Commissioners for Revenue and Customs Bill

– in a Public Bill Committee on 11th January 2005.

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[Sir John Butterfill in the Chair]

Photo of Dawn Primarolo Dawn Primarolo Paymaster General (HM Treasury) 9:25 am, 11th January 2005

I beg to move,


(1) the Committee recommends that the programme order of the House [8th December 2004] should be amended by substituting ''18th January'' for ''13th January'';

(2) during proceedings on the Commissioners for Revenue and Customs Bill, in addition to its first meeting on Tuesday 11th January at 9.25 a.m., the Standing Committee shall meet on Tuesday 11th January at 2.30 p.m., on Thursday 13th January at 9.25 a.m. and on Tuesday 18th January at 9.25 a.m.;

(3) the proceedings shall be taken in the order shown above and shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at 11.25 a.m. on Tuesday 18th January:

Clauses 1 to 6; Schedule 1; Clauses 7 to 15; Schedule 2; Clauses 16 to 30; Schedule 3; Clauses 31 to 45; Schedule 4; Clauses 46 and 47; Schedule 5; Clauses 48 to 52; remaining proceedings on the Bill;

Good morning, Sir John. It is nice to see you in the Chair this morning. I am looking forward to your keeping us in order as we discuss this important Bill, which is the beginning of the process of merging Inland Revenue and Customs and Excise into a new department, Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs. First, I welcome the Hansard Reporters, the Clerks—who will advise the Committee—members of Her Majesty's Opposition and my colleagues to our consideration of the Bill.

On the programming motion, there have been extensive discussions between the Government and Opposition parties on our progress on the Bill, and that includes agreements on sittings. There are to be two sittings today and one on Thursday, and we are to conclude our considerations next Tuesday morning. I will do my very best to ensure that the Committee is fully informed of the Government's thinking on the Bill. As promised, draft regulations have been made available to all Committee members.

Perhaps I should say something, by way of introduction, on the Government amendments. They represent, for the most part, clarifications of or modest improvements to the Bill as introduced. I have been keen to ensure, through the early introduction of the Bill, that hon. Members have had the opportunity to consider its contents well before this scrutiny stage. That has meant that there are now some areas where the Bill needs to be improved. I have done my best to ensure that the Committee had advance notice of the amendments and an explanation of what they do.

As I have explained, the Government amendments fall into various groups. First, there are technical and consequential amendments on the establishment of Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs. Also, there are   improvements to secure the operation of the new department—for example, to ensure that provisions are applied appropriately in Scotland—and amendments consequential on the establishment of the Revenue and Customs Prosecution Office, including the introduction of three clauses providing for the disclosure of information to the director of that office.

I will provide members of the Committee with as much detail as they require when I move the amendments, but I assure Members that none of the amendments introduce new concepts to the Bill, and none make any changes to the principles embodied in the clauses that would mean that they were different from what is set out in the explanatory notes. Both in my letter sent before the Christmas recess—dated, I think, 20 December—and in the letter that I sent to all members of the Committee yesterday, I provided the full details. I explained to hon. Members on Second Reading that such Government amendments would be necessary.

Now that I have made clear how the Government intend to improve the Bill, I hope that the Opposition will forgive us these amendments. However, I am sure that they will have something to say on the number of them, but such a number is inevitable given the scale of the task of bringing such huge pieces of legislation together. I look forward to our deliberations in Committee.

Photo of Andrew Tyrie Andrew Tyrie Shadow Paymaster General

First, may I welcome you to the Chair, Sir John? It is good to see you.

I was concerned about the scale of the amendments, even though, as the Minister suggested, they appear to be technical and consequential, and in their full impact relatively minor. I was depressed to find that so many amendments had been tabled at this late stage, for which the Minister has already apologised. After all, this is not exactly rushed legislation; it has been a gleam in the eye of a number of people for many years. People have been thinking about how to put it together for a long time, yet right at the last minute and even despite the clarity with which the Opposition put forward their preparedness to give the Government a fair wind on the principle of the Bill, we find them wanting to rush through amendments at a late stage. I deprecate that. It looks like poor drafting and management of the Bill. I regret that, but as the Minister has apologised I will not prolong this discussion.

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

May I also welcome you to the Chair, Sir John? It is a pleasure to serve under you again. I also welcome the Paymaster General and the Economic Secretary to the Committee.

We had a good debate on the substantive issues in the Bill on Second Reading on 8 December. I suspect that our discussions in Committee will be far narrower. As we discussed, it is a fairly minimalist Bill, so there are no big issues of principle at stake in most clauses. There are some important issues, particularly that of the prosecuting authority, which I look forward to debating, and I look forward to being   joined by my hon. Friend the Member for Torridge and West Devon (Mr. Burnett), who is an expert on some of these matters and will no doubt make an effective and useful contribution.

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


Question put and agreed to.

Photo of John Butterfill John Butterfill Conservative, Bournemouth West

I remind the Committee that there is a money resolution for this Bill, and copies are available in the Room. I should also like to remind right hon. and hon. Members that adequate notice should be given of amendments. As a general rule, I do not intend to call any starred amendments that may be raised during an afternoon sitting of the Committee.