Relief for payments to victims of persecution during Second World War era

Finance Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:25 am on 16th June 2020.

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

Photo of Jesse Norman Jesse Norman The Financial Secretary to the Treasury

This is a small measure, but a very important one. The clause exempts compensation payments received under the Kindertransport fund from an inheritance tax liability. In late 2018, the German Government agreed to provide compensation payments for child survivors of the Kindertransport. As you will know, Mr Rosindell, the Kindertransport was an organised rescue effort for Jewish children, who were transported unaccompanied from Germany to escape persecution from the Nazi regime. I must say, it is one of the most shining examples of effective humanitarian action in Germany’s history—and in our history—in a very difficult time.

The Kindertransport fund, launched in January 2019, awarding one-off payments of €2,500 to survivors is subject to specified criteria as set out by the German Government. The measure will ensure that Kindertransport payments are not subject to inheritance tax. Changes made by clause 74 will be backdated to take effect so that no inheritance tax is paid on payments from the scheme from its opening date on 1 January 2019.

The clause provides reassurance to the original survivors of the Kindertransport that any payment made in connection with or under this compensation scheme will not be subject to IHT. While no amount of money could ever remove the suffering those children and their families experienced, the Government remain committed to supporting survivors of Nazi persecution. I trust that all agree that it is fundamental that the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Bridget Phillipson Bridget Phillipson Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury

The Opposition welcome the provision. As the Minister says, it is a very important measure. Exempting from inheritance tax compensation payments made to the survivors of the Kindertransport is a just measure for those who had to face the devastating experience of being torn from their families as children in order to escape persecution. The House of Commons Library states that around 100,000 children were brought to the UK under the Kindertransport scheme, but of course many of those survivors have since passed away. It is only right that in the spirit of the Kindertransport fund all survivors receive their compensation payment in its fullest form and that that remains the case if the compensation is inherited.

According to the claims conference, to be eligible for payment survivors have to have been under 21 when the Kindertransport took place, between November 1938 and September 1939. However, the UK set an age limit of 17 for those transported. The oldest would therefore be born around 1921 or 1922, suggesting that they would be nearly 100 if they were alive today. The average age of the children who were transported was nine, so many would be in their mid-nineties today. Given those figures, we know that many people claiming compensation from the compensation fund will be survivors’ inheritors, so it is welcome that the payment is not subject to inheritance tax. However, I gently urge the Government to consider the issues that child refugees face today, and I urge Ministers to show the same level of commitment and dedication today that our country demonstrated in the past.

The Kindertransport survivor and incredible campaigner Lord Dubs worked tirelessly to protect child refugees following our withdrawal from the European Union, but the Government’s amendment of clause 37 watered down the UK’s commitment to protect unaccompanied child refugees in Europe who seek to reunite with their families in the UK. I hope that the Government will review their approach to child refugees and take seriously their commitment to protect child refugees fleeing violence and persecution in our present, just as they have taken seriously compensating child refugees of the past. Meaningful dedication to supporting child refugees requires both.

Photo of Jesse Norman Jesse Norman The Financial Secretary to the Treasury

I thank the hon. Lady for her comments. She spoke very well about the Kindertransport scheme. As the Committee knows, the Government stand by our position on child refugees, and this country has a proud record in that area.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 74 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.