Consideration of Bill, not amended in the Committee and as amended in the Public Bill Committee
New Clause 4
EIS, VCTs etc: excluded activities
‘(1) In section 192 of ITA 2007 (excluded activities for the purposes of sections 181 and 189 (and, by virtue of section 257HF(2), Part 5A)), in subsection (1)—
(a) in paragraph (kb), omit the final “and”;
(b) after paragraph (kb) insert—
(kc) making reserve electricity generating capacity available (or, where such capacity has been made available, using it to generate electricity), and”.
(2) In section 303 of ITA 2007 (excluded activities for the purposes of sections 290 and 300), in subsection (1)—
(a) in paragraph (kb), omit the final “and”;
(b) after paragraph (kb) insert—
(kc) making reserve electricity generating capacity available (or, where such capacity has been made available, using it to generate electricity), and”.
(3) The amendment made by subsection (1) has effect in relation to shares issued on or after 30 November 2015.
(4) The amendment made by subsection (2) has effect in relation to relevant holdings issued on or after 30 November 2015.” —(Mr Gauke.)
Brought up, and read the First time.
I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.
With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:
Government new clauses 5, 6 and 8.
Amendment 91, page 57, in clause 42, leave out lines 26 and 27.
Amendment 92, page 57, leave out lines 30 to 41.
Amendment 93, page 58, leave out from beginning of line 1 to end of line 37 on page 60 and insert—
“Graduated rates of duty payable on first vehicle licence
For the purpose of determining the rate at which vehicle excise duty is to be paid on each of the first three years of vehicle licence for a vehicle to which this Part of this Schedule applies, the annual rate of duty applicable to the vehicle shall be determined in accordance with the following table by reference to the applicable CO2 emissions figure.
Carbon Dioxide emissions
Not exceeding g/km
First full year (£)
Second full year (£)
Third full year
Rates of duty payable on any other vehicle licence
1GD For the purpose of determining the rate at which vehicle excise duty is to be paid on any other vehicle licence for a vehicle to which this Part of this Schedule applies, the annual rate of vehicle excise applicable to the vehicle shall be determined in accordance with the following table by reference to the applicable CO2 emissions figure.
Carbon Dioxide emissions
Not exceeding g/km
Standard rate (£)
New clause 3—Tax treatment of private equity fund managers’ pay—
‘(1) The Chancellor of the Exchequer shall, within six months of the passing of this Act, publish and lay before the House of Commons a report setting out proposals for amending the law to ensure that no element of the remuneration paid to an investment fund manager may be treated as a capital gain, and that such remuneration shall be treated for tax purposes wholly as income.
(2) For the purposes of this section, an “investment fund manager” is a person who performs investment management services directly or indirectly.”
Government amendments 71 to 88 and 31 to 70.
I would like to open the debate by discussing amendments 31 to 70. As announced in the Public Bill Committee, the Government are introducing amendments to clauses 25 and 26 and schedules 5 and 6 to ensure that the Bill works as intended and that the new rules work correctly with the existing provisions.
I remind the House that the original clauses and schedules make changes to the rules for the enterprise investment scheme and venture capital trusts to bring them into line with new state aid rules. This will secure the future of the schemes and ensure they continue to be well targeted towards companies that need investment to develop and grow. The enterprise investment and venture capital schemes have been supporting small companies to access finance for more than 20 years and provide generous tax incentives to encourage private individuals to invest in high-risk small and growing companies that would otherwise struggle to access finance from the market. The original clauses and subsequent amendments ensure the long-term future of these important schemes.
Alongside the amendments, the Government are also introducing new clause 4, which makes changes to exclude companies from qualifying for the seed enterprise and investment scheme, the enterprise investment scheme and the venture capital trust, if their activities involve making available reserve electricity generating capacity—for example, under the capacity market agreement or the short-term operating reserve contract. In recent years, there has been a significant increase in tax-advantaged investment in energy companies benefiting from other guaranteed income streams. These activities are also generally asset-backed. The new clause will ensure that the Government remain consistent in their approach by keeping the venture capital schemes targeted at high-risk companies. We will also introduce secondary legislation to exclude subsidised renewable energy generation by community energy organisations.
The Minister will be aware that the very late tabling of new clause 4 might have disconcerted and inconvenienced companies. Among those it has unsettled is one in my constituency which was on the point of closing a funding arrangement that would have given it access to capital of about £25 million to £40 million. Given that the concern the new clause appears to address is focused on state aid or subsidy, particularly capacity market agreements, will he confirm that it is not intended to apply to businesses that do not use capacity market agreements, such as the one I have described?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for letting me know earlier today about his constituency case. It is difficult to be drawn too much on an individual case, although I understand why he has raised it, and I can assure him that the representation he made to me earlier today on behalf of his constituent is being looked at closely. He has obviously put his concerns on the record, but all I can say now is that there is a clear objective behind new clause 4. It is about ensuring that the provisions are state aid compliant and that the regime is well targeted. I hope he will be reassured that I and my officials will look closely at his case, but if he will forgive me, I will not get too drawn into the specific circumstances he outlines.
I am extremely grateful to the Minister for those assurances. Am I right in thinking that there will be scope within regulation to allow the kind of carve-out that might be necessary if his investigations uphold, as it were, the position that I am taking?
My hon. Friend draws me more into the specifics, but I hope he will be satisfied if I ask him to let me look at the particular circumstances that his constituent has raised. In that context, before we get into process matters, he should let me look at those particular circumstances. There are good reasons why we are bringing forward new clause 4, which is consistent with our general approach to ensure that the schemes are properly targeted.
As I mentioned, we shall introduce secondary legislation to exclude subsidised renewable energy generation by community energy organisations. This follows the announcement in the summer Budget that the Government would continue to monitor the use of the venture capital schemes by community energy to ensure that the schemes were not subject to misuse and that they provided value for money to the taxpayer. All these changes on energy activities will take effect for investments made on or after 30 November. The Government intend to apply all these exclusions to the social investment tax relief when SITR is enlarged.
New clause 5 corrects a technical defect in the legislation relating to corporation tax instalment payments. Instalment payments are currently made by large companies—that is, companies with profits that exceed £1.5 million. The definition of “large” was previously included in primary legislation, which has since been repealed when corporation tax rates were unified from 1 April 2015, at which point the definition moved to secondary legislation. Following that, there is a mismatch between the cessation of the repealed legislation and the commencement of the new definition, which could be interpreted to mean that corporation tax payments would be due nine months and a day after the accounting period. There is no evidence of companies having acted on the defect, and corporation tax receipts are, happily, above forecast. The changes proposed in new clause 5 correct this uncertainty to ensure that the definition of “large” will apply for accounting periods that span 1 April 2015, so that corporation tax instalment legislation will apply.
New clause 8 addresses an unfairness whereby in certain claims for repayment of tax and restitution through interest payments, taxpayers might receive a significant additional benefit at the expense of the public purse. The vast majority of interest payments that are paid by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs are made under the relevant Taxes Act. These will continue to be subject to the normal rate of corporation tax. However, the interest payments targeted by this clause arise from claims made under common law, which stretch over a large number of years—in some cases, going back to 1973—and represent a unique set of circumstances.
As it stands under current law, any payments will be taxed at the low corporation tax rate that applies at the time the payments are due to be made. Since the interest payments targeted by the clause have accrued over years when the rate of corporation tax was much higher than companies currently enjoy, those making the claims receive a significant financial benefit. In addition, such payments may have to be calculated on a compound basis, further improving the advantage gained at the expense of the public purse.
While I support the robust way in which the Minister is protecting the public purse, he will also recognise, not least from the correspondence he must have received, that many colleagues and constituents feel that this fairness deal does not apply both ways. At times when individuals have owed the Exchequer rather more money, they have had interest charged at very high levels. Will my hon. Friend try to ensure that what is good for the geese is also good for the gander in respect of these matters? I entirely understand that he wants an equitable arrangement, but there is a sense from many taxpayers and indeed their financial advisers that all too often the Revenue does not see it in quite the same light when they are on the other side of the equation.
I can tell my right hon. Friend, who is a tireless defender of the interests of the taxpayer, that the measure is targeted at very specific circumstances in which compound interest may have to be paid in relation to claims which, as I have said, potentially date back to 1973. I hope I can reassure him that we do not believe the same approach should be applied in every case.
As I have said, such payments may have to be calculated on a compound basis, which would increase the advantage gained at the expense of the public purse. To address that unfairness, the Government are ensuring that an appropriate amount of tax, set at a rate of 45% , is paid on any such awards. That rate reflects the long period over which any such interest accrued, the higher rate of corporation tax which applied during the period, and the compounding nature of such potential awards. It is a special rate which applies in special circumstances. We are also introducing a withholding tax on those payments to provide for the easiest method of paying and collecting the tax that is due.
The changes will affect only a relatively small number of companies which have claims related to historical issues. They will affect fewer than 0.5% of companies making corporation tax returns. This is a prudent step to ensure that if any such payments have to be made, they are subject to a fair rate of tax. HMRC will continue to challenge all aspects of the claims on the basis of strong legal arguments.
New clause 8 will ensure that a principled and targeted system is in place to address a potential unfairness whereby a few businesses receive significant benefits resulting from the unique nature of this litigation at the expense of the public purse.
New clause 6 and amendments 71 to 88 relate to clauses 40 and 41. Let me begin with a brief reminder of the provisions in those clauses. Investment fund managers are rewarded for their work in a range of ways, one of which is known as carried interest. It is the portion of a fund’s value that is allocated to managers in return for their long-term services to the fund. The manager’s reward therefore depends on the performance of the fund. Aspects of the UK tax code meant it was possible for asset managers to reduce the effective tax rate payable by them on their carried interest awards. In particular, it was possible for them to pay tax on amounts much lower than their actual economic gains. The changes made by clauses 40 and 41 ensure that investment managers will pay at least 28% tax on the economic value of the carried interest that they receive.
Amendments 71 to 88 make a series of technical changes in relation to carried interest to ensure that it operates as intended. New clause 6 is an addition to the provisions dealing with the tax treatment of carried interest and the related measures on disguised investment management fees. It establishes a comprehensive definition when sums arise for tax purposes under these rules.
Will the Minister give us an indication of the amount of consultation that has taken place on these changes, which, obviously, have been introduced since the publication of the Finance (No. 2) Act 2015? While I entirely appreciate that he rightly wants to ensure that the Exchequer receives the correct amount of money, and while I also appreciate that there is clearly a potential for carried interest payments to be at least—shall we say—uncertain, is he entirely satisfied that there has been sufficient consultation to ensure that those who will be affected by the changes have had an opportunity to put their case?
It certainly is the case that there has been no shortage of representations received by the Treasury on the changes we have undertaken in this area. As always, it is necessary to strike a balance between ensuring we move swiftly to address any risk to the Exchequer and ensuring the legislation is adequate and achieves what the Government seek. I am satisfied that in these circumstances we have struck that balance successfully, and that there has been the opportunity to understand the implications of this legislation while at the same time ensuring we have been able to protect the Exchequer.
While I am on my feet, and perhaps to anticipate some of the points that will be made on this somewhat diverse group, I shall address the related matter of new clause 3 tabled by Scottish National party Members. It proposes a review within six months of Royal Assent on the tax treatment of investment fund managers’ remuneration. Legislating for a review in six months is unnecessary. The Government have already launched a consultation in this area to ensure rewards will be charged to income tax when it is correct they are, according to the activity of the fund. That consultation closed on 30 September and we will be publishing our response along with any resulting draft legislation in due course.
In anticipation of remarks I know we will hear from the hon. Member for Salford and Eccles (Rebecca Long Bailey) about vehicle excise duty, let me also turn to amendments 91 to 93. They would require the Chancellor to replace the changes made by clause 42 and introduce a new VED system that addressed none of the challenges of the current VED system. The amendments call for first year rates of VED to be extended to cover the first three years of ownership and thereafter for rates to be based on a shallower graduation of CO2. By continuing to base annual rates of VED on CO2, these amendments would recreate the sustainability challenge of the existing VED system. As new cars become more fuel efficient, more and more ordinary cars will fall into the lower rate of VED bands for their entire lifetime. The changes would also weaken incentives for people to purchase the very cleanest cars. The system Opposition Members propose would therefore need updating regularly to keep pace with technological change. Unless Opposition Members are proposing to retrospectively tax motorists every time the system needs tweaking, an entirely new VED system would need to be created each time. This would create uncertainty for motorists and car manufacturers, something they have repeatedly asked the Government to avoid. These amendments would also mean the VED system remains regressive and unfair for motorists. Poorer families with older, less fuel-efficient cars would still end up paying more tax than richer ones who were able to buy a new car every few years.
In contrast to amendments 91 to 93, the changes made by clause 42 do address the fairness and sustainability problems of the current VED system. These changes base annual rates of VED on a flat rate of £140 for all cars except zero-emission cars, which pay nothing. There will be a standard rate supplement of £310 for cars worth above £40,000 to apply for the first five years in which the standard rate is paid. These changes improve fairness for all motorists and ensure that those with expensive cars pay more than those with ordinary family cars. Those who can pay more will pay more.
They also provide long-term certainty in VED revenues. This supports the creation of the new roads fund so that from 2020 all revenue raised from VED in England will go into the fund. It will be invested directly back into the English strategic road network. The changes made by clause 42 still support uptake of the cleanest cars. They maintain and strengthen the environmental signal where it is most effective in influencing people’s choice of car in the highly visible first-year rates.
By returning VED to a flat rate while continuing to support the cleanest cars, clause 42 provides a simple, fairer, more certain and more sustainable long-term solution. It allows for the creation of a new roads fund which will ensure that our roads network will receive the multi-billion programme of investment it needs. I commend clause 42 and urge the house to reject amendments 91 to 93.
How will the roads fund work when applied to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, with the duty coming from Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish car taxes?
I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the Government are talking to the devolved Administrations about exactly how we are going to do that. We are conscious that these are devolved matters, and we are actively engaged with the devolved Administrations.
I hope that the new clauses and amendments to which I referred earlier in the context of the enterprise investment scheme, venture capital trusts, corporation tax instalment payments and restitution interest payments will be able to stand part of the Bill and have the support of the whole House.
It is an honour for me to speak from the Dispatch Box for the first time under your chairmanship, Madam Deputy Speaker, and I hope that this will be the first of many debates in the Chamber with the Financial Secretary to the Treasury.
I shall first speak to the Government’s amendments and new clauses, before speaking to our amendments on vehicle excise duty. On the whole, the Government’s amendments are technical in nature, designed to preserve the integrity of the Bill, to comply with EU law and to close loopholes. On that basis, we broadly support them, but I will make a few comments.
The explanatory notes and impact assessments relating to the measures were only provided by the Government at 11.50 this morning. Given the detailed nature of the proposed changes, that simply does not allow sufficient time for scrutiny. The hon. Member for Hereford and South Herefordshire (Jesse Norman) has already made that point, and KPMG has also voiced its concern, stating:
“It is important…that the Government is seen to follow the process consistently, and provide suitable time for consultation and Parliamentary scrutiny wherever possible: the addition of entirely new measures to the Summer Finance Bill so late in its passage through the Commons…is likely to foster only uncertainty.”
I hope that the Minister will take these concerns into account and ensure that this does not happen again.
New clause 4 will exclude certain contractual activities relating to reserve electricity generating capacity from the scope of venture capital trusts. These proposals are required to comply with EU state aid rules, along with amendments 31 to 45 and 46 to 70. New clause 5 relates to corporation tax instalment payments and corrects a legislative defect that has previously caused uncertainty over how the legislation will apply to accounting periods that run over 1 April 2015.
New clause 6 relates to carried interest and disguised investment management fees. These are technical corrections to clause 40 that are meant to ensure that where carried interest is charged to tax under the capital gains tax code, the full economic gain is brought into charge to tax. This new clause is intended to prevent sums arising to a fund manager as investment management fees or carried interest from being sheltered from tax through arrangements that have the effect that the amounts arise to other persons.
New clause 8 relates to restitution interest payments and introduces a new rate of corporation tax on amounts of restitution interest that may be paid by HMRC under a claim relating to the payment of tax on a mistake of law or the unlawful collection of tax. The interest element of a restitution award will be chargeable to corporation tax at a special rate of 45% instead of the normal 20% rate. We broadly support this measure, but the Minister will be aware of the hostile views that have been expressed by some businesses. He might wish to take this opportunity to respond to some of those views today.
New clause 3 requires the Chancellor to lay a report setting out proposals for amending the law to ensure that no element of the remuneration aid to an investment fund manager may be treated as a capital gain and that such remuneration shall be treated as income for tax purposes. We agree with the general aims of the new clause but we will listen carefully to what the Minister has to say on this issue.
The proposal dealing with vehicle excise duty relates to rates for light passenger vehicles in the UK and considerably flattens them out by introducing a flat-rate excise charge for every vehicle, regardless of carbon dioxide emissions, from 1 April 2017. First-year rates will continue to be determined by a sliding scale, depending on CO2 emissions. For most greener cars, which emit below 120g of CO2 per kilometre, people will now pay VED of up to £160 in the first year, whereas previously they paid nothing—only zero-emission cars will be liable for zero VED. In subsequent years, there will be a flat-rate of VED of £140 a year. Hon. Members will note that this will result in a substantial VED increase for low-emission cars in the first and subsequent years, while there is a substantial reduction for cars that are less carbon-efficient. Previously, VED for subsequent years was banded, with the more polluting cars paying more—up to £505.
Clearly, over time, the approach being taken strongly benefits more polluting cars, which will pay hundreds of pounds a year less, while greener cars, aside from those with zero emissions, will pay about £100 a year more. To put this into perspective, approximately 445 cars are currently in the top least polluting bands and so pay no VED, as they emit less than 100g of CO2 per kilometre, whereas under the proposed changes only 13 will fall into the exempt category. That represents a significant drop. In addition to those proposals, moves are also being made to additionally penalise vehicles priced at over £40,000 and, over time, there will also be a supplementary rate of £310 for the first five years.
A tax on passenger vehicles has been a feature of Government policy since as far back as 1889, but it is important to note that it was the Labour Government in 1999 who introduced bands of VED linked to the levels of CO2 emissions. The measure was designed to encourage the purchase and use of more fuel-efficient and low-emission vehicles, with the aim of lessening the environmental impact of an ever-increasing number of cars on the road. There is broad consensus on both sides of the House that VED reform is needed. Greener, more carbon-efficient vehicles are slowly becoming more commonplace across the UK, and this will undoubtedly have clear implications for VED as a future source of Government revenue. VED bands were set up in 2008, when the average emission was 158g of CO2 per kilometre, whereas the average car now produces 125g of CO2 per kilometre. Many cars therefore pay no VED at all.
Labour Members agree with the Government that this is unsustainable, but we question whether the approach they have taken to address it is pragmatic. We do not agree that increasing the duty paid on low-emission cars while decreasing the duty paid on higher-emission cars is the logical solution. The fact that zero-emission vehicles will continue to be exempt from road tax is welcome, but we are concerned that a flat rate of VED, as outlined in this proposal, will mean that low-emission vehicles will pay £800 to £1,000 more over a seven-year period than they do now, while many high-emission vehicles are expected to pay up to £440 less.
I congratulate the hon. Lady on her debut at the Dispatch Box, and I hope she will be looking across in precisely the same direction for many years to come. Will she give at least some thought to what was said by the Minister, in that there is a delicate balance to be struck here? We are trying not only to encourage people to have low-emission vehicles—this is not just about carbon dioxide, because nitrogen dioxide is increasingly seen as being a problem, although none of this legislation properly addresses that—but to ensure that relatively less well-off people who perhaps have to hang on to a car for many years should not be artificially penalised. Does she not recognise that the balance the Government have tried to put in place is at least a sensible one?
I wish to make a little progress before I take any further interventions.
Let me cite an example to show the absurdity of the current proposals. Although I appreciate and agree that VED needs to be reformed as it is unsustainable in its present form, the current proposals create the obvious absurdity of a Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in hybrid owing as much VED as a BMW 5 series saloon from year 2. On top of that, many vehicles that harness the latest technological developments tend to be rather expensive and may be hit by the supplementary rates as well as by the higher flat rate. For instance, the Volvo V60 plug-in hybrid estate—a hybrid suitable for families—would have to pay a first-year rate of £320 and a supplementary rate of £450 for five years thereafter despite being at the forefront of low-emission technology.
Although the Government’s proposals to make zero-emission cars completely exempt are certainly welcome, Labour Members question whether we are likely to see a radical shift towards completely zero-carbon vehicles in the near future. Indeed, my scouring of motor magazines and blog sites in preparation for this debate led me to one clear conclusion: although people travelling short distances might be happy to rely on an electric vehicle, plug-in hybrids still appear to be the main option considered by the more discerning green consumer who wants reliability and green credentials rolled into one. Members will no doubt be aware that hybrid cars have both a regular engine and an electric motor. The beauty of them is that a person can drive short distances and never use any fuel. An electric range of about 20 to 30 miles is common. When longer journeys are required, the petrol or diesel engine kicks in to provide comfort and security to the driver that they will not get caught short. Of course we are making amazing technological advances every day. Electric vehicles are becoming more and more efficient and suitable for longer journeys. As a result, I have no doubt that public opinion may change quickly in the years to come, but when assessing VED in the light of encouraging the purchase of more greener cars from 2017 onwards, I would be more inclined to trust current consumer viewpoints rather than a hypothetical chocolate box vision of the future where, simply as a result of zero-emissions vehicles being VED exempt, there is a sudden stampede of people going out to buy them.
