Capital Gains Tax

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:10 pm on 28th April 2021.

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Photo of Jesse Norman Jesse Norman The Financial Secretary to the Treasury 3:10 pm, 28th April 2021

I very much thank the two hon. Members who have spoken in the debate. May I start, Madam Deputy Speaker, by associating myself very much with the remarks that you made to Kirsty Blackman? I think it is absolutely in order and right for her to bring this very important issue back to the House. To do so in such a personal way only gives it additional force. I doubt that there is a Member of this House whose own life has not been affected in one way or another by the concerns that she describes—the black dog of depression or whatever it may be—either personally or among their family or friends. The diversity of opinion in this House is something we all welcome, but so too should there be diversity in our recognition of other people and their feelings and suffering, so I very much thank her for that.

The hon. Lady raised a question that James Murray also raised about explanatory notes. Both Members will have seen that, actually, both these measures have quite full explanatory memorandums associated with them. Of course, there is always a balance to be struck between the depth and detail into which an explanatory memorandum goes and the desire not to provide so much detail that it becomes illegible or incomprehensible to a normal reader. I think the point is constantly right to be borne in mind that we should be as clear and explicit as possible on these matters. The point is very well made. It is a point that we have pushed very hard, and certainly I and colleagues have pushed very hard with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs in the work that it does more widely on guidance. In this case, because these measures sit alongside a host of other instruments, including the multilateral instrument, which was debated in the House, it is certainly true that there is a degree of scrutiny and awareness—or there could be a degree of scrutiny and awareness—associated with them.

The hon. Member for Aberdeen North also mentioned the question of a general anti-avoidance rule. I am sure she knows that it has been an important feature of our approach to double taxation agreements that we have included a principal purpose test in tax treaties, either through bilateral negotiation or through the multilateral instrument. That itself is a very important, wide anti-abuse measure, developed through the BEPS project, which protects a treaty against the abuse of its provisions. We are deploying it widely across double taxation agreements, and it has much of the force of the measure that she describes.

The hon. Member for Ealing North raised the wider question of scrutiny. If I may say so, the argument would have more force if any other Opposition Members had chosen to speak in this debate and to exercise that scrutiny. I think that in general, these matters, for the reasons I have described, are tolerably well understood. We have a multilateral instrument, the measures follow a common format, and opportunity is given to Members across the House, including from the Opposition parties, to offer scrutiny. They can choose to exercise that or not.

In relation to revenue, the hon. Gentleman will see that the explanatory notes say that there are no new tax burdens imposed by these measures. In a way, that is as it should be, because their purpose is to secure and safeguard trade and to prevent abuse; they are not, in and of themselves, tax revenue-raising measures.

Finally, the hon. Gentleman asked about the global minimum tax rate and whether I would expand on my remarks in Committee of the whole House. I am not going to do that, because I do not think it is appropriate for Ministers to comment on tax policy in flight, as it were. We have said we very much welcome the proactive stance that the Biden Administration are taking towards this issue. We have been a very strong advocate for these wider measures—the two pillars, pillar one and pillar two—in the OECD and the G20. I know the Chancellor feels strongly about the importance of our leadership of the G7 as a way of consolidating this progress in tax.