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I absolutely agree and will come on to food banks, but on refugees and those seeking leave to remain in the UK, these are the people I see in my surgeries in the highest levels of poverty. They cannot work because the UK Government are not allowing them to, even though they have a valid immigration application. Concerns have been raised with me about individuals whose children are literally starving as a result of the UK Government saying that they cannot work or have recourse to public funds. This is a hostile environment that is impacting directly on the lives of children. The UK Government need to rethink. The bar should be set where children are not starving as a result, and then we can take action against those who are trying to swizz the system.
The only decent meal that some children receive is the meal that they have at school. The UK Government cannot continue to say that food bank use is increasing in European countries too, as if that somehow makes it okay. They have a responsibility to step up and to change the tax system, the minimum wage and the social security system to ensure that no child ever goes hungry.
Our new clause 7 would require a review of the impact on investment of changes to entrepreneurs’ relief, which extend the minimum qualifying period from 12 months to two years. Given that we have Brexit hanging over us and the massive uncertainty that that brings, putting another hurdle in the way of businesses is probably not the right course of action. Both the Chartered Institute of Taxation and the Association of Taxation Technicians have raised concerns about the unintended consequences of the change. I believe that a review is the only sensible option going forward. The Treasury regularly makes tax changes, but it does not regularly review their effectiveness, even after they have been in place for a number of years, and when it does it rarely makes those reviews public. It is all well and good to think that something may have a certain effect, but it is necessary to check whether the intended effect has come about. If such changes are made, a review should be undertaken regularly—certainly in the following two years—and it should be made public, in the interests of transparency and good policy making, so that everybody can see not just that the change has taken place, but what its effect has been, so that we are up front and honest and everybody is clear.
New clause 8 concerns the geographical effect of clause 9. The UK Government often fail to recognise the rurality of many of Scotland’s communities, and I am not clear that this change will not have a significant effect on those in our most remote communities. These are places where it is hard to get the staff we need for our life-saving services and where depopulation is a real and ever-present concern. They are also places that will be hit incredibly hard by ending freedom of movement. Given the hit to our crofters over the convergence uplift that was supposed to be given to rural communities in Scotland but was allocated elsewhere, it is clear that the UK Government are not prioritising our rural communities. They need to sense-check any such proposals and change them to ensure that they do not cause further difficulty for those living in our most remote areas, not just in Scotland but in other areas of the UK where being far from centres of population is an issue.
New clause 9 would require a report on the consultation undertaken on certain provisions of the Bill. Glyn Fullelove, the chair of the Chartered Institute of Taxation’s technical committee, has been critical of a number of measures in the Bill that were not previously consulted on, saying:
“The effects of inadequate scrutiny in the past are visible in the amount of tinkering in the new Bill”.
That is something I raised on Second Reading. He goes on:
“would all these tweaks have been necessary if there had been adequate consultation and more thorough scrutiny in the first place?”
If the Government intend to take back control, they need to ensure that control is in the hands of MPs, with adequate advice provided by expert stakeholders. It cannot be appropriate for tax changes to be drafted by officials and put into a Bill by the UK Government, with no opportunity for stakeholders to give oral evidence, no amendment of the law resolution and a total lack of a review of these clauses. That is not a sensible way to run anything, let alone a country. I have severe concerns about this part of the Bill. My concerns are mostly about transparency and process, as well as the lack of scrutiny of many of the measures.
In relation to the changes to personal allowance, the Government have not been progressive. We would expect that from a Conservative Government, but if they look up the road in Scotland, they will see that the changes that we have made have benefited the people at the bottom of the pile. The UK Government need to do more to benefit those people.
Lastly, the UK Government need to take seriously the fact that the personal allowance is not devolved to Scotland but the basic rate is, and changes need to be made. I would appreciate it if the Minister committed to considering making changes in the drafting of the Bill to separate out the devolved and reserved issues, so that we can have proper debates and better read-across, so that we can have transparency in the discussion of tax and spend in this place and so that we can make better laws as a result.