Clearly, a more pragmatic approach is required and Labour Members have serious concerns that these changes, together with the freeze in fuel duty announced in the Budget—let me be clear though that that was a welcome announcement—will dissuade people from purchasing all the bands of low-emission vehicles in the future. We are certainly not alone in harbouring those concerns. Although the Government have claimed that the clause strengthens incentives to purchase low-emission cars, key players in the industry disagree.
Although the RAC welcomes the Government’s proposal to ring-fence VED in the creation of the road fund, it also stated:
“A big question mark remains however over how the new changes will affect people’s inclination to buy low carbon dioxide emitting, fuel efficient vehicles.”
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders welcomes VED reform, but stated that
“the new regime will disincentivise take up of low emission vehicles.”
Similarly, the AA, which welcomes reform, called for further measures to sit alongside the Government’s proposals to offer fiscal encouragement for converting the main urban emissions polluters to hybrid or electric alternatives.
Leaving the environmental impact of this clause to one side for a moment, car manufacturers have expressed concern that the supplementary rate for cars worth more than £40,000 will have a profoundly negative effect on car manufacturing in Britain. The UK has a proud history of producing premium vehicles, which are now likely to be the subject of the supplement rate of £310 a year.
Car manufacturing is one of the few heavy industries remaining in the UK. Given the Government’s negligence at work, with Redcar acting as a backdrop, we do not feel that they have set out a clear argument on the issue of the premium vehicle supplement to allay the concerns raised by car manufacturers and to provide comfort that they are committed to promoting long-term growth within the industry. Indeed, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders has warned that the UK car industry supports almost 800,000 jobs and that a punitive tax on those premium vehicles will almost certainly have an impact on domestic demand, thus affecting growth in UK manufacturing.
As I have outlined, my hon. Friends are concerned that the clause as drafted will discourage the manufacture and purchase of low-emission vehicles. We also appreciate that, although it might increase Exchequer revenue in the longer term, it will potentially have a detrimental impact on car manufacturing in the UK. For the reasons I have outlined, we have tabled amendments that will encourage the manufacture and purchase of low-emission vehicles and preserve Exchequer revenue as lower emission cars are purchased. That is achieved by frontloading VED for the first three years with a reduced taper rate thereafter, dependent on a sliding scale of CO2 emissions.
The Financial Secretary cited research in Committee that suggests that consumers’ choices are more influenced by the immediate cost and he therefore reasoned that an increase in the first year rate was sufficient to influence behaviour. Logically, frontloading VED for the first three years, as we would, will therefore have a greater influence on consumer behaviour and encourage the purchase of greener vehicles. We have also scrapped the punitive regime for cars over £40,000. I have no doubt that the Minister and all hon. Members wish to encourage the manufacture and purchase of low-emission vehicles while at the same time increasing growth within the car manufacturing industry and increasing Exchequer revenue. That is achievable if our amendments are agreed to today, and I urge hon. Members to support them.
I rise to support new clause 3, tabled in my name and those of my hon. Friends. I also welcome the hon. Member for Salford and Eccles (Rebecca Long Bailey) to the Front Bench. I was pleased to hear the Minister talk about his desire to see fairness in the tax system. We all welcome that.
If you will allow me, Madam Deputy Speaker, I want to start with a quote I used in Committee:
“I was shocked to see that some of the very wealthiest people in the country have organised their tax affairs, and to be fair it’s within the tax laws, so that they were regularly paying virtually no income tax. And I don’t think that’s right.”
Those were the words, of course, of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, speaking in April 2012. He was right then, but we need to do more about it now. I acknowledge that, as the Minister said, some progress is being made in the clauses proposed by the Government in the Bill, and I welcome that, but for us they are not nearly sufficient. Not enough is being done, so we have brought back this new clause on Report.
As I also noted in Committee, support for our argument comes from many quarters. Of particular interest to me is the fact that in May 2014 the OECD, not known for its radical tax positions, released a raft of recommendations to tackle rising income inequality in the OECD area. They included
“taxing as ordinary income all remuneration, including fringe benefits, carried interest arrangements, and stock options.”
Private equity fund managers shrink their tax bills by arranging to pay what will now be 28% capital gains tax rather than 45% income tax on their carried interest. Carried interest is in effect their remuneration for managing other people’s money and should therefore be taxed as income tax. Their ability to pay capital gains tax on what is properly income also allows fund managers to avoid paying any national insurance contributions on a major portion of their income. I note, however, that those who would be affected if we closed the so-called Mayfair loophole are, as a group, the highest donors to the Conservative party, which might be purely accidental.
I also note that not closing the loophole costs the Treasury between £250 million to £600 million annually. But this Government, through their moves on tax credits, seem more intent on hammering someone earning, say, £15,000 per annum than on asking someone earning £15,000 per week simply to pay their fair share. Stephen Feinberg, head of the private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management, said back in 2011:
“In general, I think that all of us are way overpaid in this business. It is almost embarrassing.”
[Interruption.] Yes, I was rather surprised that it was “almost embarrassing.” I would have thought it was thoroughly embarrassing.
The average European PE firm’s managing director can expect to receive around £8 million per annum in total personal compensation. The largest funds pay out some £15 million or more. Some very junior people can earn £1 million. These figures will be conservative for many in the London area, which has some of the highest paid equity fund managers. In Committee some Members implied that no other developed country was moving to close this loophole. This is not so.
Does the hon. Gentleman recognise that the concept of carried interest is integral to the way that private equity and venture capital industries operate? The Government have been pretty robust at trying to draw the distinction to which he refers, between capital and income, and any abusive schemes will be closed down. Carried interest is not a con. It is the very nature of the way in which venture capital funds operate in investing the funds they have for future projects.
I thank the right hon. Gentleman. I do not think I accused anyone of being engaged in a con. It is not a con; it is perfectly legal, as George Osborne himself recognised in 2012. The issue is that, despite the technicalities, the ordinary member of the public will look at this and say, “Is this fair, particularly at this time in the development of our economy?” I am primarily driven by what is fair to the wider public in our society.
I do not want to get involved in a philosophical debate about fairness or otherwise in relation to the tax system. The hon. Gentleman is making a perfectly logical argument and one that I have some sympathy with—that in the longer term we should try to move towards a system whereby capital gains and income gains are considered at similar rates. The fact that there is such a big disparity between those rates causes the imbalance.
I agree with much of what the right hon. Gentleman says, but I would go wider. Our whole tax system is incredibly and unnecessarily complicated. Why do we not begin to think about moving towards an alignment, say, of income tax and national insurance in the longer term? There are many areas where the over-complication serves nobody’s interests well. It does not serve the Exchequer or the wider public, so I have some sympathy with the right hon. Gentleman’s argument. I return to the point I was trying to make before his two excellent interventions.
In Committee some Members implied that no other country in the world was doing anything to close the loophole. My recent research shows that that is not the case. For example, the Netherlands has already tackled the issue more thoroughly than we have in the UK. France has moved—perhaps not as far as some in France would have liked at the time—further than the UK to address the problem, and in other countries, such as Sweden and even the United States, it is a growing element of the political debate.
Is that not the most important point? Provided the tax change does not impact upon the ability of the financial market to do its job, it is right to bring tax rates into line and to close the loophole. If closing the loophole were somehow to distort the financial market or make the financial market work less efficiently, I could understand the argument from the right hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mark Field), but that is not the case. It does not seem to have had that impact in other countries, so why should it do so here?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for that intervention. I point out that, as I am sure he fully understands, this issue is not unique to the United Kingdom; it has international resonance. It has particular resonance with people who are relatively poor and suffering under austerity. As I said in Committee, my constituency manager—we all know how well paid our constituency managers are—will pay an effective rate of tax that is higher than that paid by the vast majority of highly paid fund managers. That cannot be described as fair, as I think people in this country and elsewhere recognise.
In his speech, the Chancellor spoke of his desire to take further action to prevent the wealthiest in society from avoiding their obligations to contribute fairly to society. We only wish that he would do more. We are not asking for them to do more than others; we are asking for them merely to contribute in the same way as others in our society. I hope that many hon. Members will feel able to support our new clause.
I think that there is merit in what is proposed in new clause 3, at a time when the tax system is under scrutiny and people feel under pressure. We must look at both the economic and political consequences of tax proposals, because no tax regime can be viewed in isolation from the political context in which it is set. At a time when many people in lower-income groups feel that they are bearing a disproportionate burden, despite paying less tax, loopholes that become apparent should be closed where possible. I would be worried if it was shown that closing such loopholes would have a detrimental impact on the efficient working of the capital markets, but if that is not the case, then I think there is an important reason for closing them.
With regard to the Opposition’s amendment on vehicle excise duty, I must say that I was very surprised by the stance taken by the hon. Member for Salford and Eccles (Rebecca Long Bailey). The one thing that is quite clear in the amendment is that although it might be very green, it is not very fair, with regard to the burden of taxation. It is more likely to impose a higher tax burden on those on lower incomes, who tend to have older cars with higher emissions, so it would be highly regressive.
Order. I fully appreciate that it is the hon. Lady’s first time at the Dispatch Box, but—I am not reprimanding her, but merely giving a little hint for future reference—turning her back on the Chair is not acceptable. Even though she wants the hon. Member for East Antrim (Sammy Wilson), who is sitting behind her, to hear what she is saying, she still must face the Chair at all times. [Interruption.] No, she need not apologise, because it is her first time at the Dispatch Box, but she will always get it right in future.
I accept that the provisions would not be retrospective. Nevertheless, older cars tend to more polluting and would therefore, under the new clause, carry the higher rates of duty.
The second argument that has been made is about the sale of low-emission cars, whereby it is said that the duty that will be imposed, which is a small percentage of the cost of a new car, will distort the market or dissuade people from purchasing one. When people are purchasing a new car, whether it is a hybrid car or a low-polluting car, the last thing on their minds when deciding to lay out £20,000, £25,000 or £30,000 will be whether they will pay a couple of hundred pounds in vehicle excise duty. It is argued that this will hurt the car market and the emerging market for more energy-efficient cars, but the price elasticity of such cars, or their running cost, is unlikely to impact on the demand for them.
I think the Government have got the balance right on this one. Yes, we do have to consider the detrimental impact of emissions that come from cars, and there should be a tax on that, but we must also recognise that a vehicle is very important for most families across the United Kingdom. As lower-income families tend to have older cars, a regime that ramps up tax payments according to the car’s age and emissions would be unfair. The proposal in the Bill is therefore acceptable.
I have a question that the Minister did not give a clear answer to, and I hope he will do so when he sums up. On the road fund that is being proposed as a result of the money that is collected, given that infrastructure developments are devolved issues in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, it will be important to know how exactly that fund will be allocated. Will there be separate accounting for the tax that is collected in each of the areas? Will it be done on the basis of Barnett consequentials or will some other regime be put in place? It is important that we know that, because if this is to be one of the ways in which infrastructure developments are to be financed in future, there needs to be certainty for devolved Administrations as to what money is likely to be coming their way and how it will be calculated.
I want to make a brief contribution on new clause 3. The Minister, elegantly as he does, fobbed us off by saying, “We’re having a consultation and so on, but meanwhile we’ll press on regardless.” However, there is still a major issue regarding a potential tax loophole that has not been closed.
I accept that fund managers are remunerated on two different and distinct levels: they are paid for the work they do as investment managers and also receive a reward for hazarding their own capital. I also accept that there is a gain in having fund managers hazard some of their own capital, perhaps more so than they do at the moment. Unfortunately, though, if we charge very different marginal rates on the income component and on the hazarding their own money component, we will create the capacity for a loophole in paying the lower tax on the capital gain and less on the income.
It does not matter what short-term changes the Minister makes to try to prevent existing ways in which hedge funds allow the personal investment component of the investment to be organised, because people will just think up new ones. We have to close the loophole at source. The obvious way to do that would be to go back to a previous situation in which income tax and capital gains tax were charged at the same marginal rate.
Unfortunately, for the past several decades we have proceeded down a road of constantly cutting taxes on capital. I think there was a case in the 1990s for cutting marginal rates of tax on capital, because it was a difficult economic period and we had to encourage investment, but the Government have transformed that into an ideological demand that we always go on cutting taxes. Indeed, one of the core philosophies of the Finance Bill is to cut corporation tax even more, despite the fact that, on both a UK and a global level, we have pyramided up corporate surpluses, which are not being used. The current problem is not to find more loose capital, but to find fiscal incentives to make the owners of capital invest it.
The inherent philosophical problem with which the Government present us in the Bill is the imbalance created when marginal rates of taxation on capital are pushed lower and lower while significant taxes on labour are not reduced effectively and significantly. Our new clause 3 is specifically designed to force the Government to respond to the philosophical principle that the loophole should not be created in the first place. I do not think that the Minister has answered that effectively, which is why we will press new clause 3 to a vote.
Let me respond to what has been an eclectic debate. I welcome the hon. Member for Salford and Eccles (Rebecca Long Bailey) to the Dispatch Box for her debut. I echo the comments of my right hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mark Field) and wish her a long and successful career speaking from the Opposition Dispatch Box. I am sure she will be something of a star of the Labour Opposition Front Bench for years to come.
The hon. Lady said that the explanatory notes were only made available this morning, but I understand that they have been available on the gov.uk website since Thursday 22 October, which was the day after the amendments and new clauses were tabled. If she has any contrary information, I will happily look at it.
The hon. Lady touched briefly on the compound interest charge and asked me to respond to hostile comments from business. The measure is being introduced to ensure that a fair amount of corporation tax is paid and that any awards of restitution interest are paid by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. We are setting the special rate to reflect the unique circumstances of the claims. It will affect only a relatively small number of companies—about 0.5% of those submitting corporation tax returns in relation to specific payments—and it will not affect the benefit given by the historically low rates of corporation tax on the trading and investment profits they currently make. It will ensure that relatively few do not gain a significant additional benefit at the expense of the public purse.
Let me turn to the lengthier debate we have had about reforms of vehicle excise duty. The hon. Lady raised a concern that they may damage UK car manufacturing and penalise cars built in the United Kingdom. We are not doing that. The supplement will apply to all cars worth more than £40,000, regardless of where they are manufactured, and we are supporting cars such as the Nissan Leaf, which is built in Sunderland, through zero rates for zero-emission cars. We think it is fair that more expensive cars pay more than ordinary family cars.
On the accusation that it is unfair that cars that are more fuel efficient pay the same as gas-guzzling vehicles, I would argue that they do not. Under the new system, the first-year rates for the highest-emitting cars will be doubled compared with the current system. Zero-emission cars will continue to pay no annual VED rate, and more expensive, bigger, higher-polluting cars will pay the standard rate supplement, so there will be incentives to buy smaller, lower-emitting cars on the second-hand market. What is unfair in the current system is that those who can afford to buy a brand-new car pay less than those who cannot do so. That point was made by the hon. Member for East Antrim (Sammy Wilson). In the new system, those who can afford an expensive car will pay more.
As I have said, we are keeping the CO2 link at the point where is it most effective—the first year. Consumer research demonstrates that first-year incentives are by far the most important when customers come to choose new cars. If CO2 bands continue beyond that, we will continue to be subject to the sustainability challenge of the current system. Over time, technological progress means that new cars would end up paying less and less. We would therefore need to tweak the system again and again, and we would not have the sustainable revenues that we need for the road fund.
The Government and the Treasury keep all taxes under review, and were contrary evidence to emerge, we would of course look at it and, if necessary, adapt the policy. We have, however, made a judgment on the evidence before us, and consumer research demonstrates that first-year incentives are by far the most important when customers come to choose new cars.
The hon. Member for Salford and Eccles asked why the Government are now taxing plug-in and hybrid vehicles the same as conventionally fuelled cars. Such cars will still benefit from cheaper rates. The updated CO2 banding on first-year rates in the new VED system will strengthen the incentive to purchase the cleanest cars, including plug-in and hybrid vehicles. As I have said, the evidence suggests that up-front incentives are the most effective in influencing behaviour. We will continue to support hybrids and plug-in vehicles with beneficial rates of company car tax and enhanced capital allowances, as well as through the plug-in car grant. The Government have guaranteed that £5,000 grant until February 2016.
Our longer-term plan will be announced after the spending review. To drive down carbon emissions and air pollutants, we will give the greatest incentives to zero-emission cars—those that produce no air pollution or CO2 whenever they are driven—which pay no VAT.
I appreciate that the current regime for vehicle excise duty reflects carbon emissions, but I mentioned in an earlier intervention that one of the biggest concerns in relation to clean air, particularly in London, is about NOx—nitrogen dioxide—emissions. That is a particular problem in emissions from diesel vehicles. Will some consideration be given to making that part and parcel of the consultation on adapting this duty in the years to come?
The view we have taken about NOx is that it is best addressed through regulation, rather than through vehicle excise duty. It is necessary for the Government to use all the tools in the toolbox in these circumstances. We think that that is the right way to address that concern. Indeed, new regulatory standards are being put in place for NOx.
I will, if I may, turn to the £40,000 premium surcharge. A concern was raised that it might slow the uptake of the latest carbon technologies, such as hydrogen fuel cell cars, where price is already a barrier to uptake. In response I would say that the Government are committed to supporting low-carbon vehicle technologies. All manufacturers will need to invest in affordable new technologies to meet their emissions targets, and the Government have committed £11 million through the hydrogen for transport advancement programme to support the roll-out of fuel cell electric vehicles and 12 hydrogen refuelling stations. Fuel cell electric vehicles are also eligible for the plug-in car grant and beneficial rates of company car tax. Hydrogen is also fuel-duty exempt.
Zero-emission cars, even ones with a list price of £40,000, will pay zero first-year rates. Only a small proportion of motorists can afford cars that cost more than £40,000. The most popular cars in the UK cost an average of £15,000, and even the most popular large family cars cost an average of £21,000. It is fair that premium cars—including low-carbon ones—pay more than ordinary family cars.
The hon. Members for East Antrim and for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr (Jonathan Edwards) mentioned the application of the road fund in the rest of the United Kingdom. Although changes to VED affect the whole UK, the road fund relates only to the English strategic road network, which is managed by Highways England. We are in discussions with the devolved Administrations on how exactly the money is allocated, to ensure that we reach a sensible and fair agreement that reflects the various requirements across the whole United Kingdom. In the meantime, just as for a range of other taxes and spending, the devolved Administrations will receive allocations in the normal way through the Barnett formula, as opposed to an assessment of road use or VED for the various nations of the United Kingdom. I hope that that provides some clarity.
New clause 3, tabled by the SNP, relates to carried interest. We had that debate in Committee, so it is rather familiar territory. I shall avoid the temptation to refer the House to the speech that I gave in Committee on a specific date and suggest that Members look at particular columns—[Interruption.] As the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Roger Mullin) says, no doubt the House has already read it but would like to hear it from me again afresh. This point was also touched on by my right hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mark Field).
Carried interest is a reward for a manager that is linked to the long-term performance and growth of the funds they manage. They are therefore capital in nature, and should continue to be charged capital gains tax. The measure ensures that private equity managers pay at least 28% tax on the carried interest rewards that they receive. In addition the disguised management fee rules introduced in the Finance Act 2015 put it beyond doubt that when management fees are received by fund managers, the part of the remuneration that is not variable is always subject to income tax. If any part of the manager’s reward payment is properly regarded as income rather than capital, they will continue to be charged to income tax. The Government have launched a consultation to ensure that rewards that should be charged to income tax are always taxed in that way.
National insurance is not charged on capital returns and is payable only on earned income. Bringing carried interest into income tax could raise more initially, but over time the yield would disappear as the industry moved to more competitive jurisdictions.
That is the essence of the debate, and it is instructive to look back at what previous Ministers, not just from my party but from the Labour party, have said at the Dispatch Box, which is that we have to strike a balance, ensuring that we get the revenue we should get and that we properly tax income—certainly we want to tax income as income—while also ensuring that we have a regime that properly taxes capital gains as capital gains. There are risks if we put in place a regime that is uncompetitive and out of line with what happens in other jurisdictions. The point was made that other countries are looking at this issue and that there could be changes to the taxation treatment of carried interest in other jurisdictions. I am aware that there is a debate under way in other countries, but I am not aware of any concrete action taken by any competitor countries to change the approach that is generally followed. The UK is therefore in line with the general approach.
