New Clause 26 - Review of impact of Act on job creation

Finance Bill – in the House of Commons at 6:30 pm on 1st July 2020.

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Votes in this debate

  • Division number 69
    A majority of MPs voted against an assessment of the effect of the Finance Act on job creation.

“The Chancellor of the Exchequer must conduct an assessment of the effect of the Act on job creation, and lay this before the House of Commons within six months of Royal Assent.”—(Mr McFadden.)

This new clause would require the Chancellor of the Exchequer to review the impact of the Bill on job creation.

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Pat McFadden Pat McFadden Shadow Economic Secretary (Treasury)

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Photo of Nigel Evans Nigel Evans Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

New clause 1—Loan charge: report on effect of the scheme—

“(1) The Chancellor of the Exchequer must commission a review, to be carried out by an independent panel, of the impact in parts of the United Kingdom and regions of England of the scheme established under sections 20 and 21 and lay the report of that review before the House of Commons within six months of the passing of this Act.

(2) A review under this section must consider the effects of the provisions on—

(a) business investment,

(b) employment,

(c) productivity, and

(d) company solvency.

(3) A review under this section must consider the fairness with which HMRC has implemented the policy, including whether HMRC has provided reasonable flexibility around repayment plans with the aim of avoiding business failures and individual bankruptcies.

In this section “parts of the United Kingdom” means—

(a) England,

(b) Scotland,

(c) Wales, and

(d) Northern Ireland; and “regions of England” has the same meaning as that used by the Office for National Statistics.”

This new clause would require a review of the impact of the scheme to be established under Clauses 20 and 21.

New clause 31—Restricting the loan charge to cases where taxpayer knew loan was taxable—

“(1) In Schedule 11 to F(No.2)A 2017 (employment income provided through third parties: loans etc outstanding on 5 April 2019) in paragraph 1(1)—

(a) at the end of paragraph (b) omit “and”; and

(b) at the end of paragraph (c), insert—

“, and

(d) if the relevant year is 2015/16 or an earlier tax year, one of the conditions 1 to 3 is met.”

(c) After paragraph 1(1), insert—

“(1A) Condition 1 is that—

(a) P submitted a return in accordance with section 8 of TMA 1970 for the relevant year,

(b) the loan or quasi loan was not accounted for in the return as income, and

(c) P knew that the loan or quasi loan should have been accounted for as income in the relevant year.

(1B) Condition 2 is that P has not been issued with a notice under section 8 of TMA 1970 for the relevant year.

(1C) Condition 3 is that P has been issued with a notice under section 8 of TMA 1970 for the relevant year but that notice is or has been withdrawn under section 8B(2) of that Act.”.

(2) In Schedule 12 to F(No.2)A 2017 (trading income provided through third parties: loans etc outstanding on 5 April 2019) in paragraph 1(2)—

(a) at the end of paragraph (a)(ii) omit “and”; and

(b) at the end of paragraph (b), insert—

“, and

(c) if the tax year in respect of which the loan or quasi loan should have been accounted for as income (or otherwise treated as a receipt of a revenue nature for income tax purposes) (“the relevant year”) is 2015/16 or an earlier tax year, one of the conditions 1 to 3 is met.”

(c) After paragraph 1(2), insert—

“(2A) Condition 1 is that—

(a) T submitted a return in accordance with section 8 of TMA 1970 for the relevant year,

(b) the loan or quasi loan was not accounted for in the return as income (or otherwise treated as a receipt of a revenue nature for income tax purposes), and

(c) T knew that the loan or quasi loan should have been accounted for in the return as income (or otherwise treated as a receipt of a revenue nature for income tax purposes).

(2B) Condition 2 is that T has not been issued with a notice under section 8 of TMA 1970 for the relevant year.

(2C) Condition 3 is that T has been issued with a notice under section 8 of TMA 1970 for the relevant year but that notice is or has been withdrawn under section 8B(2) of that Act.”.

This new clause provides that, in respect of loans made in 2015/16 tax year and any earlier tax years, the loan charge applies only if the taxpayer submitted their tax return and deliberately did not declare the loan to be income. The clause also extends this protection to taxpayers who were not required by HMRC to submit tax returns.

New clause 35—Review of Off-Payroll working (IR35) legislation—

“(1) The provisions of section 7 and Schedule 1 of this Act do not have effect unless the Treasury has conducted a review of Off-Payroll working (IR35) legislation and has laid a copy of the report of that review before both Houses of Parliament.

(2) A review under (1) must include assessment of—

(a) impact on individuals’ livelihoods,

(b) impact on individuals’ employment rights, and

(c) relevant business practices.

(3) Any review under (1) must be carried out no later than 31 December 2025.”

This new clause would provide that the IR35 provisions of the bill would not take effect unless the Treasury has conducted and published a review of off-payroll working legislation.

Amendment 16, page 2, line 23, leave out clause 7

Amendment 55, in clause 20, page 15, line 6, at end insert—

“(3A) An amount paid, treated as paid or due to be paid under a qualifying agreement is also a qualifying amount if—

(a) the amount is referable (directly or indirectly) to a qualifying loan or quasi-loan,

(b) the tax year in which an amount representing the loan or quasi-loan should have been accounted for as income (or otherwise treated as a receipt of a revenue nature for income tax purposes) (“the relevant year”) is 2015/16 or an earlier tax year, and

(c) one of the conditions 1 to 3 is met.

(3B) Condition 1 is that—

(a) the person to whom the income tax liability the agreement referred to in subsection (2) relates (“P”) submitted a tax return in accordance with section 8 of TMA 1970 for the relevant year, and

(b) the loan or quasi loan was not accounted for in the return as income (or otherwise treated as a receipt of a revenue nature for income tax purposes).

(3C) However, condition 1 is not met if P knew that the loan or quasi loan should have been accounted for in the return as income (or otherwise treated as a receipt of a revenue nature for income tax purposes).

(3D) Condition 2 is that P has not been issued with a notice under section 8 of TMA 1970 for the relevant year.

(3E) Condition 3 is that P has been issued with a notice under section 8 of TMA 1970 for the relevant year but that notice is or has been withdrawn under section 8B(2) of that Act.”.

This amendment is consequential on the new clause “Restricting the loan charge to cases where taxpayer knew loan was taxable”. It provides that a prior settlement with HMRC can be unwound unless the worker failed to account for a 2015/16 tax year (or earlier) liability in his or her tax return deliberately despite knowing that the loan should have been included as income.

Amendment 17, page 85, line 2, leave out schedule 1.

Amendment 20, in schedule 1,  page 97, line 15, leave out “2021-22” and insert “2023-24”

This amendment and 21 to 36 and 57 seeks to delay the introduction of the IR35 changes until the tax year 2023-24.

Amendment 21, page 97, line 17, leave out “2021” and insert “2023”

Amendment 22, page 97, line 21, leave out “2021” and insert “2023”

Amendment 23, page 97, line 23, leave out “2021” and insert “2023”

Amendment 24, page 97, line 25, leave out “2021” and insert “2023”

Amendment 25, page 97, line 26, leave out “2021” and insert “2023”

Amendment 26, page 97, line 38, leave out “2021” and insert “2023”

Amendment 27, page 98, line 4, leave out “2021-22” and insert “2023-24”

Amendment 28, page 98, line 8, leave out “2021” and insert “2023”

Amendment 29, page 98, line 12, leave out “2021” and insert “2023”

Amendment 30, page 98, line 30, leave out “2021” and insert “2023”

Amendment 31, page 98, line 34, leave out “2021” and insert “2023”

Amendment 32, page 98, line 37, leave out “2021” and insert “2023”

Amendment 33, page 98, line 40, leave out “2021” and insert “2023”

Amendment 34, page 98, line 44, leave out “2021” and insert “2023”

Amendment 35, page 98, line 45, leave out “2021” and insert “2023”

Amendment 36, page 98, line 47, leave out “2021” and insert “2023”

Amendment 57, page 97, line 36leave out ‘2021’ and insert ‘2023’

New clause 12—Assessment of impact of provisions of this Act—

“(1) The Chancellor of the Exchequer must review in parts of the United Kingdom and regions of England the impact of the provisions of this Act and lay a report of that review before the House of Commons within one month of the passing of this Act.

(2) A review under this section must consider the effects of the provisions on—

(a) GDP

(b) business investment,

(c) employment,

(d) productivity,

(e) company solvency,

(f) public revenues

(g) poverty, and

(h) public health.

(3) A review under this section must consider the following scenarios—

(a) the Job Retention Scheme, Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, Bounceback Loan Scheme and Self-employed Income Support Scheme are continued are continued for—

(i) six months,

(ii) the next year,

(iii) eighteen months,

(iv) the next two years; and

(b) the Job Retention Scheme, Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, Bounceback Loan Scheme and Self-employed Income Support Scheme are ended or changed in any ways by a Minister of the Crown other than as specified in (a).

(4) In this section—

“parts of the United Kingdom” means—

(a) England,

(b) Scotland,

(c) Wales, and

(d) Northern Ireland;

“regions of England” has the same meaning as that used by the Office for National Statistics.”

This new clause would require a review of the impact of the Bill in different possible scenarios with respect to the continuation of the coronavirus support schemes.

New clause 18—Review of changes in Act—

“(1) The Chancellor of the Exchequer must review the effect of the changes in this Act in each part of the United Kingdom and each region of England and lay a report of that review before the House of Commons within two months of the passing of this Act.

(2) A review under this section must consider the effects of the changes on—

(a) business investment,

(b) employment, and

(c) productivity.

(3) A review under this section must consider the effects in the current and each of the subsequent four financial years.

(4) The review must also estimate the effects on the changes in the event of each of the following—

(a) the UK leaves the EU withdrawal transition period without a negotiated comprehensive free trade agreement,

(b) the UK leaves the EU withdrawal transition period with a negotiated agreement, and remains in the single market and customs union, or

(c) the UK leaves the EU withdrawal transition period with a negotiated comprehensive free trade agreement, and does not remain in the single market and customs union.

(5) The review must also estimate the effects on the changes if the UK signs a free trade agreement with the United States.

(6) In this section—

“parts of the United Kingdom” means—

(a) England,

(b) Scotland,

(c) Wales, and

(d) Northern Ireland; and “regions of England” has the same meaning as that used by the Office for National Statistics.”

