Carbon emissions tax

Finance Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:30 pm on 16th June 2020.

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

Photo of Siobhain McDonagh Siobhain McDonagh Labour, Mitcham and Morden

With this it will be convenient to discuss, That schedule 11 be the Eleventh schedule to the Bill.

Photo of Kemi Badenoch Kemi Badenoch The Exchequer Secretary

At Budget 2020 the Government announced that they would make the necessary legislative changes to the carbon emissions tax in Finance Bill 2020 to ensure that this policy remained a viable option to maintain carbon pricing in the UK after the transition period, in the event that a trading system proves undesirable. If the Government decide to use the tax as their carbon pricing policy after the transition period, the tax would be commenced, by secondary legislation laid in late 2020, from 1 January 2021.

The clause and schedule strengthen the effectiveness of the carbon emissions tax by ensuring that penalties can be issued for non-compliance and late payment and the legislation is updated to reflect developments since the tax was established in the Finance Act 2019. In line with the withdrawal agreement, the UK will remain in the EU emissions trading system, known as the EU ETS, until the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020. The UK will continue to have legally binding carbon reduction targets after leaving the EU.

As set out in the UK’s approach to the negotiation, the UK would be open to considering a link between any future UK emissions trading system and the EU ETS, if it suited both the UK’s and the EU’s interests. If a linked trading system between the UK and the EU is not agreed, the UK would introduce an alternative carbon pricing policy. The Government are therefore preparing both a UK standalone emissions trading system and a carbon emissions tax.

Budget 2020 announced that legislation would be included in this Finance Bill to provide a charging power to establish a UK ETS linked to the EU ETS or a standalone UK ETS, and update the existing legislation relating to carbon emissions tax. This schedule amends the Finance Act 2019 to ensure that the tax will be ready to be operational from the end of the transition period, if needed. The clause and schedule deal with the latter.

Clause 92 introduces schedule 11, which makes amendments to part 3 of the Finance Act 2019, which established the carbon emissions tax. Schedule 11 will amend the Finance Act 2019 so that the carbon emissions tax is ready to commence from 1 January 2021 if needed.

I will briefly highlight the most significant changes in what is a fairly technical schedule. Paragraphs 9 and 10 add provisions to the tax for a penalty for failure to make payments of tax to HMRC on time. That would be achieved by adopting the existing provisions on late payment penalties in schedule 56 to the Finance Act 2009. The penalty would be commenced by appointed day regulations if the tax were introduced.

Similarly, paragraph 4 allows for provisions to be made for the imposition of civil penalties for failure to comply with a requirement of the regulations; the review of, and a right of appeal against, a specified decision relating to the tax; and the modification of domestic and EU regulations relating to the monitoring and regulation of emissions.

Paragraph 8 amends the commencement and transitional provisions to ensure that the regulations needed to operate the tax may be made before the tax has commenced. It also removes provisions that were needed when we were planning to commence the tax partway through an emissions reporting period. Those are no longer needed, as we would now start the tax on 1 January, the first day of an emissions reporting period.

Paragraph 3 allows the Treasury, by regulations, to exclude regulated installations of a specified description from the charge to tax. That enables the Government, for example, to exclude Northern Ireland power generators from the tax, were they to continue to participate in the EU ETS as provided for in the Northern Ireland protocol. Paragraph 6 ensures that regulators will be able to recover costs incurred in doing work connected with carbon emissions tax, even if that work is done before regulations are made.

In conclusion, the clause and schedule ensure that the carbon emissions tax is ready to commence from 1 January 2021 if needed. It would provide a stable carbon price and help the UK to meet its carbon reduction commitments. I therefore commend the clause and schedule to the Committee.

Photo of Wes Streeting Wes Streeting Shadow Exchequer Secretary (Treasury)

The clause and schedule that we are discussing make perfect sense in light of the impact of our exiting the European Union. I just have a few questions for the Minister.

This clause gives the Government the power to introduce a UK emissions trading scheme or carbon tax via a statutory instrument. As we have already heard from the Minister, and as we have heard from public statements on both sides of the channel this week, we will leave the EU emissions trading scheme on December 31 2020, when we leave the transition period.

I think the Minister alluded to the fact that so many of the questions that stakeholders have remain unanswered. I accept that this is just an enabling clause in anticipation of the further detail, and I appreciate that some of these questions may relate to responsibilities in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, so I will accept it if she sends me in that direction, but does she know when the Government plan to respond to chapters 1 to 3 of the consultation on the future of UK carbon pricing? Can she give assurances that there will be time to scrutinise Government proposals and implement a new scheme by the end of the year, bearing in mind that the proposals will have an impact on a wide range of organisations?

Touching on a theme I raised this morning about support for businesses as they undertake a transition to new frameworks, how do the Government intend to support UK companies during the transition, bearing in mind that, just as we are feeling the impact on Government business of disruption caused by the pandemic, many businesses are feeling exactly the same disruption? Is it realistic or desirable for companies across the country to be adapting to a new scheme that is not yet known and that may need to take force by the end of this year?

Photo of Kemi Badenoch Kemi Badenoch The Exchequer Secretary

We published a consultation response on 1 June, and the carbon emissions tax consultation is due to be published shortly. I will say to the hon. Gentleman, “Watch this space.”

In terms of the impact on businesses, the carbon emissions tax would have an impact on around 1,000 installations that currently participate in the EU emissions trading system, most of which are operated by large businesses. Businesses whose emissions exceeded their allowance would need to familiarise themselves with the tax and pay a bill once a year, in lieu of surrendering trading allowances under the EU emissions trading system. It must be said, however, that the administrative burdens of complying with this tax are not expected to be more than what they would have been under the EU emissions trading system.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 92 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 11 agreed to.