Oil activities: tariff receipts etc

Finance (No. 2) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 12:30 pm on 11 January 2018.

Alert me about debates like this

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

Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Financial Secretary to the Treasury and Paymaster General

Clause 22 amends the definition of tariff receipts that are taxable to ring-fence corporation tax and the supplementary charge. Tariff receipts are income that oil companies receive from third parties for the use of their oil and gas assets. It is common for oil and gas producers to share the use of pipelines, terminals and other facilities, and tariffs are one type of commercial arrangement used in those cases.

The clause clarifies the fact that activities by petroleum licence holders in the UK and on the UK continental shelf that give rise to tariff income are oil extraction activities. That ensures that their treatment is in line with current industry practice. As a result of the change, oil and gas companies will have the certainty they need to continue investing in infrastructure. The change will also ensure that the Government can deliver on the Budget 2016 commitment to expand the investment and cluster area allowances so that they can be activated by tariff receipts. Delivering that commitment will encourage more investment in the strategic infrastructure that is crucial to the longevity of our vital national industry.

The Government introduced the investment and cluster area allowances at Budget 2015, simplifying the system for investors and driving new investment. The allowances replaced the complicated system of bespoke oil and gas field allowances. They give oil and gas companies tax relief by reducing the amount of profit that is taxable to the supplementary charge. The allowances are generated on investment expenditure on UK oil and gas assets and can be activated by income from the oilfield. The allowances therefore reward successful investment in UK oil and gas production.

At Budget 2016 the Government went further, announcing that they would expand the scope of the investment and cluster area allowances so that they could be activated by tariff receipts, in addition to the production income from the field. Including tariff receipts within the scope of the investment and cluster area allowances will encourage infrastructure owners to continue investing in the North sea’s vital infrastructure, for the benefit of third parties and to support the “Maximising Economic Recovery” strategy. Before the Government can deliver that commitment, however, it is essential that the current law is consistent with the objective of the policy.

Following an informal consultation with industry and analysis of the legislation, a degree of ambiguity was found in the current legislation, making it difficult to deliver the expansion as intended. The measure will resolve that ambiguity by clarifying that tariff receipts are treated in line with broad industry practice. The Government’s intention to clarify the legislation has been welcomed by the industry.

The changes made by clause 22 will provide oil and gas companies with the right conditions that they need to continue investing in the industry’s infrastructure. The clause amends the existing definition of tariff receipts to confirm that all tariff income earned by UK licence holders is an oil extraction activity, and therefore in the scope of the oil and gas ring fence tax regime. The clause also confirms that for ring fence corporation tax and supplementary charge purposes, there is no distinction between tariff receipts arising from old oilfields that are subject to petroleum revenue tax and new, non-PRT oilfields.

The UK oil and gas industry makes a significant contribution to the UK economy, supporting more than 300,000 jobs and providing about half our primary energy needs. To date, it has paid about £330 billon in production taxes. By clarifying the tax treatment in law for tariff receipts, whether they are generated from new or old oilfields, the clause will allow the Government to deliver their Budget 2016 commitment. That should encourage investment in the UK continental shelf. I therefore commend the clause to the Committee.

Photo of Kirsty Blackman Kirsty Blackman Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Economy), SNP Deputy Leader, Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Economy)

I congratulate the Minister on getting through that speech, because the subject of oil and gas taxation is incredibly technical and complicated. As the Minister has said, the clarification is welcome. Also incredibly welcome was the promise in the Budget this year to institute the transferable tax history changes that are required, and I appreciate the fact that that has happened. Industry has been calling for that for a while, as I have done quite a number of times in this room and in the main Chamber.

On “Maximising Economic Recovery”, which the Minister mentioned, it is two years since former Prime Minister David Cameron came to Aberdeen and said that an oil and gas ambassador would be appointed, but we still do not have that ambassador. Will the Minister let us know when we are likely to get the ambassador, or has the idea been shelved permanently?

Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Financial Secretary to the Treasury and Paymaster General

I thank the hon. Lady for her recognition of the moves that we are making on transferable tax history. I agree that they are important for the sector, particularly given its current state of development. It is important to make sure that we keep the oil industry going in her part of the country. On her question about the oil and gas ambassador, I will make inquiries and come back to her. In terms of industrial strategy, as I mentioned in detail in my opening remarks, her part of the world and the oil and gas sector are extremely important to the Government and will remain so.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 22 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 23