Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the first sitting of the 2007 Finance Bill. For the convenience and comfort of Members, it may be interesting to note that, as long as I am in the Chair, hon. Members may remove their jackets if they wish. I cannot guarantee the same sartorial indulgence from Mr. Illsley, although I dare say it is likely. That is for him to decide.
Just before we start there is one modest typographical error—well not modest for the hon. Member concerned—that should be corrected. Hon. Members may note that Helen Goodman appears on the list of Members serving on the Committee. In fact, it should be Mr. Paul Goodman—[Interruption.] Yes, well we have been through all those jokes already.
May I also remind hon. Members that adequate notice must be given of amendments? As a general rule, I and Mr Illsley will not call starred amendments, including any starred amendments that may be reached during an afternoon’s sitting of the Committee. That said, I now call upon the Minister to move the sittings motion.
I beg to move,
That the Committee shall meet—
(a) on Tuesdays at 10.30 a.m. and 4.30 p.m., and
(b) on Thursdays at 9.00 a.m. and 1.00 p.m., when the House is sitting.
I should like to take the opportunity to say a few brief words. May I begin by extending a warm welcome to you, Mr. Gale and to your co-Chairman, Mr. Illsley? We welcome the experience and knowledge of bothof you and we are confident that you will be able to guide us through the Committee ensuring that our deliberations are both thorough and to the point. We look forward to that. May I also welcome Mr. Doig to his role?
It has been a number of years since I last served on the Committee. I am delighted to be back. It is the first time for many years that the Paymaster General is unable to be with us because of a short period in hospital. She is now out of hospital and doing well. I am sure that the Committee will want me to send her its good wishes.
May I extend a warm welcome to the hon. Member for Chipping Barnet who will lead for the Opposition and to the members of her team, the hon. Members for Rayleigh and for Fareham and those who will be supporting them, particularly those who are servingon this Committee for the first time, including thehon. Member for Wycombe. [Hon. Members: “And for Bishop Auckland.”] It did occur to me to wonder why the numbers of our side of the Committee looked quite as large as they did on the initial list, but that has now been explained. I welcome the hon. Member for Wycombe to the Committee. May I also welcome the hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne and her Liberal Democrat colleagues and the hon. Member for Dundee, East?
I am joined today and will be supported throughout these debates by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, and by the Economic Secretary to the Treasury. I am delighted to see them here. I know that they will want to join me in welcoming my hon. Friends to this Committee.
Could I just put on record my thanks to the many advisers and representative bodies that have advisedus in significant ways on the Bill? We shall welcome further contributions from them as we scrutinise the Bill in greater depth over the coming weeks. I look forward very much to our debates as we fulfil together our duty in examining this Bill in Committee.
I am delighted to be able to respond on behalf of my hon. Friends to the Chief Secretary’s introduction, made in his characteristic bipartisan and friendly manner that we very much welcome. It is a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr. Gale and under your co-Chairman, Mr. Illsley.
I am happy to offer some brief opening remarks on behalf of my Front-Bench team, my hon. Friends the Members for Rayleigh, for Wycombe, for Fareham and for Bexleyheath and Crayford. It is always a pleasure to serve alongside my colleagues on the gruelling task that awaits us all over the new few weeks. I know that my hon. Friends will be applying their usual forensic scrutiny to the Bill.
I should also welcome my Back-Bench team: my hon. Friends the Members for Braintree, for Ludlow, for South-West Hertfordshire, for Rochford and Southend, East and for Windsor. I am particularly impressed that my hon. Friends the Members for Braintree, for Ludlow and for South-West Hertfordshire have volunteered for their second Finance Bill.
And third in the case of my hon. Friend the Member for Braintree. Such selfless dedication to the proper scrutiny of the nation’s tax law will not go unnoticed in high places, I am sure. The hard work of my hon. Friends is much appreciated. I, too, should like to welcome the hon. Members for Falmouth and Camborne and for Member for Dundee, East. I am sure that their contributions will be very useful.
I am pleased to see the Chief Secretary, the Financial Secretary, and the Economic Secretary in their places, and I look forward to debating the Bill with all of them. We are sorry that the Paymaster General is not able to take part in the Committee this year, but we wish her all the best in her recovery. There are many issues over which the Paymaster General and I disagree. However, after a decade of Finance Bills, I think that she deserves a year off. Anyone can deserve a year off for good behaviour. She has obviously worked extremely hard on many Finance Bills for many years. No doubt, the Chief Secretary will be an admirable stand-in for her.
