Clause 43 - Exemptions for disposals by companies

Finance Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:45 am on 21st May 2002.

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Photo of Mr Howard Flight Mr Howard Flight Conservative, Arundel and South Downs 10:45 am, 21st May 2002

As is evident, most of the points that we wish to raise are covered in amendments to schedule 8. The clause seeks to achieve something on which there has been extensive consultation with business over a number of years. Again, we give the clause a tick in principle, but there are quite a lot of outstanding concerns about schedule 8.

The clause contains a wide-ranging anti-avoidance provision, the meaning of which is unclear. If the provision were enacted, it would create substantial uncertainty and could exclude from the exemption a broad category of transactions that we are assured it is not intended to exempt. Most of the forthcoming amendments relate to that, but I want to put on record that in principle we welcome the objective of the clause and the constructive approach to addressing that territory.

Photo of Ruth Kelly Ruth Kelly Economic Secretary, HM Treasury

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his words of welcome. There has indeed been very extensive consultation on the clause. It was announced in Budget 2000 that the Government would consult on the possibility of introducing a roll-over relief for gains on substantial shareholdings held by companies. In June of that year, the Inland Revenue issued a technical note outlining possible roll-over relief. In November, another technical note was issued outlining the form of the roll-over relief and raising the possibility of an exemption as an alternative to that. In the following Budget there was an announcement that the exemption for company gains would be examined in the context of wide-ranging consultation on the direction of company tax reform. That was followed in June by a substantial consultative document on large business taxation, which discussed both roll-over relief and exemption in a wider context. At around the same time, draft clauses were published for comment in the pre-Budget report. In March this year the Chancellor confirmed that exemption would be introduced from 1 April and the final draft legislation was published. The provision has been welcomed by the business community and is an integral part of our programme for modernising company taxation. The new regime will enable United Kingdom companies to restructure rapidly and flexibly in response to emerging global opportunities without being constrained by the tax system.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 43 ordered to stand part of the Bill.