This new clause requires a review of the impact on investment, employment and productivity of the changes made by the Act over time; in the event of a free trade agreement with the USA; and in the event of leaving the EU without a trade agreement, with an agreement to retain single market and customs union membership, or with a trade agreement that does not include single market and customs union membership.

Photo of Pat McFadden Pat McFadden Shadow Economic Secretary (Treasury) 7:00 pm, 1st July 2020

It is a pleasure to be facing my old sparring partner from the Treasury Committee of some years ago across the Dispatch Box. In this debate we will cover a number of amendments dealing with IR35 or off-payroll working, through to the loan charge and the impact of this Finance Bill on the crucial issue of jobs.

On IR35, we have always said that we need an approach that brings together the consideration of tax and employment law and that levels up protections for the self-employed, as well as dealing with the current implications of the tax system, which sometimes boosts bogus self-employment. The Chancellor has already hinted at changes to the tax regime for self-employed people as a consequence of the help given to them through the current crisis. Some contractors have raised concerns about being treated like an employee for tax purposes but not for employment rights purposes. Given the huge ongoing labour market difficulties caused by the current crisis, I would like to ask the Minister what consideration the Government have given to the timetable for their proposed changes and, in particular, what their attitude is to the amendments before us tonight calling for a delay in the roll-out of the IR35 changes to the private sector, so that we can get the balance between tax and employment rights correct.

Many Members have also received representations about changes to the loan charge. We have supported attempts to deal with tax avoidance, but also expressed concern for those advised into such arrangements, by either employers or the promoters of such schemes. We will continue to press the Government to review how the promoters of disguised remuneration schemes have been tackled—or not tackled, as the case may be—by HMRC and ensure that those who promote such schemes are held to account.

Photo of Edward Davey Edward Davey Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Treasury), Acting Leader, Liberal Democrats, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Social Justice)

I agree with what the right hon. Gentleman has been saying. Would he support the option of the House having a vote tonight on new clause 31, which relates to the loan charge? There are many people watching our deliberations who hope that this House will express a view on the loan charge, and I am told that at the moment that is not likely to happen. Will he confirm from the Front Bench that the Labour party would like a Division on new clause 31?

Photo of Pat McFadden Pat McFadden Shadow Economic Secretary (Treasury)

The matter of what is voted on is of course, a consideration for the Speaker. I do not always get to decide what is voted on in this House.

New clause 26, standing in my name and those of my hon. Friends, focuses on the issue of jobs and does so for the very good reason that that is the principal economic challenge facing us right now. If there was any doubt about that, we need only look at the news over the past 24 hours—1,700 jobs lost at Airbus, up to 5,000 job losses announced by the owners of Upper Crust, 4,500 at easyJet a couple of days ago, another 4,500 at Swissport, and many more around the country that do not make the front page of the national news. These are not just numbers. Every one of them is a human story of a livelihood taken away and a family wondering how they will pay the bills and what the future will hold for them.

Across the country, the claimant count measure of unemployment is up by 1.5 million since the start of the year. In addition to those out of work and the estimated 9 million on furlough schemes, it is estimated that up to 8 million employees are working fewer hours than usual. These stark figures show us that we are facing the jobs challenge of a generation. It is decades since young people leaving school, college or university graduated into a labour market such as this.

Giving my age away, I remember, as a young teenager growing up in Glasgow, attending the people’s march for jobs. Unemployment back then was around 3 million. The vocabulary of it infused the times—“signing on”; “the Girocheque”. It even gave birth to the great band UB40, named after the unemployment card that people got for signing on. The damage caused by that mass unemployment affected not just the city where I grew up, but the Black Country that I now represent, and many similar communities across the country. Long-term social and economic pain was caused by far too many people facing a life on the dole, and we must never go back to those days. If we have learned anything from that experience of the 1980s, it is that the cost of not acting is greater than the cost of acting, and we must do everything we can now to prevent mass unemployment. That is the challenge facing us.

At the start of this crisis we called for wage support to help people through. The furlough scheme and the self-employed furlough scheme were the right and necessary things to do, but as lockdown is eased, and support from those schemes starts to be withdrawn from next month, we can see the danger facing the economy. The danger is that businesses that have been just about hanging on start to let people go, caught between having no income and facing rising employment costs. This is the moment that the Government need to act to preserve jobs, jobs, jobs.

Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Conservative, Wokingham

I agree with the right hon. Gentleman about the importance of jobs. Is he worried that the reform the Government have in mind might mean that a self-employed person working on their own in one of our constituencies could lose a contract to a foreign company, because the big company undertaking the contract might think that was safer?

Photo of Pat McFadden Pat McFadden Shadow Economic Secretary (Treasury)

I am not sure about the part of the right hon. Gentleman’s intervention that referred to foreign companies, but the turbulence of the labour market right now does pose a danger to contractors. The Government have already recognised that to some degree in the delay announced for this measure.

Withdrawing support schemes at the same pace for all sectors does not recognise that some sectors are in far more difficulty than others, and that is particularly true for any sector based on the idea of people gathering closely together. Many sectors such as transport, aviation, sport, theatre, music, and others, are global British strengths, but right now they are on their knees. Dropping the social distancing rule from two metres to one metre is not enough when, in some cases, any kind of social distancing is impossible. Let us take live music, for example, which is based on the very opposite of social distancing. The break-even point for many venues and events is often being 80% to 90% full, and the change to one metre will not make that much difference to them. We need an approach that takes into account the different impact on different sectors.

If there was already a sectoral problem in withdrawing employment support, there is also now a geographical one, because Leicester is entering its second period of lockdown. Our thoughts go out to the people and businesses there who, like the rest of the country, have made great sacrifices over the past few months. We cannot yet know how long that second period of lockdown in Leicester will last. It could be a few weeks, but equally, it might be longer. Neither can we know whether Leicester will be the only place to go into another lockdown. Other cities may follow, and there has already been speculation about where those might be. How can it be right to withdraw employment support on a national basis when we are no longer in a single national position on the easing of lockdown?

We are asking people and businesses in Leicester today, and possibly other cities in the days and weeks to come, to shut down for a second time, and they should not be penalised for doing so. Will the Minister consider as a matter of urgency flexibility in the unwinding of the furlough and other support schemes, to take account of the new development of at least one, but possibly more, local lockdowns? Let me now turn to the future, and the jobs that might be created. The Government announced their back-to-work plan yesterday.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health)

Something that concerns me—and I know that it also concerns the right hon. Gentleman and many other Members—is the fact that manufacturing as a proportion of the UK’s GDP has fallen from 30% in 1970 down to 10% today, which is perhaps why our economy has not grown as it should have. I understand that if we do not get that figure up from 10% to 15%, we will not have a manufacturing base for the future. Does he share my concern that if we do not retain, restore and increase our manufacturing base—including in the aerospace sector, for companies such as Bombardier in my constituency—it will not have a future?

Photo of Pat McFadden Pat McFadden Shadow Economic Secretary (Treasury)

There is no MP from the west midlands who does not care about our manufacturing base. It is a vital part of our economy. It may be true that we make less than we used to, but it is also true that we make more than we think, and we should never be dismissive of the activity and the creativity of making things in this country.

The Government announced their back-to-work plan yesterday, praying in aid President Roosevelt and the new deal. First, the Prime Minister wanted to compare himself to Churchill. Now it is Roosevelt. We have to wonder why he seems so uncomfortable with just being himself. Let us look at the comparison. F. D. R.’s new deal did indeed rescue the United States from the great depression. Millions of workers were hired, 255,000 miles of roads were built, as were 40,000 schools and almost 1,000 airports—major infrastructure projects that modernised the United States and stood the test of time, all at a cost of around 40% of pre-depression United States GDP. By contrast, what the Prime Minister announced yesterday was around 1% of the cost of the new deal—one cent on the dollar, if you will. He has taken the old political maxim, “Under-promise and over-deliver”, and turned it on its head.

I know that the Minister likes a good book. One of the shorter, but nevertheless hugely illuminating, studies of Roosevelt’s approach comes in Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book on leadership. In it, she sets out Roosevelt’s watchwords behind the new deal. I will leave the House to make its own judgment on the comparison between this and the Prime Minister. First, “Strike the right balance of realism and optimism”—not everything has to be claimed to be the biggest or the best in the world. After the events of recent months, systems that just worked would be an improvement. We then have, “Infuse a sense of shared purpose and direction”, “Lead by example”, “Forge a team aligned with action and change”, “Bring all stakeholders aboard”, “Set a deadline and drive full-bore to meet it”, “Address systemic problems. Launch lasting reforms”, “Be open to experiment”, “Adapt and be ready to change course where necessary”, and “Tell the story directly to the people”. That was Roosevelt’s approach, and I will leave it to others to judge whether the Prime Minister’s approach falls short not only in scale but also in spirit.

Photo of Edward Davey Edward Davey Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Treasury), Acting Leader, Liberal Democrats, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Social Justice)

Like the right hon. Gentleman, I have read books about F. D. R. I have studied F. D. R. The Prime Minister is no F. D. R.

Photo of Pat McFadden Pat McFadden Shadow Economic Secretary (Treasury)

Quite.

Infrastructure expenditure is, of course, welcome, and we support it. It makes sense to do this when interest rates are historically low.

Photo of Mike Penning Mike Penning Conservative, Hemel Hempstead

There are people in our constituencies whose lives are being destroyed every day because the loan charge has been applied to them retrospectively. Forget what Mr Speaker might say—will the Labour party support new clause 31 if it is called? If not, why not?

Photo of Pat McFadden Pat McFadden Shadow Economic Secretary (Treasury)

On the loan charge, as I said, we have always supported cracking down on tax avoidance and we support action against those who enabled the scheme. New clause 31 makes a connection between people’s tax treatment and what they knew; I believe we have to explore that principle as a matter of taxation and think carefully about how to proceed. I look forward to the debate on that later.

In the 21st century, modernising our country needs to be about more than bricks and mortar. Even if, unlike the Prime Minister’s bridge over the Thames or his island airport, the projects announced yesterday can actually be delivered, in today’s world, and in particular in today’s labour market, investment has to be in people as well as in buildings. The truth is that the technological change and the acceleration caused by the coronavirus crisis makes that even more urgent than it was before. Why, when the Government announced new funding for schools last week, were the early years left out, when we know that those years are often the most influential in charting a person’s educational progress and their chances in future life? Where is the programme on a scale that we need to skill and reskill adults who will have to change jobs as a result of the economic change happening before our eyes?

