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Amendments made: 4, page 14, line 29, at beginning insert “the exemption conferred by”.
Amendment 5, page 14, line 33, at end insert—
“(3) For the purposes of subsection (2)(a) ignore paragraph 6 of Schedule 7AC to TCGA 1992 (cases in which exemptions do not apply).”
Amendment 6, page 15, line 6, at end insert—
“(6) In its application in relation to a company that ceases to be a member of a group or ceases to meet the condition in section 785(2)(b) of CTA 2009 before
I will now suspend the House for no more than five minutes in order to make a decision about certification. The Division bells will be rung two minutes before the House resumes. Following my certification, the Government will table the appropriate consent motion, copies of which will be made available in the Vote Office and will be distributed by Doorkeepers.
I can now inform the House that I have completed certification of the Bill, as required by the Standing Order. I have confirmed the view expressed in the Speaker’s provisional certificate issued on
I remind hon. Members that, if there is a Division, only Members representing constituencies in England, Wales and Northern Ireland may vote on the consent motion. As the knife has fallen, there can be no debate. I call the Minister to move the motion.
Motion made, and Question put forthwith (
That the Committee consents to the following certified clause of the Finance (No. 3) Bill:
Clause certified under
Question agreed to.
The occupant of the Chair left the Chair to report the decision of the Committee (
The Deputy Speaker resumed the Chair; decision reported.
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.
Eight years ago, our country’s finances were in peril. For far too long, Labour had spent and borrowed more than our country could afford. The deficit was at a peacetime high and debt was spiralling out of control. [Interruption.] I would not keep repeating it if Labour Members had learned their lesson, but they clearly have not, so they need to be told. This Government came into office knowing that we had to rise to the challenge of working with the British people to bring expenditure back under control and to once again live within our means, and we have done just that, with the deficit now four fifths lower than it was when we came into office and debt beginning its first sustained fall in a generation.
But bringing down the deficit alone was not the limit of our endeavour. The manner in which we did so was equally important: reducing the deficit, yes, but remaining committed to funding our vital public services, giving tax cuts to millions of strivers right up and down the country, and building a tax system that rewards and incentivises business and growth—prudent but pro-business, and deeply invested in the idea that those who work hard should be rewarded. The results are clear to see: 3.3 million more people in work since 2010, unemployment at its lowest level since the 1970s, wages growing, and the rate of absolute poverty at a record low. This Bill continues that work.
At the heart of the Conservative ideal is the firm belief that people know how to spend their money better than Government do, and that those who work hard deserve to be rewarded. The best way for Government to serve that ideal is to cut taxes, especially for those on low and middle incomes—to get out of the pockets of the British people and let them decide what they do with the money that they have worked so hard to earn. When this Government came into office, the personal allowance was at £6,475 and the higher rate threshold was at £43,875. We were elected to raise those thresholds to £12,500 and £50,000 respectively. In this Bill, we deliver on that commitment not just in line with our manifesto but a full year early—at the earliest affordable opportunity. Those changes mean that, compared with 2015, we have cut taxes for 32 million people, with an additional 1.7 million people paying no tax at all, and nearly a million fewer people having to pay the higher rate of income tax. We are also making sure that the extra money in people’s pockets goes further. It is for that reason that we are freezing fuel duty, freezing air passenger duty on short-haul flights in real terms, and freezing the duty on beer, cider and spirits.
Also central to the mission of this Government is our steadfast support for business—our instinctive and deep-rooted understanding that it is never Government who generate the wealth and taxes that fund our vital public services, but the innovation and hard work of millions of people right up and down our country. The achievements of our businesses have been very significant, yet despite that, productivity has been subdued since the financial crisis, and business investment in our country, while strong, is lower than we would like it to be to make the most of the opportunities that lie ahead.
