Review of effects on public finances

Part of Finance (No. 3) Bill – in the House of Commons at 7:15 pm on 8th January 2019.

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Photo of Edward Davey Edward Davey Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 7:15 pm, 8th January 2019

I thank Mrs Main for her passionate speech. I also thank Nicky Morgan, who chairs the Treasury Committee, and right hon. and hon. Members from across the House, who have campaigned as a Parliament against this measure and supported new clause 26. It is my wish to divide the House on the new clause if the Minister does not accept it.

Let me make it crystal clear from the start that I support the Treasury’s aim of closing tax loopholes and stopping tax avoidance. The introduction of loan charges in the Finance Act 2017 to stop future abuse was correct, and the review my new clause proposes would not seek to prevent the Treasury from stopping that abuse from the 2016 Budget announcement. Instead—somewhat inelegantly, due to the rules of Finance Bill debate—new clause 26 aims to focus the minds of Treasury Ministers on the gross unfairness of the way the 2017 Act went about closing an unacceptable tax loophole.

I believe that the review envisaged in the new clause would reveal the unfairness of the retrospective nature of the current loan charge legislation in two ways. First, it would show how that retrospective nature is even more severe than non-retrospective but backward-looking proceedings for the recovery of lost tax elsewhere in our tax legislation. Secondly, it would show that the test of reasonableness included in proposed new section 36A, if applied to the loan charge, would in fact prevent any retrospective tax collection from the loan charge.

Let me remind the House why the Treasury should, after the review, ditch the retrospective nature of this measure, delay April’s implementation and amend the charge so it focuses only on payments made after 2016. It is because the loan charge, as introduced, offends against the rule of law. It is the sort of taxation that led the barons to rebel against King John and gave birth to Magna Carta. It is simply not acceptable for a Government to introduce a law that makes illegal something someone did years ago, when that action was considered legal. That is a clear principle.