Where is the plan for social care, wherein throughout this crisis, often on low pay, workers have heroically battled to look after people? As the Resolution Foundation reported just a few days ago, to take the ratio of social care workers to the over-70 population back to its 2014 level would on its own create 180,000 new jobs. Where, in this international age of nationalism, is the international response to co-ordinate economic support between countries in what is, by definition, a global health and economic crisis? The response to this crisis must meet the needs of the time.

It is for those reasons that we believe that the yardstick by which the Bill should be judged, and the focus of next week’s statement, must be jobs. Having supported the economy this far, we cannot stop now. It is moments like this for which Governments exist. We need not only the capital spending but the investment in people to help the country through it. That is what the country is looking for now from its Government, and that is why we tabled the new clause.

Photo of David Davis David Davis Conservative, Haltemprice and Howden 7:15 pm, 1st July 2020

I rise to speak to the amendments and new clauses tabled in my name and the names of other Members of this House. They include new clause 31 and the consequential amendments relating to the loan charge legislation, and amendment 20 and the consequential amendments relating to the application of the so-called IR35 regulations, which deal with off-payroll taxation arrangements.

It is a pleasure to follow Mr McFadden. I am even older than him: I can remember discussions across the table in my household about the means test when I was too young to understand it.

When I first spoke in this House about the loan charge arrangements, I quoted the Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court who once said that the power to tax is the power to destroy. That description could be used of both the policies that I wish to talk about today. The loan charge destroys lives. To date, at least seven people have taken their own lives as a result of this unfair and retrospective policy—and I will use that word “retrospective” over and over again, even though HMRC fails to recognise it. For many ordinary, decent people, including locum nurses, teachers and contractors—ordinary folk, not big City bankers—who were misled by their employers in many cases, the loan charge has robbed them of their peace of mind, their self-respect and, in some cases, their lives. Some 39% of them have considered suicide, 49% could lose their homes and 71% could face bankruptcy.

New clause 31 would simply stop the Government pursuing any employees who were innocent parties who did not know that what they were doing was illegal and who believed they were acting correctly and in good faith. Yesterday, when I spoke on immigration, I had to deal with a briefing from the Government supposedly rebutting the lines in my proposed amendment, and I have the same again today. A disgraceful and frankly wrong briefing has been handed out by the Government describing what they thought we were saying. I will not go into details, but I hope that others will have time to do so. I will simply say that HMRC seems to have forgotten that in English law you are innocent until proven guilty. It is about time we followed that principle with respect to the loan charge.

Photo of Edward Davey Edward Davey Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Treasury), Acting Leader, Liberal Democrats, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Social Justice)

As the right hon. Gentleman knows, I am the second name on new clause 31, and he will note from the amendment paper that 54 hon. and right hon. Members have signed it. That is more than any other amendment before the House today, and the only one that comes close to it is another amendment on the loan charge. Does he not think that that is a signal that the House wants to divide on new clause 31, and that whatever the Front Benchers think, the Back Benchers who have signed new clause 31 want a vote?

Photo of David Davis David Davis Conservative, Haltemprice and Howden

The right hon. Gentleman makes a good point, but he should make it to the Speaker rather than me, as he well knows. He has been a Member nearly as long as I have.

Photo of Crispin Blunt Crispin Blunt Conservative, Reigate

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Forgive me; I might have missed the reason why are we are not going to be able to divide on new clause 31, but I would be grateful if you could explain it to me. I have today become the longest serving Member for Reigate since the Great Reform Act, so I might have missed one or two things that are going on, but I would be obliged if you could tell me why we are not going to have the opportunity to divide on new clause 31.

Photo of Nigel Evans Nigel Evans Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

I thank the hon. Member for his point of order, but I think we have to wait until the end of the debate before these decisions are made.

Photo of David Davis David Davis Conservative, Haltemprice and Howden

Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I shall move on to the other issue that I want to discuss today.

Amendment 20 would delay the imposition of the IR35 rules from 2021 until April 2023. It is very unlikely that the economic crisis we are facing will be over by April 2021, and attempting to implement IR35 will cost jobs and do serious economic damage. A few months ago, the powerful Cross-Bench House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee wrote a report on IR35, and much of what I am going to say involves quotations from that report. I will start with this:

“It is right that everyone should pay their fair share of tax. But the evidence that we heard over the course of our inquiry suggests that the IR35 rules—the government’s framework to tackle tax avoidance by those in ‘disguised employment’—have never worked satisfactorily, throughout the whole of their 20-year history. We therefore conclude that this framework is flawed.”

It is right not to impose unnecessary burdens on business at a time like this. I agree with a great deal of what the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton South East had to say about the importance of preserving—and, indeed, not destroying—employment in the current circumstances. This goes right to the issue of IR 35. The report states that

“the government made this decision after considering the issue too narrowly, in terms of its tax take. It has severely underestimated the costs to business of implementing the changes…And it did not analyse sufficiently the unintended behavioural consequences of the proposed reforms or their wider potential impact on the labour market, and on the gig economy in particular.”

Many contractors in the coming years will be left in an “undesirable halfway house”. They do not enjoy the rights that come with employment, yet they are considered employees for tax purposes. In short, IR35 will create “zero-rights employees”. I am saying this directly to Labour Members, because the idea that a Government action can create a class of employee with zero rights is an issue close to their hearts. Such employees have no rights under employment law but under tax law they are employees.

The Lords Committee called on the Government to commission an independent review to devise a better implementation of the scheme. I think that is exactly right, which is why I want to see another two years before we implement whatever the decision is. We need that time to understand precisely what the effect of our new policy will be.

It would be a disaster if, in the context of the economic crisis and the growing gig economy, the Government accidentally created that class of zero-rights employees with no holidays, no sick pay, no pension, no redundancy —no employment rights whatsoever. We must stop that happening either accidentally or deliberately, and on that basis I ask the House to support amendment 20.

Photo of Alison Thewliss Alison Thewliss Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Treasury)

I am glad to follow Mr Davis, who set out well the impact that the loan charge has had on many people’s mental health and wellbeing. Many of them will be watching the House tonight.

The implementation of the loan charge has been a disgrace. Our new clause 1 would force the Treasury to come clean on its unfairness and would require a review of the impact of the scheme. That reflects the limitations of Finance Bill amendments, but given the freedom of information revelations released yesterday by the all-party parliamentary group on the loan charge, suggesting that there was too cosy a relationship between Government officials and the staff working on the independent Morse review, looking again at this whole shambles seems appropriate.

It remains a scandal that tax professionals advise their clients to use such loopholes. It is important that people pay their fair share for the public services we all use, and the UK Government must pursue the organisations and individuals who facilitated these loans. An independent review should be carried out of the advice given. As I said in Committee, those who trade in the business of loopholes are surely looking for the next thing to come along, so coming down on those scheme promoters now would prevent future loss to the Treasury.

There is widespread concern that HMRC has failed to work constructively with those seeking a loan charge repayment plan, with concerns that some may face bankruptcy and homelessness. I thought the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden laid that out quite well. He mentioned the seven people who sadly took their own lives.

We continue to call on the UK Government to review the implementation of this policy, and our new clause 1 would force them to publish one within six months, including on the fairness with which HMRC has implemented the policy and whether it has provided reasonable flexibility on repayment plans, with the aim of avoiding business failures and individual bankruptcies.

My hon. Friend Drew Hendry tabled early-day motion 296 to welcome the publication of Sir Amyas Morse’s loan charge review and the fact that, through this Bill, the UK Government would amend relevant legislation such that loans made before 2010 would no longer be subject to the loan charge. The motion also welcomes the fact that the self-assessment deadline has been delayed until 30 September 2020.

Initial analysis suggests that more than 30,000 individuals will benefit from those and related measures, but a pause in the policy is still necessary to assure MPs that HMRC is working constructively with those who are seeking a reasonable repayment plan—one that recoups the unpaid tax while avoiding the unacceptable risks that people face. If HMRC cannot deliver on that, an independent arbitration scheme should be used.

We on the SNP Benches support the cross-party amendment 55 and new clause 31, which, as Sir Edward Davey pointed out, has 54 names to it and would provide that a prior settlement with HMRC could be unwound unless the worker failed to account for a pre-2016-17 tax liability in his or her return deliberately, despite knowing that the loan should have been included as income.

It is disappointing to hear that there may be no vote on new clause 31, given how many signatories there are to it and the lobbying we have all had. People watching this debate at home will not understand why. Since we are trading FDR quotes, we should note that he said: “In politics, nothing happens by accident. If it happens, you can bet it was planned that way.”

The Tories have failed to address our concerns about IR35, which is why we tabled amendment 16 to scrap it. Instead of pressing ahead with the discredited IR35 in the Bill, the Government should take the advice of the House of Lords—that is not something I often say, but they should; they should pause this policy and go back to the drawing board. It seems evident that the UK Government have not learned from their previous experience in the public sector and are ploughing on regardless.

On a process issue, we maintain that it was not acceptable that the Government introduced all this through a deeply contentious 45-minute money resolution debate instead of going through the full scrutiny of the Budget process. We have been against IR35 since the start, and these proposals would introduce a new group of zero-hours employees, paying full taxes without the associated employment rights—something that should give us all pause for thought. People working in our constituencies in a huge range of jobs should be entitled to those employment rights.

Under the present economic circumstances, it is wrong to place new and unfair taxes on firms. Contractors are particularly liable to be struggling at this point—not least those who are part of the 3 million people excluded from the UK Government’s support schemes. I pay tribute to ExcludedUK and all those who have sought to highlight this issue.

I have already related the experience of constituents of mine who have worked as contractors—notably, but certainly not exclusively—Indians in the IT sector in Glasgow, whose skills are highly sought after and who could easily take those skills elsewhere if it became too difficult to work here. They tell me that the UK Government’s announcement has brought a chilling effect, whereby contracts are not being renewed and new contracts are harder to come by.

Photo of Stephen Flynn Stephen Flynn Shadow SNP Deputy Spokesperson (Treasury - Financial Secretary) 7:30 pm, 1st July 2020

A number of constituents in my Aberdeen South constituency have contacted me because they are facing a triple whammy of covid-19, the oil and gas sector downturn, and the impact of IR35. Should the Government not think again?

