Clause 98 - Power to make temporary modifications of taxation of employment income

Part of Finance (No. 2) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:00 am on 11 January 2022.

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Photo of Alison Thewliss Alison Thewliss Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Treasury) 10:00, 11 January 2022

I agree very much with what the Labour Front-Bench spokesman has said. Clause 98 is very wide-ranging, and vague in a lot of ways. It is important to understand its scope, because one person’s definition of a disaster or emergency might be quite different from another’s. It is important that we define that slightly more than is the case in the clause, which states that the regulations

“may only specify a disaster or emergency which the Treasury considers to be of national significance.”

That could be a lot of things, depending on how the Treasury considers it.

I wonder whether the Minister, in looking at the clause, has taken into account the findings of the Public Accounts Committee and the National Audit Office on the Government’s lack of financial preparedness, specifically coming into the pandemic. There was a lot of talk about medical preparedness, stockpiling and things like that, but both the National Audit Office and the Public Accounts Committee found that there was no preparedness in the Treasury for a pandemic or national emergency of this type.

It would be useful to know what further work, in addition to clause 98, Treasury officials are putting in place to ensure that, should something like this occur in future, the box of learning from this pandemic can be taken off the shelf and easily applied, without having to make a load of new provisions and regulations, so that things are ready to go, and we do not have to scratch around, trying to figure out what happened last time. Another pandemic may occur in five years or 50 years—we do not know. Certainly, our hope in the SNP is that we will not be here in 50 years, if not five, but it would be useful to know what provisions are being considered in the Treasury to ensure that the learning from this pandemic sits very tightly with this clause and can be applied very easily.