing matter when misguided and populist politicians take a cheap shot at the City to get some headlines. If business is driven away, the implications will be very severe for our tax take and for employment. If we lose the tax revenue generated by the City, the people affected will of course be children and the NHS.
I ask the shadow Chief Secretary to convey gently to his dear leader that comments such as those made a day or two ago are very unhelpful to the City. They endanger jobs and jeopardise the £72 billion of tax that the City pays. Whether it is through fiscal measures or through words, it is a very serious matter when we endanger jobs and the tax revenue from the City that funds about two thirds of the NHS’s budget. In this Bill and in our words, we should protect that tax revenue and those jobs.
I am more than happy to convey the hon. Gentleman’s comments to the Leader of the Opposition, although I do not accept them. Will the hon. Gentleman also pass on my comments to the Prime Minister? She is making a mess of Brexit, which is far more dangerous to this country than the comments allegedly made by the Leader of the Opposition.
There is no allegation; they were said publicly. I will of course convey the hon. Gentleman’s comments in a spirit of reciprocation, but I dispute the remarks about Brexit. We saw fantastic progress before Christmas and are moving on to the next stage. I look forward to the series of speeches by my Cabinet colleagues in the coming days and weeks that I appreciate are on a different topic to the one at hand.
I must defend the Leader of the Opposition. The comments that he made to the EEF national manufacturing conference were simply that finance must serve industry and that this country has to find ways to increase lending to businesses, to have more productive outcomes for the economy and to lower regional inequality—all things that were previously said by the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, who now finds work as the editor of the Evening Standard. I do not think that that is unreasonable in any sense. The feedback I have had from that conference is that the reception in the room was very favourable.
Well, I am not sure whether I can respond to the hon. Gentleman’s comments while adhering to Madam Deputy Speaker’s gentle guidance, other than to say that I think that the Leader of the Opposition’s remarks went rather further than the hon. Gentleman just suggested.
Perhaps it is time to move on to the measures relating to tax avoidance and evasion, particularly new clause 6. The shadow Chief Secretary made a series of quite serious allegations about the Government’s effectiveness over the past seven years in combating tax avoidance and evasion. I disagree quite strongly with the premise of his points. He suggested that the current Government had been slow to act—indeed, had not acted—in these areas. I gently draw his attention to the fact that in the past eight years since 2010 the Government have taken 75 different measures designed to combat tax evasion and tax avoidance that have raised, cumulatively, £160 billion.
Many of those measures close egregious and glaring loopholes that had been left open by the previous Labour Government. For example, under the previous Labour Government, it was possible to have permanent non-dom status, yet the Bill will end permanent non-dom status. Prior to 2010, we had the ludicrous situation of the so-called Mayfair tax loophole whereby some people in the hedge fund industry ended up paying less tax than their cleaners—a 10% rate—by having their carried interest taxed as capital gains with the benefit of entrepreneurs relief. That loophole has been closed and then progressively tightened up in successive Budgets. The diverted profits tax is raising money. Avoiding stamp duty by placing residential property into corporate wrappers has been tightened up. There is probably more we can do, but things have certainly been tightened up. We have made sure that foreign purchasers of residential property pay capital gains tax on their disposals. Under the Bill, that will shortly be applied to disposals of commercial property as well.
I have listed five or six of the 75 measures I mentioned, all of which have been taken since 2010. That is no accident. There is a causal link, not just a correlation, between those actions and the additional amounts of tax being collected.
I am sorry that I was late for the beginning of the hon. Gentleman’s speech. He has given us a litany of what Conservative Governments have done over the past seven years. The Conservative Government before the previous Labour Government did not do very much about all the loopholes that he has listed.
The hon. Gentleman is asking me to comment on the actions of the Government of over 20 years ago. I am commenting on the actions of the Government who have been in office for the past eight years, whose record is one that I am proud of and stand behind.
Because of these measures, our tax gap has reduced, as I said in an intervention, from 8% to 6%—the lowest in the world, and better than under the last Labour Government. When I made that intervention, I heard the shadow Chief Secretary make reference to profit shifting. Profit shifting is a serious matter. That is why I am pleased that the UK Government were at the forefront of the OECD’s BEPS—base erosion and profit shifting—initiative. Action 5 of that is specifically designed to clamp down on so-called profit shifting. I accept that this is an issue, and I am pleased that the UK Government have been taking action in that area.
I am delighted that my hon. Friend, from his position of expertise, is reminding us of what a great record we have of collecting tax, rightly—tax that pays for schools, hospitals and police services up and down the country, as well as in Redditch, of course, which I care about the most. Does he agree that we have collected £12.5 billion more than if we had left the tax gap in the same state that Labour left us with? That is £12.5 billion to be spent in everyone’s constituency.
My hon. Friend makes a very important point. The fact that the tax gap is 6% rather than the 8% bequested to us by Gordon Brown sounds like a theoretical point, but that two percentage point difference, as she rightly says, amounts to billions of pounds funding the NHS and schools. In debating these avoidance measures, we are not talking about something theoretical and of academic interest: it is precisely these measures that fund our public services, and that is why they are so important.