Photo of Alison Thewliss Alison Thewliss Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Treasury)

I agree with my hon. Friend. I was going to mention the oil and gas sector, because it is part of the triple whammy. The situation is very difficult for people at the moment and the Government should not be in the business of trying to make it more difficult. They should be thinking again and looking at the circumstances we are in, rather than pressing ahead with something that does not suit these circumstances.

The “check employment status for tax” online tool for IR35 is also problematic. The UK Government have basically tried to replace a complex legal specialty—employment law—with an online quiz, which objectively does not give the same results as the courts in deciding whether an individual is an employee. We have asked questions about the empirical methods used to test that tool, but I have not been provided with any specifics other than it has apparently been rigorously tested. It is hardly surprising that employers feel that these are moving goalposts, and they may avoid the risk by avoiding using contractors altogether. We support new clause 35, which would provide that the IR35 provisions of the Bill would not take effect unless the Treasury had conducted and published a review of legislation on off-payroll working.

Our new clause 12 would make clear the economic hit that would follow the ending of the coronavirus support schemes. Along with many others across the country, I fear that winding up these schemes too soon will prompt companies to lay off staff. The major job losses announced in the past few days really must prompt the Treasury to reconsider this strategy. It is no coincidence that Airbus, Wigan Athletic, Harrods, John Lewis, easyJet, Upper Crust, TM Lewin, Royal Mail, Harveys and Arcadia have all laid off staff today and in the past few days. They are all looking at the scheme and thinking, “How are we going to survive in the next few months without any support for our workers?”

New clause 12 seeks assessments of the impact of the Bill within a month and various economic variables, comparing a situation where the Treasury sees sense and continues its covid support schemes for the next year with the likely reality that it discontinues them as planned, leaving the economy and people’s living standards reeling. The review set out in the new clause would consider the effects of the provisions on GDP, business investment, employment, productivity, company solvency, public revenues, poverty and public health.

Mr McFadden set out quite well his experience of growing up in Glasgow. We still live today with the post-industrial legacy and generation of health harms of the ’80s—with the shutdown of heavy industry and the impact that had on people’s wellbeing. I am determined that we will not see that again from this crisis. The Chancellor must live up to his pledge to do whatever it takes to protect people’s jobs and livelihoods. The Treasury Committee report published the other week said that over 1 million people have fallen through the gaps in the UK Government’s welcome support schemes. In the report, the Committee also asked the UK Government to explore measures to help those newly in employment and self-employment, freelancers and those on short-term contracts, all of whom face barriers to accessing support schemes or have sadly been excluded from them altogether. This is now a choice. The Government cannot say that they did not know that these people were left out. They are now choosing not to support them.

With the ONS earlier revealing that the UK’s economy suffered its biggest monthly slump in GDP on record—of 20.4%—in April due to the coronavirus pandemic, we have renewed our calls on the Treasury to extend the income support schemes rather than wind them down. We need only look at Leicester, where the outbreak has meant a further shutdown, and wonder whether that will happen again. How will people be incentivised to stay at home and protect their friends, neighbours and families if they do not have an income coming in? People cannot survive on statutory sick pay and without support.

There is an effect across different sectors, such as theatre and arts productions, which may not come back until March next year. How are staff in those sectors going to pay their wages without some kind of job retention or support scheme? What about the people in hospitality—many of whom have businesses next to the very same theatres that will not open their doors until March? Where are the pre-theatre dinners if there is no theatre to go to afterwards? The tourism sector faces the prospect of three consecutive winters and cannot survive without support schemes. If we want these businesses and livelihoods to exist, the Government need to pay the money now, because if they do not, they are going to pay it out in unemployment benefits. We also need to look across the nations of the UK. Scotland’s experience is different from those of England, Northern Ireland and Wales. None of the countries of the UK should be punished for putting public health first. With businesses struggling to survive, thousands of jobs on the line, and households taking a severe hit as people’s income drops or they lose their jobs, it is vital that the Treasury strengthens and extends these schemes, and brings forward a comprehensive financial package to ensure that a strong economic recovery from this crisis happens, rather than pushing ahead with these plans.

Our new clause 18 would force the Government to come clean on the damage our economy faces from Brexit in the midst of this crisis. The new clause would require a review of the impact on investment, employment and productivity of the changes to the capital allowance over time; in the event of a free trade agreement with the USA; in the event of leaving the EU without a trade agreement; in the event of leaving with an agreement to maintain single market and customs union membership; or in the event of leaving with a trade agreement that does not include single market and customs union membership.

With our economy already struggling with coronavirus, leaving the EU single market and customs union this year would do unthinkable damage to our economy. It was a bad decision before, but it is a worse decision now. The risk of long-term scarring to the economy is significant, and investment from the UK Government could stave that off, if they choose to do this. Roosevelt’s new deal was equivalent to 40% of US GDP. Germany has invested 4% of its GDP, whereas the Prime Minister has invested 0.2%. It is not just FDR’s clothes that the Prime Minister has attempted to steal this week, because President Duterte of the Philippines, whose “build, build, build” phrase he plagiarised, invested $177 billion in the Philippines economy. The UK response is completely inadequate. It is the emperor’s new clothes, leaving Scotland bare. We call on the UK Government to take up Scottish Finance Secretary Kate Forbes’ plan , which would inject £80 billion into the UK’s economy as a whole. I commend that and our new clauses to the House.

Photo of Andrew Jones Andrew Jones Chair, European Statutory Instruments Committee, Chair, European Statutory Instruments Committee

I share colleague concerns about the prospect of unemployment. One of the best things that happened over the past decade was the growth in jobs, with 1,000 new jobs a day on average. Unemployment in Harrogate and Knaresborough fell to about 2%. The current crisis is, of course, changing that dramatically. We have 9,500 people working in the hospitality sector in my constituency, so I am anxious about that and have welcomed the partial lockdown release this weekend.

The measure to help business prosper that I was most pleased to see in the Bill was the encouragement for further investment in research and development, specifically the increase in the R&D expenditure credit from 12% to 13%. Businesses win in the long term by ensuring that their product or service has competitive advantage—a reason why customers should buy it. I spent 25 years in business before coming to this place and I spent that time making sure that the companies I worked for had the right products for our customers. In some sectors it takes significant resource to develop one’s product, be it automotive or pharmaceutical—both sectors in which this country is strong—or one of plenty of others. There is a strong record of creativity in the UK, but we are not always as good at finding ways to commercialise those ideas, to go from start-up to scale-up. Creating a better environment for the development of ideas is important for the longer-term success of our economy.

I wish to make a few comments on a significant issue before us in this section of this debate, which is off-payroll working. That has attracted much attention and there are clearly some problems to solve, but they are not easy to solve. In some cases, the issue is straightforward, in that people have been working for one employer for prolonged period, perhaps for many years, and they are really employees. They do similar jobs to the person who is sitting next to them and they use the same company equipment, but it could of course be on totally different terms of employment. They could be paid better or less in terms of their headline salary, but the situation is more complex than that because they will not be paid for holidays, pension contributions and so on. I have read of cases where the imbalance of power that can exist between employer and employee has led to pressure on people to choose a particular route—in effect, people being bullied into self-employment by unscrupulous employers seeking to save on costs and national insurance. That is wrong for all parties—wrong for the employee certainly, wrong for the employer, and wrong for taxpayers too, as revenue for public services is missed. However, that is not the case for the vast majority of people. They choose a route of self-employed, freelance or contractor work expressly because they enjoy the challenge of that type of work, or perhaps they want to be their own boss and more in control of their own destiny, or there could be all sorts of other personal reasons. That is a good thing. It is to be encouraged, because the flexibility that that provides has been a great boost to our economy.

Contractors and consultants play a huge role in the economy. Their work is one of the ingredients that has contributed to the recent economic progress. Being swift of foot in response to commercial opportunities is competitive advantage. It has allowed companies to bring in extra resource when they need to boost operational capacity, or extra skills when they are needed. I have been contacted by or met many people, including many in my Harrogate and Knaresborough constituency, who have built careers adding real value to their clients. In some sectors, there is more use of contractor work than in others; such sectors include IT and technology more broadly, as well as marketing and the creative industries—sectors where the UK is strong. There is also the growing sector of interim managers.

I see a balance to be struck here—a balance between protecting some employees and recognising that the vast majority have chosen this route and are providing real value; a balance between employment rights and protections, and between those who are employed and self-employed contractors. That balance has to be struck while ensuring that the rules do not have a sclerotic effect on the economy. Flexible and nimble companies responding to their customers, adding value, creating wealth, seizing opportunities—that is how economies grow, it is how jobs are created. Fair taxation, employment protection, company flexibility, highly skilled contractors and freelancers—finding the right balance of these benefits everyone in our economy.

Photo of Paula Barker Paula Barker Labour, Liverpool, Wavertree

I remember the 1980s: 3 million people on the dole and my city of Liverpool left to managed decline. We did not cope then, but people got by. There were the remnants of the welfare state, we had council housing to provide shelter, and with whole communities often devastated simultaneously, people came together. However, this is 2020: many workers have hefty mortgages or face sky-high private rents, and as we know, private household debt in this country is completely unsustainable. It is household debt that has artificially driven economic growth for much of the past decade, when previous Tory Chancellors were declaring a sound economic recovery. Now we will see the consequences of the destruction of the welfare state in the past decade.

If this Government do not act in the coming weeks and months, I truly dread to think what happens when thousands of workers with mortgages of £180,000 to £250,000-plus, or rent payments of £650 to £1,000-plus per month are forced to apply for universal credit. It is in this Government’s power to ensure we do not get to that stage. The Government must continue to act and extend support for workers, the self-employed, small and medium-sized enterprises and all sectors of the economy, or else our recovery will be a slow one. A decade of austerity, under-investment, low productivity and a dwindling manufacturing base has blunted the levers we need to deal with this crisis properly. Despite the Chancellor demonstrating considerable ambition at times, I fear he will be hamstrung by the warped economic thinking of his predecessors and the inertia of his future self.

I saw the impact that the last tidal wave of unemployment had on my generation. We cannot subject this generation to the same. I have already seen apprentices being laid off, redundancy notices being served across the board, and even in non-unionised workplaces that may escape redundancies, cuts to pay being forced through with little or no consultation with the workforce.

The economic hardship faced by our young people will lead to a disaffected generation of adults who have had their hopes, dreams and aspirations for the future dashed by a crisis they did not cause. My first question to the Government is: does their ambition match that of our young people? How are they going to support the good, well-paid, unionised jobs of the future that our young people—my own children—will need to thrive?

