Review of geographical effects of provisions of Sections 27 to 30

Finance Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 12:45 pm on 18th June 2020.

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‘The Chancellor of the Exchequer must within twelve months of the passing of this Act lay before both Houses of Parliament a report assessing the differential geographical effects, broken down by nation and NUTS 1 statistical region, of the changes made by sections 27 to 30 of this Act.’—

This new clause would require a geographical impact assessment of the clauses of the Bill relating to reliefs for business.

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Alison Thewliss Alison Thewliss Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Treasury)

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

My understanding was that we were breaking after the previous clause, so I will scramble to find my notes. We think it is important to look at the geographical impact of the Bill. I support the new clause tabled by Plaid Cymru, which has suggested that we have a report assessing the

“differential geographical effects, broken down by nation and NUTS 1 statistical region, of the changes made by sections…of this Act.”

What is lacking in this House—I have said this before and I have no hesitation in returning to it—are real mechanisms to explore how effective the measures in the Finance Bill are in reality. My colleagues and I have supported work on a Budget Committee, which has been before the Procedure Committee to look at it as well. We do not understand the effectiveness of the policies and the ideas that the Government have, so we end up with things being proposed in Bills that turn out to be completely ineffective or we find out that they have differential effects from what the Government expected, so they have to come back later to amend things and try to fix their mistakes.

We feel that requiring the Government to consider the geographical effects of the changes to the reliefs, including research and development expenditure credit, would give a better understanding of how effective they are across the different regions and nations and of whether those incentives actually contribute to the continuing inequalities that we see across the UK. We think this is an issue of real importance to Scotland and to Wales for the measures where we do not necessarily have particular control ourselves and where the devolved nations do not have competence. It is important to understand what the Government are about with the legislation they are proposing as well as its impact, and whether the measures are truly seen to be effective.

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

The hon. Member for Glasgow Central makes a reasonable case—that will be a running theme throughout a number of new clauses, not least when we turn to new clause 3 in the afternoon session. I will make the points I want to make about the importance of reviewing the geographical impact of measures in the Finance Bill at that point, but I concur with her remarks.

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

I thank colleagues who have spoken. New clause 2 would require the Government to assess and report on the geographical effects of changes to business tax reliefs made by clauses 27 to 30 within 12 months. That relates specifically to the research and development expenditure credit, the structures and buildings allowance, and the treatment of intangible fixed assets.

Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs does not routinely require businesses to provide geographical information about where expenditure is incurred as part of their claims for RDEC, SBA or intangible fixed assets treatment. In order to do so, changes would need to be made to the CT600 form, which would create a burden for businesses. In addition, those claiming the reliefs would only provide information after the year-end. For that reason, it does not make sense. It is not possible for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs to have that information within the 12 months stipulated in the amendment. HMRC does in fact already publish annual statistics on many tax reliefs, including a detailed breakdown of R&D tax relief claims, which analyses, by region and sector, the number of claims and the amount of relief received. However, the regional analysis is based on the company’s registered office, not necessarily where expenditure is incurred.

Although the next set of annual R&D tax relief statistics will be published by HMRC in the autumn, companies can claim R&D tax relief up to two years after the end of their accounting period. For that reason, the 2020 statistical release will include claims only until 2018-19, and will therefore not include claims for the increased 13% RDEC rate. The Government do, of course, remain committed to levelling up every region and nation of the UK to spread opportunity and to ensure that everyone benefits from growth. For example, the spring Budget provided a £1.14 billion increase to block grants for devolved Administrations to spend on their own priorities. That is in addition to the £2.7 billion that the Government are investing in city deals across Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, with £800 million of funding being provided to support four deals in Wales alone, and a further £1.4 billion being provided across 10 deals in Scotland.

As we look to our economic recovery from the impact of covid-19, that levelling-up agenda will be more important than ever. Given that the Government already publish detailed analyses and that regional information is collected and held as part of HMRC’s tax returns, asking business to record further information would represent a significant additional business burden. I ask the Committee to reject the new clause.

Photo of Alison Thewliss Alison Thewliss Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Treasury)

The Treasury Select Committee is also looking at regional imbalances. Part of the Committee’s work has identified that the data collected by the Government on a range of areas is not sufficient. It is not good enough for the Minister to say, “Oh, it’s difficult to do that.” I accept that money is not necessarily spent where an office is based, but it is a start in understanding where that money is going. If lots of organisations based in London are taking in the money and perhaps it is going somewhere else, the Government ought to be aware of that and ought to be looking at it to make sure that if somebody based in London is taking in the money but it is being spent somewhere else, then perhaps they should be based where the money is being spent. Perhaps they should be moving their offices to where the money is being spent. That puts it back on to those businesses, to add to that consideration, so I do not buy the Minister’s argument that it is awfully difficult and that we should not do it. It is a first step into looking at how it might be done, so I would like to press clause 2.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time.

Division number 7 Finance Bill — Review of geographical effects of provisions of Sections 27 to 30

Aye: 7 MPs

No: 10 MPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Nos: A-Z by last name

The Committee divided: Ayes 7, Noes 10.

Question accordingly negatived.

Ordered, That further consideration be now adjourned. —(David Rutley.)

Adjourned till this day at Two o’clock.