(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 5:15 pm on 25th June 2002.

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Photo of Tom Harris Tom Harris Labour, Glasgow Cathcart 5:15 pm, 25th June 2002

I think that the hon. Gentleman is correct, but I do not want to go over old arguments that have been made by previous speakers in the debate. Whether we agree with the principles or not, I would hope that the Government show some sort of understanding of and sensitivity to the fact that members of the Brethren are completely principled and have genuine beliefs. They do not intend to avoid their commitment to the Government in terms of paying taxes or filing returns. I hope that the Government recognise that any reservations that they have about the way in which they do that should be dealt with in the Bill, and perhaps in the Committee today.

Personal religious conviction must be respected, even when there is disagreement on such matters. The evidence, as the hon. Member for Buckingham has said, is that members of the Brethren are exemplary in the running of their business affairs, not least because they understand that they and their faith would be judged by others if anything else were the case. They are diligent in paying their taxes. When the Paymaster General replies, I should like to hear an explanation to address the fears that the Brethren have that not only will their PAYE returns have to be carried out over the internet, but any further communication might have to take place by e-mail instead of the usual methods of telephone or mail. I hope that the Government will address that concern.

I hope that the Government will show their customary flexibility on the matter and recognise that such reservations are held in sincerity. Any changes to the clause are being sought by the Brethren for no other reason than a desire to worship God with a clear conscience, and at the same time to pay to Caesar what is Caesar's.