New Clause 21 - Parliamentary visits to eu candidate countries: tax treatment of members' expenses

Finance Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 5:45 pm on 25th June 2002.

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'(1) This section amends—

(a) section 200 of the Taxes Act 1988 (which treats allowances paid to a Member of Parliament in respect of, among other things, expenses of visiting the national parliament of another member State as not being income for tax purposes), and

(b) section 200ZA of that Act (which makes corresponding provision in relation to members of the Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly for Wales and the Northern Ireland Assembly).

(2) In subsection (3)(b) of section 200, and in paragraph (b) of the definition of ''EU travel expenses'' in subsection (3) of section 200ZA, after ''of another member State'' insert ''or of a candidate country''.

(3) After subsection (3) of each section insert—

''(4) In subsection (3) above ''candidate country'' means Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Romania, the Slovak Republic, Slovenia or Turkey.

(5) The Treasury shall by order made by statutory instrument make such amendments to the definition in subsection (4) above as are necessary to secure that the countries listed are those that are from time to time candidates for membership of the European Union.''.

(4) This section applies in relation to sums paid on or after 1st April 2002.'.—[Dawn Primarolo.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, that the clause be read a Second time. [Dawn Primarolo.]

Photo of Mr Howard Flight Mr Howard Flight Conservative, Arundel and South Downs

We do not oppose the new clause, but I cannot resist pointing out that it simply adds to the number of swan visits that Members of Parliament can make around the European Union. These tend to bring the EU into disrepute because so many such visits are manifestly not about serious politics, but about having a good time.

Photo of Dawn Primarolo Dawn Primarolo Paymaster General (HM Treasury)

The new clause follows the resolution of the House of Commons that was passed in May to extend the range of destinations covered by the House travel scheme to meet the costs of visiting EU institutions or national Parliaments. It follows automatically from the agreement of the House. I should point out that few Parliaments meet at the weekend, and before MPs are entitled to make those trips, they must agree to adhere to the strict rules of the House. Members must apply for the visit and detail who they will meet and when, and what they will discuss. Only when the Fees Office gives clearance is the trip authorised to take place. The hon. Gentleman's point is simply not true. The new clause provides for the proper business of the House.

Photo of Chris Grayling Chris Grayling Shadow Minister (Health)

Why do Members of the devolved Assemblies need the right to travel to EU candidate countries?

Photo of Dawn Primarolo Dawn Primarolo Paymaster General (HM Treasury)

Because with some of the candidate countries' structures and devolving of powers—I am thinking of Germany, for example, and the division of powers within its democracy—it is appropriate to provide for that measure within the safeguards that I have explained. If the Fees Office has not sanctioned a visit as legitimate, the new clause will

not apply and the MP will not have his costs covered. The measure will work perfectly well in relation to the current provisions. I am sure that no member of the Committee wishes to reduce hon. Members' ability to achieve a greater understanding of other countries' Administrations and practices, which they can then use to the benefit of debates in the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.