Clause 31 - Failure by employers to make correct payments

Part of Tax Credits Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 6:45 pm on 22 January 2002.

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Photo of Mr Paul Boateng Mr Paul Boateng Financial Secretary, HM Treasury, The Financial Secretary to the Treasury 6:45, 22 January 2002

Uncharacteristically unfairly, I portrayed the hon. Gentleman in an earlier debate as living a life of perpetual unease. In this regard, however, his lack of ease is entirely justified. He has put his finger on an error on our part. It is only right that I should own up to that—it's a fair cop, guv, you caught me bang to rights. The hon. Gentleman will be gratified to hear that he has put his finger on an omission. It was not our intention that penalties should be imposed on the basis of strict liability. We shall table an amendment in due course to make that absolutely clear. It would be wrong to penalise an employer for a course of action when the mistake was entirely innocent.

I must disappoint the hon. Gentleman on his first point, however. Our view is that there can be no reasonable excuse for refusing or repeatedly failing to pay tax credits to an eligible employee. We are not persuaded of the strength of the hon. Gentleman's amendment and I hope that, on reflection, he will feel able to withdraw it.