That is why in this Bill we are taking substantial action to boost private sector investment. We have introduced, at the request of the CBI, a new capital allowance for qualifying non-residential structures and buildings that will support business investment and improve the international competitiveness of the UK tax system. From
A core pillar of this Government’s approach to taxation is a belief in fairness—that everyone should pay what they owe when they owe it. This Government have an outstanding record in this area. We have protected more than £200 billion in revenue that would otherwise have gone unpaid since 2010, and we have introduced more than 100 avoidance and evasion measures since that time.
In this Bill, we continue that work, taking action against multinationals that keep their intangible property in low-tax jurisdictions in order to avoid UK tax; tackling profit fragmentation, whereby companies reduce their tax burden by artificially shifting their revenue; and cracking down on multinationals that attempt to erode the tax base—a tax system where enterprise is rewarded but everyone pays their fair share and our public services get the funding that they need.
I have been proud to take this Bill through the House. It provides a tax cut for 32 million people. It backs British businesses, introducing with measures to boost private sector investment and support jobs and growth, to ensure that our country is the country in which enterprise can thrive. I understand that the Labour party does not agree with every aspect of the Bill but will not divide the House on Third Reading, which is positive. Those on the Government Benches support tax cuts for millions of hard-working people. We support business growth and investment. We support job creation, and we are the side of the House to ensure that taxes are fair and paid. I commend the Bill to the House.
This has been a Finance Bill of highs and lows. One high was the Government finally listening, albeit only when they were pushed to do so by the prospect of losing a vote, as we have just seen in relation to the loan charge. Another high was the fact that we saw the House seize the initiative to act to protect our country from the negative consequences of a no-deal Brexit for our economy and for our safety and resilience, as set out by Sir Oliver Letwin in what I thought was an extraordinary speech.
I understand that the vote a couple of hours ago on the amendment tabled by my right hon. Friend Yvette Cooper was the first time that a Government have been defeated at this late stage of a Finance Bill since the summer of 1978. At that stage I was only four months old, so I cannot exactly say that this is the only time I have seen a Government defeat on a Finance Bill in my lifetime, but I suspect it was the first time for many other Members. It was an appropriate defeat, because it shows that this House has adopted responsibility when our Government have sadly been unwilling to do so.
All this has happened in a context where Government have systematically attempted to reduce the opportunities for this House to influence the Finance Bill. Conservative Ministers’ decisions over recent years to prevent the House from substantively amending Finance Bills have been unprecedented. They have become a new norm and reflect the lack of confidence that this Government have in arguing their convictions. Surely that, above all, is the case with the Government’s approach in this Finance Bill, which preserves austerity for the many while the very best-off people and profitable corporations continue to benefit, our productivity gap yawns, regional inequalities widen and we see the creation of unprecedented phenomena in this country, such as the fact that getting into work is no longer the ticket out of poverty that it once was.
We have seen this Government’s unwillingness even to gather the figures and evidence about how their measures will affect child poverty or public health, in a context where life expectancy is for the first time going down in some of our communities. We have seen them bowing to lobbying pressure and introducing loopholes to protect many overseas investors from measures intended to level the playing field between them and domestic investors. Finally, we have seen the extraordinary contortion of a new schedule being inserted into the Bill just before Christmas to introduce a new tax relief for profitable corporations, not only very late in the day but without any information whatsoever about the cost that it will pose to the public purse. Indeed, we will not get that information before the measure is implemented.
The Government are spendthrift when it comes to profitable companies and the very best off, but miserly when it comes to the worst off. I see those on the Government Front Bench adopting a rather pantomime-style response to that. I am sorry to say that the overall package in this Finance Bill supports that contention, as do the figures, if only we could have them in front of us now.
Despite the considerable problems with this Bill, given the fact that it now contains provisions that militate against a no-deal scenario—surely the most significant risk currently to our economy and indeed to our security—we cannot and will not oppose it. I want to end by thanking all the civil servants and indeed staff of this House who have worked so hard on this Bill, and who have helped us in the Opposition—[Interruption.] I see that the Minister wants to thank them, too. I also want to thank all my hon. Friends who have contributed to our debates on this Bill.