We would be doing a disservice to a generation that cares deeply about our planet by not addressing the climate crisis properly. In the era of a precarious labour market that subjects so many young adults to low-paid, insecure work, we should absolutely be providing the highly skilled green manufacturing jobs of the future. Our already inadequate manufacturing base is facing yet another wrecking ball. We see that in the automotive sector, in particular, and I fear job losses coming down the track for one of the few success stories of British manufacturing in recent times.

In Liverpool, we see the University of Liverpool—the second largest employer across the city region—proposing to end 536 jobs. That will have a devastating impact on the local economy at a time when the university is in a position to absorb the shock and protect all jobs. My fear is that there will be companies that, frankly, have not been overtly affected by this crisis and have taken the taxpayer cash, but which still use the crisis as an opportunity to streamline their operations and make redundancies regardless. To those bosses, I say: shame on you. Where is their duty to this country and their duty to our society, their workforce and their communities? Despite significant taxpayer support, we see BA betraying its workforce, many of whom live in my constituency and have contacted me. And to Willie Walsh, I say: shame on you.

My second point is: where, as part of our economic recovery and as part of the Bill, does it say that the Government will practically engage with employers that are intent on making what I have referred to as excess and needless redundancies? I have been inundated with correspondence from constituents, as Members across the House will also testify to, during this crisis. The plight of small businesses is heartbreaking and it is stark to see how many small businesses are slipping through the nets. For example, my constituents Karen and Matt Cox, who run Matt Cox Hairdressing, are getting no support from the Government, like my constituents Graeme Park, who is part of the creative industry sector, and Jayne Moore from Moore Media. They are part of the #ForgottenLtd campaign, which highlights the gaping black holes in the Government’s support packages.

Too many small businesses in my constituency are on the brink of collapse. Small company directors and their often small workforces are facing a bleak future. How does the Chancellor propose, as part of the Bill, to support small businesses in the longer term? The road back to normality for millions of SMEs will be a long, painful one, and any talk of a V-shaped economic recovery could bypass many.

In conclusion, if we are to come out of this crisis on the other side, the scale of the Government’s ambition needs to be scaled up. I am worried that this Finance Bill addresses little of the challenges we face. The Government like invoking war references, so here is one: only a Labour Government with the ambition of the post-war 1945 Labour Government can steer us through this coming period. For the sake of our people, I hope that is a challenge that this Government can live up to.

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Conservative, Wimbledon 7:45 pm, 1st July 2020

I am fortunate to have represented Wimbledon in this House, and it has seen unemployment levels driven to unheard-of low levels. However, as a result of this crisis, 10,000 people are on furlough and 4,000 self-employed have had help, so the suggestion that there is anybody in this House not concerned about unemployment must be false; it will affect all our constituencies, as will not only this Finance Bill, but the Government’s reaction in terms of the policies they put in place, flexibility about the furlough scheme, job support and, as my hon. Friend Andrew Jones said, some consideration of how IR35 works. There needs to be some flexibility, because modern working sees people with the same employer for longer periods, and some employers will force people to do that. Therefore, in the context of the current crisis, forcing people to move away from arrangements that keep them in employment would undoubtedly be wrong.

I do not want to detain the House for too long, but I want to talk about the loan charge. Like many in this House, I have been contacted by a number of my constituents and others.

Photo of Joy Morrissey Joy Morrissey Conservative, Beaconsfield

My concern about the loan charge is the repayment method that HMRC is pursuing. I ask that the Government look at alternative ways, or means-testing, rather than just demanding punitive repayment in full, which is causing extreme emotional stress and, for some, even suicide. If they would look at alternative ways of collection, rather than demanding all payment at once, I think we could find a much better way through this.

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Conservative, Wimbledon

My hon. Friend anticipates some of the questions I might have for the Minister in a moment. The loan charge raises particularly unique considerations; that is why 55 Members of the House have signed the new clause tabled by my right hon. Friend Mr Davis. The whole aspect of proportionality and the unusual construction of the charge also raise issues about the capability of HMRC and the role of financial advisers.

I have spoken in various debates, and made representations to my right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury only this week, about the charge and the impact it is having on very many people. I am pleased that the Government set up the Morse review and that they have accepted most of its recommendations, but I ask the Minister to address a couple of points in his closing remarks.

First, Morse explicitly states:

“I am also very clear that I have no sympathy for the people who promoted…loan schemes after the law became clear.”

Will my right hon. Friend the Minister clarify this: if financial advisers gave recommendations when the law was not clear that the loans were illegal, why will the Government not accept that those individuals acted in good faith and look at the ability to treat them more leniently?

Secondly, given the Morse comment, will my right hon. Friend confirm whether HMRC is investigating the advisers? Is it seeking reparations from the advisers, and, if it intends to do so, would it agree that the amount of reparation sought from the financial adviser be set against the liability of the person who took the loan?

As my hon. Friend Joy Morrissey said, we all want to ensure that bankruptcy, home loss and family destruction do not happen. My right hon. Friend the Minister has alluded in previous remarks to the fact that the Government are keen to ensure that that does not happen and that he has asked HMRC to work with individuals to ensure that it does not. Will he set out tonight exactly how he intends to instruct HMRC to do that?

Finally, I will just have a look at amendment 55. I absolutely support the intent, which is to help those affected and to alleviate the crisis that many face. Like most people, I absolutely oppose the concept of retrospectivity and retroactivity, so it is a bit of a disappointment to many of us that, in accepting the Morse recommendations, the Government did not feel able to accept the recommendation that loans between 2010 and 2016 be exempt. I wonder whether the Minister might, even at this late stage, choose to do so. I suspect not.

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Conservative, Wimbledon

I am not very good at holding my breath, so I certainly shall not try it now—but probably people do not want me to expend much more breath in my remarks tonight.

I must say to my right hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and Howden that my problem is with part of what his new clause does. I absolutely accept the premise, as everybody in this House must, that people are innocent until proven guilty. However, and I do not know whether this has really been addressed so far, his new paragraph 1(c)(1A)(c) says that condition 1 is that

“P knew that the loan or quasi loan should have been accounted for as income in the relevant year.”

There is a fundamental problem with that, in that anyone could say they did not know that, and how do we prove it? The clear problem is that, much as I support the intent of what he is trying to do, the effect of what he seeks would be to create a precedent that seems to me to take away the basis of the UK tax system, because I might say to someone, “We both know that we should not be paying tax on this and therefore we can proceed on that premise.” The precedent that that sets is a major problem for gathering tax.

Photo of David Davis David Davis Conservative, Haltemprice and Howden

If my hon. Friend thinks that this is the precedent, he should go back to the Finance Act 2008, which gives HMRC a 20-year assessment period in which it can assess whether the taxpayer participated in a transaction knowing that it was part of an arrangement attempting to bring about loss of tax. That is precisely what it says.

Photo of David Davis David Davis Conservative, Haltemprice and Howden

Yes, it is on the statute book. The precedent is there.

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Conservative, Wimbledon

The precedent that I am looking at is very clear that there seems to be an issue with the whole tax system.

Photo of Edward Davey Edward Davey Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Treasury), Acting Leader, Liberal Democrats, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Social Justice)

The hon. Gentleman has heard from Mr Davis that the way that new clause 31 has been designed has used words already on the statute book, so he cannot make that argument. Moreover, the real precedent that he ought to be worrying about is the loan charge itself and its retrospective nature. I know he is concerned about that, so should he not therefore be voting for new clause 31, which is based on existing tax vocabulary, and opposing the real precedent, which is the appalling way that taxpayers have been treated?

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Conservative, Wimbledon

I have already made the point about retroactive behaviour and retrospectivity. I have said that there is much that the Government can do. I want the Minister to set out exactly how a person who has no assets, is on benefits or is on earnings less than the national average could get forgiveness. I have explained what I am concerned about. I hear what my right hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and Howden has said, and perhaps the Minister will want to address the point I am raising. I may be wrong, but it seems to me that this is quite a dangerous precedent to embark on.

Photo of Joy Morrissey Joy Morrissey Conservative, Beaconsfield

Referring to the means-tested and alternative ways of looking at a nuanced approach to how this is handled, the point that has been raised about everyone denying culpability on a tax issue is valid. However, my concern is about the companies and advisers that promoted this scheme. Are we going to prosecute them? Are we going to investigate them? What are we going to do to hold them to account?

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Conservative, Wimbledon

I hope that my hon. Friend heard my earlier remarks on that point, so I will not repeat them.

I would be grateful to hear the Minister’s responses to the points that I have made and look forward to hearing them later.

Photo of Rupa Huq Rupa Huq Labour, Ealing Central and Acton

I think it was some time before Brexit, when we had that previous Speaker with his comedy antics, that it used to be said that we are gripped by an age of apathy in politics. Well, I have to say that this debate has engendered quite the opposite in my inbox, which has been flooded—if not quite on a Dominic Cummings scale—by dozens of requests from constituents asking me to speak in this debate, aided and abetted by the digital function that we debated earlier today.

Yesterday, like other right hon. and hon. Members, I was pleased to participate in the virtual “The Time Is Now” lobby. I know that this was the subject of the previous debate, but I promised my constituents that I would lobby vigorously for the adoption of a green new deal. Seeing as how everyone has been channelling their inner Roosevelt, it seems appropriate to put that on the record. We need a greening of our economy locally and nationally.

I want mainly to address an issue that has already come up time and again—IR35 and the loan charge—and perhaps some other little bits about job creation and regional impacts.

I am sure I am not the only one who has heard harrowing stories from constituents. There are people in tears at my weekly advice surgery—and I represent Ealing Central and Acton, a prosperous West London suburban seat. The two schemes are markedly different—we should not muddy the waters too much—but they have features in common. The undercurrent of today’s debate has been how we rebuild our economy after the pandemic —this health crisis that turned into an economic crisis.

We have these phrases, don’t we? “Whatever it takes,” “Get Brexit done”—that was when there was a stubborness about extending transition—“levelling up.” It takes more than soundbites, though. I would like to test the Government to see how far they really mean those things. I am obviously supporting the official Opposition’s new clause, but I would have backed new clause 31, if we were to vote on it. The list of constituents who have come to see me about this ill-fated loan charge is long. Aymon Jaffer, an IT contractor, took out one of these loans in 2010 to pay off debts and save for a deposit on a house in my seat—a house that he is now at risk of losing.