It is important that we do not allow income to be turned into capital in a contrived or artificial way. It is also the case that, as a coalition Government, we took steps in 2010 to narrow the difference between the rates charged for capital gains tax and for income tax. We increased the rate of capital gains tax. It is interesting to hear the argument in the Chamber today about whether there should be a greater alignment between the two. The last Government took two steps to increase the alignment: the first was to increase the rate of capital gains tax and the second was to reduce the additional rate of income tax to 45%. There is a long-standing structural danger when there is a large disparity between the two, but we should also understand why there have been differences in the rates. It comes from a desire to attract investment and encourage individuals and businesses to invest, which is why there is a separate capital gains tax regime. This is an issue that Ministers from all parties have wrestled with over many years, but by taking action in this Bill to create a greater focus on making sure that income is taxed as income and capital gains are taxed as capital gains, we are putting things on a sustainable and fair footing.
I also note the remarks that the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath made about our constituency staff—on other occasions people have referred to cleaners paying a higher rate of tax than their employers—but the changes we have made ensure that we are not in that position. Many of the steps we have taken—for example, to increase the personal allowance—have taken many cleaners out of income tax altogether, whereas the changes we have made to capital gains tax rates have ensured that private equity managers pay a higher rate of tax than they might have paid some years ago.
The suggestion has been made that there is one rule for some and another for others, but the rule we have in place on carried interest ensures that investment managers who are receiving capital returns are taxed to at least 28%, the higher rate of capital gains tax. Any carried interest that constitutes income will be chargeable to income tax. The Government have launched a consultation to ensure that when investment managers should be charged for income tax, they will be.
I hope that is helpful to the House in dealing with the various points that have been raised. As I say, in this first group—[Interruption.]
Order. I know that the Minister is concluding, but the points he is making are very important and the Chamber is not a place where people come for a little chat. It is much too noisy. People are not behaving badly in a noisy way; there are just too many people talking just above a whisper. If hon. Members are going to whisper, they should please learn to whisper, because we need to hear the Minister. He is making some important points.
I am very grateful for your injunction, Madam Deputy Speaker. The Chamber is no place for people to enjoy themselves, and you and I together are going to put an end to that.
A broad range of issues has been debated. I urge the Labour party not to press their amendments on vehicle excise duty to a Division, just as I urge SNP Members not to press their new clause. I believe the reforms we have made to VED are necessary and sustainable. They will ensure the source of finance for the road fund and a more progressive regime that, in terms of first-year rates, fulfils our environmental objectives. On the reforms relating to carried interest, I believe we are making changes that put us on a sustainable footing.
I thank the House for its patience and urge the parties on the Opposition Benches not to press their amendments and new clauses to a Division.
Question put and agreed to.
New clause 4 accordingly read a Second time, and added to the Bill.
New Clause 5
Corporation tax instalment payments
‘(1) The Corporation Tax (Instalment Payments) (Amendment) Regulations 2014 (S.I. 2014/2409) are to be treated as always having had effect as if in regulation 1(2) (commencement) “ending” were substituted for “beginning”.
(2) Consequently, for the purposes of the application of regulations 2(2) and 3(5B) of the Corporation Tax (Instalment Payments) Regulations 1998 (S.I. 1998/3175) to accounting periods beginning before, and ending on or after, 1 April 2015—
(a) sections 279F and 279G of CTA 2010 are taken to have effect in relation to such periods, and
(b) paragraph 22 of Schedule 1 to FA 2014 is to be disregarded accordingly.”—(Mr Gauke.)
Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.
New Clause 6
Carried interest and disguised investment management fees: “arise”
‘(1) In ITA 2007, after section 809EZD insert—
“809EZDA Sums arising to connected persons other than companies
(1) This section applies in relation to an individual (“A”) if—
(a) a sum arises to a person (“B”) who is connected with A,
(b) B is not a company,
(c) income tax is not charged on B in respect of the sum by virtue of this Chapter,
(d) capital gains tax is not charged on B in respect of the sum by virtue of Chapter 5 of Part 3 of TCGA 1992, and
(e) the sum does not arise to A apart from this section.
(2) The sum referred to in subsection (1)(a) arises to A for the purposes of this Chapter.
(3) Where a sum arises to A by virtue of this section, it arises to A at the time the sum referred to in subsection (1)(a) arises to B.
(4) Section 993 (meaning of “connected”) applies for the purposes of this section, but as if—
(a) subsection (4) of that section were omitted, and
(b) partners in a partnership in which A is also a partner were not “associates” of A for the purposes of sections 450 and 451 of CTA 2010 (“control”).
“809EZDB Sums arising to connected company or unconnected person
(1) This section applies in relation to an individual (“A”) if—
(a) a sum arises to—
(i) a company connected with A, or
(ii) a person not connected with A,
(b) any of the enjoyment conditions is met, and
(c) the sum does not arise to A apart from this section.
(2) The enjoyment conditions are—
(a) the sum, or part of the sum, is in fact so dealt with by any person as to be calculated at some time to enure for the benefit of A or a person connected with A;
(b) the arising of the sum operates to increase the value to A or a person connected with A of any assets which—
(i) A or the connected person holds, or
(ii) are held for the benefit of A or the connected person;
(c) A or a person connected with A receives or is entitled to receive at any time any benefit provided or to be provided out of the sum or part of the sum;
(d) A or a person connected with A may become entitled to the beneficial enjoyment of the sum or part of the sum if one or more powers are exercised or successively exercised (and for these purposes it does not matter who may exercise the powers or whether they are exercisable with or without the consent of another person);
(e) A or a person connected with A is able in any manner to control directly or indirectly the application of the sum or part of the sum.
In this subsection, in a case where the sum referred to in subsection (1)(a) arises to a company connected with A, references to a person connected with A do not include that company.
(3) There arises to A for the purposes of this Chapter—
(a) the sum referred to in subsection (1)(a), or
(b) if the enjoyment condition in subsection (2)(a), (c), (d) or (e) is met in relation to part of the sum, that part of that sum, or
(c) if the enjoyment condition in subsection (2)(b) is met, such part of that sum as is equal to the amount by which the value of the assets referred to in that condition is increased.
(4) Where a sum (or part of a sum) arises to A by virtue of this section, it arises to A at the time it arises to the person referred to in subsection (1)(a)(i) or (ii) (whether the enjoyment condition was met at that time or at a later date).
(5) In determining whether any of the enjoyment conditions is met in relation to a sum or part of a sum—
(a) regard must be had to the substantial result and effect of all the relevant circumstances, and
(b) all benefits which may at any time accrue to a person as a result of the sum arising as specified in subsection (1)(a) must be taken into account, irrespective of—
(i) the nature or form of the benefits, or
(ii) whether the person has legal or equitable rights in respect of the benefits.
(6) The enjoyment condition in subsection (2)(b), (c) or (d) is to be treated as not met if it would be met only by reason of A holding shares or an interest in shares in a company.
(7) The enjoyment condition in subsection (2)(a) or (e) is to be treated as not met if the sum referred to in subsection (1)(a) arises to a company connected with A and—
(a) the company is liable to pay corporation tax in respect of its profits and the sum is included in the computation of those profits, or
(b) paragraph (a) does not apply but—
(i) the company is a CFC and the exemption in Chapter 14 of Part 9A of TIOPA 2010 applies for the accounting period in which the sum arises, or
(ii) the company is not a CFC but, if it were, that exemption would apply for that period.
In this subsection “CFC” has the same meaning as in Part 9A of TIOPA 2010.
(8) But subsections (6) and (7) do not apply if the sum referred to in subsection (1)(a) arises to the company referred to in subsection (1)(a)(i) or the person referred to in subsection (1)(a)(ii) as part of arrangements where—
(a) it is reasonable to assume that in the absence of the arrangements the sum or part of the sum would have arisen to A or an individual connected with A, and
(b) it is reasonable to assume that the arrangements have as their main purpose, or one of their main purposes, the avoidance of a liability to pay income tax, capital gains tax, inheritance tax or corporation tax.
(9) The condition in subsection (8)(b) is to be regarded as met in a case where the sum is applied directly or indirectly as an investment in a collective investment scheme.
(10) Section 993 (meaning of “connected”) applies for the purposes of this section, but as if—
(a) subsection (4) of that section were omitted, and
(b) partners in a partnership in which A is also a partner were not “associates” of A for the purposes of sections 450 and 451 of CTA 2010 (“control”).”
(2) In ITA 2007, in section 809EZA(3)(c), omit “directly or indirectly”.
(3) The amendments made by this section have effect in relation to—
(a) sums other than carried interest arising on or after 22 October 2015, (whenever the arrangements under which the sums arise were made), and
(b) carried interest arising on or after 22 October 2015 under any arrangements, unless the carried interest arises in connection with the disposal of an asset or assets of a partnership or partnerships before that date.
(4) In subsection (3), “arise”, “arrangements” and “carried interest” have the same meanings as in Chapter 5E of Part 13 of ITA 2007.”—(Mr Gauke.)
Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.
New Clause 8
Restitution interest payments
‘(1) CTA 2010 is amended as follows.
(2) In section 1 (overview of Act), in subsection (3), after paragraph (ac) insert—
“(ad) restitution interest (see Part 8C),”.
(3) After Part 8B insert—
Amounts taxed as restitution interest
357YA Charge to corporation tax on restitution interest
The charge to corporation tax on income applies to restitution interest arising to a company.
357YB Restitution interest chargeable as income
(1) Profits arising to a company which consist of restitution interest are chargeable to tax as income under this Part (regardless of whether the profits are of an income or capital nature).
(2) In this Part references to “profits” are to be interpreted in accordance with section 2(2) of CTA 2009.
357YC Meaning of “restitution interest”
(1) In this Part “restitution interest” means profits in relation to which Conditions A to C are met.
(2) Condition A is that the profits are interest paid or payable by the Commissioners in respect of a claim by the company for restitution with regard to either of the following matters (or alleged matters)—
(a) the payment of an amount to the Commissioners under a mistake of law relating to a taxation matter, or
(b) the unlawful collection by the Commissioners of an amount in respect of taxation.
(3) Condition B is that—
(a) a court has made a final determination that the Commissioners are liable to pay the interest, or
(b) the Commissioners and the company, have in final settlement of the claim, entered into an agreement under which the company is entitled to be paid, or is to retain, the interest.
(4) Condition C is that the interest determined to be due, or agreed upon, as mentioned in subsection (3) is not limited to simple interest at a statutory rate (see section 357YU).
(5) Subsection (4) does not prevent so much of an amount of interest determined to be due, or agreed upon, as represents or is calculated by reference to simple interest at a statutory rate from falling within the definition of “restitution interest”.
(6) For the purposes of subsection (2) it does not matter whether the interest is paid or payable—
(a) pursuant to a judgment or order of a court,
(b) as an interim payment in court proceedings,
(c) under an agreement to settle a claim, or
(d) in any other circumstances.
(7) For the purposes of this section—
(a) “interest” includes an amount equivalent to interest, and
(b) an amount paid or payable by the Commissioners as mentioned in subsection (2) is “equivalent to interest” so far as it is an amount determined by reference to the time value of money.
(8) For the purposes of this section a determination made by a court is “final” if the determination cannot be varied on appeal (whether because of the absence of any right of appeal, the expiry of a time limit for making an appeal without an appeal having been brought, the refusal of permission to appeal, the abandonment of an appeal or otherwise).
(9) Any power to grant permission to appeal out of time is to be disregarded for the purposes of subsection (8).
357YD Further provision about amounts included, or not included, in “restitution interest”
(1) Interest paid to a company is not restitution interest for the purposes of this Part if—
(a) Condition B was not met in relation to the interest until after the interest was paid, and
(b) the amount paid was limited to simple interest at a statutory rate
(2) Subsection (1) does not prevent so much of a relevant amount of interest determined to be due, agreed upon or otherwise paid as represents or is calculated by reference to simple interest at a statutory rate from falling within the definition of “restitution interest”.
(3) In subsection (2) “relevant amount of interest” means an amount of interest the whole of which was paid before Condition B was met in relation to it.
(4) Section 357YC(7) applies in relation to this section as in relation to section 357YC.
357YE Period in which amounts are to be brought into account
(1) The amounts to be brought into account as restitution interest for any period for the purposes of this Part are those that are recognised in determining the company’s profit or loss for the period in accordance with generally accepted accounting practice.
(2) If Condition A in section 357YC is met, in relation to any amount, after the end of the period for which the amount is to be brought into account as restitution interest in accordance with subsection (1), any necessary adjustments are to be made; and any time limits for the making of adjustments are to be disregarded for this purpose.
357YF Companies without GAAP-compliant accounts
(1) If a company—
(a) draws up accounts which are not GAAP-compliant accounts, or
(b) does not draw up accounts at all,
this Part applies as if GAAP-compliant accounts had been drawn up.
(2) Accordingly, references in this Part to amounts recognised for accounting purposes are references to amounts that would have been recognised if GAAP-compliant accounts had been drawn up for the period of account in question and any relevant earlier period.
(3) For this purpose a period of account is relevant to a later period if the accounts for the later period rely to any extent on amounts derived from the earlier period.
(4) In this section “GAAP-compliant accounts” means accounts drawn up in accordance with generally accepted accounting practice.
357YG Restitution interest: appeals made out of time
(1) This section applies where—
(a) an amount of interest (“the interest”) arises to a company as restitution interest for the purposes of this Part,
(b) Condition B in section 357YC is met in relation to the interest as a result of the making by a court of a final determination as mentioned in subsection (3)(a) of that section,
(c) on a late appeal (or a further appeal subsequent to such an appeal) a court reverses that determination, or varies it so as to negative it, and
(d) the determination reversing or varying the determination by virtue of which Condition B was met is itself a final determination.
(2) This Part has effect as if the interest had never been restitution interest.
(a) the Commissioners for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs have under section 357YO(2) deducted a sum representing corporation tax from the interest, or
(b) a sum has been paid as corporation tax in respect of the interest under section 357YQ,
that sum is treated for all purposes as if it had never been paid to, or deducted or held by, the Commissioners as or in respect of corporation tax.
(4) Any adjustments are to be made that are necessary in accordance with this section; and any time limits applying to the making of adjustments are to be ignored.
(5) In this section—
“final determination” has the same meaning as in section 357YC;
“late appeal” means an appeal which is made by reason of a court giving leave to appeal out of time.
357YH Countering effect of avoidance arrangements
(1) Any restitution-related tax advantages that would (in the absence of this section) arise from relevant avoidance arrangements are to be counteracted by the making of such adjustments as are just and reasonable in relation to amounts to be brought into account for the purposes of this Part.
(2) Any adjustments required to be made under this section (whether or not by an officer of Revenue and Customs) may be made by way of an assessment, the modification of an assessment, amendment or otherwise.
(3) For the meaning of “relevant avoidance arrangements” and “restitution-related tax advantage” see section 357YI.
357YI Interpretation of section 357YH
(1) This section applies for the interpretation of section 357YH (and this section).
(2) “Arrangements” include any agreement, understanding, scheme, transaction or series of transactions (whether or not legally enforceable).
(3) Arrangements are “relevant avoidance arrangements” if their main purpose, or one of their main purposes, is to enable a company to obtain a tax advantage in relation to the application of the charge to tax at the restitution payments rate.
(4) But arrangements are not “relevant avoidance arrangements” if the obtaining of any tax advantages that would (in the absence of section 357YH) arise from them can reasonably be regarded as consistent with wholly commercial arrangements.
(5) “Tax advantage” includes—
(a) a repayment of tax or increased repayment of tax,
(b) the avoidance or reduction of a charge to tax or an assessment to tax,
(c) the avoidance of a possible assessment to tax,
(d) deferral of a payment of tax or advancement of a repayment of tax, or
(e) the avoidance of an obligation to deduct or account for tax.
(6) In subsection (5)(b) and (c) the references to avoidance or reduction include an avoidance or reduction effected by receipts accruing in such a way that the recipient does not bear tax on them as restitution interest under this Part.
357YJ Examples of results that may indicate exclusion not applicable
(none) Each of the following is an example of something which might indicate that arrangements whose main purpose, or one of whose main purposes, is to enable a company to obtain a restitution-related tax advantage are not excluded by section 357YI(4) from being “relevant avoidance arrangements” for the purposes of section 357YH—
(a) the elimination or reduction for the purposes of this Part of amounts chargeable as restitution interest arising to the company in connection with a particular claim, if for economic purposes other or greater profits arise to the company in connection with the claim;
(b) preventing or delaying the recognition as an item of profit or loss of an amount that would apart from the arrangements be recognised in the company’s accounts as an item of profit or loss, or be so recognised earlier;
(c) ensuring that a receipt is treated for accounting purposes in a way in which it would not have been treated in the absence of some other transaction forming part of the arrangements.
Application of restitution payments rate
357YK Corporation tax rate on restitution interest
(1) Corporation tax is charged on restitution interest at the restitution payments rate.
(2) The “restitution payments rate” is 45%.
357YL Exclusion of reliefs, set-offs etc
(1) Under subsection (3) of section 4 (amounts to which rates of corporation tax applied) the amounts to be added together to find a company’s “total profits” do not include amounts of restitution interest on which corporation tax is chargeable under this Part.
(2) No reliefs or set-offs may be given against so much of the corporation tax to which a company is liable for an accounting period as is equal to the amount of corporation tax chargeable on the company for the period at the restitution payments rate.
(3) In subsection (2) “reliefs and set-offs” includes, but is not restricted to, those listed in the second step of paragraph 8(1) of Schedule 18 to FA 1998.
(4) Amounts of income tax or corporation tax, or any other amounts, which may be set off against a company’s overall liability to income tax and corporation tax for an accounting period may not be set off against so much of the corporation tax to which the company is liable for the period as is equal to the amount of corporation tax chargeable at the restitution payments rate.
Migration, transfers of rights etc
(1) Subsection (4) applies if—
(a) a company which is within the charge to corporation tax under this Part (“the transferor”) transfers to a person who is not within the charge to corporation tax under this Part a right in respect of a claim, or possible claim, for restitution,
(b) the transfer is made on or after 21 October 2015, and
(c) conditions A and B are met.
(2) Condition A is that the main purpose, or one of the main purposes, of the transfer is to secure a tax advantage for any person in relation to the application of the charge to tax on restitution interest under this Part.
(3) Condition B is that as a result of that transfer (or that transfer together with further transfers of the rights) restitution interest arises to a person who is not within the charge to corporation tax under this Part.
(4) Any restitution interest which arises as mentioned in Condition B is treated for corporation tax purposes as restitution interest arising to the transferor.
(5) A person is “within the charge to corporation tax under this Part” if the person—
(a) is a UK resident company, and
(b) would not be exempt from corporation tax on restitution interest (were such interest to arise to it).
(6) In this section “tax advantage” has the meaning given by section 357YI.
(1) This section applies where—
(a) restitution interest arises to a non-UK resident company,
(b) the rights in respect of which the company is entitled to the restitution interest had (to any extent) accrued when the company ceased to be UK resident, and
(c) the company’s main purpose, or one of its main purposes, in changing its residence was to secure a tax advantage for any person in relation to the application of the charge to tax on restitution interest under this Part.
(2) The company is treated as a UK resident company for the purposes of the application of this Part in relation to so much of that restitution interest as is attributable to relevant accrued rights.
(3) “Relevant accrued rights” means rights which had accrued to the company when it ceased to be UK resident.
(4) The company is to be treated for the purposes of sections 185 and 187 of TCGA 1992 as not having disposed of its assets on ceasing to be resident in the United Kingdom, so far as its assets at that time consisted of rights to receive restitution interest.
(5) Any adjustments that are necessary as a result of subsection (4) are to be made; and any time limits for the making of adjustments are to be ignored for this purpose.
Payment and collection of tax on restitution interest
357YO Duty to deduct tax from payments of restitution interest
(1) Subsection (2) applies if the Commissioners for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs pay an amount of interest in relation to which Conditions 1 and 2 are met and—
(a) the amount is (when the payment is made) restitution interest on which a company is chargeable to corporation tax under this Part, or
(b) a company would be chargeable to corporation tax under this Part on the interest paid if it were (at that time) restitution interest.
(2) The Commissioners must, on making the payment—
(a) deduct from it a sum representing corporation tax on the amount at the restitution payments rate, and
(b) give the company a written notice stating the amount of the gross payment and the amount deducted from it.
(3) Condition 1 is that the Commissioners are liable to pay, or have agreed or determined to pay, the interest in respect of a company’s claim for restitution with regard to—
(a) the payment of an amount to the Commissioners under a mistake of law relating to a taxation matter, or
(b) the unlawful collection by the Commissioners of an amount in respect of taxation.
(4) Condition 2 is that the interest is not limited to simple interest at a statutory rate.
In determining whether or not this condition is met, all amounts which the Commissioners are liable to pay, or have agreed or determined to pay in respect of the claim are to be considered together.
(5) For the purposes of Condition 1 it does not matter whether the Commissioners are liable to pay, or (as the case may be) have agreed or determined to pay, the interest—
(a) pursuant to a judgment or order of a court,
(b) as an interim payment in court proceedings,
(c) under an agreement to settle a claim, or
(d) in any other circumstances.
(6) For the purposes of subsection (2) the restitution payments rate is to be applied to the gross payment, that is to the payment before deduction of a sum representing corporation tax in accordance with this section.