Turning to the Opposition’s amendments and new clauses, I was rather surprised, on looking at the amendment paper earlier today, to see that new clause 6 once again calls for a review and analysis—analysis which, I am sure, is already conducted by the Treasury, as the Financial Secretary will no doubt point out. But there was an absence—a silence and a desert; tumbleweed was rolling across the amendment paper—where I would have expected to see an abundance of ideas that we might have adopted from the fertile mind of the shadow Chief Secretary. If he could not have proposed ideas in an amendment for some arcane parliamentary procedural reason, he might at least have done so in his speech.
The Financial Secretary to the Treasury is an extremely attentive and receptive Minister. Had the shadow Chief Secretary proposed some constructive ideas, I am sure that the Financial Secretary would have listened carefully. I am very disappointed that after all the noise and, I dare say, bluster—I hope that is not unparliamentary—that we heard in the shadow Chief Secretary’s speech, we did not hear any concrete ideas. We cry out for and are open to new ideas, yet we did not hear any in what was otherwise an amusing and entertaining speech. I am disappointed.
If the Financial Secretary is in the market for new ideas on avoidance, as I am sure he is, one idea that we could give some thought to ensuring that the Land Registry records the ultimate beneficial ownership of property and land. We discussed that yesterday in our debate on sanctions, and it was suggested by David Cameron a couple of years ago. When the ultimate beneficial ownership of those properties changed, we might then levy stamp duty on that change as though the physical property had been transferred. A lot of high-end residential property is held in non-UK corporate wrappers, and when the property is transferred, rather than selling it, as we would sell our properties, ownership of the company is transferred. There is no record of that in the UK and therefore no stamp duty is paid. That idea might well raise some more stamp duty. I could hardly criticise the shadow Chief Secretary for his lack of ideas without proposing at least one myself. I hope that Ministers will give some thought to that idea in due course.
In conclusion—[Hon. Members: “Hear, hear!”] I am glad I have said something that finds favour among Opposition Members. I must have set a record for the number of interventions taken, though there was only one from my own side. The action on the bank levy contemplated in the Bill is the right one. We are taxing banks more heavily than non-banks. We are raising more money than ever before, but we must be mindful of the risk of driving these companies or part of them overseas at a time when they contribute 9% of our total income.
On avoidance and evasion, I am proud that this Government have delivered the lowest tax gap in the world and improved by a quarter the position that they inherited. That pays for public services, as pointed out by my hon. Friend Rachel Maclean. It is a good record, and I am proud of it. I look forward to supporting the Bill.
I rise to support the amendments tabled by the Opposition and to speak to my amendments 1 to 4.
I was into PFI before all the cool kids were. These amendments speak to a long-held concern of mine, which is that it is not enough for us as politicians to identify when something has gone wrong and to shrug our shoulders and say, “It’s complicated.” The consequences for the communities we represent and for this country’s public finances are so toxic that it is vital we act.
George Bernard Shaw said:
“Political necessities sometimes turn out to be political mistakes.”
Let me be clear that I am not seeking to blame anyone. Governments of all colours used PFI. It started in 1992 and has gone on to the present day. Absolutely, the last Labour Government used PFI to fund things, and it was not an ideological decision; it was a very simple one about keeping borrowing off the books.
However, we know now just how costly these decisions have been for this country. Every single school, hospital, street lighting system and motorway built was needed, but we know now that the consequence of these costs is that we may not be able to build such things in the future. I am in the Chamber today to propose a way in which Parliament can now act to get money back for our public services, because everyone of us has one of these projects in our constituencies.
We can talk about the numbers involved: £60 billion of capital building, on which we will pay back £200 billion. These companies are truly the legal loan sharks of the public sector, charging an excessive rate of interest in comparison with public sector borrowing for building and running services for us. Conservative Members may say that the cost I am talking about includes services, so it is worth breaking down the charges. Last year alone, this country paid out £10 billion in PFI repayments, over half of which was for interest and charges. The money we are paying for PFI is not paying for schools and hospitals to be run; it is paying the profits of the companies we borrowed from to be able to build them in the first place.
The National Audit Office has done absolutely sterling work uncovering just how bad a value-for-money calculation it was to go for PFI. On average, these projects are 2% to 4% more expensive than Government borrowing at the time. In total, with charges and fees included, they are now, on average, 40% more expensive than having worked with the public sector.
The interest rate matters because the costs are not necessarily about the management of a project; they are about the profits being made. Every single MP who is being lobbied about their schools and hospitals needs to recognise that 20% of the extra money the Government say they are giving to schools and hospitals will not touch the sides of emergency wards or go into the budgets of teachers to pay for the books and classes our schoolchildren need. It will go straight out of our public sector into pure profit for these companies.
The Centre for Health and the Public Interest has gone through the accounts of the few hundred companies running schools and hospitals to identify just how much money is involved. It found that they will get £1 billion in the form of pre-tax profit from NHS deals alone, which total just 125 of the 700 PFI projects. For example, the company holding the contract for University College London has, alone, made £190 million in the past decade out of the £725 million the NHS has paid out. In short, it has made enough in profits to build and run an entire hospital.
