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Finance Bill

Volume 629: debated on Wednesday 11 October 2017

(Clauses 5, 15 and 25, and related new clauses)

Considered in Committee

[Dame Rosie Winterton in the Chair]

Clause 5

Termination payments etc: amounts chargeable on employment income

I beg to move amendment 1, page 12, leave out lines 8 to 12.

This amendment removes the power for the Treasury to amend the meaning of “basic pay” for the purposes of calculating “post-employment notice pay” by regulations.

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment 12, page 13, line 27, at end insert—

“402F  Review of impact of termination payments on low income workers

(1) Within two months of Royal Assent being given to the Finance (No. 2) Act 2017, the Chancellor of the Exchequer shall commission a review of the impact of the provisions of sections 402A to 402E on low income workers.

(2) A report of this review must be laid before the House of Commons before the start of the tax year 2018–19.”

This amendment requires the Chancellor of the Exchequer to carry out a review of how the changes to termination payments will affect low income workers before these provisions come into effect.

Amendment 2, page 14, line 15, leave out “different” and insert “higher”.

This amendment removes the power for the Treasury to reduce the £30,000 threshold in connection with the taxation of termination payments by regulations.

Amendment 3, page 14, leave out lines 20 to 23.

This amendment is consequential upon Amendment 2.

Amendment 4, page 14, leave out lines 27 and 28 and insert—

‘(2) “Injury” in subsection (1) includes—

(a) psychiatric injury, and

(b) injured feelings.””

This amendment explicitly includes (rather than excludes) injured feelings within the definition of “injury” for the purposes of payments which are excluded from the provisions of Chapter 3 of Part 6 of the Income Tax (Earnings and Pensions) Act 2003 (payments and benefits on termination of employment).

Clause stand part.

To be fired from a job is perhaps one of the most difficult experiences for an employee. There are very few people in this Chamber, let alone in the country, who have never had to go through the awkward, bitterly disappointing and scary experience of losing, or potentially losing, a job. This is the daily reality for thousands of people, and it goes to the heart of clause 5.

I ask the Committee to imagine how thousands of people across the country at BAE are feeling at this moment after yesterday’s announcement of job losses. How are those workers feeling in Warton, Samlesbury, Portsmouth, Guildford and RAF Leeming, and in the Chief Secretary’s own county of Norfolk at RAF Marham? Added to the worry, concern, anxiety and hopelessness of redundancy now comes a potential tax bill to pay for the Government’s hapless management of the economy. Will the writ of clause 5 stretch across the Irish sea? What about the threat to the jobs of those at Bombardier in Northern Ireland, and the thousands of other associated jobs over there?

The hon. Gentleman rightly points out the devastating consequences for people who lose their jobs—he refers to particular instances at the moment—but does he also recognise that this Government have created 3 million more jobs, which is helping our economy and those people?

This is not relevant to the debate, but a significant number of those jobs are incredibly low paid, and people have not had pay rises for many years. What the hon. and learned Lady says might well be the case, but the reality is that it is not about the quantity; it is about the quality—[Interruption.] Of course it is.

How insensitive and out of touch must this Government be to put clause 5 before Members today of all days? The Prime Minister has vowed that she will do anything and everything she can to help those affected at Bombardier and BAE, so perhaps the Minister would like to withdraw this provision here and now and put the Prime Minister’s warm words into action.

I agree with the hon. Gentleman about the concerns that those workers will be facing, but he knows perfectly well that the Government’s proposals in this Bill are designed to deal with abuse. He knows that there are no plans to change the rules in a way that would affect people on lower incomes who are not doing anything wrong, and the Minister made that clear on Second Reading. The hon. Gentleman’s scaremongering is making the concerns of those workers worse, rather than reassuring them, which is what he ought to be doing in this House of Commons.

The only people who are scaremongering are this Government who are threatening to tax people’s redundancy payments—that is the scaremongering in this House.

Perhaps the Minister would like to withdraw this proposal. I will happily give way to him if he wants to reconsider his decision—he might have discussed it with the Prime Minister. In some instances, a job loss can be even worse if individuals lose their employment because of base and nasty discrimination, whether because of their age, gender, race, religion or sexuality.

The amendments speak directly to the question of how much money an employee who has lost their job should receive in tax-free redundancy pay, and how much an employee who is discriminated against should receive in tax-free compensation from an employment tribunal.

Is the hon. Gentleman not aware that when a tribunal has granted an award on the grounds of discrimination, that is automatically exempt from tax, despite what this clause may or may not be doing?

I agree with that particular point.

We know the Government’s overall stated aim is to crack down on what they say is significant avoidance related to non-contractual payments in lieu of notice. To do this, there is a complex set of formulas to mandate what will be considered as notice pay, even when that is not actually given in lieu of notice. Amendment 1 addresses our concern that the Government are giving themselves the power to change the meaning of basic pay for the purpose of calculating notice pay. That could significantly change the basis of the calculations, so the Minister should set out more clearly the intention of this measure.

I agree with everything my hon. Friend says, of course. Does he agree that a lump sum on termination of employment could be considered as potential income over a period of years, and should not be considered just as a lump sum to be taxed within one year?

Again, that goes to the heart of the issue. The Government are trying to focus on a particular moment in time, rather than taking into account the fact that a person might be out of employment for a long time.

We see a running theme of this Government in this Bill and so many of their other actions: they are removing powers from Parliament and giving them to Ministers. But other elements have been tacked on to the clause that are seemingly unconnected to the stated aims about payments in lieu of notice. It is clear that the Government are laying the ground so that workers who have already lost their jobs should pay tax on more of their termination payments. Is that the message that the Government are now sending to the likes of the BAE workers? Is it the message they want to send to the victims of redundancy? There can be no other explanation for this clause. It gives the Treasury powers through delegated legislation to raise or lower the tax-free threshold.

Changes to the tax-free allowance for termination payments were first mooted by the Office of Tax Simplification in 2013 when it cited such payments as an employee benefit that would merit further study. I find it rather peculiar that a payment to an employee who has just lost their job is considered as an employee benefit—how bizarre. It is as though a termination payment were some sort of added extra and a huge inconvenience for employers, when in fact that worker has just lost their job and this may well be the last payslip they receive for a long time. The Government have promised not to reduce the threshold, so it comes as a bitter pill that the Bill will allow them to do just that.

If there is no intention to reduce the threshold, Conservative Members should have no hesitation in voting for amendment 2, which would allow the threshold only to be increased through delegated legislation, removing the power to decrease the amount. I wait with bated breath for the Minister to keep the Government’s word and accept our amendment.

In the previous debate, the Minister went to great lengths to claim that the Government’s plans to give themselves the power to water down the tax-free threshold on termination payments, and to exclude injury to feelings from tax-free compensation payments, had nothing to do with attacks on those who have just lost their jobs. No, instead that is apparently part of some ambitious strategy that the Government have to tackle tax avoidance.

The Minister is so concerned about tax avoidance that he has claimed that

“when the Government find tax avoidance, we will clamp down on it.”—[Official Report, 6 September 2017; Vol. 628, c. 253.]

Such a bold assertion makes me wonder if the Minister has even read his own Finance Bill. Has he read clause 15, which we will debate later, through which his Government are loosening the rules to allow more non-doms to receive tax breaks if they use money from offshore tax havens to invest in the UK?

Is the hon. Gentleman not aware that clause 15 will bring more money into this country, which is presumably a good thing, and something we can all agree on?

We will deal with that a little later. The hon. Gentleman may want to pay attention to my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford East (Anneliese Dodds), who will expose that fallacy.

Is it not the case that the Government are squeezing money out of people who cannot escape from taxation—namely, less well-off people who lose their jobs—rather than chasing the big money people who evade and avoid taxes?

My hon. Friend, as ever, puts it in a nutshell. That is the case.

Has the Minister read clauses 29 to 32 and schedules 8 and 9? With those measures, the Government are deliberately signposting a loophole to ensure that non-doms can set up offshore trusts that are exempt from planned changes to non-domiciled status. That exemption completely undermines the Government’s planned changes. The fact is that this Government are not interested in tackling the scourge of tax avoidance and evasion, which costs the UK economy billions every year. They have no interest in ensuring that those who invest foreign money in the UK do so in a transparent and open manner.

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that under this Government we have made the largest strides to close the tax gap that we have seen in recent years, which means that we are collecting more from rich people and tax avoiders than ever before?

That will be dealt with later, but it is not the case for many multinationals. The papers are strewn with examples of the Government’s sweetheart deals with multinationals, so the hon. Lady cannot tell me that that is the case.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for generously giving way. The latest figure for the tax gap is 6.5%, which he will know is lower than that in any year under the last Labour Government. It was over 8% in the financial year 2005. He will also know that our record on avoidance and evasion is that we have raised £160 billion since 2010. What amount did his party achieve by clamping down on avoidance, evasion and non-compliance when it was in office?

It does not include profit shifting from multinationals. I am quite happy to defend the record of the last Labour Government, but I am more interested in this Government and what the next Labour Government will do in this regard.

The Government are only interested in doing what they have always been interested in since the party was founded: dramatically curbing the rights of workers and transferring their money to those who least need it. That is, outrageously, what clause 5 will do. Why else would the Government give themselves the power to lower the tax-free threshold for statutory redundancy payment? Why else would the Government feel the need to further harm discrimination victims? If, as they say, there is a need for clarity in the definition of “injury”, why do they not accept amendment 4, which would make it clear that victims of discrimination should not have compensation for harm taxed as if it were earnings? We only need to look at the comments of the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, who wrote an astounding report in 2012 comparing the work practices of Germany and the United Kingdom.

The hon. Gentleman is being very generous in taking interventions. He suggests that the Conservative party is not looking after those on lower incomes. Does he not accept that it was our party that increased the tax threshold for lower income workers and also introduced the living wage?

When we take into account cuts to working tax credits and changes to benefits, that does not stack up, I am afraid. The hon. and learned Lady should know that.

In 2012, the Chief Secretary set out how some employers in Germany were exempt from pesky regulations, such as on unfair dismissal, or social security contributions, and opined that the UK Government should follow suit. She argued that the best way to fight unemployment, particularly among the over-60s and the under-20s, was by encouraging more shift work, work on Sundays and late-night work and, yet again, getting rid of protection against unfair dismissal. Is it any wonder that this Government are hellbent on giving themselves the power to cut the amount that a worker can receive tax-free after they are dismissed?