People point out that they declared what they were doing on their self-assessment form. Even the tax code was okayed by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. They were told that this was a less burdensome way of doing things than starting their own plc. As soon as the first sniff of a discrepancy appeared, they paid the shortfall. The retrospective aspect is worrying; people are now being told that all these other things will be reopened. In the case of my constituent, HMRC mixed this up with a student loan from years ago, which had been was paid off. There are aggressive letters, maladministration, and, for this constituent, health issues. That is just one example from a three-figure number of examples that I could give.

Photo of Matt Rodda Matt Rodda Shadow Minister (Transport) (Buses) 8:00 pm, 1st July 2020

Does my hon. Friend agree that the common characteristic of the people who have contacted many of us is that they are very hardworking? They have tried to play by the rules. They have possibly been sold a scheme that they did not fully understand, and may have been manipulated by unscrupulous advisers, and now they face threatening behaviour from HMRC. It is truly difficult for these people, many of whom work in IT in the Thames valley, and in creative industries. Does she agree that the Government need to show these people some understanding?

Photo of Rupa Huq Rupa Huq Labour, Ealing Central and Acton

My hon. Friend is completely right. HMRC needs to show some humanity in these cases. The scheme was obviously badly implemented, with inadequate impact assessment. The word “scandal” is frequently used and often misapplied, but in this case, all the elements needed are there. People have been pushed into bankruptcy; families have been fractured; people are facing financial ruin and losing their homes. As we have heard, there have been seven suicides. The all-party parliamentary loan charge group, which is very active—I am sure it is in everyone’s inbox all the time—has sent round a letter from the daughter of one of the people who sadly took their own life about the impact that has had on everyone involved.

The Morse review is a start, although the APPG feels that it could do better and go much further. All of us have seen these cases; my hon. Friend Paula Barker described the situation movingly.

Photo of Ruth Cadbury Ruth Cadbury Labour, Brentford and Isleworth

Does my hon. Friend and neighbour agree that the reason why people are driven to suicide, and why a high proportion of those affected are so stressed about the loan charge, as has been mentioned, is that there is no right of appeal to a tax tribunal, or right to negotiate, as there is with all normal forms of tax business with HMRC?

Photo of Rupa Huq Rupa Huq Labour, Ealing Central and Acton

I completely agree, and I pay tribute to the work that my hon. Friend has done on the APPG, together with Sir Mike Penning; they have done brilliant stuff, and it is disappointing that we will not vote on new clause 31 today.

Photo of Iain Duncan Smith Iain Duncan Smith Conservative, Chingford and Woodford Green

The hon. Lady talked about the Morse review. We called for a review before the present Prime Minister was brought in; he agreed to it. The Morse review does not completely cover everything. I have certainly said to my constituents, as I suspect most of us have, that the Government were bound to implement its findings, even if we think the findings could have gone further—but the Government have not done that. That shows a lot of bad faith on their part.

Photo of Rupa Huq Rupa Huq Labour, Ealing Central and Acton

I completely concur with the right hon. Gentleman. It is very disappointing that even the crumbs of the Morse review are not being fully implemented in a transparent and fair way. Again, we have heard so much about these reviews. There are 200 recommendations on all the race relations stuff that have never been implemented. Another review is not what we need now; we need action.

My hon. Friend Matt Rodda described some of the people in IT who have come to see him. Those affected are not actually all in IT or accountants. Some of those who have come to me are from the public sector, including Eugene Nicholson in the NHS and Abigail Watts. I have had a supply teacher and a social worker. Some people are terrified and do not want their cases raised because of repercussions. As has already been said, the real culprits are the promoters of the schemes—individuals who are still practising today. They duped our constituents, who are now facing a nightmare of private debt collection and all sorts of things.

I will briefly turn to IR35, where there is some overlap, because it has caused enormous pain and strain. People got into these schemes innocently—in this case, their employers told them to do it. Many are individuals on low incomes who do not have deep pockets. The assumption is that they are all tax dodgers or whatever. Catherine Qian said that she was a one-woman band. These are micro-businesses. It is not like the discussion earlier where we were talking about going after multinationals. She has no employment rights. She has an accusation of being a hidden employee, but she gets no sick pay, stability or pension. Needless to say, she is not eligible for furlough. The Conservative manifesto at the election we recently fought said that there would be a review of self-employment, so I ask the Minister directly: when will that see the light of day? Will it be another one of these reviews that just sits on a dusty shelf?

How do we solve all of this? At the very least, HMRC should give those who fell prey to the loan charge more time and favourable conditions to reach an amicable solution. It has been said that no one will lose their home, and that is good, but HMRC must accept its share of responsibility.

Photo of Ruth Cadbury Ruth Cadbury Labour, Brentford and Isleworth

My hon. Friend is right that HMRC has said it will not be taking people’s homes, but is she aware, as I am, that bailiffs on behalf of HMRC are locking people out of their own homes and refusing to let them back in until they make payment?

Photo of Rupa Huq Rupa Huq Labour, Ealing Central and Acton

My hon. Friend is so much more knowledgeable than me. Lots of my constituents cannot afford to buy their own home and are in rented accommodation, so that does not even apply to them. They are in beds in sheds—maybe I should not dob them in, but that is a phenomenon in the London Borough of Ealing.

Again, HMRC must accept responsibility for not communicating regularly with people. It could have acted sooner to avoid this sizeable group of people who went into these remuneration schemes having to pay back sometimes hundreds of thousands of pounds at a time. IR35 is being rolled out now, so the deferral is obviously welcome, because these things can be fixed in real time, as long as the deferral is not just pushing punitive measures further away. The Government need to urgently commit to a full review of tax reliefs.

While the debate is about job creation, I want to flag, as my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Wavertree pointed out, that the global pandemic we are in seems to be a bit of a cover for certain companies to behave badly. British Airways and Virgin spring to mind as using the coronavirus job retention scheme—the clue is in the name—to do the very opposite. Having accepted furlough funds from the public purse, they are now using coronavirus as a cover for restructuring plans—plans they were always itching to execute—while they believe the eyes of the world are diverted elsewhere. I say to the Minister that we need a sector-specific deal for aviation.

The situation is the same for the creative, cultural and arts sector. I represent many constituents who work in it. Not for nothing was Ealing long-called a BBC borough. The Questors theatre—the jewel in our crown—is the biggest amateur dramatic venue in the country and it has written to me. It is about to go under. Its rateable value is too high to get any of the reliefs. That is another plea to the Minister.

We were told that, when we left the EU, we would be world-beating on employment rights, and that our rights could exceed those of the bloc after Brexit, but now, with IR35, we are heading for zero employment rights. The Government always said that this would not be a race to the bottom, so they need to put their money where their mouth is. There is nothing like a global pandemic to concentrate the mind. We have heard slogans such as, “We’re all in this together”. To stop all these Government utterances from being just hollow words, we need action. Snappy slogans are not enough.

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Conservative, Gainsborough

It is true that we find ourselves in a very serious situation. The number of workers on UK payrolls was down by more than 600,000 between March and May. Of course, the Government are attempting to redress the situation with the Business and Planning Bill and the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Bill. We also hope that we can end lockdown as soon as possible. Certainly, the Prime Minister is talking the talk in terms of build, build, build. That is all very good. We have infrastructure needs; let us meet them. There are no massive spending projects. The problem with them is that they are often hugely bogged down in cost overruns.

I want to say a bit about tax simplification. That is the genesis of this whole debate on IR35 and the loan charge. There is also our hugely ineffective, inefficient and long tax code—longer than India’s—and that is after 10 years of Conservative Government. I think that there is a new wind breathing through No.10, and I hope that we are going to be bold about tax reform. Are there any taxes that we can abolish completely or replace with simpler alternatives? We have created this massive tax avoidance industry, which has sucked many people with quite moderate means into its claws. Let me cite as one example, inheritance tax at 40%. We have to understand how people act. At a rate of 40%, most people are willing to make a significant investment to reduce the effectiveness of that rate. I am not condoning that behaviour, but if someone were left a million pounds and if the state said that it would take £400,000, they might begin to think that it is worth spending £40,000 or £50,000 on tax advice as a way of lessening their payment of tax. All sorts of complicated trusts and avoidance schemes are available to those who recognise that they can avoid paying tax. The result is less money for the Treasury to spend on the things that we need.

On this debate about the loan charge, it is natural that politicians should want to close down loopholes, but often, in closing down loopholes, we are affecting people of quite modest means. It is true that as a level of complexity involves means, those loopholes are usually available to those who have the resources to investigate them, but not necessarily. An entire industry has been created around how to lessen our tax burden, inheritance or otherwise, and I think that the Government are, in a way, responsible for this kind of behaviour. The people who have taken advantage of these tax loopholes, often of modest means, are simply reacting to our hugely complex tax codes. Taxes need simplifying and they need lowering. I make that point because I hope the Minister will say something in his summing up about this. I hope that he tells us that the Government have an agenda, otherwise we will go on having these debates over and over again. Every time a new loophole is discovered, people will take advantage of it, often with the wrong sort of advice. Then the Government have to close the loophole, creating injustice, which we have heard all about in this debate.

Photo of Iain Duncan Smith Iain Duncan Smith Conservative, Chingford and Woodford Green

My right hon. Friend talks about tax loopholes and, yes, that is absolutely clear, but the thing about the loan charge is that HMRC itself was complicit in the process. It was advising and letting people believe that those charges were quite safe and reasonable. Then quietly, it came to the conclusion that they were not and did not make it clear to anybody. In effect, therefore, it is HMRC that has created the tax loophole and then failed to identify it and tell people that they were on the wrong scheme.

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Conservative, Gainsborough

I absolutely agree with my right hon. Friend, and he puts it far more clearly than I have done. I was trying to make the point that he has just made, which is that, ultimately, HMRC and the Treasury are responsible for this in not giving proper advice and in creating an over-complex tax system, and that has created this kind of behaviour. It is natural behaviour and we should not blame the people who have tried to take advantage of these sort of schemes. This complexity kills the economy.

Photo of Christopher Chope Christopher Chope Conservative, Christchurch

One of my constituents says that because he put in freedom of information requests to HMRC, on two occasions last summer, HMRC paid him a visit at his home. Is that the behaviour we expect from HMRC?

