Schedule 2

Finance Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:00 am on 21st May 2009.

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Income tax rates

Question proposed, That the schedule be the Second schedule to the Bill.

Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton Conservative, Macclesfield

I am permitting a debate on the schedule, although the broad idea and the content were discussed in the last debate and on the Floor of the House. However, the hon. Member for Hammersmith and Fulham wishes to deal with some technicalities and this is the right opportunity.

Photo of Greg Hands Greg Hands Shadow Minister (Treasury) 10:15 am, 21st May 2009

Some important technical issues arise from the way in which schedule 2 amends the Income Tax Act 2007. They stem from the decision to add the definition of the higher rate limit or the new additional rate of tax to section 10 of the Act, rather than to section 20. Section 20 defines the starting rate and basic rate limits, which are not defined under section 10. I think that the Government are amending the wrong section of the 2007 Act.

For example, paragraph 9 of schedule 2 alters the definition of the “basic rate limit” under schedule 4 to the 2007 Act so that it now refers to section 10, even though the limit remains specified under section 20, not section 10. Paragraph 4 of the schedule tries to amend subsection (6) of section 10 of the 2007 Act when—to judge from a copy of the 2007 Act that I printed from the website of the Office of Public Sector Information—there is no subsection (6) of section 10. I should be grateful for clarification from the Government. In my copy of the Act, the section ends at subsection (5) not subsection (6), so I am confused about precisely what is being amended.

Paragraph 6 of schedule 2 adds the higher rate limit to the scope of section 414, but leaves the parenthesis referring to section 20 alone rather than including section 10, where it seems to be more appropriate. In other words, if schedule 2, which will amend the 2007 Act, is to have validity, it should refer to both sections 20 and 10. Those are important points, and it is necessary to have this slightly separate debate so that such matters do not get lost in the overall political discussion about the 50p tax rate. For the sake of tidiness, the Minister might want to consider specifying all the limits under one section because, at the moment, it seems that the parliamentary draftsman had a little change of heart and left a few loose ends in the important provision that amends the 2007 Act.

Photo of Stephen Timms Stephen Timms Financial Secretary (HM Treasury) (also in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills)

The hon. Gentleman has raised an interesting and thoughtful point. I reassure him that the drafting is technically right. Section 20 of the 2007 Act was repealed by the Finance Act 2008, which was passed after the 2007 legislation to which he referred.

Photo of Greg Hands Greg Hands Shadow Minister (Treasury)

I was hoping that the Minister would answer my question about subsection (6). It does not appear to be in the Act, yet it is being amended by the schedule. How can that take place?

Photo of Stephen Timms Stephen Timms Financial Secretary (HM Treasury) (also in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills)

As I said, I reassure the hon. Gentleman that the drafting is technically right. I would be happy to drop him a line on that specific point and, indeed, copy my response to each member of the Committee.

Photo of Greg Hands Greg Hands Shadow Minister (Treasury)

On a point of order, Sir Nicholas. Excuse my lack of familiarity with the situation—I do not come from a legal background—but surely we cannot just accept an undertaking that the drafting is correct when we are referring to a subsection that does not exist. Perhaps we could adjourn so that the Government can come back with a correct explanation of the whereabouts of the relevant subsection (6) in the 2007 Act that the schedule is supposed to be amending.

Photo of Stephen Timms Stephen Timms Financial Secretary (HM Treasury) (also in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills)

I will attempt to help the hon. Gentleman a little further. I am at a slight disadvantage because I do not have the same piece of paper in front of me that he has in front of him. I think that he was describing the 2007 legislation that he had copied off the internet. The whole of section 20 of that Act was repealed by the Finance Act 2008.

Photo of Greg Hands Greg Hands Shadow Minister (Treasury)

The Minister says that section 20 was repealed, but the relevant subsection (6) is part of section 10, not section 20. Is the right hon. Gentleman saying that section 10 has been repealed? If it really has been repealed, whatever happened to subsection (6) of the section that was repealed?

Photo of Stephen Timms Stephen Timms Financial Secretary (HM Treasury) (also in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills)

I have difficulty as the hon. Gentleman is referring to the 2007 Act, which does not reflect the amendments made under last year’s Finance Act. If he had in front of him a version of the legislation, together with all of the amendments made under last year’s Finance Act, he would see that the drafting was indeed technically correct.

Photo of Greg Hands Greg Hands Shadow Minister (Treasury)

I hope that the Minister is right, but I took the copy of the Act from the OPSI website. Perhaps as a result of this discussion he might ensure that that website is updated immediately, if he is right about the amendments to the Income Tax Act 2007 resulting from last year’s Finance Act. Obviously a number of us are looking at something that is out of date.

Photo of Peter Bone Peter Bone Conservative, Wellingborough

I sit on the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments. Only yesterday we reviewed regulations relating in part to this Bill. There were potential errors that needed correction, so the Minister should be careful when saying that all the drafting is correct on this.

Photo of Greg Hands Greg Hands Shadow Minister (Treasury)

I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. We are now awaiting an answer from the Minister and also an undertaking that the OPSI website will be updated with due speed.

Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton Conservative, Macclesfield

Order. I do not know whether the Minister wishes to reply, but I have just had whispered in my ear, “It’s a website thing.” May I suggest that the Minister seeks to clarify that and perhaps then we can move on?

Photo of Stephen Timms Stephen Timms Financial Secretary (HM Treasury) (also in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills)

If the hon. Gentleman looks at last year’s Finance Act on the same website and takes account of the changes that made to the draft that he has in front of him, he will get the answer to his questions.

Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton Conservative, Macclesfield

I repeat that there appears to be some clarification on a website. No doubt what has occurred here will be noted and, if the Opposition are not satisfied, there will be later stages of this Bill when the matter can be raised again.

Question put and agreed to.

Schedule 2 accordingly agreed to.

Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton Conservative, Macclesfield

Clause 9, which is on value added tax—the title is “Extension of reduced standard rate and anti-avoidance provision”—was agreed to in the Committee of the whole House on Tuesday 12 May, as reported in columns 743 to 774 of Hansard. We will not be having a rerun of the stand part debate in this Committee. Schedule 3 contains detailed provision on a supplementary charge on supplies spanning the date of the VAT change and minor amendments about orders changing the standard rate of VAT.