Before I call the Minister to the move the sittings motion, I have a few announcements. Members of the Committee who have not already done so may remove their jackets if they wish to. Will right hon. and hon. Members ensure that all electronic devices and mobile phones are switched off? I remind the Committee that the use of laptops is not permitted in Committee and that electronic devices are not permitted for use for speaking notes.
Document boxes have been provided for Members to keep papers in between meetings, unless Members wish to take their papers with them, in which case they may take the box. It would be appreciated if Members could return the boxes to the storage cupboard at the end of the sittings. The Committee Room will be locked during the lunch break, so it will be perfectly possible for Members to leave their papers on their desks if they wish to do so.
I also remind Members that adequate notice should be given for amendments. Mr Hood and I do not intend to call starred amendments, including any starred amendments that may be reached during an afternoon sitting. I hope that that is all clear. If any Member has not engaged in the arcane process before and is unclear as to what is going on or why, please feel free to seek information from the Chair. We are, as the Inland Revenue likes to say, here to help you.
I beg to move,
That the Committee shall meet—
(a) on Tuesdays at 10.30 am and 4.30 pm, and
(b) on Thursdays at 9.00 am and 1.00 pm when the House is sitting.
Thank you, Mr Gale. Before I speak to the motion, I would like to welcome you, Mr Gale, and Mr Hood as Chairs of the Committee. Both of you have experienced the excitement that can often occur in debates on Finance Bills, and I am sure that the Committee will benefit from your experience and wisdom in such matters. The Bill before us covers a wide range of issues, but I know that you will assist us in keeping our focus on the matters at hand. I would also like to extend my welcome to Mr Patrick, who will be assisting you.
It is a great pleasure to see enthusiastic participation from Opposition Members. Finance Bill Committees have occasionally lacked a certain eminence, but I am sure that the high quality debate in which we are about to engage will make this a year to be savoured. I am especially glad to see the right hon. Member for Delyn and the hon. Member for Bristol East, though I note that the hon. Member for Nottingham East (Chris Leslie) has decided not to undertake the challenge of serving on the Committee this time. His absence will be keenly felt on both sides of the Committee. None the less, I am sure that the shadow Ministers will be ably assisted by their hon. Friends on the Opposition Benches, many of whom spoke during the Finance Bill debates downstairs.
For those for whom this is the first time engaging in the detailed scrutiny of such a Bill, I hope that they will find the experience as valuable as I first did. I would also like to thank the hon. Member for East Antrim, although he is not in his place at the moment.
I must not forget my hon. Friends who are sitting on the Benches beside me. While the Opposition have mustered only two shadow Ministers, we will be fully stocked, with my hon. Friends the Members for Fareham and for Putney assisting me through the sittings. I also wish to welcome my other hon. Friends, including some who made their maiden speeches in previous Finance Bill debates, including my hon. Friends the Members for North East Cambridgeshire and for Lincoln.
I am sure that many hon. Members are aware of the forthcoming nuptials of my hon. Friend the Member for Elmet and Rothwell, which surely leads me to welcome also my hon. Friends from our coalition partner. We can be sure that our partnership remains strong, no matter how bumpy the ride, and I look forward to the captivating and valuable contributions that they will provide.
At the beginning of the Committee on the previous Finance Bill, I said that that Bill was a product of consultation and deliberation. That is truer of this Bill than any before it. We published the majority of clauses in draft on 9 December for a period of technical consultation and received more than 200 responses. I thank the bodies that have worked with the Treasury and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs in the preparation of the Bill, especially those who commented on the draft legislation. The Bill is better for it.
I am sure that hon. Members will take heart in the words of Gladstone—it is always good to quote a Liberal—when he said:
“Finance is, as it were, the stomach of the country, from which all the other organs take their tone.”
I know that hon. Members will approach our discussions with true hunger.
Good morning, Mr Gale, and on behalf of the Opposition Benches I welcome you to the Chair, just as we will welcome your colleague, Mr Hood, in due course. Like the Minister, with whom I seem to have spent a considerable amount of time in Committee over the past 12 months, I welcome the Clerk and his team to our discussions. Let me reassure the Minister that although my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol East and I are the only two shadow Ministers present, I can say modestly that quality rather than quantity will keep us on board today. If either of the Minister’s ministerial colleagues wish to leave the Room at any time, we would be more than happy for them to do so.
This is the sixth, or possibly the seventh, piece of financial legislation that we have dealt with in Committee over the past year alone, and this Bill contains 93 clauses and 26 schedules. In the past, I recall the then Opposition criticising the complexity and scale of previous Finance Bills, so it is interesting to note that the Government have maintained the level of clauses and schedules in the legislation to be considered by the Committee. We will make key criticisms of the Bill, and we will table amendments to key clauses during our discussions. However, the Opposition are content with the sittings motion and we will support it.
As we scrutinise the legislation, I look forward to the contributions of my hon. Friends, some of whom are serving on a Public Bill Committee for the first time. We look forward to seeing whether we can help the hon. Member for Elmet and Rothwell to enjoy his marriage and—potentially—help the hon. Members for Bristol West and for Brecon and Radnorshire to enjoy their divorce from the coalition in due course. There will be occasions when, by natural inclination, the Liberal Democrats might be happier supporting the Labour Opposition than some of the measures in Bill, and we will see if we can tempt them to do so. In the meantime, I look forward to commencing the discussion on clause 1. I wish the sittings motion well, and look forward to spending the next 14 sittings with the Minister and other colleagues.
That the order in which proceedings are taken shall be: Clauses 1 to 3; Clauses 5 and 6; Clauses 8 and 9; Clauses 11 to 15; Schedule 1; Clauses 16 to 18; Clauses 20 to 26; Schedule 2; Clause 27; Schedule 3; Clause 28; Schedule 4; Clauses 29 and 30; Schedule 5; Clauses 31 and 32; Schedule 6; Clauses 33 and 34; Schedules 7 and 8; Clauses 36 to 44; Schedule 9; Clause 45; Schedule 10; Clause 46; Schedule 11; Clause 47; Schedule 12; Clause 48; Schedule 13; Clauses 49 to 52; Schedule 14; Clauses 53 to 64; Schedule 15; Clause 65; Schedule 16; Clause 66; Schedule 17; Clause 67; Schedule 18; Clauses 68 to 71; Schedule 19; Clauses 73 to 77; Schedule 20; Clauses 78 to 82; Schedule 21; Clause 83; Schedule 22; Clauses 84 to 86; Schedules 23 and 24; Clause 87; Schedule 25; Clauses 88 to 91; Schedule 26; new Clauses; new Schedules; Clauses 92 and 93.—(Mr Gauke.)