(7) For the purposes of this section—
(a) “interest” includes an amount equivalent to interest, and
(b) an amount which the Commissioners pay as mentioned in subsection (1) is “equivalent to interest” so far as it is an amount determined by reference to the time value of money.
357YP Treatment of amounts deducted under section 357YO
(1) An amount deducted from an interest payment in accordance with section 357YO(2) is treated for all purposes as paid by the company mentioned in section 357YO(1) on account of the company’s liability, or potential liability, to corporation tax charged on the interest payment, as restitution interest, under this Part.
(2) Subsections (3) and (4) apply if—
(a) the Commissioners have, on paying an amount which is not (when the payment is made) restitution interest, made a deduction under section 357YO(2) from the gross payment (see section 357YO(6)), and
(b) a company becomes liable to repay the net amount to the Commissioners, or it otherwise becomes clear that the gross amount cannot, or will not, become restitution interest.
(3) If the condition in subsection (2)(b) is met in circumstances where the company is not liable to repay the net amount to the Commissioners, the Commissioners must—
(a) repay to the company the amount treated under subsection (1) as paid by the company, and
(b) make any other necessary adjustments;
and any time limits applying to the making of adjustments are to be ignored.
(4) If the condition in subsection (2)(b) is met by virtue of a company becoming liable to repay to the Commissioners the amount paid as mentioned in subsection (2)(a)—
(a) this Part has effect as if the company were liable to repay the gross payment to the Commissioners, and
(b) the amount deducted by the Commissioners as mentioned in subsection (2)(b) is to be treated for the purposes of this Part as money repaid by the company in partial satisfaction of its liability to repay the gross amount.
(5) Subsections (3) and (4) have effect with the appropriate modifications if the condition in subsection (2)(b) is met in relation to part but not the whole of the gross amount mentioned in subsection (2)(a).
(6) In this section “the net amount”, in relation to a payment made under deduction of tax in accordance with section 357YO(2), means the amount paid after deduction of tax.
357YQ Assessment of tax chargeable on restitution interest
(1) An officer of Revenue and Customs may make an assessment of the amounts in which, in the officer’s opinion, a company is chargeable to corporation tax under this Part for a period specified in the assessment.
(2) Notice of an assessment under this section must be served on the company, stating the date on which the assessment is issued.
(3) An assessment may include an assessment of the amount of restitution income arising to the company in the period and any other matters relevant to the calculation of the amounts in which the company is chargeable to corporation tax under this Part for the period.
(4) Notice of an assessment under this section may be accompanied by notice of any determination by an officer of Revenue and Customs relating to the dates on which amounts of tax become due and payable under this section or to amounts treated under section 357YP as paid on account of corporation tax.
(5) The company must pay the amount assessed as payable for the accounting period by the end of the period of 30 days beginning with the date on which the company is given notice of the assessment.
357YR Interest on excessive amounts withheld
(1) If an amount deducted under section 357YO(2) in respect of an amount of interest exceeds the amount which should have been deducted, the Commissioners are liable to pay interest on the excess from the material date until the date on which the excess is repaid.
(2) The “material date” is the date on which tax was deducted from the interest.
(3) Interest under subsection (1) is to be paid at the rate applicable under section 178 of FA 1989.
357YS Appeal against deduction
(1) An appeal may be brought against the deduction by the Commissioners for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs from a payment of a sum representing corporation tax in compliance, or purported compliance, with section 357YO(2).
(2) Notice of appeal must be given—
(a) in writing,
(b) within 30 days after the giving of the notice under section 357YO(2).
357YT Amounts taxed at restitution payments rate to be outside instalment payments regime
(none) For the purposes of regulations under section 59E of TMA 1970 (further provision as to when corporation tax due and payable), tax charged at the restitution payments rate is to be disregarded in determining the amount of corporation tax payable by a company for an accounting period.
(1) In this Part “court” includes a tribunal.
(2) In this Part “statutory rate” (in relation to interest) means a rate which is equal to a rate specified—
(a) for purposes relating to taxation, and
(b) in, or in a provision made under, an Act.
357YV Relationship of Part with other corporation tax provisions
(1) So far as restitution interest is charged to corporation tax under this Part it is not chargeable to corporation tax under any other provision.
(2) This Part has effect regardless of section 464(1) of CTA 2009 (priority of loan relationship provisions).
357YW Power to amend
(1) The Treasury may by regulations amend this Part (apart from this section).
(2) Regulations under this section—
(a) may not widen the description of the type of payments that are chargeable to corporation tax under this Part;
(b) may not remove or prejudice any right of appeal;
(c) may not increase the rate at which tax is charged on restitution interest under this Part;
(d) may not enable any provision of this Part to have effect in relation to the subject matter of any claim which has been finally determined before 21 October 2015.
(3) Subject to subsection (2), regulations under this section may have retrospective effect.
(4) For the purposes of this section a claim is “finally determined” if a court has disposed of the claim by a final determination or the claimant and the Commissioners for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs have entered into an agreement in final settlement of the claim.
(5) Section 357YC(8) (which defines when a determination made by a court is final) has effect for the purposes of this section as for the purposes of section 357YC.
(6) Regulations under this section may include incidental, supplementary or transitional provision.
(7) A statutory instrument containing regulations under this section must be laid before the House of Commons.
(8) The regulations cease to have effect at the end of the period of 28 days beginning with the day on which they are made unless, during that period, the regulations are approved by a resolution of the House of Commons.
(9) In reckoning the 28-day period, no account is to be taken of any time during which—
(a) Parliament is dissolved or prorogued, or
(b) the House of Commons is adjourned for more than 4 days.
(10) Regulations ceasing to have effect by virtue of subsection (8) does not affect—
(a) anything previously done under the regulations, or
(b) the making of new regulations.”
(4) In TMA 1970, in section 59D (general rule as to when corporation tax is due and payable)—
(a) in subsection (3) after “with” insert “the first to fourth steps of”;
(b) in subsection (5) after “59E” insert “and section 357YQ of CTA 2010 (assessment of tax chargeable on restitution interest)”.
(5) Paragraph 8 Schedule 18 to FA 1998 (company tax returns, assessments etc: calculation of tax payable) is amended as follows—
(a) in paragraph 2 of the first step, after “company” insert “(other than the restitution payments rate)”;
(b) After the fourth step insert—
Calculate the corporation tax chargeable on any profits of the company that are charged as restitution interest.
1. Find the amount in respect of which the company is chargeable for the period under the charge to corporation tax on income under Part 8C of CTA 2010.
2. Apply the restitution payments rate in accordance with section 357YK(1) of that Act. The amount of tax payable for the accounting period is the sum of the amounts resulting from the first to fourth steps and this step.”
(6) Schedule 56 to FA 2009 (penalty for failure to make payments on time) is amended in accordance with subsections (7) and (8).
(7) In paragraph 1, in the table after item 6 insert—
Amount payable under section 357YQ of CTA 2010
The end of the period within which, in accordance with section 357YQ(5), the amount must be paid.”
(8) In paragraph 4(1), for “or 6” substitute “, 6 or 6ZZA”.
(9) The amendments made by subsections (1) to (8) have effect in relation to interest (whether arising before or on or after 21 October 2015) which falls within subsection (11).
(10) Section 357YO of CTA 2010, and the amendments made by subsections (1) to (8) so far as relating to the deduction of tax under section 357YO, have effect in relation to payments of interest made on or after 26 October 2015.
This rule is not limited by the rule in subsection (9).
(11) Interest arising to a company falls within this subsection if—
(a) a determination made by a court that the Commissioners for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs are liable to pay the interest becomes final on or after 21 October 2015, or
(b) on or after 21 October 2015 the Commissioners and a company enter into an agreement in final settlement of a claim for restitution, under which the company is entitled to be paid, or to retain, the interest.
(12) In subsections (9) to (11)—
(a) the reference to a determination made by a court becoming “final” is to be interpreted in accordance with section 357YC of CTA 2010;
(b) the references to “interest” are to be interpreted in accordance with section 357YC of CTA 2010.”—(Mr Gauke.)
Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.
Amendment proposed: 93, page 58, clause 42, leave out from beginning of line 1 to end of line 37 on page 60 and insert—
“Graduated rates of duty payable on first vehicle licence
For the purpose of determining the rate at which vehicle excise duty is to be paid on each of the first three years of vehicle licence for a vehicle to which this Part of this Schedule applies, the annual rate of duty applicable to the vehicle shall be determined in accordance with the following table by reference to the applicable CO2 emissions figure.
Carbon Dioxide emissions
Not exceeding g/km
First full year (£)
Second full year (£)
Third full year
Rates of duty payable on any other vehicle licence
1GD For the purpose of determining the rate at which vehicle excise duty is to be paid on any other vehicle licence for a vehicle to which this Part of this Schedule applies, the annual rate of vehicle excise applicable to the vehicle shall be determined in accordance with the following table by reference to the applicable CO2 emissions figure.
Carbon Dioxide emissions
Not exceeding g/km
Standard rate (£)
—(Rebecca Long Bailey.)
Question put, That the amendment be made.
New Clause 9
Inheritance tax review
‘(1) The Chancellor of the Exchequer must, within one year of a current budget surplus being achieved, undertake a comprehensive review of the inheritance tax regime, including, but not limited to, rates, thresholds and trusts.
(2) The Chancellor of the Exchequer must as soon as is practicable lay a report of the review before both Houses of Parliament.’—(Rob Marris.)
Brought up, and read the First time.
With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:
Amendment 89, page 4, line 20, leave out clause 9.
New clause 1—VAT treatment of the Scottish Police Authority and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service—
‘(1) The Treasury shall, within six months of the passing of this Act, publish and lay before the House of Commons a report on the VAT treatment of the Scottish Police Authority and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service.
(2) The report must include (but need not be limited to) an analysis of the impact on the financial position of Police Scotland and by the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service arising from their VAT treatment and an estimate of the change to their financial position were they eligible for a refund of VAT under section 33 of the VAT Act 1994.’
New clause 2—VAT on sanitary protection products—
‘(1) The Treasury must, within 12 months of the passing of this Act, lay before the House of Commons a report setting out the impact of exempting women’s sanitary protection products from value added tax.
(2) The report must include (but need not be limited to)—
(a) an estimate of the impact on VAT revenue of exempting women’s sanitary protection products; and
(b) an assessment of the impact on the purchase of women’s sanitary protection products of exempting them from VAT, with particular reference to purchasing by women aged under 25.’
New clause 7—VAT on sanitary protection products (No. 2)—
‘(1) Within three months of the passing of this Act, the Chancellor of the Exchequer shall lay before both Houses of Parliament a statement on his strategy to negotiate with the European Union institutions an exemption from value added tax for women’s sanitary protection products.
(2) A Minister of the Crown must lay before Parliament a report on progress at achieving an exemption from value added tax for women’s sanitary protection products within European Union law by 1 April 2016.’
New clause 10—Enforcement by deduction from accounts: review—
‘(1) The Chancellor of the Exchequer must, within two years of the passing of this Act, undertake a review of the impact of Section 47 of, and Schedule 8 to, this Act.
(2) The review must address, but need not be confined to:
(a) the number of cases in which the Direct Recovery of Debts has been used;
(b) the effectiveness of the safeguards; and
(c) the total amount recovered.
(3) The review must include a benefit-cost analysis, including speed of recovery.
(4) The Chancellor of the Exchequer must as soon as practicable lay a report of the review before both Houses of Parliament.’
New clause 11—Impact of removal of CCL exemption for electricity from renewable sources—
‘(1) The Chancellor of the Exchequer shall within six months of the passing of this Act undertake a review of the impact of the removal of the CCL exemption for electricity from renewable sources and lay the report of the review before both Houses of Parliament.
(2) The review must address, but need not be confined to:
(a) the impact on consumers and on fuel poverty;
(b) the impact on energy-intensive industries and on employment in those industries;
(c) the level of carbon leakage in the energy-intensive industry;
(d) the effect on investment in new renewable power generation and on investment in new nuclear power generation;
(e) any effective subsidy provided to, or additional profits accruing to, operators of existing and new nuclear power stations;
(f) what additional measures will be enacted to mitigate the impact on energy-intensive industries of the removal of the section; and
(g) the impact on business investment.’
Amendment 90, page 62, line 2, leave out clause 45.
It is pleasure, almost 15 years after I was first elected to this place, finally to make it to the Dispatch Box—albeit, for the moment, the Opposition Dispatch Box, but never fear, comrades, we are working on it!
New clause 9 and amendment 89 deal with inheritance tax. They are twins, and I shall address my remarks to those two provisions before going on to address the many somewhat disparate amendments and new clauses in this large group.
New clause 9 is designed to make the Chancellor of the Exchequer undertake, within one year of achieving a Budget surplus, a comprehensive review of the inheritance tax regime. I have to say that it is a somewhat optimistic new clause, given that five years ago, the same Chancellor of the Exchequer was forecasting a surplus any day now. We have now arrived at any day now, and he is forecasting a surplus for the financial year 2019-20. We will see whether that happens. If the Government accept the spirit of the new clause, as I hope they will, they could have a review of the inheritance tax regime now, rather than wait at least five years until the Chancellor achieves a surplus—if he ever does.
Amendment 89 would remove the inheritance tax provisions in the Bill. Inheritance tax is a somewhat unusual tax. It is the least painful tax any of us will ever face, “because you only pay it when you’re dead.” We need to bear that in mind when we talk about this tax. Most estates on which inheritance tax is levied cross the threshold, whatever it might be, either because people have inherited wealth themselves or because they have had a windfall gain from the increase in the price of the house in which they live. There are, of course, those who start out in disadvantaged backgrounds and make a lot of money in their lifetimes; inheritance tax would then be payable on their estates. But one can say with confidence that that does not apply to a great number. At the moment, very few estates pay inheritance tax.
I am sure the hon. Gentleman will want to qualify what he said by region. In some areas, such as my St Albans constituency, a large number of people pay inheritance tax. In fact, London is particularly disproportionately affected. He needs to qualify his remarks in that respect.
The hon. Lady is right, of course, that it varies around the country and that there is a much greater tendency to pay it in London and the south-east—the area she represents—but I stand by my remarks that for many of those people, the liability of their estate to inheritance tax is occasioned by a windfall increase in the value of the home in which they live. Some people improve the houses in which they live, but in the last 20 or 30 years, the great driver for estates falling into inheritance tax liability has been a secular rise in house prices. That is not as a result of people doing up their houses, although of course that happens. And good luck to them. Many hon. Members, including myself—and my wife—own the house in which they live. I, along with others, will have a windfall—and it is a windfall—from the secular increase in house prices.
I congratulate my hon. Friend on his promotion to the Front Bench. Does he agree that these Tory proposals amount to a north-south divide policy? While hundreds of thousands of people in the south benefit from the increase in property values, carry this great wealth and want to leave it to their families, families in the north do not have the same advantage—or very few of them do. Is it not another north-south divide policy?
I certainly agree with my hon. Friend. We already have enough geographic and regional divisions in this country, and I do not want their number to increase. Of course, when we legislate we must be aware of the different impacts that the measures that we introduce may have in the country of the United Kingdom, both its regions and its nations. However, there are many places in the United Kingdom where few people will pay inheritance tax, and in the country as a whole, without the changes that would be brought about by the Bill—if the House were to pass them, which I hope it will not—it is forecast that 63,000 estates would have a tax liability by 2020-21. According to the House of Commons, the proposed changes would reduce that to about 37,000, the same level as now.
In absolute terms, 37,000 represents quite a lot of estates, but in proportionate terms it is a very small amount—well below 10%—and in the case of many of those estates, the tax is payable because of a windfall. For many people—again, not all of them—that windfall was brought about when they bought their houses with mortgage interest relief at source: MIRAS. Those people acquired an asset which upon their death, after a secular rise in house prices, led to inheritance tax being a liability, and they acquired that asset with the help of the state; in other words, the help of the taxpayer. Now some of them cavil at inheritance tax, which I think is very unfortunate.
The effects of the proposed inheritance tax changes could be wider than the Government may have thought. When we stop and think about it, we must conclude that it is not surprising that many of those who would benefit because their parents have an estate worth more than £650,000 are themselves well-to-do. There is nothing wrong with being well-to-do; all Members of Parliament are well-to-do, and I have been in the fortunate position of being well-to-do for most of my life. However, when a Government propose a tax regime in which they will favour those who are already favoured, we really have to question their priorities.
The Government’s proposals will make inheritance tax more complicated, and it is already fairly complicated. Successive Governments—the Labour Government under whom I was a Back-Bench MP, the Conservative party which was then in opposition, the coalition Government whom we have just seen and, I venture, the current Government, and certainly the current Opposition—have wanted a simpler tax regime, but that is extremely difficult. We have a Finance Bill, the second of this year, which is about a centimetre thick and runs to more than 200 pages. I am not a tax expert or an accountant, but as far as I can tell, it is owing to the cunning of professional accountants who, quite legitimately, provide tax avoidance advice that we have to keep introducing loophole-closing measures that complicate the tax system. The Government are making the inheritance tax regime more complex in a way that is unfair because it favours those who are already well-to-do. The combination of forgone tax revenue and additional complexities does not amount to a desirable policy.
Moreover, the policy could push house prices even higher, both in the home counties—including the constituency of the hon. Member for St Albans (Mrs Main)—and elsewhere, but particularly in London and elsewhere in the south-east. Those who have the necessary liquidity may decide to invest in real estate, so that when they die, their linear descendants will have the advantage of the home exemption. We could see a development that many Labour Members would consider to be a strange social phenomenon. At a time when there is a housing crisis—and I think that Members in all parts of the House recognise that there is a housing crisis in many parts of the United Kingdom—the Government are proposing an inheritance tax policy that could encourage those in the later years of their lives not to downsize but to trade up, because if they sink enough money into their houses, more of their estates will be tax-free when they die.
A change is already taking place in relation to agricultural land, which is making it harder for UK farming to be self-sufficient, and this change will have the same effect, to a greater or lesser extent. I can produce no figures to demonstrate how it will work out, but it is very likely that it will increase house prices rather than decreasing them. Similarly, the measure allowing pensioners to spend their money on a Lamborghini, as a former Minister famously put it—or on whatever they like—is also likely to lead to an increase in house prices, because some pensioners who gain access to their pension pots and wish to secure an income stream will buy a house or houses for buy-to-let purposes.
I think that the Government have got the balance wrong between the freedom that we want to extend to people and the recognition that we have—particularly, but not solely, in London and the south-east—a housing crisis that is predicated on a shortage of housing: a shortage that has, I hasten to add, built up over the last 30 or 40 years. It is not just a phenomenon of the coalition Government of 2010 to 2015, or of the six months of the current Conservative Government. We have not been building enough houses, which is creating huge pressure. I shall return to that subject later, although not in the context of inheritance tax.
Does my hon. Friend agree that the policy will further escalate the inequality between the people in our communities and throughout the nation? There are people who may work very hard but must depend on the likes of tax credits in order to exist, and have no opportunity to build any wealth whatsoever; and there are people who can inherit a property that may be worth £2 million, and then simply exploit that wealth in order to become even wealthier, to the detriment of everyone else in the country.
My hon. Friend is right. In the constituency that I have the honour to represent, and in which I have lived for almost all my life, I could find no house worth more than £2 million when I looked in April this year. Indeed, none of them was near that value. There is barely a house that is worth over £1 million in the whole constituency, and of the three Wolverhampton constituencies, the one that I represent is undoubtedly the most affluent. The same will apply across swathes of constituencies: there will no houses worth that amount. The idea that an affordable house, as has now been defined by the Prime Minister, is £450,000 in London or £250,000 outside London is frankly a joke in constituencies like mine. For £250,000 it is possible to get a fantastic house in Wolverhampton. We welcome people in Wolverhampton—come to Wolverhampton: decent schools, good cheap housing, no traffic jams to speak of; fantastic, so come—but £450,000 will buy almost any house in Wolverhampton South West.
Does my hon. Friend share my concern that the Government have been unable to drive forward the economy on any basis of productivity and are therefore relying on property price speculation, and that this would be a way to drive up property prices to cover up their failings in other parts of the economy?
I agree with my hon. Friend, and if I can catch the Speaker’s eye on Third Reading I will be making points along those lines. The true state of our economy, driven by a housing bubble and household debt, is actually quite frightening. In terms of inheritance tax, new clause 9 simply asks the Government, after the Budget is in surplus, to look at the inheritance tax regime. Of course the Government could do it now, and I would welcome a commitment from the Minister, if he is able to make one, that the Government will do so, because the tax breaks in this Finance Bill will be about £940 million a year by 2020-21. That does not seem a wise use of revenue when it is coming in from some of the most well-to-do families—a small number of estates, as I said. It is not a good idea to be in one sense spending money in that way. I appreciate that it is not actually spending money because, technically, it is a case of simply not collecting it in taxes, but in everyday terms it is spending money, because so much of what we do in this House is to do with priorities, and so much of the prioritisation we decide on is predicated on how much money there is with which to do those things.