We have to talk about the human cost. I became interested in PFI when I saw the damage it was doing to my local hospital, Whipps Cross in Walthamstow, and to schools such as Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow. Its headteacher is now desperately struggling to balance her budget in the face of this Government’s swingeing cuts to the schools budget, but the one repayment she cannot cut is the PFI one. Barts, the biggest PFI in our NHS—with a £1 billion capital build, and £7 billion repaid—is paying £150 million a year, of which £74 million is interest alone. It is no wonder that the hospital is in such persistent financial difficulty.
My hon. Friend is making a powerful case. Whipps Cross University Hospital also serves my constituents. To the east, the cost of PFI at Queen’s Hospital in Romford is such that it is creating enormous financial pressures on the Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust. Does she agree with me that that underpins the urgency of the need to tackle this issue? We should not stick to the ideological dogma of the past, but look at what has really happened and claw back some of that excessive greed to better fund our public services.
My hon. Friend—my next-door neighbour MP—pre-empts my argument. My amendments relate specifically to the 700 existing contracts, because I believe—I am glad my Front Benchers support this—that we can and must do something urgently about the damage these 700 contracts are doing every single day in schools where headteachers are having to consider sacking people but cannot cut the repayments, and in hospitals that are having to cancel operations but cannot reduce the repayments to their lenders.
There is a sixth-form college in Haywards Heath with no sixth form, because nobody will take on the school’s PFI debt. We keep talking about Northamptonshire Council, which is selling its own buildings because it is going bankrupt. It will owe £240 million to just five PFI deals in the next two to five years, of which £77 million is interest payment. Surrey Council is also in financial difficulties. It has £386 million of PFI commitments that it will not be able to reduce, of which £51 million alone is interest.
We now know, from Carillion and the problems at Interserve, that the idea that working with the private sector would somehow transfer the risk of construction and management projects to the private sector has been thoroughly debunked. It is very, very simple: we do not let schools and hospitals go bust, because we know that that would mean that kids would not get taught and patients would not get treated. So why we have got into deals, and why we continue to get into deals that presume we can somehow get out of them if contractors do not deliver, is a mystery to me. Certainly, a debate for another time in this place would be on a better way to borrow when there is so little competition for our business. I believe that that is where the answer lies. When we look at the industry and at what amendments 1 to 4 would do, we are not talking about an industry of hundreds of companies. The work by the Centre for Health and Public Interest found that 92% of all the PFI deals in the NHS were owned or appeared to have equity stakes from just eight companies. This small number of companies have captured a market and are therefore setting a price. We and the public sector are paying the consequences.
I looked at one of the companies, Innisfree, which owns my local hospital, Whipps Cross. It has just 25 members of staff. It is not doing the day-to-day running of Whipps Cross: booking the operations, organising the blood tests or feeding back to patients. It stands to make £18 billion from PFI deals and it has its property based over in Guernsey. Those eight companies—Balfour Beatty, Barclays, Dalmore Capital, Equitix, Innisfree, Interserve, Semperian and Veolia—are making millions of pounds in profit as we watch our councils go bust, our schools close down and our hospitals struggle. Yes, it has got harder under this Government because of the cuts they have made, but under any Government asking our public services to pay back at such excessive rates of interest would be untenable. Let us look at what we could actually do and where my amendments have come from.
I hear and understand the calls from people to cancel these contracts outright: to rip them up and say, “We are not going to pay.” But we know that these contracts are just as expensive to cancel as they are to carry on. They have been drafted specifically to require full-cost recovery to lenders to make sure that their interests are always protected. As the NAO highlighted, it is not just about repayment charges and covering those costs. We would have to cover the interest rate swaps that were built into the contracts to make sure that they are almost always profitable. It would cost £220 billion to tear up the contracts. Indeed, the Lithgow judgment from the Council of Europe in the 1980s clarifies explicitly the law around nationalisation and the compensation that would be required to be paid to companies were we to cancel the contracts.
Contract law might be on the side of the legal loan sharks to the public sector, but tax law is not. Yes, I have been through the 400 pages of the standard contracts. I have seen those clauses, but I have also seen the clauses that clarify that tax rates can change. Indeed, I know the Government agree, because when I have asked them about the tax rates and the taxes the companies are paying, they seem to think that the benefits from the changes to the tax regime are “to the victors the spoils”. That is why I have tabled my amendments. I believe that Parliament and MPs struggling in their constituencies with these loans would take a very different view. Taxation rates and corporation tax matters. When the value-for-money assessment on using PFI was done, there was an explicit calculation included on how much corporation tax the companies would pay. Most of the 700 existing deals were signed at rates of 30% or more.
I am sure that Chris Philp, in his advocacy of cutting corporation tax, would not agree that when these companies face rates of 17% and his local schools and hospitals—I know that many south London hospitals are affected by PFI—are not getting the public investment they desperately need to keep going, the companies should benefit in that way. That was the amount of money that they agreed to pay at the point at which the contracts were signed.
We have been through the accounts. The numbers the Centre for Health and the Public Interest can give are small-c conservative, because we cannot be clear about when companies might have deferred their tax liabilities, but already, in the NHS alone, the companies have had a windfall of £190 million through the reductions in corporation tax, and in our school system they will have had a windfall of £60 million by 2020. That is money we expected for our public services. In addition, we did not expect to pay excessive rates of interest, but the evidence is there. The question for all of us is: what can we do? What action can we take?
