Clause 9 - Managers of ships

Finance Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:45 am on 16 January 2024.

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

Photo of Gareth Davies Gareth Davies The Exchequer Secretary

It is a great pleasure to see you in the Chair, Mr Paisley.

Clause 9 and schedule 8 enable qualifying companies that manage ships to elect into the tonnage tax regime. Clause 10 increases the capital allowance limit on the provision of vessels to operators in the tonnage tax regime for ship lessors. Tonnage tax is a regime aimed at boosting the United Kingdom’s competitiveness in the international shipping industry. At autumn Budget 2021, the Government announced the first substantive reforms of tonnage tax since 2005. These included removing the EU/EEA flagging requirement, for example.

Following those reforms, the Government announced at this year’s spring Budget that we would permit third-party ship management under the tonnage tax regime, with the aim of attracting more shipping companies to the United Kingdom, and that we would also raise the capital allowance limit for lessors of ships into tonnage tax, broadly in line with inflation and the cost of ships. These changes follow a review into whether to include ship management and the appropriateness of the existing capital allowance limit.

Until now, only companies that owned or chartered their ships could participate in the regime. The existing tonnage tax rules will in general apply to ship managers as they do to operators, but with certain exceptions. Most notably, operators must fulfil a training requirement for ships’ officers, which will not apply to third-party managers. They will be able to claim tonnage tax profits only on ships for which the operator has fulfilled the training obligation. Clause 10 will raise the overall limit on capital allowances that a lessor can claim from £80 million to £200 million—the first rise since the limits were introduced in 2000. The increase recognises general price movements and changes in vessel design and costs, ensuring that the UK tonnage tax continues to be internationally competitive. I therefore commend clauses 9 and 10 and schedule 8 to the Committee.

Photo of James Murray James Murray Shadow Financial Secretary (Treasury)

As we have heard, clause 9 sets out to make changes to the tonnage tax, by extending the scope of the tax to allow entry by third-party ship managers. As the Government’s policy paper sets out, as things stand, entry to the regime is available to operators of qualifying ships, with operators defined as those who own or lease vessels.

We understand that introducing the ability for ship managers who are not operators of ships to make a tonnage tax election will extend the scope of this beneficial tax regime, and it seeks to thereby increase the international competitiveness of the UK shipping industry. Extending the measure to permit ship managers to make a tonnage tax election is a largely administrative move and aims to bring the UK’s shipping regime in line with the international market. We will not oppose this measure today.

Clause 10 is a further measure related to tonnage tax. It raises the limit on capital allowances to £200 million for lessors of ships into the regime in line with inflation and the market rate of ships. We know the limits on capital allowances that may be claimed by lessors on the provision of ships leased to operators of qualifying ships in the tonnage tax regime have not been increased since the regime was introduced in 2000. As with clause 9, the Opposition will not oppose a measure that aims to modernise and simplify the tonnage tax regime and in turn aims to boost UK competitiveness.

Photo of Gareth Davies Gareth Davies The Exchequer Secretary 10:00, 16 January 2024

Let me take the opportunity to congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his fifth Finance Bill. He is looking good on it, and I hope this one goes as badly for him as the others. It is always a genuine pleasure to be opposite the hon. Gentleman and I am grateful to the Opposition for not opposing clauses 9 and 10.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 9 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 8 agreed to.

Clause 10 ordered to stand part of the Bill.