Clause 204 - Landfill sites in Scotland

Finance Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 1:15 pm on 21st June 2012.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Cathy Jamieson Cathy Jamieson Shadow Minister (Treasury)

I am sure that, like the Minister, many people feel as though we are discussing clause 2004 rather than clause 204, given that we have had quite a number of sittings. I want to say a couple of words about the clause, which deals with landfill sites in Scotland. I acknowledge that occasionally Governments of any shape, colour or form get things wrong or omit things from legislation, which is why scrutiny by Committees such as ours is important.

I confess that when it was brought to my attention that clause 204 introduces retrospective legislation, which will have retrospective effect from 21 March 2000, to bring Scottish legislation into line with the rest of the UK by correcting an omission in landfill tax legislation concerning the definition of a landfill site in Scotland, I had to conclude that not only had I missed that omission when I was a member of the Scottish Parliament Transport and the Environment Committee during 1999-2000, but that I had probably missed it somewhere along the line when I was a member of the then Scottish Executive. However, we now have the opportunity to put right the omission made in section 66(ba) of the Finance Act 1996, which has been in force in Scotland since 21 March 2000. I will not go into why the UK had to adopt the integrated pollution prevention and control directive, lest I tempt fate and Committee members wish to discuss more EU legislation. At this stage of the proceedings, that is probably best avoided.

Given that the amendments in relation to England and Wales came into force on 21 March 2000 and those relating to Northern Ireland came into force on 17 January 2003, what is the practical impact, if any, on the adoption of the clause? Is anything in Scotland going to change as a result of that?

Photo of David Gauke David Gauke The Exchequer Secretary

As we have heard, clause 204 introduces changes to correct landfill tax legislation in relation to the definition of a landfill site in Scotland. The legislation will align the position in Scotland with the rest of the UK, with full retrospective effect from 21 March 2000. Following the UK’s adoption of the integrated pollution prevention and control directive, there was, as we have heard, a phased transition as UK landfill sites moved from a regime of licences and resolutions to a system of permits introduced in the Pollution Prevention and Control Act 1999. The definition of a landfill site in landfill tax legislation cross-refers to that environmental legislation. It was recognised that the site-by-site transition to permits would have a consequential impact on landfill tax provisions and, to deal with that situation, the 1999 Act amended landfill tax legislation.

The amendments were brought into force in England and Wales on 21 March 2000 and in Northern Ireland on 17 January 2003. However, the necessary commencement order was not made in Scotland, which unintentionally took all Scottish landfill sites outside the scope of landfill tax from the date their permits took effect.

Photo of Fabian Hamilton Fabian Hamilton Labour, Leeds North East

I accept what the Minister says about correcting an oversight with regard to landfill tax in Scotland, but does he agree that, generally, retrospective taxation—retrospective legislation of any sort—is not a good idea?

Photo of David Gauke David Gauke The Exchequer Secretary

The hon. Gentleman takes me into a much wider issue with regard to retrospective taxation. We expect the measure to have no Exchequer or industry impacts as it restores the position that those affected thought they were already in. The measure provides a degree of clarification. Indeed, if I wanted to be partisan, I would say that this is another example of the Government clearing up the mess that we inherited, albeit a fairly small mess.

Photo of Fabian Hamilton Fabian Hamilton Labour, Leeds North East

I understood that the relevant legislation was introduced in 1996. Surely, the Conservatives were in power then.

Photo of David Gauke David Gauke The Exchequer Secretary

No. It is always a pleasure to see the expression on the hon. Gentleman’s face when he thinks that he has the Minister on the ropes, but I am sorry to disabuse him. The situation arose as a consequence of subsequent changes made following the 1999 Act, which he will recall was introduced under the previous Government.

I am not sure whether this issue will sway many voters one way or the other. However, that bit of knockabout debate enlivens an otherwise quiet Thursday afternoon.

The changes made by the clause will bring section 66 of the Finance Act 1996 into force in Scotland from the same date it was brought into force in England and Wales. The measure will have full retrospective effect from 21 March 2000 and will bring landfill tax legislation for Scottish sites into line with the rest of the UK. In conclusion, the clause makes the necessary changes to correct landfill tax legislation in relation to the definition of a landfill site in Scotland. I hope that it can stand part of the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 204 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.