Amendments 1 to 4 speak to what we could do now—this year, within months—to send a clear message to the PFI companies that time is up; we are no longer going to accept that kind of contract and the damage they do to our public services. If that small group of companies will not come forward with a proposal to reduce repayments, I gently urge the Minister, whose Department has resisted some of my questions about how often he has met these eight companies, to agree to getting them around the table, examining their loan portfolios and reducing the costs; then, we can start to generate some real savings. Asking individual hospitals and schools to renegotiate, against the companies’ expensive lawyers, will save very little, but if the Government take the lead—I hope the Minister will explain today how he intends to do that—in negotiating with the companies, we could get money back now. If we cannot get these eight companies to negotiate—if they continue stubbornly to resist any change in the contracts—then yes, let us use a windfall tax to make sure we get cash back for our public services.
Amendment 1 asks for a review. I hope that the hon. Member for Croydon South enjoys as much as I do reading the founding resolutions of legislation such as this Bill and understanding what it is possible to do as a Back-Bencher, or as an Opposition Member. The amendment simply asks for a review of how much would be raised were we to apply the bank levy to these financing companies.
If amendment 1 does not tempt the hon. Gentleman, perhaps he could look at amendment 3, which is more explicitly about calculating a windfall tax on the companies. It is designed to enable us to work out how much extra they have made from the original deals, and to claw that back by adjusting their tax allowances. At this point, we are simply trying to clarify how much the measure would raise, to give the Government the negotiating tactic they need to get the companies to do what is right—to get round the table and see how to consolidate their loans, just as we would with people who come to our constituency surgeries having got themselves into debt.
The amendment is about sending a clear message to the industry that Parliament will act—that we will not tolerate another year of listening to headteachers and hospital managers telling us that they cannot cope with these loans. We will do something about it. The Government will claim that the companies are entitled to the bonus because they took on the risk of the buildings, but it is clearly an unexpected bonus, and clearly an opportunity to look at the contracts and make progress. If the Minister will not accept the amendment—if he will not, today, commit to negotiating with the companies to get back the money that hospitals, schools and councils throughout the country that are going bust urgently need—he has to explain how he will get us a better deal on the existing contracts.
I put the Minister on notice. It may be that that we cannot tear up the contracts, but a Labour Government would get those companies around the table and make sure that they paid their dues. We would make sure that the excessive profits are brought back, so that teachers in our constituencies do not have to fund raise to pay for books and pencils for students while the companies report millions, if not billions, of pounds of profit at our expense. George Bernard Shaw was right: sometimes political necessity becomes a political mistake. The necessity here, now, is to act, and I urge the Minister to listen.
I will keep my comments focused on the bank levy, PFI and tax evasion. Results speak far more than rhetoric, and it is important to put on record that in 2016-17, the banking sector paid £27.3 billion in taxes, which was up 58% from the £17.3 billion that it paid in 2009-10. I understand that under the current proposals, the bank surcharge is expected to raise an additional £1.8 billion for the Exchequer.
I would like to talk briefly about PFI. I have a lot of sympathy for the comments made by Stella Creasy, but a one-size-fits-all approach is not appropriate. I have a lot of experience of PFI. In 2012, I launched a campaign because the last Labour Health Secretary signed a PFI deal for the Surgicentre in Stevenage to be built and operated by Carillion. As a result of the deal, when the centre was fully operational, 8,500 records were lost, leading to damaged eyesight for a large number of patients, and three people died. It was a complete nightmare.
As a result, I ran a long, hard campaign and persuaded the Health Secretary in 2013 to nationalise the facility and return it to my local hospital trust. A Conservative Member of Parliament therefore had a piece of the NHS nationalised that had been privatised by the last Labour Health Secretary, so if there is a specific issue, local Members of Parliament can go in there and create a change. I took Carillion on in 2012 and I won. As a result, I then worked with the GMB union. We launched a campaign to stop blacklisting among construction workers and we won again. It is important that individual Members of Parliament identify problems with PFI in their areas, so we can then work on and tackle those problems as individuals.
Turning to tax evasion, it is very important for people to look at what they can do as individuals. Again, back in 2012—I was obviously incredibly active at the time—I launched a campaign on tax transparency, before it was fashionable. In association with Christian Aid, I wrote to all FTSE 100 chief executives to ask whether they would commit to greater tax transparency and help developing countries around the world. In the drive towards globalisation, the situation is incredibly difficult—it is almost a race to the bottom in some areas—with regard to what each country will offer to allow large multinationals to move around.
I published all those results in The Daily Telegraph and on a website. This was all before tax evasion and tax transparency became far more fashionable. The Government got involved and I am very pleased that as a result, £160 billion has been raised since 2010 in additional tax revenue, tackling avoidance, evasion and non-compliance. For me, that is an additional £160 billion that has been invested in my local and national health service, and in my hospital that has been rebuilt and paid for by the Government, not by outside organisations or PFI. That money is being invested in children’s futures in my constituency. Individual Members of Parliament have a great opportunity to go out and create change in their areas, if there are specific issues that they can tackle, and it is possible to win on those issues.