There is much this Government do that I would criticise, but I will start with three things that I am pleased are in this Finance Bill. The first, which the Minister mentioned, is the transferrable tax history. To be clear, I was calling for that when there was only one Scottish Conservative Member of Parliament in this place. Actually, I think there has been cross-party work on the transferrable tax history. I think the Government have worked well with industry in bringing it forward, and I am pleased that they have done so. I am really pleased that it is in the Bill, and I think it will make a big difference to the North sea in particular, given the fact that we can extract oil and gas from the North sea for a longer period as a result of the changes made. The jobs associated with that will be secured, which is particularly important for my constituents and those in constituencies around the north-east of Scotland, so I am pleased it is in the Bill.
I am also pleased that clauses 92 and 93 are in the Bill. Clause 92 was accepted by the Government in relation to tax avoidance. It was tabled by the SNP, and it requires a review of the effects of the provisions in reducing tax avoidance and evasion. The Government will have to bring forward this review within six months of the passing of the Act, and we look forward to them doing so. The Government chose to accept two of our amendments, neither of which I was involved in the debates on, so I am a little bit disappointed about that. My hon. Friend Alison Thewliss led on this part of the debate, and my congratulations go to her on getting this through.
Clause 93 was also accepted as an SNP amendment. It was the result of the excellent work of my hon. Friend Ronnie Cowan on fixed odds betting terminals and the general work he has been doing on the public health impacts of gambling. Earlier, I made the point that we sometimes put in tax measures to discourage behaviour that we do not want to happen—for example, a harmful behaviour. I am really pleased that the Government will, as a result of the SNP’s pressure, bring forward a review of the public health impacts of gambling and the changes made. When the Government are taking decisions about gambling and gaming duties, they should always be thinking about the public health impacts and have them front and centre of any explanatory memorandum for future Finance Bills.
I am not going to be overwhelmingly positive; I have some negatives as well. The process for this year’s Finance Bill has been particularly—[Interruption.] Shambolic, yes. It has been particularly shambolic and inadequate, because the Government have failed to consult on as many of the measures as they should have done. They did not put them forward in draft format, so companies and organisations were not able to make known their concerns or suggest ways in which the Bill could be changed to make it better. I fear that that is not good for scrutiny. Changes were introduced in this Finance Bill to correct errors made in previous Finance Bills or to strengthen provisions that were inadequate in previous Finance Bills. Again, I am concerned that, because of the process this year, we will see more of that in future years.
The other thing that is particularly poor in this Finance Bill—this is a real contrast with the decisions made in Scotland—are the tax changes. Tax changes that have been made on things that are devolved to Scotland, which I none the less feel able to criticise, are not the ones that I feel should have been made, because they are not made from the progressive point of view that we would like. The tax changes we are making in Scotland are on a much more progressive basis, and the Government would do well to look at what we are doing in Scotland. In England, about half of taxpayers pay more than they would if they were in Scotland, and those taxpayers are the ones at the lower end of the income spectrum. They are the people we think we should be supporting, rather than the people at the top end of the income spectrum.
I have just a last couple of points. Better scrutiny of the process is always required. I have called repeatedly for the Finance Bill to be subject to evidence sessions in Committee, and I will continue to make that call of the Government until they capitulate, because Finance Bill Committees should hear evidence. The other half of this—the spend process—has been improved very slightly, but it has not been improved nearly enough, and we need better and more adequate scrutiny of Government spend before it happens, rather than just doing it through the estimates process.
Lastly, I would like to take this opportunity to thank my hon. Friend Mhairi Black, who was with me in Committee, as well as two members of staff, Jonathan Kiehlmann, who was involved in this, and Scott Taylor, without whose help I could not have gone through the Finance Bill Committee or the stages we are at now. I would like to offer my specific thanks to them.
Question put and agreed to.
Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.