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Conservative, Gainsborough 8:15 pm, 1st July 2020

We have learned to expect that sort of behaviour. As Ronald Reagan said—we have heard about Roosevelt, so why can we not hear from Ronald Reagan, who was a better sort of Conservative as far as I am concerned?—when we tax something, we get less of it, and when we subsidise something, we get more of it. Research from the European Central Bank shows that when the tax burden is raised by 1%, economic growth is reduced by 0.13%. We have heard a lot about job creation, but that change means many fewer jobs. Every time we create taxes, we destroy jobs.

The Office for Budget Responsibility forecasts that the UK tax burden will grow to 34.6% of GDP by 2024, which is the highest tax burden for this country in more than half a century. We think of ourselves as a seafaring, deal-doing, trading nation, but how can we compete when the trend of tax burden is going the wrong way? That is how we will stifle job creation. We must look at a comprehensive reform of our economy, not the usual tinkering under the hood, and we can do some of that through regulatory reform. That is not aiming for deregulation—instead, the Government should ensure that the UK’s regulatory structure is simple, clear, and appropriate. That is the genesis of this entire debate: our tax system is not simple, not clear, and not straightforward.

If we radically simplify the tax system we will spur more activity, so it is a virtuous circle of benefit to the whole of our society. Imagine if all the money spent on corporate or personal tax avoidance—tax avoidance is perfectly legal, I say to the Minister—could be invested in productive activity instead. Imagine all those thousands of accountants going off and taking up machine tools—I know it is unlikely, but at least it is a thought. That would also be fairer, as it would no longer mean that the richer someone is, or the bigger their company, the more they are capable of exploiting complicated tax loopholes.

We know it is simplistic to base our economy on Singapore or Hong Kong—we are a larger country with more complex needs—but on tax policy, the example they have set is applicable. Let us consider per capita GDP of the UK, Singapore and Hong Kong. They were all more or less at a parity in 1989, about five years after I came to this House, with each at around $25,000 a year. All three countries have improved their GDP per capita, but the scale of the difference is notable. By 2016, six years into a Conservative Government, the UK, with its complex tax code, had a per capita GDP of $37,000. Low tax, simple tax Hong Kong was at more than $48,000, and Singapore at $65,000 to our $37,000. We neglect at our peril that opportunity for a huge growth in numbers of jobs, for our per capita GDP and for income for the Treasury. My simple point to the Minister is this: when he sums up, will he say something about tax simplification and tax reduction?

Photo of Mary Foy Mary Foy Labour, City of Durham

We are facing an employment crisis unlike anything we have seen in a decade. The impact of coronavirus will undoubtedly weaken much of our infrastructure, leaving many workers unemployed, and businesses on the brink of collapse. Unfortunately, when lockdown ends, the Government seem intent on a return to normality and business as usual, stuck in the past when they should be learning lessons and looking to the future. The Government’s slow reaction cost us as we entered this pandemic, and they cannot repeat that mistake as we emerge from lockdown.

In contrast, my hon. Friend Anneliese Dodds has proposed a back-to-work Budget that places jobs at the heart of the economic recovery. That does not mean a sticking plaster solution, however, or jobs with little or no protection for workers. The damage to our economy caused by this awful virus has been severe, but the economic structuring of society was already broken—skewed in favour of the wealthy rather than workers.

Over the last decade of Tory austerity, the Government have launched attack after attack on the rights and protections afforded to working people. Through the promotion of zero-hours contracts, ambiguity in employment status, low pay and lack of protection in the workplace, the Government have encouraged irresponsible employers and abandoned the country’s workers. Before lockdown, 9 million people living below the poverty line—3 million of them children—were in households with at least one person in work. The Government boast of record levels of employment, but they should be ashamed of the amount of in-work poverty. This economic model needs to end.

If this pandemic has shown us anything, it is that the people on whom society relies the most are those least rewarded in pay and respect. Whether it is the poorly paid nurse, the carer on a zero-hours contract or the retail and hospitality staff working shifts so long that they would not be out of place in Victorian society, the people of Britain deserve better. This pandemic has been devastating, but it provides us with an opportunity to shape the economy and society in a way that prioritises the environment and protects workers. That means better pay, shorter and more consistent working hours and job security. Workers need to be able to look ahead into the week knowing that they have work, that their wages will provide a decent standard of living and that their working hours will leave them the time and energy to live their life. The better the conditions and protection for workers, the better their quality of life and the greater their health, wellbeing and sense of worth—it really is that simple.

The pandemic has also exposed the lack of protections for staff in the workplace and how fragile health and safety standards are. The Government must begin to see employment law as a red line, rather than being advisory, and they must properly fund the Health and Safety Executive, so that safety in the workplace is properly enforced. When the Government finally begin to plan for our post-coronavirus society, they must accept that the status quo has not worked, and any attempt to return to business as usual will fail the public. The 33 million workers of Britain deserve more. When society needed them most during this pandemic, they delivered. It is time for the Government to do the same for them.

Photo of Ben Everitt Ben Everitt Conservative, Milton Keynes North

I draw the House’s attention to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests.

In this part of our debate, we are talking about jobs. Today the Government launched the flexible furlough scheme, and flexibility needs to be the watchword of our response and how we consider the economy. We are emerging, blinking in the sunlight from lockdown, and our businesses are blinking too, in the light of the new economic reality. Things will never be the same. Things have changed irrevocably, and we have learned a lot about our society, volunteering and our communities. We have learned a lot too about how business will need to change and adapt.

The drivers of that change—the adapters—are the consultants and contractors in our professional services sector, which provides such immense value to our economy and also revenue to the Exchequer. These are the people who bring the sparkle of innovation. They are the lubricant of the cogs of capitalism. They are the critical friend to beleaguered boards and exhausted executives. These are the people who are caught up in the IR35 reforms. I welcome the decision of my right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury to postpone the introduction of those reforms until next spring. I am sure that, in the short term, that decision will have reassured many who face huge challenges in retooling our economy, reorganising the businesses that provide those jobs and repositioning and repurposing our private sector.

Photo of Christine Jardine Christine Jardine Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Women and Equalities)

Does the hon. Member perhaps wonder, as I do, if postponing does not simply extend the period of stress for people who are waiting to find out? I was curious about that.

Photo of Ben Everitt Ben Everitt Conservative, Milton Keynes North

The hon. Member has perhaps read my speech. That postponement is quite problematic, and in fact I am sure I am far from alone on the Benches either side of this Chamber when I say that I wish it were not postponed, but were cancelled.

However, we can learn lessons. I welcome the commitment to review the implementation of IR35 in the public sector because, frankly, this is about the implementation of such schemes. Dr Huq noted some similarities between the loan charge and IR35. I think the biggest similarity is the fact that both have been implemented in a way that one could describe as a sledgehammer to crack a nut. These nuts are important to our economy, and I hope that we can learn some lessons and implement such schemes in a way that captures the essence of what we want to do, which is obviously to crack down on elaborate and excessive tax avoidance and, indeed, in the words of my right hon. Friend Sir Edward Leigh, simplify our tax system and make it more efficient and more productive, but we must have an equitable and fair system—a system that empowers growth, but ensures that we benefit from a buoyant economy.

The ability of a flexible workforce to assist our businesses, large and small, across the economy in this time of particular economic turmoil will be crucial to our recovery, and it is one that we must not curtail. We must not risk squandering the competitive advantage that our British spirit—our consultancy sector, our contractors, our professional services—gives to the UK economy as we look to bounce back or, in the words of a Prime Minister, bounce back better, bounce back faster and bounce back greener. Many contractors and consultants will be watching this debate today and looking to the Treasury Bench for some hope, and some sign that they are not forgotten and that this Government recognise them as part of the solution to our economic woes, not part of the problem we face.

Photo of Charlotte Nichols Charlotte Nichols Labour, Warrington North

Our economy stands on the brink of catastrophe. The coronavirus job retention scheme has been, there is no doubt, an unprecedented package of support, which I welcomed as a vital lifeline for employers and sectors across our economy. We have seen already, however, how the failure to attach conditionality to the scheme meant that too many employers have used it as a subsidy towards the notice pay of staff they were laying off, rather than to preserve jobs. We have seen huge job losses announced in sectors across the economy, and many more businesses are vulnerable, particularly in catering and hospitality, aviation, manufacturing and the creative sectors.

The approach from the Government has been one size fits all, but more bespoke support must be forthcoming to ensure the viability of businesses and sectors that have been hardest hit by this crisis and by social distancing measures that may be in place for some considerable time. I ask the Government also to look at early warning systems, so that employers can access targeted support before sliding into administration, with the Government taking an equity stake, where necessary, to protect the taxpayer interest.

I turned 18 as the 2008 economic crash started to bite. I know what it is like to be totally despondent, looking at opportunities that generations before us took for granted, feeling that they will never be in our reach, yet the anxiety I felt has nothing on what young people in Warrington North and across the country will be feeling right now, given the scale of our current crisis. They need hope and cause for optimism.

Further to the measures outlined in the Bill, I urge the Government to develop a scheme based on the future jobs fund to support young unemployed people into work and give them the opportunity to establish their careers in their chosen sectors. Decades of research has shown the scarring effect of youth unemployment, which can be a lifetime penalty for young people, in terms of subsequent lower pay, higher unemployment and reduced life chances. If we do not get this right, and get it right now, the impacts will be felt for decades to come.

But it is not just about the creation of jobs, but about where those jobs are. Young people in Warrington should be able to realise their aspirations in Warrington. Although our town has been a regional success story, I still speak to many young people who tell me that they feel like they have to go to Manchester or London to achieve their full potential. We need investment in strategic capital projects, such as a much-needed new hospital in Warrington, with all the opportunities that will bring, from engineering and construction to the potential for a new medical school at the University of Chester, Warrington campus, and the revitalisation of our town centre. We need investment in research and development in growth sectors such as hydrogen gas, where we can establish ourselves as global leaders, and in nationally important infrastructure projects, which have been shown to have large employment multipliers, such as in nuclear. We also need to invest in our cultural life. This is not a “nice to have”; our cultural institutions are the lifeblood of our community.