I think that I was as surprised as you were, Madam Deputy Speaker, by the brevity of the speech by Stephen McPartland. I very much appreciate it—it is great. I was willing Chris Philp to keep going for an extra 30 seconds to hit the half-hour mark. He was close, but did not quite get there.
I want to talk specifically about the bank levy, tax avoidance and evasion, and, briefly, PFI. We will support the amendments tabled by Stella Creasy. I will not expand on that because she covered the issue broadly. On the bank levy, the position in our 2017 manifesto was that we did not support the reductions in the bank levy; we supported the reversal of those reductions. What the Labour party has proposed is a good way to tackle this, given, as has been said in exchanges across the House, that there is not an amendment of the law resolution, nor are we able to move some of the more exciting, more interesting things that we would have liked to move. I hope that the next time there is a Finance Bill, the Government choose to do that, and if we end up with the Labour party in charge, I hope that it will make that change and ensure that an amendment of the law resolution comes through in any Budget process and Finance Bill. That is the only way in which we can have a reasonable level of discussion on this issue.
As I said, we oppose the reductions in the bank levy. New clause 3, which would tackle this, is the most sensible approach for the Opposition, constrained as we are in this debate. It is about looking at the effectiveness of the bank levy, how much money it brings in and whether there are opportunities to do different things that could bring in more money for the Treasury. We are in a strange position. It was funny to hear people talking about the City. When I speak to people in the City, it seems to me, as a fairly left-wing person in the SNP, that my views accord pretty closely with those of some in the City right now, whereas most of them are incredibly upset about Brexit. I feel that I have more in common with them than ever before, whereas the Conservatives have less in common with them at the moment, given how upset the City is about the issues thrown up by Brexit. It is a very strange dystopian situation right now.
On tax avoidance and evasion, following on from the work of my colleague Roger Mullin, I have mentioned before, and will not stop mentioning, the issue of Scottish limited partnerships. It was welcome that the Government took action and carried out a review of SLPs, but we have yet to see any solid action coming out of that. It would be useful to know when the SLPs will be clamped down on and that loophole closed so that people cannot abuse the SLPs. It would be useful to see that coming forward.
On more creative solutions, the SNP has consistently called for rules around tax avoidance and evasion to be devolved to Scotland. We think we would do it better—we think we would do everything better, if it were devolved to Scotland. Specifically on this, however, our Government have been recognised for the action they have taken through their general anti-avoidance rule, which is stronger than that which is in place down here. We feel we would be in a better position to tackle tax avoidance and evasion were it devolved to Scotland, and we will not stop calling for that.
On the reduction in the tax gap, the hon. Member for Croydon South talked about fairness and how the situation was perhaps fairer than ever, but the point we will continue to make is that, if there is any tax gap, the system is not fair. If, for example, we do not have enough customs officers to make all the necessary checks, people will be able to avoid tax just because there are not enough customs checks. Going forward, this will be a problem. Any tax gap, no matter how it compares with other countries, is a problem. On the issue of comparisons with other countries, a Credit Suisse report in 2014 showed that smaller countries tended to have smaller tax gaps because they were better able to crack down on tax avoidance and to police things coming in and out and so prevent tax avoidance and evasion. That is just another point in the case for Scottish independence.
On that basis, if the Labour party presses new clause 3, we will support it. As I said, we will also support the hon. Member for Walthamstow. I will not speak for much longer, as my points have been made in previous debates, except to say that we support making more changes to crack down on tax avoidance and evasion and to undo the changes to the bank levy.
It is a pleasure to follow Kirsty Blackman and the other contributors.
I will keep my remarks short as many of my points I wish to make have already been made by colleagues. I want to bust the myth that we on the Conservative Benches are friends of nefarious bankers and bad people trying to swindle money out of the honest taxpayer. Nothing could be further from the truth. We on these Benches want a healthy financial system underpinned by banks, and we want those banks to contribute fairly, as they can and must, and as they have been doing under this Government. The facts speak for themselves, as my hon. Friend Chris Philp set out.
We have set out a plan to raise an additional £9 billion by 2022—a significant contribution to the Exchequer that will help to fund the public services on which people rely. The banks are making money out of businesses in this country. They need to make a return—they need to contribute fairly—and the Bill will ensure that that happens.
When Labour Members start to attack us and our policies, they need to look at themselves in the mirror. They need to bear in mind the number of times they voted against the introduction of corporation tax and bank levy measures which, as we have seen, have raised money from the banks. Theirs was the party that allowed the Mayfair loophole to develop, so that hedge fund managers were getting away with not paying tax while their cleaners were paying it. I remind the House that it was this Chancellor, in this Budget, who imposed a tax on private jets. Could any measure indicate more strongly that the Conservatives believe in fairness and taxing the proceeds of profit in the right way to fund our public services?
Peter Dowd said that the banks were not making a fair contribution. I completely disagree with that narrative and that agenda. The banks are making a fair contribution.
When I have made statements and I have been wrong, I do not mind people bringing that to my attention, but I did not say that the banks were not making a fair contribution. We were talking about a fairer contribution in the context of the Government’s own definition of what they should be doing. That is the point. The hon. Lady should have a look at the work. She should have a look at the book. She should do her research, and then make an accusation.
