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Thank you, Mr Amess, for giving the Economic Secretary the opportunity to set out this case. It is absolutely right that the Government set out the case for the legislation and that members of the Opposition are then given the opportunity to put our questions on it. I thank the Economic Secretary for her thorough explanation of the clause. It is right that we encourage the donation of pre-eminent objects to the country and it is right that, in addition, conditions are placed on that, to ensure, among other things, that they are there for the general public to enjoy. There are benefits to the general public and also benefits to our economy through attracting visitors to the country.
I want, however, to refer to one element contained in paragraph 33 of schedule 14, which introduces the new relief when pre-eminent objects and works of art are gifted to the nation. In the summary of responses to the consultation, it is considered to be a fundamental change to the measure that was initially announced. The change is considered to undermine somewhat the attractiveness of the scheme.
I will again refer to the comments made by the ICAEW—an esteemed commentator on these issues—which expressed its concern that the change announced initially was very different from the change that was eventually put forward in the Bill. The ICAEW said that it was wrong in principle to make changes to previously announced measures, under the cover of
“those measures where draft legislation has been published for consultation and no changes were made as a result or small, technical amendments have been made to the final legislation to be introduced in Finance Bill 2012.”
Its view is that to introduce such a fundamental change under the auspices of a minor technical amendment undermines confidence in the integrity of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs and Her Majesty’s Treasury. That is a serious assertion and I would be grateful if the Economic Secretary addressed those concerns in her concluding remarks.