Why is the hon. Gentleman discussing removing the power of unfair dismissal when that is neither covered by the Bill nor proposed by the Government?

Because it goes to the heart of this Government’s attitude—[Interruption.] Narrative; that is a very good word. Should anyone in the Chamber be surprised that the same Government brought in the illegal and deeply unfair employment tribunal fees? It is part of the theme and the narrative. They are now set, once again, to try to limit the amount that workers who are discriminated against in the workplace can receive. The clause is simply another step that this Government have taken in the past seven years to distort and debase hard-won employment rights. If it remains in the Bill unamended, it will give the Government even more power to wreak havoc and misery on the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

In the light of yesterday’s announcement of BAE job losses, what message does the clause send to workers such as those at BAE? It says, “You’ve lost your job—a well-skilled job at the forefront of our defence industry—and you may lose your tax-free redundancy sum or have it reduced.”

The Prime Minister was handed a fake P45 last week. That was a joke. Many sacked workers get a real P45, and now, under these proposals, they may also get a big tax bill to accompany it. That is no joke—[Interruption.] Conservative Members may snigger and laugh, but it is no laughing matter. I ask the Minister once again to withdraw this proposal.

I will deal with the amendments and some of the issues introduced by the hon. Member for Bootle (Peter Dowd).

Let me cover first the jobs position. The only criticism I have of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for South East Cambridgeshire (Lucy Frazer), who raised this matter, is that, of course, jobs are created not by the Government but by businesses operating under the conditions that are created by the Government. It is important we remember that, because we should not take it for granted. The jobs performance of many countries in the European Union has been pitiful by comparison. Not that long ago, this country created more jobs than the rest of the European Union put together. That is not a trivial point; it makes a difference to millions of people across the country.

The hon. Member for Bootle ought not to sneer at the number of jobs. He is also wrong about the quality of those jobs. Figures from the Office for National Statistics clearly show that most of the jobs that have been created are permanent, full-time and skilled managerial or professional jobs. They are not rubbish jobs, as he calls them in that slightly sneering way. They are good-quality jobs and are providing good livelihoods for people across our country.

The right hon. Gentleman suggests that Governments effectively have no role in creating jobs. The reality is that macroeconomic policies have an enormous effect on the creation of jobs. Those countries that have chosen foolishly to join the euro and now have a massively overvalued currency, in effect, have lost millions of jobs in some cases. We have fortunately not been part of the euro, and currency flexibility is a crucial part of that; that is Government policy.

I completely agree, but the hon. Gentleman misquotes me. I did not say that Government have no role. I said that Government do not create the jobs, but I explicitly said that Government create the conditions within which businesses operate and can create jobs. He is absolutely right about that, and I do not necessarily demur from what he said. The euro and the straitjacket of monetary policy across Europe has led to appalling situations in some countries where unemployment rates are very high, which I do not think is sustainable. That is why our economic performance is incredibly strong. We should not throw that away.

Could the right hon. Gentleman explain how, when he was Chief Whip, Thames Water failed to pay taxation between 2010 and 2014?

I have not got any idea. I was not Chief Whip between 2010 and 2014. Individual taxpayer matters are for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, and Ministers do not get involved in individual taxpayer decisions. As the Financial Secretary to the Treasury and several other hon. Members have pointed out, we have reduced the scope for businesses to avoid and evade paying taxes. We have closed that gap and are collecting more revenue that we can spend on our important public services, which I want to turn to.

The hon. Member for Bootle mentioned multinationals. He will know that there is nothing we can do unilaterally to collect money from multinationals that operate in different countries. That has to be part of an international process. He will know that David Cameron’s Conservative Government led that process and set up the initiatives. It is not very exciting, Mrs Winterton, but we are part of what I think is called the base erosion and profit-shifting programme. I am a non-practising chartered accountant, and I am afraid that we talk about such exciting things over coffee, but it is important because it relates to a set of international rules for treating where companies earn income consistently so that we tax them where they are genuinely doing their economic work. This Government cannot do that unilaterally; we have to co-operate. This Government have been leading and shaping that work across the world, not following others or trying to avoid it. Not only do we not have anything to be ashamed of, we have a lot to be proud of, which is shown in the revenue that we have been collecting.

Moving on to the substance of clause 5 and the amendments, I want to return to the point I made when intervening on the hon. Member for Bootle. There is nothing in the proposals that should alarm anybody—particularly those on lower incomes—who is playing by the rules. That issue came up when there were votes on the Ways and Means motions, and the Minister made the Government’s intentions clear and they are not what the hon. Gentleman suggested. Anybody worrying about their job at Bombardier, BAE Systems, about which we heard yesterday, or any other company should know that the Government have not proposed to alter the £30,000 tax-free limit at all. If the Government were to bring forward such a proposal, it would be governed by a statutory instrument under the affirmative procedure, meaning that the matter would come to the House and that Ministers would have to make the case at the Dispatch Box and persuade the House to back a change. There is no such proposal. The hon. Gentleman knows that it is not true and in saying that it is he is scaremongering and worrying people when they have no reason to be worried. He should be ashamed of himself.

As the Minister set out on Second Reading, clause 5 is necessary because the rules are unclear and complex and there is some abuse. Some 85% of termination payments are below the £30,000 threshold and will not be affected, but we must make sure that people do not abuse rules that are there for a good reason: to ensure that employees who lose their jobs are properly compensated and have some money to help them as they look for another job. There is no proposal to change that; this is about dealing with abuse.

On amendment 4 and “injured feelings”, there is a clear reason why it is foolish. Were it agreed to, it would introduce a large loophole into the process that would absolutely be abused. If someone wanted to offer some tax-free payments on loss of office, the payment could be labelled as “injured feelings”, rather than as something in the contract, and they could avoid paying tax and national insurance on it. The Minister should be congratulated on thinking things through and ensuring that people cannot dream up loopholes. Dealing with tax evasion is not just about acting after it has happened; it is about smartly drafting legislation so that loopholes are not left open in the first place.

My right hon. Friend is making an incredibly powerful argument. I was just considering his remarks on tax avoidance, loopholes and, indeed, Thames Water, which was mentioned by the hon. Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Catherine West), and it is important to remember that industrial-scale tax avoidance arose under the previous Labour Government, who did nothing at all to stop this egregious practice. This Government have been passionate, trenchant and active in righting that wrong.

My hon. Friend is right. We hear a lot from the Opposition about clamping down on evasion and aggressive tax avoidance, and I give them credit for talking about it a lot. Unfortunately, they did not do anything about it when they were in government. The Minister and this Government talk about it a little bit, but we spend most of our time dealing with it and collecting the money, which is the right balance.

The list definitely dates from 2010—if I am not mistaken, that was when the Tory Government came to power—and includes Google, the Vodafone sweetheart deal, and Amazon. Government Members should concede that, despite some gradual improvements, we are still not where we ought to be and that this group of amendments includes things that taxpayers would like to see this House take much more seriously.

There are a couple of things in what the hon. Lady says. She is absolutely right that we need to do more to ensure that multinational companies pay tax in the appropriate jurisdiction, but we cannot do that unilaterally. We have to work with other countries, because we need international agreement on where a company’s profits are earned. The media sometimes does not understand this, but companies pay tax on profits, not revenues, so the whole argument is about where the profits land and that has to be addressed internationally. This Government are leading that international work, not following it—[Interruption.] It is no good the hon. Member for Oxford East (Anneliese Dodds) shaking her head. UK tax professionals have been leading this work and continue to drive it forward. We have a proud record.

I have seen some of this from the inside, within the European Union. For example, I have seen measures against trusts and measures to introduce country-by-country reporting blocked by Conservative MEPs, and I frequently saw measures to attempt to introduce international co-ordination blocked by Conservative-related politicians.

No. First, it cannot just be done at European Union level—[Interruption.] No, we have to do it globally, because many of the companies involved are US companies. The base erosion—[Interruption.] I do not know why the Opposition Front-Bench team are laughing. The base erosion and profit sharing programme comes from the OECD.

I cannot take an intervention when I am still dealing with the first one. The base erosion and profit sharing programme is a global initiative, and we are leading on that work.

As for the point of the hon. Member for Oxford East about the EU, if I remember rightly, the reason why the Government blocked the French-driven proposals for country-by-country reporting was that they were part of an EU plan to try to drive up the total amount of tax that we take from business, not to ensure that companies pay tax in the right way. We are not an anti-tax country. That move was part of an EU plan to avoid countries being able to have competitive tax regimes and to avoid businesses locating in the United Kingdom. The French wanted to stop that because many of their businesses and smartest people now work in London or other parts of the UK, but the change was not in our national interest and I believe that that was why we blocked it. However, we need to continue the international work, and I am pleased that we have been leading on it.

My final point is about workers’ rights. I understand that the hon. Member for Bootle has to do this stuff to please people on his side, but he is absolutely wrong. This Government have absolutely no agenda of the sort that he mentioned. When talking about our leaving the European Union, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has made it clear that we want to protect workers’ rights. We stand four-square behind the rights that are in place, and we will be legislating for them in the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, which I am sure will provide many hours of joy and fun in Committee. You may even be in the Chair, Dame Rosie, to listen to some of those exciting debates. We are going to protect workers’ rights, and there is nothing at all in the proposals to concern somebody who is worried about losing their job. This is about cracking down on people who have been abusing the provisions that protect legitimate workers who lose their jobs, using them as an excuse to get tax-free cash out of the system and cheat the taxpayer. That is what the proposals are about and that is why I hope that the Committee rejects all the amendments and supports clause 5.

It is good to be back in the House after a bit of a recess and to be here again talking about the Finance Bill. It is our second such Bill this year—our second of three—so we are here for the long haul. I want to discuss termination payments and the relevant amendments tabled by the Scottish National party and Labour. The Government have been clear that they are just closing a loophole, but the Budget suggested that the measure will generate an extra £430 million a year. That is £430 million a year that these workers will not be getting when they receive their termination payments. However the Government want to dress it up, this is additional tax on these people who are losing their jobs and receiving termination payments. These people are in a vulnerable situation, as they are receiving a termination payment and are no longer in employment and they will be taxed more as a result.

Like the Labour party, the Scottish National party has concerns about the impact of that measure on low-income workers, and we have made that clear in our amendments. I understand that the Government are saying that 85% of those who get these termination payments and will be affected by this change are not low-income workers, but the other 15% are, and my concern is for them. If someone finds themselves out of a job, an amount of money is needed to allow them to get back on their feet and to ensure that they do not have a significant knock to their confidence, so that they can get back to the workplace after a relatively short time.