I fully support the calls by the Metro Mayors of the Liverpool city region and the Greater Manchester region, which Warrington North borders on either side, for us to build back better. We cannot as a country afford to make the mistakes that we made following the last economic crisis, when we saw an unprecedented transfer of wealth from the working and middle classes to the very richest. As my hon. Friend Mary Kelly Foy laid out so eloquently, work has too often trapped people in poverty, rather than providing a route out of it. The Government must act to ensure that coronavirus cannot be used as a cover to drive terms and conditions down even further for our most precarious and poorly paid workers. The ambition of this Bill needs to be not just our immediate recovery, but a fairer, more sustainable economy that works for the many, not the few.

Photo of Taiwo Owatemi Taiwo Owatemi Labour, Coventry North West 8:30 pm, 1st July 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has revealed much of what we already knew about our jobs market and the deeply entrenched structural problems in our economy: insecure work, low-paid jobs, wages that are not rising as much as they should and our reliance on debt and consumer spending. However, this crisis offers an opportunity to provide a remedy to these problems and for the Government to act—to act decisively, to act now and to act in the interests of my constituents in Coventry North West and across the country, so that even more people do not lose their jobs and we can boost their incomes and recover from this crisis.

There are 13,100 people in my constituency who are on furlough and there were 4,630 claimants for unemployment benefits in May. These figures are staggering, and my constituents, as well as the millions who have lost their jobs across the country, demand action. I welcome the introduction of the furlough scheme. Labour called for the introduction of the scheme, which has provided a lifeline for my constituents. We need to ensure that businesses can keep workers on furlough.

Photo of Alex Davies-Jones Alex Davies-Jones Labour, Pontypridd

My hon. Friend is making some important points. The Bill is not just about job creation; it is about job protection. So many people are being abandoned by this Government, and they desperately need saving to secure their livelihoods and protect their jobs now and for the future.

Photo of Taiwo Owatemi Taiwo Owatemi Labour, Coventry North West

I have been contacted by many residents who are extremely worried about the changes to the furlough scheme and their potential impact on unemployment. One of my constituents, James, recently got in touch with me to say that the company that his partner works for has already announced that it will be letting almost 40 employees go. The reason the company gave, I am told, was that the Government have asked employers to share the load of the furlough scheme from August. As can be imagined, staff at the company have been left heartbroken and have said that they feel this is completely wrong and runs contrary to the much repeated idea that a furlough scheme was a job retention scheme. James has said to me that while he understands that companies must ensure that they can continue to operate on a sustainable financial footing, it seems very unethical of the company to make the decision to reduce its numbers two months before that would start to become a significant financial burden on it.

The Prime Minister has repeatedly said that companies should not use the scheme just to keep employees on their books, only to get rid of them later, but should use it as a scheme to retain jobs. This compounds my view that the furlough scheme masks the true extent of the crisis in our jobs market. Since the start of the crisis, the Government have been too slow to take these threats seriously. We have seen very little from the Government around preventing unemployment since their economic package was created. If we do not take action now, we could see even more people lose their jobs.

This crisis requires a regional response, so that places such as the west midlands are not left behind. The Government’s one-size-fits-all approach fails to understand how our economy works. My own city has seen a devastating impact, with mass redundancies coming at Coventry College. Last week, I spoke about the impact on the aviation industry, with job losses at Rolls-Royce Ansty and in the arts and small businesses such as Exhibit 3Sixty. We need to protect our industries in the west midlands. That is why we need decisive rapid action to boost the economy, to provide small and medium-sized firms with the support they need, and to give businesses the strongest incentive to start creating jobs again.

My office has already started this work. Working alongside Coventry City Council, we are getting ahead of the response. I will not sit idly by while people in my community lose their jobs and vital skills. I have been holding a series of meetings with employment and skills agencies, as well as with Coventry and Warwickshire chamber of commerce and other business groups, to discuss supporting businesses during this time and upskilling people so that they can secure jobs for the future and find new work now. As part of its employment and skills priority for Coventry, the city council has been working with partners to host a series of virtual jobs fairs, with thousands of views and impressions to give people a head start. But this effort cannot be left up to us. The Government must do everything in their power to create support systems for those who become unemployed as well as new opportunities. We need to see the Government working with employers, unions and local government, with a joint approach across government to maximise job creation and comprehensive support to tackle unemployment.

Photo of Matt Rodda Matt Rodda Shadow Minister (Transport) (Buses)

Does my hon. Friend agree that there is a role for private sector landlords in this, working with the Government and local authorities? I have been quite taken aback by the approach of a number of commercial landlords who put extreme pressure on tenants at this time, which I believe is quite wrong.

Photo of Taiwo Owatemi Taiwo Owatemi Labour, Coventry North West

I agree with my hon. Friend; that is completely wrong.

No business or individual should be left behind. Every livelihood deserves the chance to survive this crisis. Otherwise, who knows what impact it will cause? Where there are job losses, will the Government commit to retraining those workers, whether old or young, through a future jobs fund so that they can harness the jobs that will come out of the crisis? Those jobs should be part of a new, prosperous economy, and they should be green, well-paid and sustainable. We do not need a race to the bottom, the slashing of safety regulations or the austere measures that we have seen in the past 10 years. The Chancellor said that he would do “whatever it takes” and frankly that is the least that my constituents in Coventry North West deserve. We have seen 18 years of growth and millions of jobs lost in two short months. To restore dignity, to save jobs and create new ones and to stimulate this much-needed recovery, bold progressive action is required. Nothing less will do.

Photo of Nigel Evans Nigel Evans Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

If Judith Cummins wishes to speak until 8.39, she may do so. Otherwise, I need to call the Minister.

Photo of Judith Cummins Judith Cummins Labour, Bradford South

I have 40 seconds. Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker!

I want to comment on two things. The first is the beauty, aesthetic and wellbeing industry, which is far wider than the nail bars that the Prime Minister has flippantly referred to. It is a sector that contributes a hugely significant £6.6 billion to the UK economy, employs more than 300,000 people across the UK and provides 16,000 apprenticeships, yet it seems to have been forgotten. Hundreds of jobs are at risk. The industry needs clarity, and it needs it now. Those people want to know when they can go back to work. Also—

Photo of Jesse Norman Jesse Norman The Financial Secretary to the Treasury

I take my hat off to the astonishing hon. Member for Bradford South (Judith Cummins), who brought so much content into such a short presentation, and I thank her for that. We have an enormous body of material to get through quickly, so I shall deal initially with the question relating to new clause 26 on job creation and related measures. The new clause would require the Government to conduct an assessment of the effect of the Act on job creation. As the House will know, the Government have announced unprecedented support through the coronavirus job retention scheme, the self-employed scheme and the like. The Office for Budget Responsibility has said that those actions will directly help to support the incomes of individuals. The Treasury does not produce economic forecasts and the OBR does, publishing them twice a year. For that reason, I ask Members to reject the new clause.

New clause 12 relates to a matter previously considered in the Public Bill Committee, the impact on regions and nations. The new clause would require the Chancellor, within one month, to review the impact of the Act. As I emphasised in Committee, the provisions in this Bill have already been developed with careful consideration. Analysis of Government decisions on GDP is also carried out by the independent OBR. Again, we will continue to monitor the impact of the crisis, but I ask Members to reject the new clause. SNP new clause 18 would require a review of the impact of the Act on investment, productivity and employment. Again, it would require the Government to look at hypothetical scenarios, whereas the OBR is required by law to produce its forecasts based on stated Government policy, so I ask Members to reject the measure.

I come now to IR35 and the off-payroll working rules. I have been pressed vigorously on this issue by my hon. Friends the Members for Milton Keynes North (Ben Everitt), for Guildford (Angela Richardson), for Workington (Mark Jenkinson) and for Barrow and Furness (Simon Fell). Amendments 16 and 17 seek to remove the reform of these rules from the Bill, which would be a serious mistake, costing the country many hundreds of millions of pounds. The level of non-compliance at the moment with the rules is scheduled to cost the country £1.3 billion in 2023-24 if not addressed. As I do not believe the SNP really wants that, I encourage Members to vote against it.

I come now to the cross-party amendments framed by my right hon. Friend Mr Davis, as it is important to engage with several of the things he said. He said that contractors could be pushed into a state of no benefits employment. It is important to note the contractors already receive a number of benefits funded by the Government when they are employees of their own personal service companies. Such benefits include statutory maternity, paternity, adoption, parental bereavement and shared parental pay, and they are provided by PSCs, which are then able to claim 100% of those payments plus 3% compensation from the Government. My right hon. Friend said that at least seven people have taken their own lives as a result of the loan charge. It is important to put on the public record that of course every single death of an individual is a tragedy. The circumstances surrounding those deaths have been considered by the coroner, the Independent Office for Police Conduct and HMRC’s own internal independent investigations. None of them has suggested, in these four reports, that HMRC is to blame for these deaths; no conduct issues have identified either by the independent office or internal investigations that would warrant disciplinary actions.

Photo of Jesse Norman Jesse Norman The Financial Secretary to the Treasury

I am afraid that I just have to press on, because I have no time. My right hon. Friend raised the issue of a review on the loan charge. These are some of the most egregious and clearest forms of tax avoidance in the tax system. In reaction to my right hon. Friend Sir Edward Leigh, let me say that it is hard to see how simplification of the tax system would prevent the kind of abuse we have seen through the loan charge or indeed potentially through IR35. The all-party group on the loan charge published a report rubbishing the independence of the Morse review. I can do no better than refer its members to the remarks made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and Howden, who described Sir Amyas Morse as

“principled and highly respected”

That was true then and it is true now.

New clause 31 would drive a coach and horses through long-standing principles of taxation, because the tax system relies on people being responsible for their own tax and there being as little discretion as possible in the system. Both principles would be overturned, as my hon. Friend Stephen Hammond hinted. For that reason, I urge the House to reject the new clause, if it comes to a vote.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time.

Division number 69 Finance Bill — New Clause 26 — Review of impact of Act on job creation

A majority of MPs voted against an assessment of the effect of the Finance Act on job creation.

Aye: 241 MPs

No: 339 MPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Nos: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Absent: 66 MPs

Absents: A-Z by last name

The House divided: Ayes 241, Noes 339.

Question accordingly negatived.

The list of Members currently certified as eligible for a proxy vote, and of the Members nominated as their proxy, is published at the end of today’s debates.

Question accordingly negatived.

More than six hours having elapsed since the commencement of proceedings on consideration, the proceedings were interrupted (Programme Order, this day).

The Deputy Speaker put forthwith the Questions necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded at that time (Standing Order No. 83).