I am not making an accusation at all. I apologise if I have misrepresented the hon. Gentleman. I merely wish to make the point that I believe that banks must make a fair contribution, and that the Bill will enable them to do so. Through measures that we have introduced since we have been in government, £160 billion has been raised for the Exchequer.
My hon. Friend is making an important point. Conservative Members do not just obsess about some punitive rate for party-political purposes. The key is to grow the economy and maximise the tax take, so that we can then spend our money on public services. It is important to recognise the increased revenues from tax overall, rather than being obsessed with a particular rate.
My hon. Friend is right. The spectre of the Laffer curve raises its head yet again, but it is a fact that lowering the tax rate increases the tax take. That is a fact that we have observed time and time again, and it has benefited our economy.
I am sorry, but I cannot take any more interventions, because time is short.
I hope that, when he winds up the debate, the Minister will touch on the important issues of cryptocurrencies and bitcoin which, I believe, are not currently covered by regulation. I think we would all like to be assured that the Treasury is ensuring that no loopholes can develop that might allow tax evasion and avoidance. There are some alarming reports of people being arrested for money-laundering billions of pounds by that means.
Stella Creasy is very well informed. I recognise the hard work that she has done, and I share a number of her concerns about the private finance initiative. A hospital in Worcester serves my constituents in Redditch. It is in special measures, and it has a financial issue. All of us in Redditch are very worried about that. I do not think that the new clause is the right way of dealing with the situation, but I should like to know what action the Minister will take to reassure my constituents that no one is reaping profits that they should not be reaping.
May I ask the hon. Member for Walthamstow to clarify the position of Labour Front Benchers? Do they not intend to take all the PFI contracts back into public ownership? She said that it would cost £220 billion, but I believe that that is the official position of the Labour party. It is a little confusing. It is difficult to know what the Labour party supports—whether it is the proposals of the hon. Lady or those of the Leader of the Opposition—so some clarity would be welcome.
Coming to my final point, Brexit was mentioned earlier, and we heard remarks about Brexit and the Labour party’s position, with claims that somehow Brexit is damaging our economy. [Interruption.] Well, Brexit was mentioned in a sedentary intervention. In my experience, businesses fear the spectre of a Labour Government more than Brexit, as a Labour Government would damage jobs and business investment. That is what businesses are worried about.
There must be an objective assessment, given the strength of the economic risk that we face from Brexit. In terms of financial services, Brexit could diminish market access; it could take it away and make a situation where there is not a legal right to do the kind of business that currently takes place within the United Kingdom. There is no comparison between that and differences of political opinion over policies, and the Government and Conservative Back Benchers must take the economic risks of Brexit seriously.
I can see that Madam Deputy Speaker is quite cross that we have moved off the point, so I return to the point that I do not support the new clause because I believe what the Government have put forward is already tackling the issues of tax avoidance and evasion, and those measures will ultimately benefit our economy and our constituents.
It is an honour to follow Rachel Maclean, and I shall speak in support of amendments 1, 2, 3 and 4.
The PFI system is, as admirably demonstrated by Stella Creasy, not working and we need to change it. It is not right that half of the cost for PFI schemes are interest repayments and charges for local services, which are under desperate pressure at the moment
In April 2016, 17 schools across Edinburgh were closed due to fears that the buildings were structurally unsafe. They included three primary and secondary schools in my constituency. All 17 schools were constructed under PPP and PFI initiatives. In Edinburgh West, Craigroyston Primary School, Craigmount High School and Royal High School all closed. Parents were left worried and frustrated. It is clear to me from what I have heard today and witnessed myself that there is now compelling evidence that the payday loan approach to building is costing us all dearly.
For years, councils in Scotland and across the UK had no choice but to use PPP or PFI agreements to fund capital projects. They now find themselves in the position that interest repayments and charges are detracting from service provision when they are already strapped for cash. This morning at an all-party group meeting I heard evidence of how palliative and end-of-life care for children is being affected by the lack of council funding, and how the integration of health and social care is being restricted. That is outrageous.
In Scotland, PPP and PFI contracts are largely the responsibility of the Scottish Government under devolved competences, but I cannot agree with Kirsty Blackman that if the Scottish Government took over it would automatically be better; the evidence we have in Scotland counters that argument.
While it would be illegitimate to forcibly take contracts back in-house, it is important that we redress the windfall profits handed to these companies by Tory corporation tax cuts. It is both legitimate and fair for a windfall tax to be imposed on those profits, because, as we have heard, that would hit these corporations where it would get their attention—in their profits.
I ask all Members to put the benefits that we need, and the cash injection we need for our local services across the UK, first on the list of priorities, and find whatever way possible either to get money back or impose a windfall tax on these corporations.
Order. I beg the hon. Gentleman’s pardon. I have made a mistake, in that I thought the Minister had already addressed the House on this group. I also beg the Minister’s pardon.
There was a ripple of dissatisfaction when you failed to call me to speak, Madam Deputy Speaker, but it was almost imperceptible. Thank you for correcting your error.