The right hon. Member for Forest of Dean (Mr Harper) used the phrase “we have closed the gap”. I am not sure that it is quite closed yet. There is still a gap as regards non-payment of tax. Fair enough, measures have been taken to move towards ensuring that tax is paid by the rich in the way it should be, but the gap has not yet closed.

The hon. Lady may remember that the tax expert Richard Murphy calculated at one point that the genuine tax gap—not the one that the Government give us—was £119 billion a year. That has no doubt come down slightly, but there is a long way to go before we collect that tax. That figure overwhelms the amount of money that the Government will squeeze out of workers who are losing their jobs.

I absolutely agree and I think that the tax gap is probably significantly larger than the Government are suggesting. On that note, small countries are very good at having a very small tax gap—a wee plug for Scottish independence there.

We have a couple of other specific concerns about termination payments. We are still not clear about people who have faced termination as a result of injury, injury to feelings or psychiatric injury. We do not want them to receive less as a result of this change. I heard what the Minister said about those people who have been involved in discrimination cases when the decision has been in their favour, but we want to ensure that people who are trying to move on from a situation after termination but who have been injured or have suffered an injury to feelings or a psychiatric injury are not disadvantaged by this change in the rules.

I will not speak for much longer, but let me say one more thing. The Government’s explanatory notes say that the Government are looking to ensure that all payments in lieu of notice, not just contractual payments in lieu of notice, are taxable earnings. That way of putting it is what most concerns me, because it is clear that workers will be impacted by this change when it comes in. I expect that this change will be proposed by the Government and accepted, so I would very much like a commitment from the Minister that, if it comes in in the next tax year, the Treasury will do an impact assessment one or two years in to see the specific impact on that group of low-income workers who the Government suggest are in the minority. I would like to see its impact, and if it proves to be particularly negative, I want the Treasury to take mitigating steps to change it.

“The narrative”—those were the words used by the Opposition Front-Bench spokesman in response to the measure. We should remind ourselves that the narrative is that we are discussing employment-related tax treatments against a backdrop of a significant increase in employment and a significant decrease in unemployment. That goes to the heart of this whole debate. Employment is something that we all want to see expanding through the UK economy. Having started and run a small business and having recruited people to that business, I know that no employer recruits someone with the intention of kicking them out. I hope that that goes without saying, but I have said it nevertheless.

Does my hon. Friend agree that a small business owner with just a couple of staff has to go through a lot of stress in the whole process of making someone redundant? We should not forget that small business owners are people as well, often quite low paid because they are sacrificing salary. That can lead to mental health issues, stress and anxiety.

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I will respond to her point in a few moments, but it is a very important one and we must not overlook it.

We have had a jobs boom over the past few years, in stark contrast to many other developed economies around the world and across Europe, which has struggled. In particular, in the UK, which is dominated by small and medium-sized enterprises and, indeed, microbusinesses, which often have only one or two principals and one or two employees, it is important that we continue to give confidence to those businesses, many of which do not have a large administrative back-office function. That is often the case, as it was in the business that I started. I was doing the client interaction and sales, and a colleague of mine was doing the journalism side of the business, but we were also the accountants and the HR department. To give confidence to small and microbusinesses that they can employ people, it is incredibly important that everything to do with employment is as simple and transparent as possible.

At the moment, the tax treatments around severance payments are very competitive. Depending on the combination of events, the payment can be taxed any one of a number of ways. Although I did not speak about this set of clauses on Second Reading, I did welcome the Bill, and I welcome this general move to simplify, to clarify and to give small businesses in particular—although of course this affects businesses of all kinds—the confidence to employ people, knowing that the HR and financial treatment around that employment will be as simple as possible.

The Opposition spokesman kept talking as though severance payments were not taxed at the moment, and of course they are. They are taxed—

Above the £30,000 threshold, there are tax treatments. Through the Bill, the Government are seeking to make the treatment of the figure above £30,000 most important and straightforward—[Interruption.] I absolutely welcome that.

Order. There are too many sedentary interventions, and it makes it rather difficult for the Hansard writers, as well as everyone else.

I am happy to take interventions, but I have never been a particularly good lip reader, so the Opposition will have to help me out on that one.

The Opposition suggested that somehow there would be some terrible Government sleight of hand to try to diddle people out of their money at a point at which they have lost their job, but it has been made absolutely clear by the Minister and in the speech made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Forest of Dean (Mr Harper) that there will be transparency in any changes. None are proposed, but if they were, they would follow the affirmative procedure, which would mean a Minister at the Dispatch Box, in front of the House, being quizzed and questioned by the House. They would have to be voted on by the House. So the idea that there would be some sort of back-office sleight of hand in this is inaccurate.

At a time when we have, unfortunately, heard news of proposed job losses in one of our key businesses, the Opposition’s approach is unwise. I understand why their Front Benchers have done this—they want to attack the Bill—and I am sure that if I were in their shoes, I would find whatever means I could to try to criticise the Bill. The simple truth is that there are no such proposals and nothing in the Bill to imply that there would be, but it is right that the Government maintain the opportunity to be flexible in the future.

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that in the light of the shake-up in these organisations and the dreadful stress that these people are under, introducing this clause at this time is completely inappropriate and heartless? The Government can bring it back another time if they wish.

The hon. Gentleman will be unsurprised to hear that I do not agree with him. The Bill is where the proposal is and the passage of the Bill has been timetabled in the way that it has. The idea that we delay changing the tax treatments of severance payments to a point in time when no one in British society is in the process of losing their job is farcical, as I am sure that, on reflection, he will recognise.

As has been said, the £30,000 threshold means that 85% of termination payments are completely unaffected. I am sure we have all heard anecdotes about businesses seeking to manipulate the definitions of the various elements of severance payments specifically to avoid the tax that is owed. Surely, Opposition Members would wish to make sure, as Government Members would, that tax is applied fairly, dispassionately and transparently, and that it affects all people equally. Once again, a disproportionate burden would otherwise fall on small businesses, which do not have that administrative back-office function and cannot play manipulative games to avoid tax. They are the ones that have to pay the full tax, as is right.

Some companies may have clever back-office accountants looking at ways in which to massage the definitions of the various elements of a severance payment to minimise the tax—tax that is due to the Treasury and that we want and need to fund public services. Surely, the Labour party is not suggesting we should turn a blind eye when a clever set of accountants can massage figures, making sure that the burden falls wholly and solely on small businesses, which do not have the opportunity to employ people to do that kind of smoke-and-mirrors work? I cannot imagine that is what Labour would want to do.

Amendment 4 proposes including the words “injured feelings”. Again, I am sure that this is being proposed with the best intentions, but the Labour party must realise that putting into a Bill a definition that is so vague and open to abuse is just inviting unscrupulous businesses to use it as a means of avoiding the tax that should be fairly paid upon a severance.

I am guessing that the hon. Gentleman is unaware—perhaps he is not—that “injury to feelings” is a legal term. It is used within that profession, and it is recognised and understood. Therefore, it is completely reasonable to include it in an amendment.

I thank the hon. Lady for informing me of that. I am more than happy to look in more detail at that definition, because I do not have it at my fingertips, but putting it in the Bill would present to unscrupulous employers something that looks like an invitation to use this as a back-door route to avoid the tax that should rightly be paid upon severance. It would be unwise for that to go through, because it would send exactly the opposite signal to what we are trying to achieve with the relevant clauses elsewhere in the Bill, which is to say, “If you play by the rules, fine.” The vast majority of people who receive severance pay have no need to concern themselves and neither do the vast majority of businesses. The only individuals who should be a little distressed by what is going through in the Bill are the very small number of companies that have abused the severance payment structures to avoid paying the tax that is fair. I have little sympathy for those companies. If they play by the rules, we are on their side. If they seek to bend or break the rules, I have no sympathy whatsoever.

I am seeking to ensure my hon. Friend understands that this does not benefit the companies; this is of benefit to individuals who take advantage. There is no tax benefit to the companies because it is income tax that is payable. [Interruption.] Well, there is national insurance—employers’ NI.

I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. There is little direct financial benefit to the company—

Although, as I am reminded, there is an NI implication. Again, I have heard a number of anecdotes about conversations with departing employees from not the most honourable of companies in which things have been said such as, “If this complaint were to gently disappear, I am sure we can squeeze a little more money into your severance payment, using this route or that one.” This is one of the areas where simplicity and clarity are important, because companies may be using massaging methods to try to get a bit more money into the pocket of a departing employee, so that employee does not to have recourse to the law where inappropriate behaviour has taken place. Dangling some cash in front of them may be being used as an enticement not to take a constructive dismissal case, for example, and that is exactly the kind of thing we want to avoid.

In conclusion, I will be generous in spirit and assume that these amendments are just poorly thought through, rather than anything that is attempting to be more damaging. They would undermine the core direction of travel of the Bill, so I will not support them.

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in this debate. Before entering this place, I was an employment rights lawyer for more than a decade, so this issue is very important to me. I represented dismissed and discriminated against employees for many years, and saw at first hand the devastating effect that the way they had been treated had on their lives. The Bill clearly seeks to narrow the scope of termination payments. Of course tax avoidance should be clamped down on, but the Government’s own consultation did not reveal evidence of widespread abuse. The hon. Member for Dover (Charlie Elphicke) said that there was tax avoidance on an industrial scale in this area, but that simply is not borne out by the evidence or indeed my experiences as an employment rights lawyer.

The hon. Lady is a making a strong and passionate case. My concern was industrial-scale tax avoidance, because big corporates were allowed to game the tax system without any action being taken to stop them doing that, largely because of the Brownite prawn cocktail circuit that was pursued in the early 2000s. In the last Parliament, I fought a campaign to get a lot of the law in this area tightened, and I am glad to say that a lot of that was taken forward.

This is not about big corporates; I am talking about adequately compensating people who have been sacked or discriminated against at work. In my experience, a sacked worker’s priority is to receive a fair settlement, not to avoid tax. It seems to me to be another example of the Government hounding people when they are at their most vulnerable, when instead they should be helping and supporting them.

The introduction of measures that will allow the Government to reduce the £30,000 tax-free threshold via the backdoor of delegated legislation could lead to profound effects on people’s lives without there being any proper scrutiny in Parliament. That is even more important given the fact that the threshold has not been increased since 1988; had it risen in line with prices, it would be £71,000 today. Amendment 2 would mean the threshold could only be increased, not decreased.

