(Except clauses 4, 19, 23, 26 to 29, 87 to 92, 131 and 134 and schedules 1, 5 and 38) - Clause 132 - Mandatory e-filing

Part of Finance Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:45 pm on 25th June 2002.

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Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury 4:45 pm, 25th June 2002

That is a pity. I wondered whether charm would work on this occasion, rather than aggression, but I have been sadly disappointed at an early stage in my speech. That approach was worth a go, but I shall have to be careful about trying it too often.

In any event, I was not persuaded by the hon. Lady's argument. She argues on one hand that there will be a great beneficence from the state as it offers financial incentives—some might use the more unflattering, but perhaps more accurate, term ''bribes''—to businesses to comply with the Government's will. On the other hand, she talks about the crucial importance of ensuring 100 per cent. compliance if the savings that she wants and envisages are to be achieved. It seems a peculiar state of affairs that the Government, to secure 100 per cent. compliance and the savings that will result therefrom, judge it necessary in the first instance to lob sums of money at businesses to sweeten the pill of being coerced into doing something that they would otherwise not choose to do.

Leaving aside the hon. Lady's arguments so far, I shall not dilate on the additional point—you would be displeased if I did, Mr. Gale—of deadweight costs. If many companies are proposing to comply in any case,

it is not sensible for a Treasury Minister to lob money at them like confetti as a bribe. On this occasion, the Treasury brief was less compelling than it might have been.

In truth, though, the hon. Lady made the most sensible of her points when she said that she understood the Opposition arguments but simply did not agree with them. In other words, we agree to differ. Rather than rehearse all the arguments again, it would better to agree with her on that. We disagree. The subventions are unnecessary and coercion is undesirable. It would be better to allow a choice. I have listened with interest and respect to the Paymaster General, but I have not been converted. She will be astonished and mortified, but I am compelled to press for a vote.

Mr. Jack rose—