In this debate we have heard about a range of issues, including the changes the Finance Bill makes to the bank levy, the taxation of private finance initiatives, and tax avoidance and evasion. I will respond to each in turn, starting with the bank levy. Opposition Members have raised a number of objections to the changes to the levy made by the Finance Bill and to the Government’s broader approach to bank taxation. These are unjustified. This Government remain committed to ensuring that banks make an appropriate additional tax contribution, beyond that paid by other businesses, that reflects the unique risks they pose to the UK financial system and to the wider economy.
I shall address some of the arguments put forward by the shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Peter Dowd, which I felt focused far too much on the bank levy. It is indeed declining, but there is good reason for that. In 2015, when we took the relevant decisions on this, we recognised that the risks presented by our banks had eased quite considerably. Indeed, the Bank of England has recently carried out rigorous stress testing on the banks, and that was the first occasion on which not a single bank failed its stress test. That is indicative of the fact that one of the raisons d’être for the bank levy has started to recede. That is to say that the banks are less of a risk than they were before, and the charges on the assets and liabilities that they hold are therefore becoming less relevant. The hon. Gentleman did not focus so much on the surcharge to the banking tax, which came in from
I am grateful to the Minister for that explanation, but as we have said before, when we take both those measures together, we see that the reduction in the levy along with the surcharge results in a lower overall contribution over time. We have spelled out clearly in our previous debates that the overall amount coming from the banks is receding over time, even with the surcharge.
That is not the case. I will explain some of the figures in a moment, but there are other elements that are not being taken into account. One is that the banks are not permitted to offset against their profits the PPI compensation payments. Also, they are now working to a more restrictive corporate interest restriction regime, under which they are allowed to roll forward only 25% of their interest chargeable to offset against profits. Taking all those measures together, we have raised some £44 billion more from the banks since 2010 than we would have done if we had treated them simply as any other corporate business.
Opposition Members have cited changes in revenue from the bank levy. They argue that this is declining, but it is misleading to consider bank levy changes in isolation when they form part of a set of wider changes to bank taxes announced in 2015 and 2016, including introducing the 8% surcharge. Overall, rather than reducing revenue, these tax changes are expected to raise £4.6 billion over the current forecast period. I think that the hon. Lady will be interested to hear that figure.
We have just looked at the projections up to 2022-23. For the current year, we see £3 billion coming in from the levy and £1.6 billion coming in from the surcharge. The projection for 2022-23 is £1.3 billion from the levy and £1.1 billion from the surcharge. That appears to be a significant reduction; in fact, it is almost half.
Taking into account the respective changes, we will raise £4.6 billion over the forecast period as a consequence. My point is that it is simply not right to focus only on the declining part of the equation—the reduction in the banking levy charge—and not on the fact that we are raising more as a consequence of the 8% surcharge and the increased profitability of banks on our watch.
Perhaps we can get into the nitty-gritty of this offline.
The average revenue from the bank levy between its introduction in 2011 and 2015-16 was around £2.6 billion. As a result of this package, however, yield from the surcharge and the levy in 2022-23 is forecast to be £3.2 billion. By 2023, as I have said, we will have raised around £44 billion in additional bank taxes since the 2010 election.
Opposition Members have also suggested that our bank levy is set at a low level compared with other countries. In fact, not all financial centres have a bank levy. The USA, for example, chose not to introduce one at all, and while several EU countries introduced bank levies following the financial crisis, it is not possible to make direct comparisons between these levies as the rules for each are different.
We have heard the argument this afternoon that we should reintroduce a tax on bankers’ pay. One of the aims of the changes to bank taxation announced in 2015 and 2016 is to ensure a sustainable long-term basis for taxing banks, based on taxing bank profits and the bank levy. By contrast, the bank payroll tax referred to in new clause 3 was always intended as a one-off tax. Reintroducing it would be ineffective and unsustainable compared with the package of banking tax measures that we have introduced. Even the last Labour Chancellor pointed out that it could not be repeated without significant tax avoidance.
Opposition Members also propose that HMRC should publish a register of tax paid by individual banks under the levy. Taxpayer confidentiality is rightly a core principle for trust in our tax system and HMRC does not publish details of the amount of tax paid by any individual business. While the Government continue to consider measures to support transparency over businesses’ tax affairs, we must balance that with maintaining taxpayer confidentiality in order to maintain public confidence in our tax system.
Does the Minister accept that the transparency that is being sought is down to the public demanding it? After all these years of difficulty, and at a time when so many communities face council tax increases of 5%, there seems to be an inherent unfairness in the tax system.
I just do not accept that. This goes back to my point about the balance of measures that we are taking. The Opposition are understandably focusing on the bank levy, which is indeed declining over time, but I point to the additional 8% surcharge, which is 8% more on corporation tax than other non-banking businesses are expected to pay. As I have said, the banks are also not permitted to carry forward interest rate charges to the same degree as other businesses, and they are not allowed to offset against tax the compensation payments that they have been making. All those things add up to additional tax and by 2023 will have raised an extra £44 billion since 2010 compared with what would have been raised from non-banking businesses.
As my hon. Friend Chris Philp pointed out, as we have reduced the overall level of corporation tax from 28% to 19%—corporation tax, of course, applies to banks as it does to non-banking businesses—we have seen the tax take increase by some 50%. We have actually been raising more revenue as a consequence of those changes.
