Clause 12 - Regulations

Part of National Insurance Contributions Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:30 am on 22 June 2021.

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Photo of James Murray James Murray Shadow Financial Secretary (Treasury) 10:30, 22 June 2021

As we turn to clause 12, which provides for regulations under the Bill to be made by statutory instrument, I would like to discuss which regulations can be decided by the negative and the affirmative procedures. It might be helpful to focus on clause 3(3), which is mentioned in clause 12.

Clause 3 gives the Treasury regulation-making powers to

“provide for circumstances in which a freeport condition is to be treated as being met.”

That has the effect of making the relief available in circumstances in which it would not otherwise be. We note that clause 3 also gives the Government extensive powers to

“amend, repeal or otherwise modify” the relief. Although it will always be easier for the Government to amend legislation by way of regulations, we recognise the concerns that the Chartered Institute of Taxation has articulated that the powers to make those changes are extensive. There may well need to be flexibility to allow the finer detail of legislation to be amended, but there is a strong argument that any fundamental changes should be subject to full consultation and scrutiny.

I would be grateful if the Financial Secretary explained why he considers that the powers granted in clause 12, with effect on clause 3, to make decisions by way of regulations are proportionate. Does he agree that the clause gives the Government more powers than are desirable to change key elements of the policy by regulations? In particular, given that regulations under clause 3(3), which relate to freeport conditions, are subject to the affirmative procedure, will he explain why regulations under clause 3(2), which also relate to freeport conditions, are subject to the negative procedure instead?