It is difficult to tell what we can afford as the Conservative party, in government since 2010, has consistently failed to meet financial targets for dealing with the deficit. The Opposition agree with the Government that the deficit needs to be tackled, but we disagree on the way in which it should be done. Forgoing £2.5 billion —if that is the exact figure, and I think my hon. Friend is probably right that it is of that order of magnitude—in a very regressive way is something that Labour Members would not countenance, but we need to look at the whole regime, hence the wording of new clause 9.
There will also be complications with the wording of the inheritance tax provisions. There is a feeling of unfairness among some as to the definitions—which I will not go through tonight—of a linear descendent. Many, if not all, Members will know from our own lives, advice surgeries and places we live that the definition of a family and those who are regarded by someone as being a member of their family are somewhat fluid in our society, and have become much more fluid in the last 50 years in terms of social recognition. For example, the Labour Government introduced civil partnership legislation, which I welcome—it is possible this Parliament will extend that to opposite-sex couples—and, commendably, in the last Parliament gay marriage was put on to the statute book. Those are concrete examples, dealt with by this House, of the fluidity and changing nature of family structures, but the provisions in this Bill rather lock in whether somebody is, or is not, regarded as a member of a family. Inheritance tax in this Bill is a bit of a problem, therefore, and I urge the Government to accept new clause 9 and amendment 89, which in a sense is a stand part motion.
I will now turn to value added tax, enforcement by deduction from accounts and the climate change levy—unless any Member wishes a quick run-around again on inheritance tax, but I suspect not.
On the question of equality in our nation, we have seen the Government deliver huge tax cuts for their friends in the City and the hedge fund managers. We would rather that money went to the needy in our society, so that they do not have to rely on loans from the loan sharks that our friends on the Government Benches make some money from as well. Does my hon. Friend agree that the Government’s proposals will do us out of the chance of recovering some of this wealth when these people die?
I agree that it sometimes seems that the policies of this Government are not only to shrink the state, but to give to those who already have and take away from those who have not, for example in terms of tax credits. I will not be drawn by my hon. Friend on the subject of tax credits, but it does seem a rum state of affairs. It is the sort of thing that drew people like me to join the Labour party, to fight for that kind of equality and to fight against regressive taxation.
The hon. Gentleman has been inviting interventions on this issue. On new clause 9, why has he tied in the holy grail of a Budget surplus with asking for a review? As he has said, the Government proposals in the Finance Bill will make it more difficult to reach a Budget surplus.
That is in the interests of having some clarity as to when this should kick-in. The Government could do it now if they chose. They do not need primary legislation to do it, but the proposal for a review of inheritance tax is in the context of the Government now being five years behind the original projections made by the current Chancellor as to when we will be in surplus. We are giving the Chancellor a lot of latitude now. We hoped that there would not be draconian cuts, which are now being planned by the Government, to public spending and that we could, through adopting a growth strategy, get to a Budget surplus with no deficit earlier than 2019-20, but I fear we will not do so. So a review now is fine, but Labour Members are reasonable people and we are giving the Government lots of latitude. They ought to think again on this regressive tax, as on others.
On the issue of inheritance tax, does my hon. Friend recognise that it is odd that the Government in this Budget and in the language of the legislation have moved to do away with any concept of child poverty? They are moving on work and family tax credits with very little discussion on their part about the impact on children. When they talk about inheritance tax changes, they use the word “children” a lot, but of course the children they are talking about there are people who are well-off.
My hon. Friend is quite right. If I may be so bold, in this context, the word “child” means people of around my age and that of my hon. Friend rather than minors. I wish the Government had paid a little more attention to minors and to child poverty. One of the achievements of the Labour Government was that child poverty fell significantly while we were in office. I regret, however, that that Labour Government, under Gordon Brown, cut inheritance tax by introducing the doubler—the Minister referred to this in Committee—whereby the £325,000 personal allowance could be utilised by the surviving spouse if the first spouse to die had not used that allowance. I expressed my regret about that at the time. At that point, when the threshold was around £300,000, only 6% of estates in England paid inheritance tax. Then the threshold was raised to £325,000, and then the doubling up came in. That was regressive and regrettable, but so be it: that is the regime that the coalition Government inherited.
I accept the point that the hon. Gentleman is making, but will he explain why he believes that we are more likely to have a successful review of inheritance tax when we move into a surplus, when the pressure on public finance is less, than when we are in deficit? Does he not think that the best time for a review of inheritance tax—that is, the giving up of tax revenue—is when we have a deficit problem?
No; I disagree with the hon. Gentleman. We want to achieve economic stability—something that has been sadly lacking over the past seven years and that will probably continue to elude us for the rest of this Parliament—at which point we can pause for breath. This is part of the Labour Opposition’s overall approach: we believe that our Government finances need something called zero-based budgeting. This will be a major undertaking, in which we start by looking at what society needs rather than looking at what it has been spending its money on and simply topping that up, salami-slicing it away or whatever. We need to step back from that, but we can do so only at a time when we have a budget surplus and are not running a current—I stress the word “current”—deficit. That is the right time to look at this question.
I want briefly to talk about new clause 1, which has been tabled by Scottish National party Members, and to which I imagine they will speak later. It seems slightly odd that they wish to evade the consequences of devolution. As I understand it, a decision was taken in Scotland to amalgamate eight police forces and, I think, a similar number of fire and rescue services to create a single police force and a single fire and rescue service. My understanding is that, because they were new organisations, they became liable to VAT, which their predecessor organisations had not been. I quite understand the sentiment behind new clause 1, but it seems a little strange that, having used the powers of devolution which were quite properly passed by this House, the people of Scotland—refracted through their Parliament—should wish to change the rules on VAT. That said, we are heading towards a position of full fiscal devolution—[Hon. Members: “Are we?”] Well, I am not saying that we have got there yet, but we are heading towards it. That is the trajectory, and we would therefore not oppose new clause 1.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for that. We shall shortly be having a discussion about the mechanics of setting VAT in the United Kingdom.
New clause 7 has been tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury (Paula Sherriff). New clause 2, tabled by the Scottish National party, is similar but not as good. It was also tabled in Committee. The greater virtue of my hon. Friend’s new clause—in contradistinction to new clause 2—is that she has carefully listened to what the Government said in Committee about the road map, as we say these days, to achieving this worthy goal. She has worded her new clause in the light of the remarks made by the Minister in Committee, and I commend her for that. Her proposal has gained considerable momentum on both sides of the House, for obvious reasons. Of course, those of us on the Labour Front Bench will support it and I urge hon. Members on both sides of the House to do the same. I will not say a great deal more about the new clause—
Some of us do have a certain amount to say about it. These are weasel words. The Opposition know perfectly well that they are not going for a full relief, or any relief, and are instead going for a pathetic little report, because of sections 2 and 3 of the European Communities Act 1972. The hon. Gentleman knows it, and we know it. These are weasel words, and the proposal would make no real change.
I wish no disrespect to the hon. Gentleman, but I am not going to get into a big debate about this subject. It is not a great idea for a man to stand at the Dispatch Box and get into such a debate. On the broader issue of the European Union, it might surprise him to learn that more than half the population of the EU is female. It might also surprise him to contemplate the fact that this measure could be on the shopping list that our Prime Minister takes to Brussels, and that it could gain considerable support—from the Chancellor of Germany, Mrs Merkel, for example.
If the new clause were passed this evening, as it should be, it would be interesting if it became the only demand that we were aware of in the negotiations. Would not that be a welcome development? The Prime Minister and the Chancellor have not said anything about their negotiating position yet.
I will not give way for two reasons. First, the hon. Gentleman can seek to catch the Deputy Speaker’s eye later. Secondly, as I have said, I do not propose to get drawn into a debate on this issue. I support my sisters in the Labour party and around the House, and they are more capable than I am of putting forward the reasons behind the measure being proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury. They are more than capable. They do not need me to do it, and I shall say no more than I have already done.
New clause 10 seeks to place a statutory requirement on the Government to produce a report, within two years of the passing of the legislation, on the effects of clause 47 and schedule 8. In lay terms, clause 47 and schedule 8 will—with safeguards—allow HMRC to nick money out of our bank accounts without a court order.
Of course, under these provisions HMRC would not, in any legal sense, be stealing money from a bank account. Were it to do so, that would be covered by section 1 of the Theft Act 1968—I am not a criminal lawyer, but that is my recollection of it. What HMRC would be doing is something that other people cannot do: it would, with safeguards, be removing money from a debtor’s bank account without a court order and without the agreement of that debtor. That is a very big step forward for our society to agree to, refracted through clause 47. In Committee, the Labour Members tried to persuade the Government not to press ahead with the clause, as did other organisations, but we failed on that. We are not trying that again tonight directly, but we are saying that we take cognisance of the safeguards the Government have introduced and beefed up as a result of representations, and that a report should be produced within two years to see how they are working.
Before I deal with the safeguards, I wish to remind the House of why clause 47, allowing HMRC to go into people’s bank accounts without a court order, has been introduced. One major driver is HMRC’s fears about revenue loss through non-compliance. In an earlier Budget speech, the Chancellor said:
“I am increasing the budget of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs to tackle non-compliance.”—[Official Report, 19 March 2014; Vol. 577, c. 785.]
That was welcome: there is too much non-compliance going on, some of it blatant, some of it immoral avoidance but not illegal evasion, such as large corporations squirreling away money in tax havens and in places such as Luxembourg; and there are people who owe money to HMRC but fail to pay, and so HMRC has to take steps to recover that money.
Another major reason given by HMRC, which might trouble the hon. Member for Stone (Sir William Cash), was as follows:
“The current processes for recovering debts…can be costly”.
That was said on page 2 of the consultation document, which contains an introduction by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury—the words I read out were not his but they were contained in a document whose preface he wrote. Paragraph 2.31 on page 9 goes on to say that
“a county court judgment…can be a slow and expensive process.”
In clause 47, the Government are therefore saying, “We find the court system a bit slow and a bit costly, so we are going to have our own system to take money out of people’s bank accounts, with safeguards.” That is echoed in clause 48.
Where someone wins at court, there is a calculation to be made as to how much they are owed on a debt. I believe the basis for calculating what is known as the judgment debt rate goes back to about 1837, but the Government are not having that either in clause 48. Under the interest rate provision in clause 48, and in clause 47 on HMRC taking money out of bank accounts without a court order, we have one rule for them and one rule for the rest of us. We have to ask ourselves: are they right about the court system? Is it a slow and expensive process? I have not practised law for almost 15 years, but I try to keep up with it and I think the process is getting slower and more “costly”. That is because it has been starved of money by this Government and their predecessor Conservative-led Government.
Many observers will feel uneasy about this system. The approach being taken is, “The rules aren’t quite working for everybody, because the court system is not quite working for loads of people.” But instead of dealing with the cause and sorting out the court system, which may require an injection of money, which is worth it, as long as it is done wisely, for justice and access to justice in our country, what the Government do in clause 47 is say, “The system is not working, we are going to deal with the symptom by having our own new system, which you cannot have.” If the Minister owes me money—of course he never would—I cannot say, “Here are a load of safeguards, I’ll have some money out of your bank account.” I have to go through a court process if he is denying that he owes me money. I have to prove it before a judge and then I have to use the enforcement processes of the court—not those of a couple of men with baseball bats. It is a bit slow and a bit costly, but rather than have one rule for them and one rule for the rest of us, the Government ought to sort out the court system—then they would not need clause 47 and schedule 8.
As ever, Labour Members are reasonable people. We are saying, “Let us have new clause 10 and let us look at the safeguards.” I shall set them out, and I am sure the Minister will correct me if I miss some out. They are quite good: the debt has to be more than £1,000; the alleged debtor has to be seen face to face by an HMRC official; an assessment has to be made by HMRC as to whether that debtor is vulnerable—the Government have acceded to requests that such an assessment should be not only made, but recorded in writing, which is good; HMRC has to be satisfied, as it should be before it embarks on this action, that there is sufficient money in the bank account and the debtor is knowingly refusing to settle their debt to HMRC; the debtor has to get a warning notice, with 30 days before it is, “Pay up or we might take it out of your bank account”; HMRC must ensure that, having taken the debt, at least £5,000 remains in the bank account; and the debtor, or alleged debtor will be able—presumably this would often happen during the 30-day warning period—to appeal to a county court.
On the Government’s figures, the average amount owing will be £9,000—I believe the estimate was that the measure will bring in about £100 million a year from about 11,000 cases. I understand that the estimates will be in round terms.
I hope my hon. Friend will indulge me further on the question of equality. Not everybody can go into court or argue with HMRC, as they do not have the skills and understanding always to take on all these intricacies of debts, claims and this, that and the other. Where people do get to court, they find protection there for them, because they can argue their case in front of a judge and make various points, and the judge can actually aid them. These people cannot afford to have legal representation, because there is no legal aid any more, and so they are in a better position because the judge can actually help them a little.
I agree with my hon. Friend on that. It is no coincidence that my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow (Stella Creasy) is in her place tonight, as she has done sterling work on trying to stand up for the financially disadvantaged. I thank her for her work on so-called “payday lenders”, because when I tried as a Back Bencher under the last Labour Government to amend a Finance Bill to give the Government the power—just the power—to cap payday loan rates, I could not get a Labour Government to go even that far. She has done magnificent work because, as my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton North (Alex Cunningham) said, this is to do with protecting the financially vulnerable. That is why it is a big step forward. I congratulate the Government on introducing the safeguard that an assessment must be made of the vulnerability or otherwise of the alleged debtor and that that assessment must be recorded in writing.
I can scarcely believe my ears. I think that the hon. Gentleman is congratulating the hon. Member for Walthamstow (Stella Creasy) on helping a Conservative-led Government do more to protect the poorest in our society than a Labour Government would do. Have I heard him correctly?
In that particular respect, the hon. Gentleman has heard me correctly. However, if he had heard my earlier remarks, he would also be aware of my great unease at many other policies put forward by the current Government as well as by the previous Conservative-led Government. But in the narrow respect to which he refers, he did understand me correctly.
Does my hon. Friend agree that a Government who voted three times against a cap on the cost of credit should not be lecturing the Opposition on how to protect the vulnerable? Perhaps if they had listened earlier to the concerns expressed from the Labour Benches about people who are vulnerable and who have personal debt in this current economic climate, this country would have made much more progress.
I agree that progress can be pitifully slow under Conservative-led Governments, and that sometimes those Governments are very slow learners. With regard to the work that my hon. Friend has done, which has an echo in the safeguards under clause 47, she has persuaded the Government to be less hard-nosed and to be more “listening” about financial vulnerability than they had previously been and much credit for that success must go to her for her work with charities and others.
New clause 10 seeks in a very reasonable and moderate way to have a review of the effects of clause 47. The review would cover the total amount recovered, and whether it was as expected. It would cover the number of cases dealt with: would it be 11,000, because at one point the Government thought that it might be 19,000? It might also provide some measure of the effectiveness of the new procedure. I say to the Minister that we on the Labour Benches do not like the procedure, because it smacks of hypocrisy—of the Government, not of him personally. It is a case of, “It’s one rule for them and another for us. The court system is not working, so we will do a workaround on that.”
I now wish to turn to new clause 11 on the climate change levy, and to amendment 90, which would delete clause 45 on the CCL. In a sense, the proposal is a double negative. If clause 45 were deleted, the exemption would be restored. Again, I urge the Government to look at both these measures, which retain, certainly for the moment, the exemption on the climate change levy and, as stated in new clause 11, look at the effect of the abolition of that exemption. As I understand it, there was no consultation to speak of before the measure was announced. In contradistinction, when a fundamental change to the tax regime of combined heat and power units was introduced, that industry got two years’ notice of exemptions. In this case, this year, there was 28 days’ notice, which is next to no notice at all, because these things have long lead times.
I accept the Government’s figure that a third of this exemption is claimed by overseas producers—if only that were not the case. When many, if not all, western countries address the issue of greenhouse gas emissions, which is the nub of what we are talking about, they tend to offshore the problem. Carbon dioxide intensive manufacturing, using lots of non-renewable fossil fuels, gets relocated by capitalists to places such as China and India, making it look as if the CO2 emissions per capita in the United Kingdom are falling quite dramatically, but if the CO2 emissions in the United Kingdom were to include those for which UK residents and consumers are responsible, we would see a rather different picture. Of course Labour Members are not happy about a third of this exemption money going overseas, but in one sense that is all part of offshoring. As far as one can see, successive Governments have been turning a blind eye to the offshoring of greenhouse gas emissions to China and India and so on, but when we are talking about measures to lessen that, no offshoring is to be allowed under this Government. They should think again.
I am not intimate with the industry—this is after all a finance debate and not an energy debate—but I accept that the cost of the CCL exemption in the five years of this Parliament could be in the order of £4 billion. We are talking about a lot of money. It is symptomatic of this Government being penny wise and pound foolish—if one can be penny wise with £4 billion—because they are cutting the exemption too soon, before the industry reaches self-sufficiency. If the industry were treated like the nuclear industry, we would have 100 years of subsidy before deciding whether the technology worked and it was self-sufficient. I am not suggesting that, but what we have is an industry in which the UK has been pretty successful. Indeed, it is a desirable industry. It is a renewables industry which, on all the evidence of which I am aware, is likely to grow in future years around the world, not shrink. We had some technological lead and a skilled UK workforce, but then the Government take us a step back with what they do at 28 days’ notice to the CCL exemption. I understand that prospective onshore wind projects are, almost as we speak, being abandoned, which is regrettable. That is not to say that every one of those projects should proceed, but it is regrettable if the whole industry is shrinking.
As I understand it, the impact assessment for the changes to the CCL exemption and the feed-in tariff is that there will be 1 million more tonnes of CO2 produced in the UK each year, which seems to be going in the wrong direction. What other financial incentives are there to encourage UK non-domestic users—I am talking about business and the public sector, not households—to use renewables? Secondly, in what ways are the renewables obligation and contracts for difference more efficient and more effective?
This whole issue cannot be divorced from carbon capture and storage and the need for the Government to confirm their support for the two projects in the competition—I think we are due a decision on that in the new year. After that, we need to encourage industry with industrial CCS, especially on Teesside where my constituency sits and where, nearby, we have just lost a large section of the British steel industry.
It is a tragedy what is happening to steel production around the country, and energy prices are part of the mixture behind it. They are as high as they are partly because we have not got to grips with technology like carbon capture and storage, and that is shackling companies in our country.
Does the hon. Gentleman not see the contradiction in saying that the Government should be looking for ways to encourage high-intensity energy users to use more renewables, which are three times more expensive than producing electricity from gas, while lamenting the decline in energy-intensive industries in the UK?
I disagree with the hon. Gentleman. The difficulty is that we have high energy prices because we have not invested in new technology to bring them down. For example, if we had cracked the holy grail of carbon capture and storage on a commercial basis—it is already cracked on a scientific basis—this country would be quids in, because of all the coal we have.
The short response to what the hon. Gentleman is saying is that massive subsidies deployed in other countries are being authorised by the European Commission, but we do not get them. As the hon. Member for East Antrim (Sammy Wilson) said just now, there is an increasing failure in renewable energy because it is too expensive and the subsidies are a complete disaster zone.
The hon. Gentleman is right that the European energy market and the production of energy within the European Union are a bit of a mess. The United Kingdom is part of that mess because we are in the European Union, but it is a mess here anyway because we have not tackled energy security. Again, the problem started under the previous Labour Government and I berated them for it at the time. I was berating a Labour Government on energy security before I lost my seat in 2010, and on returning to this House five years later, so far as I can tell almost nothing has been done on that front apart from the poisonous deal—in many senses of the word—backed by China and EDF for new nuclear power stations in this country.
One can see a bit of a pattern with what is happening with the removal at 28 days’ notice of the climate change levy exemption for electricity from renewable sources used by non-domestics—non-doms, as it were. The Liberal Democrat policy was for the percentage of taxation to come from environmental taxes to keep rising year on year, and when the Liberal Democrats first came up with that crazy idea in about 2007 I pointed out that it was a bit self-defeating. That has been formally abandoned by this Government, which is not necessarily a mistake, but in the context the issue is what has or has not replaced that policy. Support for large onshore wind is being cut, and support for photovoltaics is being ended one year early. The Government’s policy is to lessen air passenger duty, and they aim to abolish it and to expand airports. That is not good news for the environment. The policy on zero-carbon homes for 2016 is being scrapped, not just diluted. There is a massive nuclear subsidy, which we heard about last week with the visit from China. What will our nuclear industry be built on? State support from China and from France.
I should have declared that I was chair of the all-party group on carbon capture and storage, and I am also chair of the all-party group on energy intensive industries. My grandfather was a miner, so I am pleased to hear the word “coal” mentioned in the Chamber. We have huge resources, particularly under the North sea close to Teesside. Does my hon. Friend agree that we need to see investment now in coal gasification if we are going to provide the natural gas needed by companies such as GrowHow, the UK’s only remaining fertiliser producer?
I did not know that my hon. Friend had gathered so many accolades, but I thank him for the work he has done on these energy matters, which is particularly important for his constituency interests and for our country. As I said, if we could get the holy grail of carbon capture and storage, our country would be quids in because of the amount of coal we have. I am sadly old enough to remember what was called town gas; I do not know whether my hon. Friend remembers it. Town gas was made from coal, produced and piped, before we discovered abundant natural gas in commercial quantities under the North sea. Yes, we could go back to that, but we need the technology.