Does my hon. Friend agree that it is curious that, between 2010 and 2014, such a large company as Thames Water paid zero corporation tax, yet here we are talking about sums of £30,000? It is estimated that there is £6 trillion in tax havens, yet we are quibbling the amounts that go to individuals who have had a difficult time in the workplace.

I absolutely agree. The clause will penalise people who have lost their jobs and people who have been discriminated against—

May I deal with the intervention I am currently dealing with first?

People who have lost their jobs and been discriminated against often get small amounts of money in the wider scheme of things, but it makes a huge difference to their lives while they are looking for another job, getting back on their feet and getting their confidence back after the treatment they have been through.

The hon. Lady is talking about people who have lost their jobs who have been discriminated against. All our hearts would go out to someone in that situation, but is she aware that the tax-free threshold for people who have been discriminated against is not affected by the provisions in the Bill? Such awards will be wholly tax-free under the Bill, so does she agree that discrimination is not relevant to the debate?

Discrimination is relevant to the debate, because the Bill would introduce legislation that would tax injury-to-feeling awards on termination. Discrimination can of course have a devastating effect on a worker’s life and career, yet the Government seem to treat victims of discrimination as a way to top up the Government coffers.

I have already given way several times; I wish to make some progress.

Consider the example of a mother who has been discriminated against and dismissed for taking maternity leave. Rather than enjoying her time at home with her baby, she feels stressed and anxious about the future and her capacity to provide for her family.

The hon. Lady is being extremely generous in giving way. I just wish to put on the record that discrimination awards will not be affected by the Bill. I have a copy of the Bill here: there is full exemption for compensation awarded by an employment tribunal relating to discrimination awards. She is talking about a case of a mother who is discriminated against, and none of us would wish to see that—I am a mother myself and I have employed mothers—but that is not what the Bill is about.

The hon. Lady is talking about discrimination awards in employment tribunals; I am talking about discrimination awards as part of termination payments. They are two distinct things. As I understand it, the Bill would tax as earnings discrimination awards as part of termination settlements. For example, were someone to settle with their employer rather than go to tribunal, any injury-to-feelings element of the settlement that was above the £30,000 threshold would be taxed. That is a significant change for people who suffer discrimination. It might affect the mum who settles with her employer following her dismissal after having a child, or the disabled worker whose employer would rather sack them and make a termination payment than make adjustments for them. Such people will be worse off because that element of their award will be taxable.

It cannot be right that, rather than supporting victims of discrimination, the Government seem to want to use them as a source of revenue. These people need protections, not to be used to provide a revenue stream, so I urge all Members to vote for the Labour amendments.

The shadow Minister said that the measures in the Bill are part of a wider pattern of Government behaviour. Indeed they are: they follow in the footsteps of the 75 different measures we have already taken to clamp down on tax avoidance and the £160 billion we have already raised for our public services by doing so. They follow in the footsteps of the changes we have made to capital gains tax, which have increased the amount we have raised and ended the disgraceful situation in which hedge fund bosses were famously paying less tax than their cleaners. They follow in the footsteps of the changes we have made to corporation tax to prevent international avoidance—the so-called Google tax. They follow the changes we have made to the taxation of non-doms to create more balance and end the situation whereby people could be here for 25 years and still claim to be non-doms. So the Bill is part of a wider pattern of behaviour: it is part of an ongoing war on tax avoidance that the Government are waging.

On the specifics of the amendments, it seems to me that the Opposition are incredibly well intentioned. We all want the same things—we all want to drive down tax avoidance—but the problem with amendment 1 is that, in the real world, the Treasury is constantly engaged in a war of attrition with people who are constantly trying to create new loopholes and ways to avoid tax. As quickly as the Treasury closes one loophole, there are people trying to create others.

I shall make some progress.

Realistically, we cannot will the end of reducing tax avoidance without willing the means. The idea that, every time the Treasury needs to make a small change to a definition to clamp down on a new form of avoidance, we should have to come back with not just new statutory instruments but new primary legislation would really put sand in the wheels of the war on tax evasion and slow down our ability to tackle this serious problem.

Amendment 4 brings a more serious problem. If it is accepted, there will be people in the tax-avoidance industry rubbing their little hands together because the Opposition will have created, completely unwittingly, a huge new loophole, which will be used to abuse the system and avoid tax.

I am just about to conclude.

The measures in clause 5 are good, and they are part of a wider pattern of behaviour: a war on tax avoidance that we have waged in order to get more money for schools, hospitals and police in my constituency and others. They are part of a wider economic policy that has delivered not just record employment—the highest since 1975—and record tax cuts for those at the bottom end, but a record increase in the national living wage that will give us one of the highest living wages in the entire developed world. It is a pattern of behaviour that sees us making those who need to pay their tax pay it, so that we can have an economy that works for everybody.

I will speak only very briefly in support of the Labour amendments as most of what I would say has been said by my hon. Friends. The reality is that, in this country, we have a revenue problem, not an expenditure problem. The Government are constantly imposing austerity measures on ordinary people and on public services, and we see the result of that in the health service, local government and education. We need to get more money into the Treasury, which means dealing with tax avoidance and tax evasion among the corporates—the big money people—not squeezing the relatively small amounts of income given to people who lose their jobs.

Does my hon. Friend agree that it is a pity that, since the start of the new Government, Mr Pickles, who was formerly a Member in this House and is now in the other place—[Interruption.] To the best of my knowledge, he has not been replaced as the anti-corruption tsar. Indeed, unless the House has been informed otherwise, that particular thread of Government policy seems to be lost.

My hon. Friend makes an interesting point.

The reality is that many Government Members have close associations with the City and with big money. I do not want to accuse anyone individually, but that is the reality. Many have been in hedge funds and wherever. The biggest scandal of all took place within Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. A few years ago, Dave Hartnett, who was the boss of HMRC, was involved in sweetheart deals with the corporates, losing countless billions for the Treasury. He was not doing anything illegal, but cosy deals with corporates is not exactly public service. When he finally left HMRC, he set himself up as a consultant, advising the same corporates on how to avoid taxes. That is an absolute scandal. We should be stopping such practices.

Tax officers should be public servants who are driven by the public service ethos. At the grassroots level, the ordinary members of staff are driven in that way. Many of them are members of the Public and Commercial Services Union, with which I am associated. The PCS has argued for many years that we should have more tax officers, and that they should be better paid and better appreciated for the work that they do. I would like to think that, instead of closing tax offices and squeezing the number of tax officials, this Government would increase their number. PCS has told me on many occasions that every tax officer collects many times their own salary, so every time we appoint another tax officer, we get more than their salary coming back. That is what we should be doing. It has been a scandal for many years. Even before this dreadful Conservative Government, we were not collecting sufficient tax. We were allowing tax evasion and tax avoidance to go unchallenged. I want to see a world in which people, particularly those with plenty of money, pay their taxes at the highest level. I am not talking about ordinary working people.

Finally, it was recently suggested that quantitative easing, which is not strictly relevant to this amendment, is benefiting the better-off and not the ordinary people. It would be good if some of that QE could find its way into the Treasury coffers and help the spend on public services. That would be a better way of generating more jobs, more demand and better services in our economy.

This is indeed an important Bill. I look forward to serving on the Public Bill Committee and to helping it to become law.

We have heard a number of things about narrative and the tone from the Opposition. I say to the hon. Member for Luton North (Kelvin Hopkins) that I have nothing to do with hedge funds or with rich people in the City—unless we are talking about the city of Birmingham and about my friends who are rich in happiness and goodwill, if not money.

There is always a fine balance to strike when seeking to legislate on these matters. Generally speaking, we have a good regime of employment law in this country, notwithstanding some of the questions about the gig economy, which we are currently examining in the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee. Although the gig economy is outside the scope of this debate, it does need further scrutiny.

I am worried about Labour’s amendments. This Bill provides protections. It protects the public purse against those who seek to avoid and evade tax. The Opposition have raised some examples, and they were right to do so. This Bill does not condone those people or support their actions at all.

We know that, in most cases, the British taxpayer agrees with the system of taxation, but when that system is seen as unfair, it does lose the consent of ordinary workers. It is usually people with deep pockets and the resources to take advantage of the loopholes who cause deep anxiety among the British public. Therefore, I welcome the measures that we have set out in the Bill as they will end such practice.

The Opposition’s answer to the issue of taxation and revenue is to raise taxes on everyone. That is not the Conservative view. We prefer to keep taxes on the low paid and on small businesses low—that is what we have done already—and, at the same time, to crack down on the tax avoiders. Ultimately, that brings in more tax, and underpins a thriving economy.

There are measures in this Bill that will end some exploitative practices of big businesses and of a minority of individuals in this country. That will help the Government to collect the tax that is due to them from big businesses as well as from overseas investors and rich non-doms. We cannot allow a minority of businesses to tarnish the reputation of UK plc and our small and medium-sized businesses. However, we must remember that 99% of businesses in this country are SMEs. They are not this caricature of rich, greedy hedge fund people which, frankly, I do not recognise, but we hear about from the Opposition. They are ordinary men and women up and down this country, advancing their dream of a better life by setting up a small business. In so doing, they are creating jobs for other people. I worry about the tone of this debate as it sends out a message from this Chamber. We need to send out a message that encourages people to take that risk and start businesses. That is why we need to strike the right balance.

I speak from experience. Before I entered this House, I spent 25 years working in small businesses. I ran my own business and I was a human resources director in other businesses. I have worked for some small midlands manufacturing companies, advising them on employment issues. I have seen the stress and worry that employers go through when they are dealing with a termination. Of course, termination has an impact on the employee, but let us not forget that these employers are trying to do their best under difficult circumstances. Without doubt, there are some unscrupulous employers, but I have seen small business owners lose sleep and suffer from stress and anxiety. Sometimes, despite the best efforts of management, a job does not work out. We are dealing with a trust relationship after all. We are talking about the vagaries of human nature, and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Braintree (James Cleverly) observed, small businesses often do not have access to qualified HR advice and employment lawyers as they are too expensive and beyond their budget.

Some of Labour’s amendments, particularly those on the injury-to-feelings issue, cloud the whole legislative landscape for small business owners, making it extremely difficult for them to know what to do in a stressful situation. That is why I do not support these amendments. The provisions are purely about preventing the manipulation of the rules.

