Clause 25

Finance (No. 2) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 7:30 pm on 26th October 2010.

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Interest: corporation tax and petroleum revenue tax

Photo of David Hanson David Hanson Shadow Minister (Treasury)

I beg to move amendment 19, in clause 25, page 18, line 25, at end insert ‘, subject to 12 weeks notice’.

This amendment is similar to the previous amendment. I picked 12 weeks as a random figure to test how much notice will be given to those whose daily lives will be substantially affected by the changes mentioned in the clause. There was no indication in the Bill as to when or how these changes could be brought forward. Subsection (2) states:

“That Schedule comes into force on such day as the Treasury may by order appoint.”

That is a very big power. The Treasury may by order appoint any day it so wishes. It could appoint a day by order with two weeks’ notice, four weeks’ notice, six months’ notice, 12 months’ notice or whatever it wished to do. I wanted to probe the type of notice the Treasury envisaged giving in relation to the changes that are proposed, if agreed by both Houses, under this clause.

Photo of David Gauke David Gauke The Exchequer Secretary

Amendment 19 specifies that any order to make schedule 9 effective must allow 12 weeks’ notice. I appreciate the concern that the right hon. Gentleman has raised and the desire to ensure that HMRC provides adequate notice to taxpayers before making the changes proposed by schedule 9 is entirely understandable. My argument, however, is that the amendment is not necessary. Under previous commitments made by Jane Kennedy, when she was Financial Secretary during the 2008 Finance Bill debate, HMRC established a practice of producing a draft appointed day order in advance of the effective day where it is possible to do so. This practice has extended to an appointed day order applying the harmonised interest rules to the bank payroll tax, for example, and to several appointed day orders in relation to penalties. These include penalties for incorrect returns and failures to notify, as well as associated orders in relation to national insurance contributions.

As the Committee will be well aware, HMRC publishes much of its draft legislation for comment on its website. No adverse comments have been received on any of these regulations. Furthermore, HMRC demonstrated its commitment to continuing this process by publishing the draft order for the late payment penalty regime for pay as you earn three months before it became effective in April this year. I propose that this practice continues for orders that will be made under the power given in these provisions.

In contrast to this tried and tested practice, one well used by the previous Government, amendment 19 gives no detail about how the 12-week notice period should be implemented, and how any change would be made.

I appreciate the right hon. Gentleman’s thinking in raising the matter. Given, however, that in amendment 19 he seeks to ensure that HMRC provides sufficient notice of changes being made under the clause, and given that such notice is already provided in a clear and easily accessible manner, I ask him to withdraw his amendment.

Photo of David Hanson David Hanson Shadow Minister (Treasury) 7:45 pm, 26th October 2010

Again, it was simply designed to be a probing amendment. Undoubtedly it is technically deficient, because in opposition we do not have the resources of the Treasury. It is intended to obtain an indication from the Minister of what level of notice would be given, and of how that notice and changes under clause 25 would be considered. I wanted him to state on the record that the changes will be subject to a proper process that is understood by those outside the House as well as by the massed ranks of the Treasury. On that basis, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 25 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 9 agreed to.