Instead, we have a massive subsidy for nuclear energy. Leaving aside the safety issues for the moment, that subsidy is just twice the price per kilowatt hour guaranteed with indexation. Who is proposing it? A combination of France and China—China with, as I understand it, a reactor that has not yet been built anywhere in the world, and France, through EDF, with the wonderful record we see at Flamanville in Normandy, where the reactor is now three times behind schedule at twice the predicted cost and still has not opened. There is a similar story with a similar reactor, also being helped by France, in Finland.
The Government are contemplating huge subsidies in a panic over energy security, which of course will not guarantee energy security as it will take so long to build a new fleet, as they are pleased to call it, of nuclear power stations. Meanwhile, as my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton North points out, we have the craziness of all this abundant coal yet quite insufficient Government-funded CCS research and development through which we could proceed to the gasification of coal as North sea gas is running out.
My hon. Friend may be surprised to learn that I spent 17 years of my career in the gas industry, so I know very well what town gas is. I was pleased to play a part in seeing natural gas come to large parts of the country. It does not matter whether subsidies are for wind, for panels on people’s roofs or whatever else; this is also about the creation of jobs. If we get carbon capture and storage right, a place like Teesside could start to replace the highly skilled jobs we have seen going down the pan over the past few weeks.
I quite agree with my hon. Friend. We want those highly skilled jobs and we want the cheaper energy that one hopes we can get from that technology. We need the Government to kick-start research and development investment to develop that technology. However, I must caution my hon. Friend. There is only so far I can go in agreeing with him. Yes, we want those jobs, and quite a lot of them will be highly skilled, but it is a dead end for us as a country always to have subsidised jobs. That is the obvious thing to say, but it is a dead end. We need a plan to get from where we are, without energy security and without technological development, to the sunlit uplands where we have that technology and development, and where they are self-sufficient and commercially viable. That will need some support from Government, and the removal under clause 45 of the CCL exemption for electricity from renewable resources used by non-doms is a step in the wrong direction.
The Department of Energy and Climate Change Minister Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth wrote to me on 26 August saying that the Government had committed to delivering on the national infrastructure plan published in December 2014, which contained a number of priority investments. He went on to list some of them. One is rail electrification, and we know what has happened to that—it is on pause. Another is low-carbon energy such as nuclear; we know the cost of that, which is enormous. A third is low-carbon energy such as renewables, but clause 45 is going in the wrong direction on that. Lord Bourne also cites energy efficiency measures such as smart meters, but the evidence on them is mixed, to say the least. Before Conservative Members jump up, I know that it was a Labour Government who started down that route and it struck me as a very odd thing to do at the time.
The final point that Lord Bourne mentions, which will please my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton North, is carbon capture and storage. We need to go down that route, but as I say, we need a bit more help from Government, and the measure in clause 45 goes in the wrong direction—at least, we are uncertain what direction it is going in as there has not been a whole bunch of consultation on it as far as I can tell and I am not aware of an impact assessment.
On 8 July—Budget day, I believe—HMRC put out a consultation document on the subject, which said that one of the factors being examined was the “operational impact” in pounds. It stated:
“Changes in HMRC costs are estimated to be negligible and would fall as part of the existing operational cost of administering CCL. The government will consult Ofgem and NIAUR”—
that is, the utility regulator—
“over summer/autumn 2015 to establish the costs and other impacts on the regulators of removing the exemption.”
That is a consultation, as I understand it, only on the impacts on the regulators, but that might shed some light on the impact on the industry and on employment. I hope that when he responds to the debate, the Minister can address that point.
I do not think new clause 7 is strong enough. It just asks for progress. We are not doing enough. Let me explain why.
The hon. Member for Wolverhampton South West (Rob Marris), who presumably helped to draft this proposal, knows perfectly well that he is trying to find a way of satisfying those who would like to see a serious attempt made to reduce the VAT on these products. They are clearly necessary and the tax on them should be reduced in the way that has been proposed. Unfortunately, however, he also knows that because of sections 2 and 3 of the European Communities Act, it is impossible to do that without getting the agreement of all the other member states. There is a variation as between other member states and ourselves to the advantage of those states, the net result of which is that supporters of new clause 7 are not going to get that agreement and they know it.
I am completely on the side of those who want to see a total elimination of VAT on these products.
I note with pleasure the hon. Gentleman’s support for the idea that tampons, as they are called, and sanitary towels are an essential. I am an avid follower of many of his debates in Parliament, and I know that he has raised concerns before about the European Union. Having discovered his support for this proposal, I wonder whether he can update us on when he last raised in this House the issue of VAT on tampons.
I am not going to say that I did, but I put through an Act of Parliament, the International Development (Gender Equality) Act 2014, both to protect women and to promote their interests, with massive support from all parts of the House, so I want no suggestion that I am backward in coming forward on these issues.
New clause 7 contains weasel words. It does not solve anything. It is not in the interests of the United Kingdom not to deal with the problem properly.
I have raised the issue over a number of years, and I am pleased that we are debating it tonight. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that this is one of the ridiculous things that the European Union does, and that we need to get back in our own country control of how we levy VAT, which is why we should vote to leave the European Union?
I entirely agree with the hon. Lady’s last remark, for the reasons that she has given. We need to get back control over our own power to make laws, levy taxation and deal with all the matters which we do not need to go into today. The supremacy of this House affects tax, spending, and the way in which we run our own country. We have a right and a duty to return to the people of this country the right to govern themselves. This happens to be an extremely good example of the kind of thing that would help women in a way that I would much like to see.
I am pleased to hear the hon. Gentleman talk about his concern for global gender inequality, and his support for the idea that tampons are an essential and therefore should not be zero-rated. There is another way to read the amendment, is there not? Were we to pass it and to propose these matters at the European Union and secure zero-rating on tampons across the whole EU, he would be showing solidarity with his sisters in France, Belgium, Germany, Italy—indeed, he could be helping many more women by supporting zero-rating across the European Union.
If there were a cat in hell’s chance that we would get this through the European Union, I would entirely endorse the hon. Lady’s sentiments. I would like to see the changes. The problem is that everybody on the Opposition Benches and the Government know quite well that they are not going to be able to achieve that with the kind of progress report that is mentioned in the new clause. It would be a great opportunity now to propose a provision that would override European law to make sure that we could achieve the objectives that she and I clearly share.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way again. I do not want to pursue this, not least because I am avidly waiting for the speech from my hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury (Paula Sherriff), which I think will be compelling, but may I give him a spark of hope? It is not just on these shores that there are women—and men—fighting for zero-rating on tampons; there are others doing so in France. The proposal was put forward just this summer. Should he choose to vote with us and support the new clause, he will be joining many people across the European Union. I want him to have hope that we can win this at the European level, rather than the despair that he currently feels.
My final remarks on the issue are these: that is wishful thinking. What is needed is not a report, but action—action to return to this Parliament the right to determine its own levels of taxation. I regard the proposals in the new clause as aspirations without substance, yet I agree with the underlying principle, which can be implemented only by an effective legislative change to the Finance Bill, whereby we take back control over our own affairs and govern not only the men but the women of this country in the way in which they would like.
New clause 7 is tabled in my name and supported both by my hon. Friends and by a number of Members on the Government Benches.
It is time to end the tampon tax once and for all, and we have the chance to take a step towards achieving that today. It is absurd that in Britain tampons and sanitary towels are taxed as luxuries, not essentials, and not treated as a public service activity or medical provision by EU law. Almost 250,000 people from across the country have signed up to a call for that to change, and it is about time they were heard in Westminster and Brussels. Quite simply, a tax system that lets someone dine on crocodile steak on their private jet without paying a penny, when we cannot survive a period without the Treasury taxing us for it, cannot be a fair one.
That is why the Minister’s predecessor, Dawn Primarolo, urged on by many of my predecessors on these Benches, reduced the rate to 5% under a previous Labour Government, and it is why Laura Coryton and other feminist campaigners are running a campaign to finish the job with a zero rate now. Hon. Members can still sign up at change.org/EndTamponTax.
Periods are a fact of life and it is not as though women have a choice. Many were shocked to see Kiran Ghandi run the London marathon without a tampon to highlight the fact that too many women around the world do not have access to sanitary products. But that is the point—this is a basic matter of biology and it is time to end the taboo.
We can buy tampons in this country, but we are taxed for doing so. This is an issue for all women, but, as with so many things, it hits the poorest the hardest. Imagine being homeless when that time of the month comes. Think about what it is like to face a period without even having a bathroom.
My hon. Friend refers to the plight of the homeless. As I am sure she is aware, homeless shelters can request free condoms from the NHS, but not free sanitary products. Does she agree that it really is time we dealt with that indignity, because homeless women face enough challenges already?
I completely agree that homeless women face enough challenges without the added burden of periods without sanitary products.
Some great work is being done by food banks, and student unions, such as those at Leeds University and Sheffield University, have started selling sanitary products at cost price in order to avoid VAT, but this is an issue where the Government need to lead from the front. The Minister told us in Committee that he was sympathetic to this, but we do not need to be patronised with tea, sympathy and platitudes; we demand action. He told us that his hands were tied and that change would require difficult negotiations and EU reform, but the Prime Minister has just promised us that he will undertake just such negotiations, and that he will be able to deliver just such EU reforms. This issue, which affects the majority of people across Europe, could hardly be more difficult to achieve than the rest of his demands.
Frankly, VAT on tampons is the vagina added tax. It is a tax on women, pure and simple. Therefore, instead of going to Brussels to water down our protections at work, the Prime Minister has an opportunity to deliver a victory for women across the continent. This issue transcends party politics, and I am pleased that the amendment has received cross-party support, from other parties on the Opposition Benches and from some Members on the Government Benches. I sincerely hope that Members on both sides of the House will support taking steps to axe the tampon tax tonight.
The hon. Lady refers to people across Europe, no doubt meaning the European Union. The only problem is that if we cannot get unanimity among all member states, we will not get any change at all. From that point of view, the most important thing is to fight and fight again to ensure that we get what we want, but also to guarantee that we bring back the powers to this House.
I am not sure whether the hon. Gentleman is suggesting that we should do absolutely nothing about this huge inequality that affects more than half the population. We have an opportunity to take a significant step forward for women and families this evening. We turned our clocks back on Sunday. Let us not turn them back even further tonight, period.
I am pleased to have an opportunity to discuss this matter, because we need to examine why we cannot do something about it—if we really cannot. I know that I would not be in your good books, Mr Deputy Speaker, if I brought in some props to illustrate my argument, so I will have to ask you to use your imagination, which I am sure is prodigious. Imagine that I have laid out on the Bench beside me a selection of products, including pantyliners, maternity pads, mild bladder weakness pads and incontinence pads. They would all look fairly similar and would be made from similar materials, but some would have a designed difference. In other words, they would be taxed.
I call that tax a femi-tax. I know that there has been a lot of alliteration, with references to a “tampon tax”, but it is somewhat perverse that in a selection of products that look pretty similar, and that are perhaps interchangeable, some should incur tax simply because they are associated with a woman’s bodily function. To me that seems unreasonable and totally illogical.
When I looked into the matter, I found that incontinence aids do not attract tax because they come under a different tax regime. It is assumed that they are intended for use by people who have illnesses, who are elderly or who are disabled. However, those of us who watch too much television—I am probably in that category—will have seen plenty of adverts for products for those “Oops” moments, as they have been described, and they do not show geriatric, disabled or elderly people; they show sassy young ladies and women of a certain age who are still attractive to members of the opposite sex. Therefore, let us assume that this is some sort of contrivance. Those products, should a woman choose to use them to ensure that she does not have an embarrassing “Oops” moment, do not attract VAT. I cannot see why the products a woman might choose to use, even if they might also be used by the elderly, the infirm and the disabled, are not regarded for tax purposes as the same as any other product she might choose to use. That is the illogicality we must tackle today.
I understand the alliteration of the “tampon tax”, but I think that phrase is misleading. If those products were laid out, most people would struggle to identify which ones incur VAT. This contrivance, because this only affects a woman’s bodily function, whether she has had a baby or her normal monthly period, means that it is that function that is taxed. I think that it is unreasonable that we cannot at least appear to deal with the matter.
I want this to be discussed tonight because I want to understand why we cannot deal with the matter. I would like to say that we could go to Europe and make all sorts of bluster and noise, but I would like the Minister to tell us tonight whether he agrees about that illogicality and whether he agrees that this is indeed a femi-tax—a tax on women’s bodily functions, but not on other bodily functions. If he has sympathy with that view, I would like him to explain to the public why we cannot look at these products and say, “They all look pretty similar and they all have similar functions in absorbing fluids, so why has someone somewhere decided that we cannot choose to make them all exempt?” It seems ridiculous that a woman could buy an “Oops” moment product—I do not want to advertise any particular brand—and use it for sanitary protection and that that would be cheaper. It might not be quite as effective, but it would be cheaper. I think that it is absolutely ridiculous that a similar-looking product intended for personal hygiene, such as a pantyliner, would be taxed differently. I do not understand it.
I would like the Minister to explain why we as a country would want to persist with that illogicality in taxation. If he has a reason—I suspect that my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir William Cash) has hinted at this, but I want to hear it from the Minister—that is associated with us being bossed around and told what to do by a conglomeration of countries that I have never voted for, then we need to start raising these issues. If Europe insists on taxing women through a femi-tax, I would like them to explain why.
Perhaps this will help the Minister. Does the hon. Lady agree with the point the Chancellor made to the Treasury Committee last week that there needs to be a debate within Europe about the tax regimes affecting eurozone countries and those affecting non-eurozone countries? Will she therefore support the Chancellor in those discussions, and will she support negotiations that are about a sensible conversation with our European partners and allies, rather than bluster?
I agree, and I am pleased that there are hon. Gentlemen who are not too cowed to take part in this debate. I am old enough to have read Ms Greer’s “The Female Eunuch” in the ’70s, when this was a hot topic. It was about how women can face up to the fact that this is just part of being a woman, not something shameful to be hidden away. Therefore, we need to have a discussion, without bluster or embarrassment, about why we cannot take back control and have fairness in our society in this country.
I remind the hon. Lady that under the sixth directive, which sets out the tax rules in the EU, the anomalies that she mentions between different kinds of medical products, including tampons, are precisely the evidence we need to take to the VAT Committee in order to get a derogation that would allow us to move to the zero rate for all these products. In advancing her line of argument, would she like to ask the Minister why the Government have never asked for that derogation, which is perfectly possible given the evidence she has raised?
The Minister may well explain that to the hon. Gentleman, but I personally do not want to have to go cap in hand asking for derogations. I would like this country to decide that it is a ridiculous illogicality to have different tax rates on similar-looking pads that could be used for interchangeable purposes. I would not wish to have to go and ask, “Please, European Union, can you allow us to do what we would like to do, which is to free up our women from this taxation that only affects them: a femi-tax?” I would like us to have the ability to do it.
I hope that the Minister will explain to all hon. Members here and to all the women out there in the country why, if they go and buy a mild incontinence, bladder weakness or “Oops moment” pad—call it what you like—and use it as a sanitary towel, they will not be taxed, because they do not understand it, and nor do I. It is time that we stood up to the European Union. If it does not like us doing that and having to ask, “Please can we have permission for a derogation?” then perhaps we need to consider this matter when we are deciding whether we wish to stay in the European Union.
Members may have seen the images circulating on the internet of groups of world leaders with the men photoshopped out, where Angela Merkel and Hillary Clinton cut lonely figures. A version has even been done of the House of Commons. I imagine that some of these Benches would look pretty bare this evening if we took away the men.
That is a stark reminder that despite much progress, we still have a long way to go before gender equality is realised. That is desirable not just for its own sake but because without women the issues that disproportionately affect women do not get resolved. VAT on essential women’s sanitary products is one such issue: it affects only women. I dare say that if it did affect men, it would have been resolved long before now. Every month when I purchase a box of tampons or towels, the Chancellor benefits. Women, on average, begin menstruating at age 12 and continue until age 52. That represents a significant sum of money spent by every woman in the country over their lifetime. This seems particularly unfair for younger women who may not even be old enough to work. That is why our new clause mentions women under 25, who will most likely be in lower-paid jobs or not yet working at all.
I do not know of any woman who exclaims on a monthly basis, “I have my period—what a luxury!” For women, these items are not treats, and they are certainly not optional. Any number of female colleagues here today may have their period and nobody knows, and that is quite right. But people would certainly know all about it if, like the brave London marathon runner, Kiran Gandi, we came into this House deliberately forgoing sanitary protection. That is no doubt an uncomfortable prospect for male Members of this House, but I would say, “Good. I did not come here today, or any day, to make you feel comfortable but to challenge any status quo that I feel is unjust, and I am not done yet.”
I want to highlight the particular case of maternity pads. As the hon. Member for St Albans (Mrs Main) said, it is illogical that incontinence pads are zero rated but maternity pads are not. Such pads are essential for women who have just had a baby; they are absolutely essential for post-birth lochia for up to 10 days after birth. I do not understand why these items are not treated as medical items and similarly zero rated.
As I suspect the hon. Gentleman well knows, the Scottish Parliament does not have jurisdiction over this matter, but the SNP feels sufficiently strongly about it that we put it in our party manifesto for this place, and the First Minister has been vocal in speaking out in support of zero rating for sanitary products. We would very much like this to happen, and we will give any support that we can in the Scottish Parliament as well as from our Benches here.
This issue has been very protracted over many years, and this House cannot resolve it alone, but we can make a start. VAT has already been reduced by a previous Labour Government, and we have a good deal of cross-party support here tonight. I think that we can do much better than the Prime Minister, who, during the election campaign, described this as a “difficult” issue and said that he “can’t remember the answer”. The answer, of course, is that we can take a lead on this. In June 2015, the European Commission, which is yet to have a female President—perhaps that would make a difference on such issues—gave an answer that was not entirely positive. It set out the background to its reasons why this cannot be done, but it also said:
“As part of its upcoming work on a definitive VAT regime based on the destination principle, the Commission will assess the functioning and possible improvements to the system of reduced rates.”
So we have an opportunity to get involved in this debate to say that this is an important issue for us as a nation and for women across Europe.
We have an opportunity and an obligation to try again to resolve this issue. Members may not know this, but the Republic of Ireland entered the European Union at the time of a 0% rating on sanitary products that it was able to retain in much the same way as we have derogations in different areas, so there is already a precedent within the EU of a zero rating in a European member state. I urge the Government to take a lead on this for women across these islands and across the EU. Let us end this bloody unfairness.
This debate is like history coming back to me, because not only does the hon. Member for Glasgow Central (Alison Thewliss) now represent the constituency that I stood for in 1987, but I was first made aware of this issue by the hon. Member for Walthamstow (Stella Creasy), who, when she was an A-level student in my constituency, berated me for the inequality of this tax. Ever since, I have been convinced that it is an unjust tax. Indeed, on that occasion I raised the matter in the shadow Cabinet, which was then under the leadership of William Hague. I got a very frosty and uncomfortable reception for raising such a matter in a semi-public meeting, including from some of our right hon. and hon. Friends who are female and hold extremely senior positions in Government to this day.
That demonstrates an important point about how attitudes change. Whatever we might have agreed to in our original agreements with the European Union that lock this tax in place, albeit reduced by the previous Labour Government to the minimum of 5%—I celebrate that—we are now, within the European Union, operating in a system based on a different principle—the principle that taxes should be harmonised as part of the single market. I refer the House to article 113 of the treaty on the functioning of the European Union, which says:
“The Council shall, acting unanimously…adopt provisions for the harmonisation of legislation concerning turnover taxes, excise duties and other forms of indirect taxation to the extent that such harmonisation is necessary to ensure the establishment and the functioning of the internal market and to avoid distortion of competition.”
So taxation has crept into the idea of being part of the single market. At the point at which this country signed up to the Common Market, or even at the stage of the Single European Act or of the Maastricht treaty, this principle crept into the acquis communautaire of the European Union rather than being something that was expressly agreed by this House.
I very much hope that the Government will negotiate something fundamental on this particular tax, and I am looking forward to what the Minister has to say about it. However, I make no apology for raising the far more general principle that different taxation regimes in different countries represent different social settlements and the development of our societies in different ways at different paces. That is why we are separate nations and separate peoples with separate democracies.
The attempt to use the pretext of the single market to harmonise taxes is one of the most democratically regressive manoeuvres the European Union could adopt. France puts VAT on food and children’s clothes, but this country would not put VAT on such items. Ever since we adopted the cheap food policy following the abolition of the corn laws in the 1840s, that has been part of the fabric of our social settlement. It is the right of an individual nation state to continue to evolve its social settlement, and the conduct of Government and the imposition of taxes are inseparable from that democratic social settlement.
The treaties as currently formulated are a denial of national democracy. This House should not have to go and beg 27 other member states in order to change a rate of tax on an issue that we think is socially important. This is a matter of national democracy, and that is why the treaties are unfit for purpose.