Just on that point about small businesses, I agree with the hon. Lady that they are immensely valuable to the economy and we must support them. However, would the Government not do better to stop banks such as RBS squeezing the life out of small businesses by very, very unfair financial practices, which has certainly happened to businesses in my constituency?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. I am sure that members of the Treasury team are doing everything they can on those points, and I welcome the work that they are doing in that regard. I have also seen small businesses in my constituency being affected by such practices. I do not condone them at all. We all want a country where good work is rewarded, and where employers and employees can work together. No system of legislation is perfect, but this Bill does strike the right balance. It is sensible and well thought out and we will continue to scrutinise it in Committee. Therefore, I will not vote for Labour’s amendments.

I often think, when I get to my feet in the Chamber, that my job is not really to talk to the people in the Chamber. I am sure that there are many clever people in here—far better educated than me—who know all the complex details of the Bill and the nuances of the financial implications. But my job is to represent the people of Willenhall and Bloxwich in Walsall North. If they were to tune into the Parliament channel at the moment, they might be slightly perplexed as to what was going on, so I thought I would try to assist them by considering amendment 1 particularly.

I would tell my constituents that £30,000 of a termination payment is currently untaxed and this Government have no plans to change that. Opposition Members might say, “Come on—what are you playing at? You’re putting something in here so you can do something sneaky in the future.” My answer is that there is actually a statutory instrument that requires an affirmative procedure. The people of Walsall would say, “What the hell is that?” And I would tell them it means that if the Minister wants to do something in future, he needs to come back to the Chamber to get the approval of this House and he also needs the approval of the House of Lords.

My constituents would then say, “That sounds pretty reasonable, but can we trust you? Surely you’re looking to take more tax off us in the future.” I would say, “Are you kidding? Look at this party. What have we done for you? We have increased the level above which you will pay tax from £6,500 to £11,500—almost doubling it. This country has the highest level of employment it has ever had and there are more women in jobs than ever before. And which party gave you the minimum wage? Not only was it the Conservative party”—[Interruption.] My apologies—small technical problem. Okay, I would say, “Which party subsequently increased the minimum wage to the level that we are at now—a massive increase on the original introduction level?” [Hon. Members: “Ah!”] And I would tell my constituents that this party has the aspiration to increase the minimum wage even further in the future.

I think I remember the hon. Gentleman saying, “Let’s not talk about the past. Let’s talk about what this Labour Government might do for you in the future.” Well, there is not going to be a Labour Government. There is going to be a Conservative Government who will continue to increase the minimum wage. If my constituents are going to trust anybody in the House, it should be the Conservatives. We have no intention of taking more tax off people. If we did, we would have to come back to the House to get approval anyway.

Thank you Madam Deputy Speaker—sorry, I mean Dame Rosie. I have just been thrown by that magnificent speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall North (Eddie Hughes). His constituents must be very proud of him.

Let us ground ourselves for a moment. I am proud of this Government’s record on tax avoidance. Since 2010, our policies clamping down on tax avoidance and evasion have collected more than £140 billion, ensuring that our tax system is just and that everyone pays their fair share. Clause 5 makes the tax system fairer, which should be the ambition of all responsible political parties. A fairer tax system means that we can fund our vital public services without increasing taxes or passing more debt on to future generations. It is not rocket science; these are the basic rules for responsible government. To that end, I welcome the clauses we are discussing today, especially clause 5. They tighten the rules and close loopholes that have been exploited for too long, denying the Treasury what it is owed and short-changing the vast majority of individuals and small and medium-sized enterprises that pay their fair share.

I cannot be the only Member of Parliament who represents a constituency whose jobs, prosperity and opportunities are dependent on small businesses thriving, and I take every opportunity to stand up in the Chamber and back small businesses across Wealden. But back to clause 5. The tax rules on termination payments are currently unclear and confusing. Clause 5 tightens and clarifies the rules governing the tax due on these payments. The changes make the rules fairer, minimising the potential for manipulation by some larger employers, which often give the most generous pay-offs.

The oil downturn has had an enormous effect in my constituency and that of the hon. Member for Aberdeen North (Kirsty Blackman). Like my hon. Friend the Member for Redditch (Rachel Maclean), I am a business owner. There are already too many barriers to employment. The Bill seeks to give clarity and the amendment would add to the complexity of employment. We do not want further barriers to employment. Does my hon. Friend the Member for Wealden (Ms Ghani) agree that we want clarity, which will ultimately help employment and small businesses?

My hon. Friend is spot on. We want absolute clarity. As I continue with my speech, the Committee will realise that the changes in clause 5 will barely have an impact on most people in our constituencies.

The changes are not asking someone who has been made redundant to pay more tax. The first £30,000 of the termination payment remains exempt from tax as well as national insurance contributions. As a result, the changes in clause 5 will not have an impact on 85% of people who receive termination payments. If we have constituencies where 90% of businesses are SMEs, our figure will probably be even higher than 85%. On average, 25% receive a payment of more than £54,000, so they are not exactly the least well-off in society. Those who are not following the rules and are not manipulating the loopholes will pay no additional tax. It is simply about clarifying the fine details.

I was disappointed that Labour tabled amendment 4. The whole point of clause 5 is to close loopholes, preventing tax avoidance and ensuring that everyone pays their way. Amendment 4 will open up more wriggle room. If we accept it, what is to stop larger companies routinely reclassifying termination payments on account of injury to feelings with the sole aim of paying less tax? It is a naive amendment that would create new loopholes. The public will see this as political point scoring by the Opposition. Not only did Labour not close loopholes when it was in power; it is trying to open new ones when it is in opposition.

The changes in clause 5 will bring in £430 million a year by 2022. They clarify and tighten the regulations, but I urge the Committee to reject all Opposition amendments to ensure that the changes are as effective as they can be. The Finance Bill is about addressing imbalances in the system and making important changes to the tax regime system to ensure that the rules do not unfairly benefit large companies. It will build on the hard work of the Government since 2010 that has seen tax payments increase by £1 billion. The tax gap, which has been mentioned so often this afternoon, has fallen to one of the lowest in the world at just 6.5%, down from 10% under Labour, so let us just stick with the facts. I welcome clause 5, which will add to that record and ensure the tax system works for everyone.

What a pleasure it is to serve under your chairmanship, Dame Rosie, and to respond to the first of what I am sure will be a series of lively and exciting debates on the Finance Bill. Before I respond to some of the more detailed points raised, as well as the amendments, let me remind the Committee of the overall purpose of clause 5.

The clause is designed to tighten and clarify the tax treatment of termination payments to make the rules fairer and to prevent manipulation. Our tax treatment of termination payments is one of the most generous in the world. That is something of which we can be proud and something that this clause does not change, but the current rules can also be unclear and complicated, as many hon. Members have suggested. Some payments are taxed as earnings, others are taxed only above £30,000 and others are completely exempt from income tax and national insurance contributions. Most employers use the rules as intended, but the complexity in the system leaves it open to manipulation. Indeed, a small minority of individuals and employers, particularly those with the most generous pay-offs—this is an important point—have thought to manipulate the rules by categorising large pay-offs as termination payments, rather than earnings.

My hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham West and Penge (Ellie Reeves) made the point that the tax-free amount has not been indexed for many years. Had it been indexed properly, it would now be £71,000, not £30,000. Would not that be a way of avoiding any of these difficulties, as the lump sum would be so much bigger?

This is one of the most generous thresholds in the world. In fact, there is no threshold at all in Germany and the United States of America, because none of these payments is treated as being tax-exempt.

Such categorisation means that payments qualify for the £30,000 tax exemption and an unlimited employer national insurance contributions exemption. The situation is clearly unfair for the vast majority of employees, who are unable to manipulate their payments in this way. Clause 5 makes changes to prevent such manipulation in the future, while still ensuring that the vast majority pay no income tax on their payment. The first £30,000 of all termination payments will remain exempt from tax.

The hon. Member for Bootle (Peter Dowd) made a general point about the Conservative party’s treatment of workers, and I make no apologies for the way this Government have stood up for workers up and down our country. We are committed to enhancing workers’ rights. We introduced the national living wage, and we doubled fines for firms that break the rules in that respect. We appointed the first director of labour market enforcement, and we are committed, as we have constantly said, and as our Prime Minister has made clear, to protecting workers’ rights as we leave the European Union.

Nearly 85% of payments are below £30,000, so retaining the threshold will ensure that the vast majority of people going through the difficult experience of being made redundant will still pay no tax whatever. That means that the UK continues to have one of the most generous tax exemptions for termination payments, and I have mentioned Germany and the United States having no tax exemption at all.

Clause 5 tightens the tax rules for termination payments to prevent manipulation—a point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Forest of Dean (Mr Harper) in an excellent contribution. He highlighted our overall record on bringing in taxes where attempts are made to avoid tax, and I referred to the £160 billion raised since 2010. He referred to our being at the forefront of the OECD base erosion and profit shifting project, and we have also brought in the diverted profits tax to clamp down on the kind of behaviour he referred to.

Let us not lose sight of the purpose of bringing in tax, which is to raise public finances so that we can employ doctors, nurses, paramedics, police and soldiers and pay for all those great public services that all of us hold so dear. That is why I am so proud of this Government’s record on clamping down on tax avoidance more generally.

The Office of Tax Simplification has said:

“the well-advised can often end up better off than the unadvised, as they are more able to structure their employment contract (or, indeed, their termination payment) to achieve the better tax treatment.”

The hon. Member for Bootle said in this House only last month:

“If there is genuine evidence of the abuse of payments in lieu of notice, that needs to be acted on”—[Official Report, 6 September 2017; Vol. 628, c. 206.]

It is fair to say that, while the hon. Gentleman is a very amiable fellow, he is not right about everything, but on this point he is actually very right. This clause is to deal with the very abuse about which he has previously expressed concern. We will prevent employers from categorising large pay-offs as tax-free payments, rather than earnings. Instead, employers will now be required to tax what the employee would have earned if they had worked their notice period in full. All payments in lieu of notice will now also be taxable as earnings to equalise the treatment of those with and without a contractual right to such a payment.

Finally, clause 5 clarifies that there is a total tax exemption for payments on account of injury or disability of an employee. In 2014, the Office of Tax Simplification raised the possibility of removing this exemption. It recognised that that would be a draconian approach, but it noted that interpretation is

“often a problem area for employers and their advisers.”

