Clause 82 - Rates of landfill tax

Finance (No. 2) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 6:30 pm on 5 January 2022.

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

Photo of Helen Whately Helen Whately The Exchequer Secretary

Clause 82 increases both the standard and lower rates of landfill tax in line with inflation from 1 April 2022, as announced in the 2021 spring Budget. Landfill tax was introduced in 1996 to encourage the diversion of waste away from landfill towards more environmentally friendly waste management options, such as recycling, reuse and recovery. It has been hugely successful in achieving that aim, contributing to a 90% reduction in waste collected and managed by local authorities sent to landfill in England.

The changes made by clause 82 will see landfill tax rates increase from £96.70 to £98.60 per tonne for standard-rated waste disposed of to landfill, and from £3.10 to £3.15 for lower-rated waste, from 1 April 2022. These changes will make sure that the price incentive to divert waste away from landfill is maintained in real terms.

Overall, clause 82 will increase the standard and lower rates of landfill tax in line with the retail prices index from 1 April 2022. That will maintain the real-terms price incentive to divert waste away from landfill. I therefore commend the clause to the Committee.

Photo of Abena Oppong-Asare Abena Oppong-Asare Shadow Exchequer Secretary (Treasury)

I thank the Minister for her explanation of clause 82, which increases the rate of landfill tax in line with inflation. The clause is very straightforward, and we do not oppose it. However, since we are talking about a specifically environmental tax, I will take this opportunity to bring to the Minister’s attention the climate change tax policy road map published by the Chartered Institute of Taxation, which calls on the Government to set out how they plan to use the tax system to meet our net zero goal.

There are obviously several different taxes that affect the environment, some of which we have already discussed today, but there is a clear need to start thinking strategically about the role that the tax system will play in reaching our net zero goal. Of course, tax can play a number of roles in achieving net zero. It provides a source of revenue for the investment we desperately need—in renewable energy, for example—but it can also incentivise climate-friendly behaviour, whether for individuals or businesses, and I have met businesses that are quite keen to have a bit more direction on that, particularly from the Government.

It is not just me who is saying this: in a number of meetings I have had, quite a number of stakeholders have said that we need the Government to take a joined-up approach that links climate tax policy with wider policy objectives. Unfortunately, the recent Treasury net zero review said very little about this really important issue, so could the Minister set out whether the Treasury will publish a net zero strategy? Failing that, will she give us an indication of how the Treasury intends to use the tax code as part of our effort to achieve net zero?

Photo of Liz Twist Liz Twist Opposition Whip (Commons), Shadow Minister (Scotland)

I speak in this debate as an MP whose constituency has been blighted by landfill, so of course landfill taxes are very welcome, and as my hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Thamesmead has just said, an increase in that tax is welcome as part of an environmental policy that—as she also said—needs to go much further in future. However, I want specifically to ask the Minister about enforcement of the requirement to collect and pay landfill tax after the experience in my constituency of a failed HMRC investigation lasting some six years, the unfortunately named Operation Nosedive. What will the Treasury do to ensure that enforcement action is robust and followed through to make this tax as effective as it can be?

Photo of Helen Whately Helen Whately The Exchequer Secretary

The hon. Member for Blaydon made a really important point about the enforcement of landfill tax. I am also aware of concerns about the associated waste crime. There has been a reduction in the landfill tax gap in recent years. The landfill tax gap for England and Northern Ireland was estimated at £200 million—22.7%—in 2019-20, which is a decrease compared with the tax gap in 2018-19, when it was £275 million, or 29%. So there has been an improvement in the enforcement of landfill tax, but I recognise the point that she makes and we will continue to work on that.

There is a new taskforce dedicated to tackling serious and organised waste crime. The joint unit for waste crime will bring together law enforcement agencies, environmental regulators, HMRC and the National Crime Agency to deal with waste crime.

Photo of Liz Twist Liz Twist Opposition Whip (Commons), Shadow Minister (Scotland)

Can the Minister tell me how the tax gap is calculated? I am pleased to hear that it has gone down, but am interested to hear how the gap is calculated and monitored.

Photo of Helen Whately Helen Whately The Exchequer Secretary

I hope the hon. Member is happy for me to write to her on the methodology for calculating that particular tax gap. I am happy to set out further action that will be taken to address waste-related crime as well.

I thank the hon. Member for Erith and Thamesmead for pointing me to the report that she mentioned. She made broad points about the tax system and its role in meeting net zero. The net zero review was a substantial document that was very open about the thinking and the challenges involved in our transition to net zero. I do not think that here and now is the place to set out a net zero tax strategy, which I think she was asking me to do, so I hope she will understand if I do not stand here and do that, but we have put a lot on paper about the Treasury’s thinking on these matters.

Photo of Abena Oppong-Asare Abena Oppong-Asare Shadow Exchequer Secretary (Treasury)

I thank the Minister for being extremely generous in giving way. I appreciate it. On the net zero review, a lot of businesses and stakeholders have come to me to highlight their concerns where they feel that actions do not go far enough, so I urge the Government to review that and take that on board.

Photo of Helen Whately Helen Whately The Exchequer Secretary

I have heard the hon. Member’s points. I move that the clause stand part of the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 82 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.