That is absolutely correct. Having observed the history of 40 years of membership of the European Union, as it is now called, we know that it is not going to stay like this. The European Union will continue to develop. The trend of taking more taxation powers away from the member states, in the name of the single market, is enshrined in article 113, so it will continue to do so. Yes, we have a veto, but the European Court of Justice tends to accelerate the pace of tax harmonisation just when we do not expect it to do so. It is the ECJ that extended VAT to certain items and categories of goods when we did not expect it to do so.
The group of amendments also addresses the renewables obligation incentives and seeks to adjust the feed-in tariff regime. Why are we able to reduce taxation on renewable energy products to only 5%? It is because of the European Union. Why could the previous Labour Government not abolish VAT on fuel, which they said they wanted to do after it had been applied by the Major Administration? It is because of the European Union.
I agree with everything my hon. Friend is saying, although I am slightly alarmed by his statement that the shadow Cabinet is a semi-public meeting.
Surely the harmonisation of tax fails on two fronts. First, different countries treat these products at the higher rate, the lower rate or at no rate. Secondly, on equality of treatment, is my hon. Friend able to think of any other product that is taxed so discriminately that it affects only one half of the population of the European Union, who just happen to be women? Is that not the most discriminatory and iniquitous measure that the EU has come up with?
My hon. Friend makes an interesting point and raises the spectre of a case to bring before the courts—perhaps even the European Court of Justice—on the basis of discrimination. Perhaps that would be one way of resolving this particular problem.
I am shamelessly using this example as an opportunity to make a far broader and more important constitutional point.
I am glad the hon. Gentleman has admitted to his own shame, because it seems somewhat shameful to fudge the issue. We may not have all the powers to change the situation, but this House has an opportunity to send a clear message to Europe on something that is very wrong and about which so many people feel strongly. I cannot believe that the hon. Gentleman is using that as an excuse to not support us on an issue for which there is clear cross-party support.
I point out to the hon. Lady that my name is on new clause 7. I support it, but I will wait to hear what the Minister has to say before deciding whether to vote against my own Administration. I am sure she will understand that. There have not been many rebellions among the SNP yet. The point about being a political party in this House is that we are all individuals and we are all allowed to do what we choose. In fact, that is our responsibility.
Our problem with the EU’s VAT directives is that they are a one-way street. Once the EU has adopted powers to regulate a particular tax, that power cannot be taken back by the member states. We are then left begging the EU as to whether we can set the tax rates for which the British people vote, as opposed to setting them ourselves. It strikes me as ironic that the Scottish National party wants independence from the United Kingdom in order to do its own thing, but it is happy to go on giving up more and more power to the European Union, so it will have even less freedom and less voice than it has in the UK.
The problem is that once VAT rates on any product are set above 5%, the European Union does not allow any member state to reduce them to below 5% again. We therefore have an anomaly whereby there is a zero VAT rate on sanitary products in the Republic of Ireland because it has never charged VAT on them. Had we started from the principle of charging no VAT on sanitary products, we would be in the same position as Ireland, but because we already charged it we cannot take it away. What a mess.
I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman recognises all the good things the European Union has done for women. As somebody who has had to suffer periods and pay this unfair tax, I was also afforded maternity rights that I would never have had if it had not been for some of the pressures exerted by the European Union.
I certainly acknowledge that what has happened in other member states has influenced what has happened in this country, but the hon. Lady enjoys no rights in this country that we could not have afforded ourselves through our own political processes. The question of the possibility of leaving the European Union is about taking back control over those policies, not deciding them in a different way from that which she would like. Long may we continue to agree on the importance of equal rights for women in as many areas as possible—in fact, in every area that we can possibly legislate on.
Does my hon. Friend agree that this tax is very unfair because it is not about the equality of sexes? The tax is not equal because men do not need any of these products. If we had thought at the very beginning that this would impact on women only, I am sure people would have thought much harder about putting tax on sanitary products, which every woman, mainly, needs for a long period in their life. It is not fair.
I am not going to give way again.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Paula Sherriff) on tabling new clause 7. She may be a little surprised at how many Members support it, but, sadly, we have to have this debate not because it is the British Government’s policy to levy the tax, but because it is the EU’s policy to do so. That is a fundamental freedom and control that we should bring back to this House in the future.
I feel the need to make all sorts of declarations of interest in this debate, having used sanitary products pretty much all my life.
I wish to pay credit to a number of women who have brought this subject to the House over the years. Without women in this place, I am certain that this issue would never have been raised, although I am delighted that so many men interested in Europe are in the Chamber to talk about it. Dawn Primarolo, a working-class woman brave enough to dare to speak up in Parliament about the taboo subject of women’s periods back in the year 2000, should be commended.
Today, when such topics are far easier for us to discuss, I have already received a number of sideways glances from colleagues around the estate on speaking about the subject and there is a certain desire among Conservative Members to say the word “products” instead of tampons. I know from speaking to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Camberwell and Peckham (Ms Harman) today that, at the time, it was considered vulgar and even shameful that Ms Primarolo brought forward the subject. She was brave. Today, our brave woman prize goes to my hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury (Paula Sherriff). Regardless of what has been said on the other side of the House, doing nothing achieves nothing.
It is completely ridiculous that women are taxed, even at a 5% rate, for a product which, in my experience, is more than essential. The fact that we still have the tax is probably down in no small part to the fact that most of the people in the House and in our sister Parliaments all across the EU do not have wombs. The reason why we must force the Government to have a conversation with our European partners is that, without force, I fear that they will be too squeamish to talk about women’s periods. But they should not be: every person in the House exists only because their mother had a period. Today, with half term, Parliament has been teeming with children—my own have been on the slides in Portcullis House—who all exist only because their mothers had periods. It is nothing to be scared of, and nor should any man or woman ever feel that we should not talk about periods.
Such a revision in taxation may seem a marginal change, but it would make a huge difference to the women in this country. Having worked in a women’s refuge, I know that the things we had to stock up on the most—because they presented a challenge to the budgets of the women in our care—were nappies, tampons and sanitary towels.
I totally agree. When you have no money left, having fed your kids and paid your bills, the cost of a product such as Tampax is a real issue for people.
Let me be clear: tampons and sanitary towels are essential, and everyone in the House knows it. I will not tell how I know it. I am sure there are plenty of mishaps that the women in the House could all talk about, including no doubt those that have happened even on these Benches. This tax is a tax on women and girls. I started my period when I was 10 years old, so I have paid the tax for 23 years. If the House will excuse the pun, it is a bleeding scandal.
This problem of taxation on tampons and other sanitary products is one that, quite rightly, excites a great degree of anger and controversy, but the solution to the problem is uncontroversial. It is perfectly obvious that we are all agreed in the House that we should get rid of the tax on tampons and other sanitary products. The reason why this is a subject of interest to so many is that the House is of course prohibited from doing so by EU law.
Indeed. That is precisely the point. It is not because we are spinning-eyed nutcases that we wish to get excited about Europe; it is because we find, again and again, that the European Union obstructs us from solving real problems in people’s lives.
On this occasion, it so happens that the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Paula Sherriff) deserves all our congratulations on forcing the issue. I am very glad that my name appears on new clause 7. I must say that those who are attacking us for signing the new clause are probably going some way to diminishing the support they will receive. We are all in the House because we wish not to send messages but to take action that serves our constituents. I would like to break the news to some Members of the House that approximately half the electors of Wycombe are in fact women, and I am very happy to do the best I can to represent them in this place.
It seems to me that there are five courses of action available to the Government. The first is to do nothing. That is clearly untenable. We are in the House today because doing nothing is untenable. Some course of action must be taken to resolve the problem.
On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. In the other place not two minutes ago, their Lordships voted for a Labour amendment to in effect kill off—[Interruption.] Not for 100 years has the House of Lords defied this elected House. This is a serious matter, and I ask you or Mr Speaker to make a statement to protect the rights of the elected representatives—not just for us, but for the people of this country.
Further to that point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. The very fact that the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Sir Edward Leigh) raised that point of order in the manner he did underpins the importance of Members of this House—I believe the majority of them are also opposed to the changes—trooping through the right voting Lobby to ensure that there is in fact an alignment of opinion between the two Houses, even though the Government Whips colluded last week to ensure—
In ascending order of difficulty, there are another four things the Government could do. The first is to do what new clause 7 would impose on them, which is to negotiate within the existing EU framework to deliver a zero-rating on tampons and sanitary products. The second would be to renegotiate the power to set such taxes. I commend that to the Minister, and I hope he will comment on the Government’s willingness to repatriate all tax powers, particularly VAT, back to this country. The third is to legislate, notwithstanding the European Communities Act. It seems to me that that would be a bold move, but I would certainly support it to end the problem swiftly, and I hope that Members on both sides of the House would support that. The final thing that could be done would be for us to leave the European Union and, as my hon. Friend the Member for St Albans (Mrs Main) said, decide for ourselves in this House matters of taxation that apply to all our constituents.
This evening, I want to listen extremely carefully to what my hon. Friend the Minister says. It is quite clear that we can no longer go on saying that this issue of the taxation of tampons and sanitary products is too difficult to push through all the member states and the European Commission. Clearly, action must be taken that is robust and dynamic. I must say to those who criticise us for being Eurosceptics that we know we are taking a risk. Unlikely as it seems, the Commission and the member states may well rise to the occasion and solve the problem. Well, good on them if they do. I should be very glad indeed to see no tax on these products right across the European Union.
I imagined that the hon. Gentleman and some of his colleagues would welcome the Government’s being able to report to the House in February or March next year whether it was the Commission, other member states or poor negotiating powers that had failed to achieve this measure. Would he not welcome such transparency?
I remind the hon. Lady that I have added my name to the new clause. My point is that this situation cannot continue any longer, and I hope the Minister will say that the Government accept the principle that tampons and sanitary products should be zero-rated. I hope they will explain why they are not able to bring such a measure before the House, and that the Minister will commit robustly to advancing this cause in the interests of women in the UK and across Europe this year and in future. We should get the whole thing cleared up as soon as possible.
It is genuinely a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr Baker). However he got to support the new clause tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury (Paula Sherriff), I am grateful, because tonight we have an opportunity to make progress on this issue.
I am also pleased to see the hon. Member for Harwich and North Essex (Mr Jenkin) and hear his story of our meeting back in 1993—more than 20 years ago. That offers a parable for tonight’s debate, and an opportunity for the hon. Member for Stone (Sir William Cash) to have hope when it comes to difficult issues. The hon. Member for Harwich and North Essex is right to recall that, as a newly elected MP, he came to my school to speak to the girls on a wet afternoon, and got a grilling from one member of the sixth form. I am sad that the debates we had about child poverty and access to further education did not make such an impression on him, but I am delighted and genuinely humbled to hear that he took the issue that we raised back to the then shadow Cabinet for debate. As he knows, at the same time my headteacher threatened to exclude me should I ask the MP any more difficult questions.
The parable that I think that offers for negotiations in Europe is simple: we may need courage to raise difficult issues with a respected authority figure, but—I say this to the hon. Member for Stone—look at what happens when such issues are raised. People who we think might disagree with us, in fact turn out 20 years later to be champions for social and progressive change.
In 1993 we were conducting the entire Maastricht referendum in order to get the results that the hon. Lady wants on this particular matter. At that time, we realised that if we did not sort out the European Union properly, we would never get the kind of equality that she is now demanding.
The idea that if we do not ask a question we shall never find out the answer is an issue that is on point tonight, and one reason why this eminently reasonable and sensible new clause should garner support from across the House. This debate has not happened at the European level, and, given what happened 20 years ago, my point is that when we ask such questions and challenge people, we can be amazed at the results we secure.
This debate is not about VAT or even the European Union. I recognise that the hon. Member for Wycombe was too young to take part in the vote to join the European Community, but my point in mentioning the purchase tax is that it is a bit of a red herring to think that this is about the European Union. Tampons and sanitary towels have always been considered a luxury. That is not by accident; that is by design in an unequal society in which the concerns of women are not treated as equal to those of men. Even if we were not in the European Union, there is every possibility that a purchase tax would be applied to sanitary towels and tampons but not to other products.
The International Development (Gender Equality) Act 2014 was nothing to do with the European Union. Some of us believe passionately in the same sorts of arguments that the hon. Lady is putting forward, and that is by no means exclusive to issues of the European Union.
I will come on to issues of gender and equality on an international level, but I give the hon. Gentleman warning that I will not take any more interventions from him unless he uses the terms “sanitary towels” and “tampons”. It is important to use appropriate wording in the House.
The inequality that women have faced in having to pay this tax has existed for generations. The question for us all is what we can do to change that, which is why I add my name to those who have congratulated the former Member for Bristol South, Dame Dawn Primarolo. She is a hero to many of us for her persistence in fighting to reduce the rate of VAT on sanitary towels and tampons in the European Union in 2000. I have talked to her at first hand about those negotiations—she had to use the appropriate terms and explain that if we did not resolve this issue, men and women could be sitting next to each other, with women experiencing their periods and the difficulties that can come from that, but without that same protection because of the cost of these products. Her work was visionary.
Talking to Dame Dawn Primarolo, it became clear that this is not about VAT rates but about VAT descriptions. I am looking forward to hearing what the Minister has to say about this, because there is common agreement that we wish to resolve this issue and a recognition that in 2015, a tax on women—a femitax, a vagina tax, or whatever we want to call it—is unfair. The issue can be resolved not necessarily by considering VAT rates, but by considering the way that VAT is described and ascribed to certain products. That is where the inequality has come from—the concept of what is a necessity.
I do not remember the hon. Lady giving way 20 years ago. She was at the very fine Colchester county high school for girls, which is a grammar school. In parenthesis, I am delighted that, through the reforms we are pursuing, this Government are doing more for educational opportunities for the least advantaged than any Government in living memory.
Why does the hon. Lady think that Dame Dawn Primarolo was unable to remove the 5% VAT on tampons and sanitary towels when she succeeded in reducing the things that we had discretion over? Why did she not take this initiative to the European Union? It was because she found that the Government of the day felt that they had other, more important fish to fry in their negotiations with the European Union. We should get away from such an unsatisfactory give and take to national interests by leaving the European Union.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for mentioning the school that I attended. I was incredibly lucky to get there, having failed the 11-plus the first time I took it. I shall always be against selection because I recognise the benefits that I received from being able to take that exam a second time and get that education. That school taught me to do my homework, which is why I know that one of the rules and challenges of this issue is that zero-rated VAT is different from reduced rate VAT. At the time, Dawn Primarolo found that the issue was not about unwillingness but about the way that the rules on what a zero-rating—as opposed to a reduced rating—could be applied to had been changed. That is why she was able to secure a reduction in VAT to 5% from 17.5%—I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will agree that that was progress—but this issue is about the way that products are described.
I am sure that the Minister knows his history of value added tax, how a product is described and what is described as a “necessity”. It is important to have a concept of what is currently described as a “necessity” and is therefore zero-rated. I wonder whether Conservative Members will agree that when we change these definitions, progress can be made.
For example, Jaffa Cakes are zero-rated. I am not a fan of Jaffa Cakes—let it be known that if I am offered a Jaffa Cake, I will refuse. I do not consider them to be essential to my life; I can give or take them. I recognise that razors are zero-rated, and judging by many Conservative Members the opportunity to shave every day is a human right. They are cleanly shaven, and I am sure they would be concerned to be charged a higher rate of VAT. Pitta bread is zero-rated—we can probably all agree that that is a necessity. What is the kebab without a good pitta bread around it? It is a necessity. When we start looking at what is described as a “necessity” and what is a “luxury”, we see the inequalities in this debate. As I said earlier, those inequalities existed long before we joined the European Union and long before we started to work on value added tax.
The question for all of us is not how to have similar rates of taxation, but how to recognise the similar descriptions. That is the way that this issue can be resolved in the European Union. It is also why working with our colleagues in other countries matters to us. I come back to the concern expressed by the hon. Member for Stone about gender inequality, because he is absolutely right: our sisters in France are paying 20% on their tampons and sanitary towels because they do not have the reduced rate. This is therefore not about sanitary towels and the rate of taxation across the European Union; it is about the way in which different countries have interpreted the concept of necessity and essentials.
With respect to the question of sanitary towels and tampons, may I simply make this point? I recognise that the hon. Lady really knows what she is talking about, so I would like to know whether, in her experience, there is a similar problem internationally, outside the European Union, that perhaps comes from international organisations? Could she please explain whether there is anything in that?
And people say that progress cannot be made in this Chamber or that there cannot be cross-party agreement! The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. In fact, 10% of girls in Africa do not go to school when they have their periods because they do not have appropriate sanitary protection, so he is right to be concerned about this. What I am saying—let us see whether we can tempt him to make further progress—is that feminism should be without borders; in which case we should be concerned about inequality in the tax rates and VAT that our sisters pay in a range of countries, including those in the European Union.
Tonight we have an opportunity, here in the British Parliament, to show solidarity across the continent and make sure that this issue is part of the negotiating process. Because let us be honest, it was never part of the negotiating process in this House prior to joining the European Community. It was only part of the negotiating process because of Dame Dawn Primarolo. It is a red herring to think that this is about the European Union; rather, it is a recognition that the time has come to end these inequalities. Our sisters in France tried to bring forward legislation just this summer and were defeated. What a strong message of social progress we could send from the British Parliament today by passing this proposal and sending our Prime Minister to have that difficult conversation and to say, “How do we clarify the way in which essential items are categorised across the European Union? How do we make this work for 51% of our population?”
I am sensing from the hon. Member for Stone that he does care about these issues deeply and does recognise the inequality. If he has frustration tonight, it is simply that he is not seeing progress happening quickly enough. Let me reassure him that, whether it takes 20 years or two hours of debate, it is possible to make progress. I urge him to support our new clause, so that we can send our Prime Minister to the European Union with something worth fighting for. We can all hear back from him in February whether he has made progress and been able to say to our French, German and Italians counterparts that tampons and sanitary towels should be treated as necessities in 2015. I am sure that when we hear that message from the Minister tonight, he will give us great succour—that he will use the appropriate terms and bring us all into the 21st century by supporting the new clause as well.
May I give my respects to the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Paula Sherriff) for bringing this debate to the House? I have heard some very interesting figures this evening—in particular, that 250,000 people have signed previous amendments and discussion points about this issue over the years, and I know that there have been all sorts of discussions about this very issue for as long as I have been in Parliament.
I am not surprised that new clause 7 has attracted cross-party support, with many Members, both female and male, from the Government, SNP and, obviously, Labour Benches supporting it, and so they absolutely should, because this has always been, and will always be, a wholly illogical tax. We heard some interesting detail from my hon. Friend the Member for St Albans (Mrs Main). I would not know the difference between various products if they were laid out, yet some would be zero-rated and some would be taxed at the lower rate, although this is not just a female issue. I think she described some of these items as “Oops-a-daisy” products, and if there is a male “Oops-a-daisy” product, it would be zero-rated, so we can immediately see these anomalies in the tax system. Nappies have always been zero-rated because they relate to children. Indeed, one of the anomalies that we have enjoyed compared with much of the European Union—how long that will last, who knows—is that children’s products and food continue to be zero-rated, no matter how luxurious the food might appear to some.
The reason we have the anomaly with tampons and female sanitary products is historical. Prior to 1 January 1973, when we joined the European Union, we had a sales tax on these products—whereas the Republic of Ireland had decided, for whatever historical reason, not to have a sales tax on tampons and similar items, as was well highlighted by my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich and North Essex (Mr Jenkin)—so we were stuck with it from the day we joined. At that time, most of the Members of this House would doubtless have been of my gender, so it probably did not rank that highly among their concerns.
Despite those anomalies, we are in a customs union with the European Union and, to a certain extent, VAT rates can be different. For instance, a couple of weeks ago I was in Luxembourg on parliamentary business, and there the standard rate of VAT on products is 17%, whereas in Hungary it is 27%, and some countries have a tourist rate or a restaurant rate, which might mean a deduction of 10%. Even in this country we have had some flexibility on VAT rates over the years. At one time it was 8%, before moving to 15%, then to 17.5%, and then back to 15% for a bit; and now here we are, with VAT back up to 20%.
It is quite remarkable how this evening’s debate has managed to get Members so active. We have discussed feminism at some length and we even managed to touch on grammar schools—which I thought was quite a clever move—as well as the fan club of Dawn Primarolo. We salute Dawn Primarolo for what she did in 2000, when she reduced the VAT rate applying to tampons and the like from the standard rate, which I assume was 15% at the time, down to 5%. We must ask ourselves: why did she not go that extra 5%? Quite curiously, it was not until 2006, some six years after the reduction in the rate on tampons, that the rate applying to condoms was reduced from the full standard rate—which at that time would probably have been 17.5%—to 5%. It took six years to get there.
If memory serves me well, Gordon Brown at that time was doing something to the economy, and perhaps it was appropriate at that time to reduce tax while he was doing it. Again, though, why was the rate on the condom—a product that is the most valuable barrier against sexually transmitted diseases and higher pregnancy rates in this country—not reduced to 0%? The difference is that they are freely available in many clinics, but we were incapable, despite the benefits of such a product, of getting the tax rate down to 0%.