However, we have not pursued that approach. Instead, we have provided certainty by confirming the current position established by case law in statute. The total exemption relates to termination payments provided on account of a physical or psychiatric injury that prevents the employee from carrying on the duties of the employment, which hopefully addresses the point raised by the hon. Member for Aberdeen North (Kirsty Blackman). Therefore, employees with evidence of an identified medical condition will pay no tax on related termination payments.

Some Members raised concerns in previous debates that the Government would be taxing compensation paid to employees where it is proven that they have been discriminated against. Once again, I am happy to reassure them. All compensation for awards for proven discrimination during work will continue to remain completely exempt from tax. There was an interesting interaction between my hon. Friend the Member for Reddich (Rachel Maclean) and the hon. Member for Lewisham West and Penge (Ellie Reeves) on this point. We accept that, where there is a tribunal award in respect of injury to feelings, it is treated in exactly the same way as when an employer accepts that discrimination has actually occurred. All the clause seeks is to confirm the long-standing position that genuine compensation payments are tax exempt, while ensuring there is no loophole that can be used to reduce the tax that is owed.

Let me now turn to the amendments. As the hon. Member for Bootle set out, amendment 1 would remove the power to amend the meaning of basic pay for the purposes of calculating post-employment notice pay by regulation. When we consulted on this measure, we listened to responses that asked us to make the basic pay definition more simple. It now excludes overtime, bonuses, commission and tips. However, we introduced this power to allow the Government to act quickly and to remain flexible if there is manipulation in the future. Any amendment to the meaning of basic pay would be subject to a statutory instrument under the affirmative procedure, so the House would have to expressly approve any change to the meaning. I therefore urge the House to resist the amendment.

Amendment 2 and consequential amendment 3, also tabled by the Labour party, would remove the power to reduce the £30,000 threshold by regulation. Some Members have raised concerns during the debate that the Government intend to reduce this tax-free amount. We have no intention to do so. If we were to do so, we would, as my hon. Friend the Member for Braintree (James Cleverly) pointed out in his excellent speech, be required to do so by an affirmative statutory instrument. However, I repeat that we have no intention of reducing this tax-free amount. I therefore urge the House to resist the amendment.

Amendment 4 would include injured feelings within the definition of injury. As I outlined earlier, clause 5 confirms that termination payments provided on account of physical or psychiatric injury will be completely tax exempt—an important point raised by the hon. Member for Aberdeen North. However, the clause also confirms the established position that injury to feelings is not covered by this definition. The reason for this restriction is clear: without it, there would be a large loophole—as identified by my hon. Friend the Member for Braintree and my right hon. Friend the Member for Forest of Dean—allowing payments to be routinely reclassified on account of injury to feelings, and without medical evidence, simply in order for people to pay no tax. These things are hard to prove or disprove, and would be difficult for HMRC to police. However, it remains the case that payments on account of an injury to feelings, like any normal termination payment, will qualify for the £30,000 tax exemption. I therefore likewise urge the House to resist the amendment.

The Minister is concerned that some people might be exploiting a loophole, but as a result he has decided to disadvantage everybody who is subject to termination as a result of injury to feelings, rather than giving them the benefit of the doubt, which seems pretty unfair to me.

The problem is that one cannot escape the possibility that the employer and the employee, who could both gain from reduced tax, will work together to suggest that there has been an injury to feelings, even when in fact there has not been. How does one prove whether or not there has been an injury to feelings? That is why there is a loophole.

Amendment 12, tabled by the hon. Member for Aberdeen North, would require a review of how these changes will affect low-income workers. That is unnecessary because only 85% of the payments are below £30,000. As I have explained, the provisions do not affect awards for discrimination at work, for example. We have also maintained the £30,000 income tax exemption. We have considered the impact on low-income workers throughout, and we will continue to do so.

In conclusion, the Government recognise that losing a job is a challenging time, but we must remain vigilant to opportunities for the tax rules to be manipulated. That is why clause 5 sets out a fair and proportionate set of changes that will continue to protect the vast majority of employees. The first £30,000 of a termination payment will remain tax-free, as will the whole of the compensation payment for discrimination during employment. However, where there were opportunities for manipulation, the loopholes must be closed, and they now will be. I therefore urge hon. Members to reject the amendments and agree to clause 5.

The Government seem to have taken a scattergun rather than forensic approach to this matter, affecting everyone regardless of the circumstances. Time after time they go for easy targets. If they have no intention of revising thresholds downwards, what is the point? Why are they wasting the Committee’s time? The key point is whether people who have been made redundant should have further worries about their financial future vis-à-vis redundancy, and that sets a hare running, whether the Government like it or not.

As for the consultation, the bottom line is that it was at best inconclusive. Many non-vested respondents suggested that it would be appropriate to uprate the threshold, rather than reduce it—I do not necessarily agree, but that was the case—but there is absolutely no evidence of that, which in the current climate will unnerve many people. Therefore, once again, at the last minute, I ask the Minister to withdraw this iniquitous proposal.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

Amendment proposed: 2, page 14, line 15, leave out “different” and insert “higher”.—(Peter Dowd.)

This amendment removes the power for the Treasury to reduce the £30,000 threshold in connection with the taxation of termination payments by regulations.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

More than two hours having elapsed since the commencement of proceedings, the proceedings were interrupted (Programme Order, 12 September).

The Chair put forthwith the Questions necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded at that time (Standing Order No. 83D).

Amendment proposed: 4, in clause 5, page 14, leave out lines 27 and 28 and insert—

‘(2) “Injury” in subsection (1) includes—

(a) psychiatric injury, and

(b) injured feelings.””—(Peter Dowd.)

This amendment explicitly includes (rather than excludes) injured feelings within the definition of “injury” for the purposes of payments which are excluded from the provisions of Chapter 3 of Part 6 of the Income Tax (Earnings and Pensions) Act 2003 (payments and benefits on termination of employment).

Question put, That the amendment be made.

Clause 5 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 15

Business Investment Relief

I beg to move amendment 13, page 22, line 21, leave out

“on or after 6 April 2017”

and insert

“on or after the date on which the Chancellor of the Exchequer lays before the House of Commons a report of the review undertaken under section 809VP of ITA 2007”.

This amendment would provide that the changes in Clause 15 do not have effect until after the Chancellor of the Exchequer has laid before the House of Commons the review provided for in NC3.

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Clause stand part.

New clause 1—Review of conditions under which business investment relief is available

‘(1) Chapter A1 of Part 14 of ITA 2007 (remittance basis) is amended as follows.

(2) After section 809VO (investments made from mixed funds), insert—

“809VP  Review of conditions under which business investment relief is available 

(1) Within six months of the coming into force of section 15 of the Finance (No. 2) Act 2017, the Commissioners for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs shall complete a review of the conditions under which business investment relief is available.

(2) For the purposes of this section “the conditions” means—

(a) Condition A as defined in section 809VD,

(b) Condition B as defined in section 809VF.

(3) The review shall make an estimate of the value of the reliefs granted as a result of the conditions in respect of each tax year for which the relief has been available.

(4) The review shall make an estimate of the change in the value of the reliefs granted as a result of—

(a) changes to the conditions relating to eligible hybrid companies,

(b) changes to the periods specified in sections 809VD and 809VH,

(c) changes to the grace period in section 809VJ.

(5) The review shall make an assessment of the effectiveness of the conditions in relation to the stated policy aims of the Government in relation to business investment relief.

(6) The review shall prepare an analysis of the characteristics of beneficiaries of reliefs having particular regard to—

(a) income distribution,

(b) gender and other protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010,

(c) domicile (including deemed domicile).

(7) A report of the review under this section shall be laid before the House of Commons within one calendar month of its completion.””.

This new clause requires HMRC to carry out a review of the conditions under which business investment relief is available, including estimates of the value of the reliefs (before and after the changes proposed in this Bill) and an analysis of the characteristics of those using the relief, including their domicile status.

New clause 3—Review of the efficacy of the conditions for business investment relief

‘(1) Chapter A1 of Part 14 of ITA 2007 (remittance basis) is amended as follows.

(2) After section 809VO (investments made from mixed funds), insert—

“809VP  Review of efficacy of the conditions for business investment relief

(1) Within two months of Royal Assent to the Finance (No. 2) Act 2017, the Commissioners for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs shall complete a review of the impact of the conditions for business investment relief in encouraging investment in the UK.

(2) The review shall make an estimate of additional investment as a result of the condition for business investment relief—

(a) prior to Royal Assent being given to the Finance (No. 2) Act 2017, and

(b) if the changes to those conditions in section 15 of the Finance (No. 2) Act were brought into force.

(3) The Chancellor of the Exchequer shall lay the report of this review before the House of Commons.””.

This new clause requires HMRC to carry out a review of efficacy of the conditions under which business investment relief is available and the Chancellor to lay it before the House of Commons.

I appreciate having the opportunity to speak in this second part of our debate on the Finance Bill.

The matter in hand now has been discussed a number of times over the past few months, specifically around business investment relief. Some aspects of it were discussed while tackling the Ways and Means resolutions and on Second Reading. We are still not clear what impact this will have; the Government have still not told us. An overview of tax legislation was produced at the tail end of last year, when the Bill was first in draft form. It said there was likely to be a negligible impact on the public finances, but that does not explain what is actually going to happen. It also says that between 200 and 400 individuals a year benefit from business investment relief, but again that does not really explain the impact of this relief.

We do know, however, that everybody who benefits from the relief is a non-dom. The Government claim that they are changing the way non-doms are considered and are making it less easy for them to get away with dodging taxes, but this serves to increase the ability of non-doms to get away with not paying tax. The Government suggest this is about increasing investment, but they have not been able to produce any evidence of how much investment has been created as a result of business investment relief.

I am concerned about the amount of time and energy that the House is spending on this matter. It is spending a significant amount of time: we put this measure in place, presumably, at some point in the past few years, yet only 200 to 400 individuals have taken it up. Despite the fact that the numbers are so small, however, we are again debating the matter; this is the third time that we have done so this year, when there are many very important other items on the agenda.

The amount of investment that has come to the UK from non-doms is £1.6 billion since 2012. I hope that is of some assistance to the hon. Lady.

Is that through business investment relief or from non-doms in general? We asked for those figures before, at the last stage of this discussion, and they were not forthcoming from the Front Bench. It would be nice to have those figures in writing from the ministerial team.