Finally, new clause 5 would require the Government to publish further analysis of the impact of the Bill’s bank levy re-scope. The Government have already published a detailed tax information and impact note on the proposed changes, and we have published information, certified by the OBR, on the overall Exchequer impact of the 2015 package of measures for banks. It is important to legislate for such changes now in order to give UK banks certainty on their tax position so that they can plan effectively for the future.
The changes in clause 33 and schedule 9 complete a package of measures that raises additional revenue from banks in a way that delivers a tax regime that is more sustainable, more aligned with regulation and more supportive of the competitiveness of UK financial services. We should pass them without amendment.
In her amendments, Stella Creasy calls for a windfall tax on private finance initiative companies. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend Stephen McPartland, who outlined his vigorous work in this area in support of his constituents.
There are approximately 700 operational projects that originated under the initial PFI, representing £60 billion in capital investment. The vast majority of those projects were signed between 1997 and the 2010—620, or 86%, of all PFI projects in the UK were signed under the last Labour Government.
This Government have taken action to ensure that PFI contracts deliver better value for money for the taxpayer. That is why in 2011 we introduced the operational public-private partnership efficiency programme, which has reported £2 billion of savings. Even where it is not possible to find savings in a project, we are working with Departments and procuring authorities to improve day-to-day effectiveness and management of contracts. We have also made improvements through PF2 to offer taxpayers better value for money on new projects.
The hon. Member for Walthamstow argues that a windfall tax on what she sees as the excess profits of PFI companies would help to fund public services; I am clear that it would not. A retrospective windfall tax would instead do damage to any private investment in public services and would tax local authorities and NHS trusts rather than the providers it is intended to target. Even aside from those flaws, her amendments would not work as she intends, and I will set out why in more detail.
First, a windfall tax would cost this and future Governments who try to sign contracts with businesses, whether in PFI or in another area. This country has a hard-won reputation for tax certainty, and that important principle would be undermined by a retrospective tax targeting businesses that have legitimately entered into a contract with the Government. There would be extra cost for the taxpayer whenever the Government next needed to engage the private sector.
Secondly, as the hon. Lady knows, PFI contracts—she said that she has read many—are long-term agreements that typically include anti-discriminatory clauses. This means that when legislation is passed that targets PFI companies without applying to similar projects undertaken by other companies, the tax owed can be recovered from the procuring authorities. A windfall tax would therefore only be a tax on local authorities, NHS trusts and Government Departments that hold such contracts, which I am sure is not the outcome she seeks.
Amendments 1 and 2 propose that the bank levy could be extended to PFI groups, but PFI groups are not banks. Instead, they borrow money to finance projects and earn a return on them, in exactly the same way that many other businesses do. It is simply not possible to bring PFI groups within the scope of the bank levy. Most of the design of the tax could not be applied to such groups.
The changes proposed by amendments 3 and 4 also would not work as a windfall tax. The last Finance Act introduced corporate interest restriction rules to limit the amount of interest expense that a corporate group can deduct against its taxable profits. The amendments propose modifying those rules by limiting the ability of corporate groups to carry forward and offset their unused interest allowance against future profits. The limitation would apply only where the group contains a PFI company that has previously made profits that are deemed to be “excessive,” by reference to a statutory test. The changes proposed in the amendments are convoluted. As I have said, it would fall to the public bodies holding the PFI contracts to pay the extra tax resulting from these changes. But even if one could impose additional tax liabilities on PFI providers, this would not be a sensible way to proceed. It would be unlikely to change the tax paid by the PFI company, but would instead sometimes penalise other companies in the same corporate group. More likely, groups would simply restructure to avoid the tax.
Turning to new clause 6 and the points raised about tax avoidance and evasion, I have little to add to what I have set out in our extensive debates on these issues at earlier stages of the Bill. A public review is not necessary. This Government have an extremely strong record on tackling tax avoidance, evasion and non-compliance, both domestically and internationally. Since 2010, HMRC has secured and protected £175 billion that would have gone unpaid. The UK is the only country to measure and publish a tax gap covering direct and indirect taxes every year. Our tax gap is, as other Members have pointed out, one of the lowest in the world, at 6%—that has come down from 7.9% under Labour in 2005-06. Despite our demonstrable successes, the Government cannot and will not be complacent. We will continue to keep the tax system under review at all times, and I urge the House to reject the new clauses and amendments.
That response from the Minister had complacency running through it like a line through a stick of rock. It contained self-congratulation and a rejection of any suggestion of a review, in any area. Not only have the Government not allowed us to make any significant changes, but they are not even prepared to listen to our asking for reviews, such as that requested by my hon. Friend Stella Creasy. It is unacceptable if the Government are not prepared even to go that far, having shackled us this much. That is disgraceful. The Government, in this Parliament, should be ashamed of themselves for shackling the Opposition to this degree. We will push the new clause to a vote.
Question put, That the clause be read a Second time.
The House divided:
Ayes 267, Noes 306.
Question accordingly negatived.
More than three and a half hours having elapsed since the commencement of proceedings on the programme motion, the proceedings were interrupted (Programme Order, this day).
The Deputy Speaker put forthwith the Question necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded at that time (