Clause 68 - Qualifying contracts for unallowable purposes

Part of Finance Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 6:30 pm on 11th June 2002.

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Photo of Mr Howard Flight Mr Howard Flight Conservative, Arundel and South Downs 6:30 pm, 11th June 2002

I thank the Financial Secretary for her response, and I echo the point just made that everyone is well aware that there has been extensive consultation. Although, I cannot resist commenting that the number of Government amendments is substantial—clearly, consultation was not completely complete—I welcome the fact that amendments have been tabled late in the day to address some of the problems presented by certain causes.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Field) said, we do not have a great deal to say as we proceed through clause 82. I simply make the point that the issue of informal versus formal statutory clearance needs in-depth consideration. I have known circumstances where there has been a problem with informal clearance and it has never been given because inspectors of taxes feel

that they are out of their depth or they do not want to give an opinion. However, as far as possible we wish to retain the sharpest of clarity in our tax law.

I question whether the informal clearance mechanism will actually work. In the co-operative spirit of the Revenue, it is potentially better than statutory clearance in that it is more flexible. However, it will need to be kept under review and if, in such complex anti-avoidance areas, informal clearance were found not to be satisfactory, any Government would need to consider formal statutory clearance arrangements.

Clearance is the main issue in the clauses and although the amendments are tabled to clause 68, they relate to several other clauses in this group. We will not press the matter to a vote, but our view is that an open mind must be kept as to whether the informal clearance arrangements are delivering what is needed economically. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 68 ordered to stand part of the Bill.