The hon. Member for Walsall North (Eddie Hughes) talked about why we should trust the Tories and what he would tell his constituents about that. He included things such as the living wage and increasing employment, both of which have happened, but the living wage is not a living wage, because people cannot actually live on the current living wage. If he made that proposition to his constituents, what he would actually have to say is that their wages have not gone up in a decade, that household debt is spiralling and that their savings are going down. If the Tories are doing such a good job, why are people poorer as a result?

One of our concerns is that we are facing a hard Brexit that will significantly damage the economy, but measures such as this one, which is projected to bring in only a small amount of investment from non-doms, will not undo the damage created by a hard Brexit; this will not undo the 5% reduction in GDP that Scotland is set to experience as a result of Brexit.

As I understand it, business investment relief ensures that overseas funds can be invested in the UK. It has resulted in £1.6 billion being invested in the UK—not a small amount of money. Of course it affects overseas people because it is overseas money that we want to be invested here. I do not understand the hon. Lady’s complaint about the relief only affecting overseas people—of course it does, because it is to introduce them.

My complaint was about the fact that people are being allowed to not pay tax on stuff they are doing in this country. My complaint is that the background note provided by the Treasury does not mention anything to do with £1.6 billion and that the overview of tax legislation put forward in December last year does not mention £1.6 billion. Despite our asking the Government for that figure on a number of occasions, this is the first time it has been forthcoming. I am very pleased that it is and that we can have a reasonable discussion about whether we should increase the ability of people from other countries to come under this.

I did not want to talk for a very long time, because we have already had a number of votes and two hours of debate on the Bill. As I said, the House has spent an incredible amount of time on this, and it probably should not have. The Labour party has tabled a new clause along similar lines to the new clause tabled by the Scottish National party.

I am concerned that we must not put inaccuracies on record. The HMRC figures published in August 2017 show that over £1.6 billion has been invested in UK businesses under the BIR scheme. We must not say that figures are not available when they are; we just have to go to the right place to find them.

I am very glad that those figures are there, but sadly, when we asked about them in September during our discussion on the Bill, after their production, they were not mentioned. I appreciate that they are being brought up now—that is great—but they were not brought up then.

As I said, I do not want to take up much of the Committee’s time discussing this matter. We have asked the Government to provide us with more data. We have also asked them to provide data on what effect they think this change will have on the amount of investment coming in. We would very much like to see that.

I will get straight to the point. Members will not be surprised to hear that many of my concerns have already been raised by the hon. Member for Aberdeen North (Kirsty Blackman). Labour Members have expressed a number of concerns many times about the extension and scope of business investment relief, to no avail. We find it very concerning that in a context where the current Government have borrowed more than any Labour Government ever have, our Treasury is intentionally depriving itself of revenue. That might be acceptable if the deprivation served to boost our economy, but we have no evidence of any positive impact from business investment relief.

Government Members have stated that they know the raw figure for how much has been invested through this relief. That is correct. We kept calling for that, and finally, at the last minute before we started debating the Bill after the summer recess, we got some figures. They were rounded up to the nearest hundred, and when we are talking of only about 400 people, it is rather strange not to have more granularity.

That is just the figure for the overall amount that has gone through this relief. We have not been told which sectors the investment directed through this relief goes into. We have no clarity about whether, for example, funds invested through this relief might have contributed to the overheating of the British property market in high-cost areas, and we have not received any assurances that the funds going through this relief will help to promote the increase in business and human capital formation that we so desperately need, given Britain’s falling productivity.

The Government’s impact assessment published when this relief was brought in said that it would have a negligible impact on economic development. This is not a relief that has a proven beneficial impact. Until the Government accept our proposals and agree at least to review the operation of the relief, I will remain unpersuaded that its extension does anything other than offer yet another concession to non-doms and provide even greater scope for tax advisers to indicate how UK taxes can be avoided. That is why the new clauses call for a review.

From the Opposition’s perspective, the changes form part of a piece that, along with the other patchwork of measures in the Bill, could lead to pinching from sacked workers instead of root-and-branch reform of the non-dom system. They will fuel a race to the bottom on corporation tax, rather than boost skills, education and investment. The measures against tax avoidance are insipid and weak, not the decisive action we need to ensure a level playing field for small companies and the biggest multinationals, and for British taxpayers and those who benefit from non-dom status.

Much has been said this afternoon about the size of the tax gap, and there has been some confusion over the figures. Members who have looked into the matter will know that the Government’s tax gap calculation contains a growing element of error, which is a concern given the forthcoming closure of HMRC offices. The figure does not cover tax avoidance resulting from profit shifting, on which the Opposition have a strong record.

To return to our previous discussion and the points made by the right hon. Member for Forest of Dean (Mr Harper) and the hon. Member for Dover (Charlie Elphicke), measures to deliver change on an international level have been blocked by the Government.

The hon. Lady made a relevant point in the previous debate that I did not mention at the time. Some of the things that we had to deal with early in the last but one Parliament involved multinational tax arrangements that were put in place under the previous Labour Government. We did our best to get at least some money from those multinationals. It was not enough, but we did at least move things in the right direction. Profit shifting can only be dealt with internationally by agreement. If we do not do that, we will not make any progress. As I said in the previous debate, we are leading that international effort, which did not happen under the Labour Government.

I am sorry, but it is not the case that Governments are completely unable to do anything unilaterally to prevent profit shifting. They can, for example, decide whether to execute secret sweetheart deals with large multinationals through their tax authorities, or they can decide to be transparent.

Is the hon. Lady seriously suggesting that, under a Labour Government, HMRC would never negotiate with a company over its tax bill?

I referred to secret sweetheart deals, of which the experience in this country has been negative. The problem is with transparency. It is important to have an open tax system that allows for discussion, but many commentators would suggest that the relationship between some of the tax authorities and some of the companies they deal with is too cosy. The problems here are not to the same extent as those in many other countries, but we need to do something when the revenue from companies, particularly those focusing on intangibles, is going down.

One way to do that is to work with other nations, but we have again seen many negative developments in that area. The right hon. Member for Forest of Dean suggested that that was uniquely down to measures promoting a particular rate of tax, but that does not bear witness to what occurred. For example, the Government pushed strongly to prevent trusts from being included in registers of beneficial ownership. That is not about tax rates; it is about transparency. Again, when Conservative MEPs voted against country-by-country reporting, that was not about tax rates; it was about transparency.

Many of the most significant developments to remove harmful tax arrangements, particularly those exploited by multinational companies, occurred under Dawn Primarolo, who was a Labour representative when she chaired the multinational code of conduct group in which dozens of harmful tax practices were identified and removed. Labour therefore has a clear and strong record in dealing with these matters.

The Opposition will do everything we can to remove the gaping loopholes that still exist in the Bill, to toughen measures against aggressive tax avoidance and to prevent the burden being placed on some of the biggest casualties of austerity: those workers who have been made redundant. I hope that the Government will pay heed. In the interests of the British economy, they need to.

One of the strange anomalies in our tax system over the years has been the framework constructed to enable non-doms to avoid paying tax in the United Kingdom. The outdated concept of tax exemption for non-doms, which I understand dates back to 1799, is not fit for purpose in the 21st century. It takes no account of the mobility of the rich and their ability to shift wealth across jurisdictions at the click of a button and of the fact that some non-doms can use tax havens to channel their income overseas so that they can avoid paying tax.

Let us be clear that the idea that the place of birth of a wealthy individual’s parents should affect how much tax they pay in the United Kingdom is nonsensical. The fact that the UK Government should play along with that by setting various inducements in the form of remittance charges of between £30,000 and £90,000 or via business investment relief is also very concerning, as is the potential lack of scrutiny into the non-doms’ affairs and background.

In 2014-15, 84,500 non-doms living in the UK paid the UK Government £9 billion in tax, or a total of £105,000 each. Considering the size of the wealth of some non-doms this is very good business indeed, as some offshore money is brought in to the UK for investment purposes and taxed at these knockdown rates but much of it will remain outside UK jurisdiction. The generous tax breaks given to non-doms do not apply to other UK residents and take for granted the many benefits of life in the UK and of London as a financial capital. Why would nom-doms who have lived in the UK for more than a decade, who perhaps send their kids to schools in the UK, carry out business in the UK and own property here, need further incentives via tax breaks to invest here? There would be an outcry if we gave non-doms a reduced rate of income tax or capital gains tax that was not available to ordinary UK tax payers, so why are we carrying on with this charade right now? The USA makes sure that residents pay tax on their worldwide income and seems to have little problem attracting people to New York.

A good business investment is a good business investment whether it gets tax relief or not, and let us not kid ourselves that the sweetener of business interest relief is anything more than a sugar-coated inducement for non-doms who have already made their money. It is clear that stringent tests are not even done to assess whether someone applying for non-dom status meets the right criteria.

People who are temporarily resident in the UK pay tax on what they earn in the UK, as do permanent UK residents. Everyone else should pay tax on their worldwide income. It cannot be fair to be giving better treatment to some people who have lived in the UK for most if not all their lives but who, because of some convenient accident, can elect how much tax they can be liable for. Any changes to this loophole are of course welcome.

I am sceptical about how much investment into the real economy any changes to the business investment relief scheme will bring to the UK. If the Government do not decide to abolish the whole concept of non-doms, they should not allow non-doms to keep their assets outside the jurisdiction if the overseas trusts were created before they were deemed domiciled, and the Government should clamp down on any tax avoidance from mixed funds brought in to the UK.

Clause 15 expands the scope of the business investment relief scheme because it supports economic growth and investment by encouraging foreign individuals to invest in UK businesses. Business investment relief was introduced in April 2012 and is aimed at individuals who are taxed on the remittance basis. As Members will be aware, a remittance basis taxpayer is subject to UK tax on their overseas income or gains only if they bring them to the UK. That can discourage them from bringing their overseas money into the country, even when doing so would benefit the UK economy by investing in UK business. The business investment relief scheme seeks to address this by allowing those who are taxed on the remittance basis to bring their income and gains to the UK without incurring a tax charge, provided those funds are invested in a qualifying UK business. In other words, the scheme enables overseas funds that would otherwise remain outside the UK to be invested in UK businesses.

The independent Office for Budget Responsibility has confirmed in the costings that, without this scheme, this money would simply be left offshore, and so the UK would not benefit from it. Any UK gains and income arising from the investment will be fully taxable in the UK. It is worth noting that elsewhere in the Finance Bill—contrary to the views expressed by the hon. Member for Enfield, Southgate (Bambos Charalambous)—the Government have introduced the most fundamental change to non-dom taxation in history, ending permanent non-dom status. That is more than the Labour party managed the last time it was in government. This clause supports these wider reforms by ensuring that the UK remains attractive to those people who want to live here and use their foreign income and gains to invest in Britain.