Therein lie the arguments that many of us have made this evening. I support the proposal of the hon. Member for Dewsbury because it is the right thing to do. These products are not a luxury; they are essentials and they should not be taxed, in the same way that post-natal pads, which the hon. Member for Glasgow Central (Alison Thewliss) mentioned, are not taxed. They are an essential part of a woman’s life, so tampons should be similarly taxed, yet we are incapable of doing so because of that old historical anomaly, dating back to before 1 January 1973; and herein is the rub with the European aspect of this. I have no doubt that Ministers over the years would have listened carefully to what you have said and what many people across this House and this country—
My sincere apologies, Madam Deputy. [Interruption.] You have taken me way off track now.
In conclusion, the hon. Member for Glasgow Central made an appeal earlier for a message or plea to come from this place to the European Union. I think we have heard that from many Labour Members, too. I am afraid this goes back to the very old times of taxation without representation. Messages are all very well, but surely this sovereign place should be able to choose to set the rate of sales tax or VAT on products such as tampons and sanitary towels. I am afraid that it rather reduces the status of this House to one of being a colony of old, pleading with an empire power.
I certainly hope his visits around various European capitals have an awful lot on their agenda. Following today’s debate, I hope this issue will be one such item. The issue is one of exclusivity in setting VAT rates on products important to us in this place, not elsewhere.
In response to the hon. Lady’s intervention, is not the point that there are so many issues we want our Prime Minister to raise in the European Union? There is an increasing number of myriad issues, such as how much contribution we make, the free movement of people and how we control our borders. It is these little things—I say “little” mistakenly, because of course it looms large as an equality item in our minds—that get set aside in favour of other things. This is a rotten way of running a continent.
I agree with my hon. Friend. I hope progress can be made on very many areas, not least on this one.
We should not be like a colony pleading with an empire power. This is clearly a rate that should be set here. I thank again the hon. Member for Dewsbury for raising this issue, which, important in itself, has opened a Pandora’s box on who governs this country.
I rise to speak to new clause 1, which also relates to VAT. I pay tribute to everyone who participated in the previous debate, particularly my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow Central (Alison Thewliss) who, in Committee, was the first to raise this issue and moved new clause 2. At that time, we were favoured with support from the Labour Benches. They can look forward to us reciprocating that support this evening.
On Second Reading, I focused on the fire and rescue service and its punishment by the UK Government in relation to VAT. I should now like to focus in some detail on Police Scotland, which came into being in 2013. I should say that I have a prejudice in supporting the police, as I am a former academic adviser to the Scottish Police College, and have contributed in the past to training programmes for chief officers, police super- intendents and, most recently, crime analysts.
A key reason for the creation of Police Scotland was, according to the Scottish Government:
“Establishing a single service aims to ensure more equal access to national and specialist services and expertise such as major investigation teams whenever and wherever they are needed.”
Allow me to give a few examples of the effect of creating a single force. Assistant Chief Constable Malcolm Graham, speaking as recently as 29 September 2015, stated:
“Since the advent of Police Scotland, every murder committed has been detected.”
He is overly modest. Such has been the improvement in homicide detection that they have opened old, unsolved cases from when there were eight smaller forces and have already solved five of them. Police Scotland has improved the investigation of rape and sexual crimes across the entire country and is now able to treat rape as seriously as murder. The National Child Abuse Investigation Unit has been established as a specialist unit to support the investigation of complex child abuse and neglect across Scotland. Police Scotland has also been able to tackle intellectual property crime much more effectively, recovering about £20 million in criminal assets and making about 70 arrests. The result has been improvements on areas such as cross border co-operation and terrorism, as I discussed in Committee.
The Government, however, say we must abandon the improvements resulting from Police Scotland to satisfy some old rules established in the Value Added Tax Act 1994. Reflecting on the debate we have just had, this is one area on which the UK Government have it entirely within their power to act reasonably on a matter related to VAT. They have chosen to provide VAT exemptions to other public bodies elsewhere in the United Kingdom, while at the same time completely denying the right of the Scottish police and fire and rescue service to achieve an exemption.
Speaking to the Justice Committee of the Scottish Parliament last November, Chief Constable Sir Stephen House said:
“I do find it bewildering that we seem to be the only police service in the United Kingdom that is charged VAT. None of the 43 forces in England and Wales pay it. And the answer seems to come back from the Treasury, ‘oh, that’s because you’re a central government organisation’. Well, you’ve got the Police Service of Northern Ireland, they don’t pay VAT. And you’ve got the National Crime Agency and they don’t pay VAT—but we pay VAT. I just don’t understand the logic of it and I frankly don’t think the Scottish public would understand it either.”
Consider what the Government have been willing to do on VAT. At the stroke of a pen, the Government made central Government-funded academy schools in England exempt from VAT. For goodness sake, even the BBC does not have to pay VAT. When it suits the Government, and previous British Governments, they have little difficulty in allowing exemptions.
In Committee, the Minister said:
“If the Scottish Government are now reconsidering their position and wish to discuss how the service can be eligible once again for VAT refunds, the Treasury will happily engage with them to advise.”––[Official Report, Finance Public Bill Committee, 17 September 2015; c. 24.]
It is not the Scottish Government who need to reconsider their position, but the UK Government. Although we are talking significant sums for Police Scotland and the Scottish fire and rescue service—in total, in excess of £30 million per annum—it is a mere pittance compared with the overall UK budget. There is no economic rationale for continuing to deny VAT exemption. The Government seem simply to lack the decency to care about policing and fire and rescue services in Scotland. So much for the party of law and order. So much for the respect agenda. Its attitude has about it the stench of duplicity and blind prejudice.
I was not going to speak in this debate, but I have decided to join in because it is a vital matter. I worked with other Opposition Members in this debate during the first day of Committee, when I was the sole representative of the shadow Treasury team. It was an important debate then, but I think we have really moved it on today. The hon. Member for Glasgow Central (Alison Thewliss) and my hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Holly Lynch) spoke well on this subject in Committee, and I want now to touch on some of what they said.
New clause 7, introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury (Paula Sherriff), is an important new clause that has enabled a hard-hitting and sensible debate on the VAT rate for tampons and sanitary products. As others have said, they are not luxury products, but, as we noted in Committee, some bizarre products are VAT exempt. As my hon. Friend the Member for Halifax found out, alcoholic jellies, edible sugar flowers, exotic meats, such as crocodile and kangaroo, and the amazingly named millionaires’ shortbread are apparently all VAT exempt. I am sure everyone agrees that alcoholic jellies are a luxury product, while tampons and sanitary products, which are vital products for women, are not.
As I said, we had a good debate in Committee. My hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury, the hon. Member for Glasgow Central and my hon. Friend the Member for Halifax all spoke well, and I support what they said, but what did the Minister say? I hope we can change how he feels about this matter. At the end of the debate, he said:
“We are supportive and we would like the rate to be as low as possible”,
which was very good and supportive, but he also said that
“without wider EU reform and greater flexibility…it will be a challenge.”
Importantly, however, he also said that
“were we able to progress further, I would be sympathetic”.––[Official Report, Finance Bill Public Bill Committee, 17 September 2015; c. 26.]
I think the Minister should be supportive, given that a number of his hon. Friends want him to be.
I wish to add my name to the list of those who have praised Dame Dawn Primarolo’s early campaign to reduce the VAT rate by 5% in 2000. Fifteen years ago, that was a brave thing to do in the House. Plenty of Members tonight have been willing to talk straightforwardly about this, but 15 years ago there were not as many women in the House and it would have been difficult to talk about. I am in her fan club and glad to thank her for the campaign she ran.
This VAT rate, which we have had since 2000, is unfair to women and families. It might be a challenge for the Minister to negotiate with the EU on this matter, but I hope that he and the Prime Minister are equal to it and can take it on. There have been many things they have been happy to challenge in their EU negotiations, and many of his hon. Friends have indicated that they also want him to take on this challenge. I am sure he is up to it, as he is well steeped in these matters, and it is clear from this debate that he has support from both sides. I urge hon. Members to support the new clause and give him a reason to take on this challenge.
This debate is in great contrast to that taking place in the House of Lords. Here we are debating a cut to inheritance tax, while the unelected House is championing the interests of working people by doing something that many more Government Members should have done: put their consciences in their feet and marched through the correct Lobby.
We know from evidence already debated that the changes to inheritance tax will effectively cost the Exchequer £940 million by 2020-21. As the great Nye Bevan once said,
“the language of priorities is the religion of socialism”.
To Government Members who ask where our priorities lie, I say: they will always be in championing the interests of hard-working people and trying to improve the lot of the low-paid. For this reason, new clause 9 would delete the Government’s proposed changes to inheritance tax. That says exactly where our priorities are and where they should be. It is humiliating for the Chancellor and Prime Minister, having claimed at the recent Conservative party conference to be these great centrist modernisers, that it is in fact the House of Lords that has had to do what the elected House of Commons should have done last week, and still has the opportunity to do in debates taking place tomorrow and on Thursday.
The “Conservative modernisation project mark 2” is now dead in the water, but let us remind Tory Members of “modernisation project mark 1”. We remember the Prime Minister promising “the greenest Government ever” when he was running with the huskies and hugging hoodies, yet here we see clause 45 of the Finance Bill, which will remove the exemption from the climate change levy for electricity produced by renewable sources from 1 August this year—it will be backdated. Conservative Members need to decide whether they are going to be the “true blue” Conservatives that we have seen represented in the unlikely forum of a debate on tampons and sanitary products, or whether they are the party of the centre ground and the working man and woman.
My hon. Friend mentions his environmental credentials, which I share, and also mentions sanitary products such as tampons and sanitary towels. Does he recognise that menstrual cups and moon cups are more environmentally friendly sanitary products and should also be included in this debate?
In this as in other respects, I have always favoured a woman’s right to choose. It is, of course, for women to decide which is the appropriate form of sanitary product. My hon. Friend is quite right that the moon cup does indeed have the environmental benefits that she mentions. I was glad to add my name in support of new clause 7 proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury (Paula Sherriff), which would tackle this issue. I am glad to see so much cross-party support, but I am disappointed to hear some of the language used this evening about our partners in Europe.
Apparently, according to the hon. Member for Harwich and North Essex (Mr Jenkin), this is the most iniquitous measure that the European Union has put in place. No wonder there is such representation in the Chamber. I hope that the Out campaign is not going to be predicated on VAT on sanitary products, as proponents are likely to find it a struggle to get wider traction. I find it objectionable that so many Conservative Members talk about negotiating with our European partners as “begging”. It is no different from our constituents coming to lobby us and having a reasonable conversation with us. If this is how the renegotiation strategy is going to work, we really are in trouble as a country.
Well, we have the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers, which are accountable to their respective Governments and, of course, the Commission itself is in many ways accountable. I would like to see reforms to some of the accountability mechanisms, but as the old saying goes, “you’ve got to be in it to win it”. On Europe, as on climate change, inheritance tax and the debate taking place in the other place on tax credits, we have seen in virtually every clause debated this evening that this is not the new modernised Conservative party; it is the same old right-wing Tories. They have hung their Chancellor and Prime Minister out to dry, and I hope that the Opposition’s reasonable, centre-ground amendments will be supported by Members from all parts of the House.
I welcome new clause 7 and hope that everyone can unite in supporting it. I do not think it goes far enough, but it is a great step forward, and I would like to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury (Paula Sherriff) on introducing it. Many people watching the debate tonight—and I hope many millions of women will be watching it—will have started to ask why we still cannot proceed on the basis of what I think everyone in the Chamber believes, which is that sanitary towels and tampons are not a luxury and we should have the right to decide the level of tax on any product in this country. The people who have listened tonight will know that whatever we say about negotiations and working with our EU partners—let us not forget it is the EU, not Europe—we will not be able to win the argument because the reality is that the European Union wants to maintain control of how we run our affairs in this country. This is the beginning of a hugely important debate on the referendum, and important issues of this kind would never be recognised by the European Union. I hope that the Prime Minister will go and at least negotiate, although I do not think he will get anywhere.
If the Minister really believes in democracy in this country, and given that our Parliament wants this tax reduction, why do we not just do it? What would the EU do if we did? I hope that every Member will support new clause 7 tonight.
It is a pleasure to respond to the debate. Let me begin by congratulating the hon. Member for Wolverhampton South West (Rob Marris) on his debut at the Opposition Dispatch Box—and what a debut it was, consisting of a speech lasting more than an hour. In the time that is available to me, I shall attempt to respond to his speech and, indeed, the many other speeches that we have heard this evening, but let me first deal with the measures that we are discussing.
New clause 9 would require the Chancellor of the Exchequer to undertake a comprehensive review of the inheritance tax regime within one year of a current budget surplus. Amendment 89 would remove clause 9 from the Bill, as a result of which the additional transferable nil-rate band for all individuals who leave their home to direct descendants would not be introduced. Clause 9 represents a commitment that was made in the Conservative party manifesto—a promise made to the British people—and recognises that more hard-working families face an inheritance tax bill than has been the case at any time since the introduction of the system nearly 30 years ago.
Last year, 35,000 estates had an inheritance tax liability. It has been forecast that that figure will nearly double, rising to 63,000, in 2020-21. Thousands more worry about leaving their families with inheritance tax bills when they die. The additional transferable nil-rate band will simply return the number of estates with an inheritance tax liability to 37,000 in 2020-21, broadly the same level as in 2014-15. I remind the Opposition that that level is still higher than the level in any year between 1997 and 2010. Furthermore, we have ensured that the wealthiest will make a fair contribution to the public finances through inheritance tax. It will not be possible for the largest estates to benefit from the new allowance. It will be gradually withdrawn by £1 for every £2 that the estate is worth over £2 million.
Those who support amendment 89 demonstrate that they do not understand those who wish to save, pay their taxes, work hard to own their own homes, and pass them on to their children and grandchildren without facing a hefty tax bill. We believe that it is right for people to be able to pass on their homes to their descendants rather than the taxman.
The hon. Member for Wolverhampton South West expressed what sounded like concern about the fact that no properties in his constituency—or very few—would be affected. He also said that he opposed measures taken by the last Labour Government to introduce the transferable nil-rate band. I remind him that in the year in which those measures were introduced, 4.3% of estates paid inheritance tax. If we do not act, some 11% will pay it by 2019-20.
Given the comments that we have heard from the Opposition Front Bench, suggesting that they wish to raise more revenue from inheritance tax, I rather suspect that their desire for a review is connected with their perception of it as a potential cash cow. If I have misunderstood, I am happy to withdraw what I have said, but that seems to me to be the direction in which Opposition Members want to go.
The regime as it stands will affect more properties than it did under any of the Labour years. The reality is that if we do not take action, inheritance tax will hit more and more estates. It will be a tax that will be much more widespread than was previously the case. If that is the position the Labour party holds, that is the position, but I think we should be aware of what it is.
In the time available I will briefly touch on some of the points raised by the hon. Gentleman in this area. He raised concerns that this policy would have a big effect on the housing market. Let me reassure him that the Office for Budget Responsibility has looked at this matter and it believes it will only have a small effect on the housing market. The allowance here only applies to a single home; it does not encourage people to buy multiple homes to maximise the allowance. It is capped at £175,000 per individual, or £350,000 for a married couple, and there is no disincentive to downsize because families will not lose the allowance in these circumstances.
The hon. Gentleman raised a concern about upsizing. Upsizing would only be attractive if a house is only a small part of an estate, but as the hon. Gentleman said, this is a very rare occurrence, and I repeat the point that the OBR believes this will have a small effect on the housing market.
The hon. Gentleman also raised a concern about lineal descendants and particularly made the point that the family structure tends now to be somewhat wider than the traditional nuclear family. Let me reassure him that this allowance will apply for houses that are left to adopted children or foster children or stepchildren. I hope that point of clarification is helpful to him.
Let me also address the other matters we debated. New clause 1 refers to Police Scotland and the VAT treatment. This is familiar territory which we have debated extensively in Committee. In 2012 Scotland’s eight locally governed police and fire authorities consolidated to become two national bodies. As a result, they no longer became reliant on local taxation as a means for funding. This is one of the two criteria for eligibility to the section 33 VAT refund scheme, so following this restructuring these new national bodies no longer were eligible for VAT refunds. It is important to remember that the Scottish Government were forewarned of this consequence well in advance of the decision they took. The Treasury was keen to ensure the Scottish Government considered the consequences as part and parcel of their decision to restructure these services. Because the expected cost savings from restructuring the Scottish Government outweighed the loss of any VAT refunds, I perfectly understand why the Scottish Government went ahead with their restructuring programme. As I have explained, since the Scottish Government restructured these services they are no longer eligible for VAT refunds. This was plain and clear with eligibility set out in legislation and I do not believe there is a need for a report to further make this clear
The issue that has dominated the debate is new clause 7 and VAT on tampons and sanitary towels. New clause 2 would require the Treasury to write a report on a VAT exemption of women’s sanitary protection products including a financial assessment of the impact on the purchasing of these products, especially for those aged under 25.
I put my name to this amendment because I have long thought that this is a bizarre and discriminatory tax on sanitary products and it needs sorting out. Perhaps in the 1970s, when I am sure the Minister like myself was at school, the luxury goods description still made sense as many women were not using a product which has now transformed our ability to be freed up from the monthly restrictions of periods. Many girls at school with me were off games every month because they did not have access to what is now considered a completely normal part of our sanitary products and frees young women to be sportswomen. I ask the Minister to be brave, to think about this and to stand up for all young women.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for her remarks, and I will address that point in a moment.
New clause 7 would require the Chancellor of the Exchequer to
“lay before both Houses of Parliament a statement on his strategy to negotiate with the European Union institutions an exemption from value added tax for women’s sanitary protection products”
within three months of the passing of the Act. It would also require a Minister of the Crown to
“lay before Parliament a report on progress at achieving an exemption from value added tax for women’s sanitary protection products within European Union law by 1 April 2016.”
This debate has highlighted the ongoing campaign to zero-rate or exempt from VAT tampons and other sanitary protection products. As we have heard tonight, that campaign has cross-party support. In the case of the hon. Member for Walthamstow (Stella Creasy), that support goes back many years to when she was at school. My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol North West (Charlotte Leslie) has also campaigned on the issue for many years, and my hon. Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mrs Trevelyan) has raised it tonight and on other occasions, as have many other hon. Members.
As the hon. Member for Worsley and Eccles South (Barbara Keeley) pointed out, this Government sympathise with the aim of the new clause. As we have also heard, however, the UK does not have the ability to extend zero rating to new products unilaterally. We have more extensive zero rating than most, if not all, other member states, but any change to EU VAT law would require a proposal from the European Commission and the support of all 28 member states. Without that agreement, we are not permitted to lower rates below 5%. None the less, as this debate illustrates, there is considerable cross-party support for the UK to abolish VAT on sanitary products. To that end, I undertake to raise the issue with the European Commission and with other member states, and to set out the view, which has been reflected in this debate, that it should be possible for a member state to apply a zero rate to sanitary products. In that context, I thank the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Paula Sherriff) for raising the matter tonight. We have seen on both sides of the House a demonstration of the belief that that flexibility should exist.
My hon. Friend used the word “permitted”. We do not have the capacity to effect a change such as this, because of the European Communities Act 1972. He knows that, the Opposition know it, and Members on the Conservative Benches know it. Will he now commit not only to talking about this but to doing something about it? It is a hugely important cross-party issue. Will he please take on board the fact that we insist on legislating on our own terms in this House? We want to govern ourselves.
I do not want to conceal from the House the fact that we do not have flexibility in these circumstances. Nor do I want to conceal the challenge that we would face in reaching agreement on this. Other member states take a different approach. As the hon. Member for Walthamstow has pointed out, it was striking that the vote in the French Assembly just a couple of weeks ago on an attempt to move the rate down from 20% to 5.5% was defeated. I do not wish to pretend that this would be a mere formality; other member states do take a different approach to this issue.
It is incredibly welcome to hear that the Minister is going to raise this matter, but may I press him to be a bit clearer about which environment he will raise it in, and about when we will hear back? Will he also confirm that the European Commission can produce a zero rating if it is declared to be in the public interest to do so? Will he commit to raising that point as part of his negotiations with the European Commission? We all recognise the points that have been made about the technicalities of VAT, but there is a public interest exemption that he could use in his negotiations, is there not?
Doing full justice to that question in the five minutes available for me and for the hon. Member for Wolverhampton South West would be a challenge. This has been part of the VAT regime since 1973, but on this specific area, as we have heard, time has moved on and it is right that we look again at it.
It is not just a matter of the EU law; the UK courts would ensure that we have to comply with the law, one way or the other. I suspect that my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir William Cash) would be happy to explain the position to the hon. Lady, but it would not be lawful for us to reduce that rate.
I have listened extremely carefully to my hon. Friend and he knows how seriously I take this issue. Will he reassure me directly that he will specifically press the European Commission to bring forward measures to zero-rate tampons and sanitary products right across the EU?