We also look forward to debating with Government Back Benchers. No Committee on the Finance Bill would be complete without the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West. After his contribution during the Committee of the whole House, I look forward to many amendments from him to change all references to the word “premiums” in the Bill to the more correct “premia”.
Like the Chief Secretary, I look forward to relying on briefing and technical advice from a number of outside advisers—in particular, the Chartered Institute of Taxation, the Law Society, the Institute of Chartered Accountants for England and Wales, PricewaterhouseCoopers and KPMG. My hon. Friends and I look forward to a wide-ranging debate over the next few weeks in which we will seek to remedy any defects in the Bill and promote much-needed reform of the tax system to tackle complexity and to move towards fairer, more rational and simpler taxes.
It is a great privilege to serve under your chairmanship, Mr. Gale. I should also like to welcome all membersof the Committee and say how much I am looking forward to debating with them in the coming weeks. Like the hon. Member for Chipping Barnet, I am sure that we are all disappointed—not least the Paymaster General herself—that the Paymaster General is not serving on an 11th and perhaps record-breaking Finance Bill. I am sure that she can look forward to coming back next year.
I should also like to put on record my thanks to other organisations that have provided briefings and technical advice. I should like to dwell for a few moments on the procedure that we are about to go through in terms of debating the sittings. On Second Reading, I raised the issue of receiving evidence at the Committee sittings, as other Public Bill Committees have done since 1 January this year. The Statistics and Registration Service Bill, which I sat on earlier this year, was the first to undergo such a process. The hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West pointed out that no organisations had come forward to give evidence to that Bill and that made me wonder whether any outside organisations would be interested in participating in such a process here.
The new Public Bill Committee process was recommended by the Select Committee on Modernisation of the House of Commons in its first report sitting of 2005-06 entitled “The Legislative Process”. In a summary, it concluded:
“As a matter of routine, Government bills should be referred to committees which have the power to take evidence as well as to debate and amend a bill, and these committees should be named public bill committees.”
Unfortunately, we are still operating under the old system and we do not have that opportunity.
I took the liberty of contacting some organisations to see whether they would be willing to participate. Many of those organisations contributed to the evidence sessions of the Select Committee on Modernisation of the House of Commons. I want to quote a few of the comments. Given the short time scale, a not insignificant number of organisations were keen to support the suggestion: the Low Incomes Tax Reform Group; the Institute of Directors, the British Chambers of Commerce; the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners; the Association of Taxation Technicians and the Chartered Institute of Taxation.
Order. I hesitate to interrupt the hon. Lady so early in our proceedings, but I fear that she is now out of order. However, the Chief Secretary will have heard what she said and if he chooses to make representations in the appropriate quarter and to the Leader of the House, it is open to him to do so. There is no timetable motion on the Bill, so there is no opportunity for the kind of evidence to which she referred to be taken and no opportunity for the list of possible contributors to be heard.
Thank you, Mr. Gale. I am sure that the Chief Secretary heard what I said. If he would like to respond, I should be very grateful. I have nothing further to say, except that I am very much looking forward to working with him, with his colleagues and with other members of the Committee for the second year.
That the order in which proceedings are taken shall be:Clause 2, Clauses 4 to 6, Clauses 9 to 11, Clauses 13 to 19, Clauses 22 and 23; Schedule 2; Clause 24; Schedule 3; Clause 26; Schedule 4; Clauses 27 to 29; Schedule 5; Clause 30; Schedule 6; Clauses 31 to 37; Schedule 7; Clause 38; Schedule 8; Clause 39; Schedule 9; Clause 40; Schedule 10; Clause 41; Schedule 11; Clauses 42 and 43; Schedule 12; Clauses 44 to 46; Schedules13 and 14; Clause 47; Schedule 15; Clause 48 to 50; Schedule 16; Clause 51; Schedule 17; Clauses 52 to 66; Clause 68; Schedule 19; Clause 69; Schedule 20; Clauses 70 to 72; Schedule 21; Clauses 73 to 80; Clauses 85 to 96; Schedule 24; Clauses 97 to 104;Schedule 25; Clauses 105 to 108; Schedule 26; Clauses 109 and 110; new Clauses; new Schedules; Clauses 111 and 112; Schedule 27; and Clause 113.—[Mr. Timms.]