National Insurance Contributions Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:15 am on 22nd June 2021.
With this it will be convenient to consider clause 9 stand part.
I do apologise. We wait in expectancy and hope.
Clause 8 contains a regulation that would allow the Treasury to set for every tax year a freeport upper secondary threshold and a veterans upper secondary threshold over which the secondary percentage, rather than the zero secondary percentage, would apply. Different upper secondary thresholds may be set for each measure. The freeports bidding prospectus confirmed that the freeports UST would be set at £25,000 for the 2022-23 tax year. The veterans consultation document confirmed that the veterans UST would be £50,270 for the 2021-22 tax year.
On Second Reading, a question was asked about the freeport UST being lower than that for veterans. We have touched on it already, but let me come back to it. Unlike other NICs reliefs that are available to employers generally, businesses operating in a freeport are likely to be able to claim the refund for almost all their new hires. That is the basis on which the upper secondary threshold has been set, in the context of the wider generosity that has been given. Employers will still be able to claim up to approximately £6,500 of relief on the salaries of employees earning more than that. The clause also provides that regulations may specify that the veterans UST is set retrospectively, and that is for reasons that we have described and discussed.
I turn now to clause 9, which contains a consequential amendment in relation to the apprentice levy that is calculated by reference to employers’ annual pay bill. It amends section 100 of the Finance Act 2016 to ensure that earnings that are liable for the freeport and veterans zero rate of secondary class 1 NICs are still considered when calculating an employer’s annual pay bill. This approach is consistent with other employees’ NICs reliefs, such as the under-21 and under-23 apprentice reliefs.
Clauses 8 and 9, which were discussed with earlier clauses, allow the Treasury to set an upper secondary threshold for secondary class 1 NICs specifically in relation to armed forces veterans and freeport earners every tax year. The Bill will therefore allow different thresholds to be set for veterans and freeport employees, and for those thresholds to be different from the thresholds that apply to under-21s and apprentices.
We welcome the fact that the Minister confirmed on Second Reading that the upper secondary threshold for veterans will be £50,270 in a veteran’s first full year of civilian employment. After the Minister’s explanation, however, I remain unconvinced by his argument for setting the threshold for employers in freeports below the average wage in freeport areas, as we discussed at length during debate on earlier clauses. If the Minister has had time to think further about his argument, I would welcome further explanation in his response. If not, I will leave my remarks there.
No, I have nothing to add. We have already discussed this at some length.