Clause 201 - Mandatory electronic payment by large employers

Finance Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 5:45 pm on 17th June 2003.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Mr Howard Flight Mr Howard Flight Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury

We feel that it is wrong in principle to charge a penalty merely because a taxpayer did not pay electronically or in a manner specified by the Inland Revenue. The Government should encourage taxpayers to pay electronically but not coerce them, and the proposed penalty regulation is poorly drafted and, in any event, lacks proportionality. A fine of up to 10 per cent. of the tax payment is totally disproportionate.

The clause appears to be aimed primarily at electronic payment of PAYE, but the penalty also applies to any tax administered by the Revenue, and we would welcome clarification on whether the Government intend to apply the provision to all

taxes, and if not, to which taxes. The substantive provisions are delegated to regulations that have not been published, and we repeat our strong belief that major provisions should be introduced by primary legislation. The clause should be withdrawn. If it is not, there should be a modest, fixed-rate penalty. The definition of a ''large employer'' should be amended so that it is consistent with the Companies Act 1989 definition.

Finally, as hon. Members will be aware, following last June's mandatory e-filing debate, various Members successfully appealed for a conscience provision for the Plymouth Brethren. The same issue now arises again in regard to clause 201. We hope that there will be a repeat acceptance of such a conscience provision for that religious group.

Photo of David Laws David Laws Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury

We entirely share those views, so I shall not repeat them. On behalf of the Brethren, who are concerned about the issue, we are grateful to the Paymaster General for her sympathy, and we hope that she will continue to take such an attitude on the issue in future.

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

On a point of order, Sir Nicholas. I confirm what the hon. Gentlemen say about the Brethren. I do not want to be ruled out of order at the end of our proceedings before I have made the necessary and highly appropriate comments about our proceedings. I know that we are now very close to the end of the sitting. Would it be in order for me to make my comments now?

Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton Conservative, Macclesfield

Yes, as long as they do not go beyond 6 o'clock.

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

I would thank all members of the Committee, especially the hon. Members for Arundel and South Downs, for Eddisbury, and for Hertford and Stortford (Mr. Prisk), and all their hon. Friends. I also thank the hon. Members for Yeovil and for Torridge and West Devon, and the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, who cannot be here, and the Economic Secretary. I thank the Whips—my hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln (Gillian Merron), the hon. Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire), and the now Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South—and all my other hon. Friends, who have been so wonderful in their support, as well as the Clerks, the Hansard Reporters, the police, and the Officers of the House.

I particularly thank you, Sir Nicholas, and your co-Chairmen, Mr. McWilliam and Mr. Gale, for ensuring that we made such excellent progress. I thank everyone for what has been a wonderfully enjoyable experience, and I look forward to next year's Finance Bill.

Photo of Mr Howard Flight Mr Howard Flight Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury

Further to that point of order, Sir Nicholas. I echo what the Paymaster General says, and I thank you for your amiable and efficient chairing. I hope that you will relay my thanks to Mr. McWilliam and Mr. Gale. I particularly thank the Clerks, Frank Cranmer and Miss Garratty. Poor Frank Cranmer has had an awful lot of work to do for the Opposition, and has been immensely helpful in getting our amendments right.

I thank my colleagues, who are a splendid lot; I will not use up time naming their well-known constituencies. I thank and congratulate the Paymaster General and the Government team for its most professional presentation of the Bill. I thank the Hansard Reporters, the police, the ushers and the doorkeepers, and I cannot resist closing by saying that if only we could have had one more sitting, as we suggested, we would have finished the Bill.

Photo of David Laws David Laws Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury

Further to that point of order, Sir Nicholas. May I add my thanks to those already expressed, and to you, Sir Nicholas, for the exemplary way in which you have chaired our proceedings. I thank the Clerks and officials, both those who supported the Bill and those who supported the Government. I thank the Minister, the Paymaster General and the Economic Secretary for the way that they responded to some of the issues brought up by Members on the Opposition Benches. I am particularly grateful for new clause 6, which will come forward later.

I also congratulate Members on the Conservative Front Bench for the professional way in which they steered the Bill through. I do not know whether they will get their reward on Earth, but it will certainly be on record.

Photo of Adam Price Adam Price Plaid Cymru, Carmarthen East and Dinefwr

Further to that point of order, Sir Nicholas. I briefly echo all those thanks on behalf of Plaid Cymru. I am particularly grateful to the Government for accepting four of our amendments, which is a record for my party.

Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton Conservative, Macclesfield

It has been a pleasure to chair the Standing Committee on the Finance Bill. I congratulate all Committee members on the constructive way in which they have dealt with a highly complicated and difficult Bill. I particularly congratulate the Front-Bench spokesmen on their commitment, knowledge, and dedication, and for the way in which they have ploughed through a very complicated Finance Bill. To each and all of them, on both sides of the Committee, I say well done. The Committee has been an example of Parliament working at its best.

The Clerks, who have been super and have given me great assistance, have just said to me that it has been a pleasure to work with such a constructive and good-humoured Committee. That shows what the Committee has done in its sittings. I thank the Hansard Reporters, the police, and the staff of the House for making this an efficient and smooth-running Finance Bill. Finally, I thank my fellow Chairmen, John McWilliam and Roger Gale, for the assistance that they have given me. It has been a pleasure; I have enjoyed it.

It being Six o'clock, The Chairman proceeded, pursuant to Sessional Order D [28 June 2001] and the Order of the Committee [10 and 12 June 2003] to put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair.

Question put, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

The Committee divided: Ayes 13, Noes 7.

Division number 26 Adults Abused in Childhood — Clause 201 - Mandatory electronic payment by large employers

Aye: 13 MPs

No: 7 MPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Nos: A-Z by last name

Question accordingly agreed to.

The Chairman then proceeded to put forthwith the Questions necessary to dispose of the business to be concluded at that time.

Question put, That clauses 202 to 213, schedule 43 and clause 214 stand part of the Bill:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 12, Noes 8.

Division number 27 Adults Abused in Childhood — Clause 201 - Mandatory electronic payment by large employers

Aye: 12 MPs

No: 8 MPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Nos: A-Z by last name

Question accordingly agreed to.

Bill, as amended, to be reported.

Committee rose at five minutes past Six o'clock.