Clause 15 expands the types of businesses in which investment can be made. The new rules widen the relief so that it can be used to purchase existing shares, not just new shares. The changes also lengthen the time before a new start-up company has to become a trading business from two to five years. That will enable investment in large infrastructure projects, which can take a long time to complete. Finally, clause 15 updates the anti-avoidance rules to ensure that genuine investment is not discouraged.

Let me turn to the amendment and new clause tabled by the Scottish National party. As the hon. Member for Aberdeen North (Kirsty Blackman) outlined, amendment 13 and new clause 3 would delay the commencement of these provisions until the Government had laid before the House a review of the efficacy of the conditions for BIR. I can be clear that the Government are confident of the effectiveness of this scheme. Investment using BIR increased from £197 million in 2012-13 to £837 million in 2014-15. In only three years, that has meant total investments of more than £1.6 billion in our economy since the scheme was first introduced.

I would very much appreciate it if the Treasury would commit to publishing that information and details of the sectors in which the money has been invested. If it does that, we will all be much happier, across the House.

I thank the hon. Lady for her intervention, and I will come on to deal with the information that the Treasury is already publishing, which is very comprehensive.

As I was saying, that includes investment in the hospitality and energy sectors, and in many different types of businesses, including small and medium-sized ones. It includes investment in manufacturing and pharmaceutical science businesses in the midlands and north of England, and a £3 million investment in aerospace businesses in the north-west of England. As I outlined earlier, the independent OBR has certified that these changes do not have any cost to the Exchequer. In other words, this is money coming to this country which would not otherwise have done so. I am sure that these are investments in our country that the whole House wants to see—investment in British businesses right across the country. I therefore urge Members to reject new clause 3 and amendment 13.

Let me also address new clause 1, tabled by the official Opposition. In a similar vein to new clause 3, it would require the Government to review the conditions under which BIR is available, including estimates of the value of the relief and an analysis of the characteristics of those using it. Such a review is wholly unnecessary, as Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs publishes much of this information already. As my hon. Friend the Member for Wealden (Ms Ghani) pointed out, in August HMRC published official statistics on non-domiciled taxpayers in the UK, which includes a commentary document and tables. This publication contains statistics on the number of individuals who are non-domiciled, and on the total income tax, capital gains tax and national insurance contributions of the non-domiciled population. Moreover, it includes information on the current number of investments and the amount invested in the UK by non-domiciled individuals using business investment relief.

To provide the report, HMRC uses information provided by taxpayers through the self-assessment process. It is impossible to determine from an individual’s tax return whether or not they have characteristics that are protected under the Equality Act. HMRC does not have the capacity or the resource to acquire such information, so it would be unduly burdensome to place on HMRC a statutory obligation that it would be incapable of meeting. For those reasons, I urge Members to reject the new clause.

To conclude, the clause builds on the notable success of the business investment relief scheme by expanding its scope, and it will bring more money into our country. I therefore call on Members to reject the new clauses and the amendment and to agree to clause 15.

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 15 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

New Clause 1

Review of conditions under which business investment relief is available

‘(1) Chapter A1 of Part 14 of ITA 2007 (remittance basis) is amended as follows.

(2) After section 809VO (investments made from mixed funds), insert—

“809VP  Review of conditions under which business investment relief is available 

(1) Within six months of the coming into force of section 15 of the Finance (No. 2) Act 2017, the Commissioners for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs shall complete a review of the conditions under which business investment relief is available.

(2) For the purposes of this section “the conditions” means—

(a) Condition A as defined in section 809VD,

(b) Condition B as defined in section 809VF.

(3) The review shall make an estimate of the value of the reliefs granted as a result of the conditions in respect of each tax year for which the relief has been available.

(4) The review shall make an estimate of the change in the value of the reliefs granted as a result of—

(a) changes to the conditions relating to eligible hybrid companies,

(b) changes to the periods specified in sections 809VD and 809VH,

(c) changes to the grace period in section 809VJ.

(5) The review shall make an assessment of the effectiveness of the conditions in relation to the stated policy aims of the Government in relation to business investment relief.

(6) The review shall prepare an analysis of the characteristics of beneficiaries of reliefs having particular regard to—

(a) income distribution,

(b) gender and other protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010,

(c) domicile (including deemed domicile).

(7) A report of the review under this section shall be laid before the House of Commons within one calendar month of its completion.”’—(Anneliese Dodds.)

This new clause requires HMRC to carry out a review of the conditions under which business investment relief is available, including estimates of the value of the reliefs (before and after the changes proposed in this Bill) and an analysis of the characteristics of those using the relief, including their domicile status.

Brought up, and read the First time.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time.

Clause 25

Trading profits taxable at the Northern Ireland rate

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

With this it will be convenient to discuss new clause 2—Review of changes to chargeability of trading profits to corporation tax at Northern Ireland rate

“(1) CTA 2010 is amended as follows.

(2) After section 357WH (Allocation of Northern Ireland profits etc of firm to company), insert—

‘357WI  Review of changes to chargeability of trading profits to corporation tax at Northern Ireland rate

(1) As soon as practicable after the completion of the first financial year in respect of which the Northern Ireland rate is set by the Northern Ireland Assembly in accordance with the provisions of section 357IA, the Commissioners for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs shall complete a review of the effects of the changes to chargeability of trading profits to corporation tax at the Northern Ireland rate made in Schedule 7 to the Finance (No. 2) Act 2017.

(2) A review under this section shall consider in particular the effect of those changes on the extent to which companies are based in—

(a) Northern Ireland, and

(b) Great Britain.

(3) A review under this section shall also consider the effect of those changes on the extent to which the profits or losses of companies and firms are Northern Ireland profits or losses.

(4) A review under this section shall also consider the effect on employment in—

(a) Northern Ireland, and

(b) Great Britain.

(5) A report of the review under this section shall be laid before the House of Commons within one calendar month of its completion.’”

This new clause requires HMRC to carry out a review after the first year of operation of the Northern Ireland rate of the effect of the changes in Schedule 7 on the location of companies in Northern Ireland and in Great Britain, the extent to which trading profits and losses are treated as subject to the Northern Ireland rate and on employment in Northern Ireland and in Great Britain.

As with my contributions earlier this afternoon, I will set out why the Government have included this measure in the Bill, before turning to new clause 2.

Clause 25 and schedule 7 make amendments to the Northern Ireland corporation tax regime. The Government are committed to supporting growth across all parts of the UK. Creating a stronger Northern Ireland economy will benefit the entire United Kingdom.

Northern Ireland faces a unique set of circumstances and challenges. That was why, in 2015, this House legislated to devolve corporation tax rate-setting powers to the Northern Ireland Assembly, subject to commencement regulations. The introduction of the regime received nearly unanimous support from Northern Ireland’s political leaders and business community. The rate-setting powers given to the Northern Ireland Assembly are another tool to help to rebalance the Northern Ireland economy by revitalising private enterprise and attracting new investment.

This clause and schedule amend the regime to allow all small companies with trading activity in Northern Ireland the opportunity to benefit from future changes in the Northern Ireland corporation tax rate. They also make changes to ensure that the regime is robust against abuse and ready for commencement once a restored Northern Ireland Executive demonstrate that their finances are on a sustainable footing.

It may help the House if I set out how the devolved rate regime has been designed to focus on incentivising genuine investment in Northern Ireland. The regime was set out in the Corporation Tax (Northern Ireland) Act 2015.

The Minister is making a powerful case as to why the devolution of corporation tax is a good thing for the Northern Ireland economy, but should the same case not apply to Wales and Scotland, because it creates an imbalance if one devolved Government have a set of fiscal powers that the other devolved Governments do not have?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention, but there is, of course, one key distinction between Wales and Northern Ireland, and that is that Northern Ireland has a land border with the Republic of Ireland, which has a corporation tax rate of just 12.5%. It is particularly important in that context that we make these provisions.

The Minister makes a fair point about the land border, but large parts of Wales, including my part of Wales—the west of Wales—have a sea border with the Republic of Ireland.

I do not think it is within the scope of this particular clause to start getting too much into the devolutionary settlement for Wales.

The regime was set out in the 2015 Act, which, subject to commencement regulations, will devolve corporation tax rate-setting powers to the Northern Ireland Assembly. The Government have committed to working with an incoming Northern Ireland Executive on options for commencement, including on timing and adjustments to the Northern Ireland Executive block grant to reflect tax revenues forgone by the UK Government.

There are two key features to the regime’s design. First, the devolved rate will apply only to a company’s trading profits; investment activities, which are highly mobile, are not in scope. Secondly, the Act requires large companies with a substantial trading presence in Northern Ireland to calculate their Northern Ireland profits separately from the rest of their profits. That calculation must follow internationally accepted principles for attributing cross-border profits. Broadly, that means that companies with profits generated in different tax jurisdictions must calculate their branch profits as though each branch were an independent entity. These profit attribution rules are important to make sure the regime works as intended.

An SME with 75% or more of employment time and costs in Northern Ireland would have all its trading profit taxed at the Northern Ireland corporation tax rate. An SME below the 75% threshold would have all its trading profits, including those generated in Northern Ireland, taxed at the UK corporation tax rate.

Does the Minister accept that the introduction of this will allow for the rebalancing of the Northern Ireland economy in a very beneficial way? It will allow us to generate more investment and, potentially, more private sector jobs. Of course, this corporation tax will not apply to the financial service sector, so it will not wrongly attract businesses away to Northern Ireland.

My hon. Friend makes the very powerful point that this is not about brass-plating and shifting profits; it is about generating growth in a very important part of the United Kingdom.

Since we legislated in 2015, we have heard that some small businesses want the option to benefit from the Northern Ireland corporation tax rate on the proportion of their profits generated by trading activity in Northern Ireland. The changes made by clause 25 will give all SMEs trading in Northern Ireland the potential to benefit from the devolved rate, should they choose to do so. That will be done without watering down the rules, and it will ensure that the regime is focused on incentivising genuine economic activity in Northern Ireland. Like large companies, those SMEs that opt to take advantage of this measure will be required to calculate their Northern Ireland profits according to well-established principles. These changes deliver a fair outcome for small companies.

Let me be clear that under these rules a company’s trading profits will be taxed at the Northern Ireland rate only if the company has a substantial physical presence in Northern Ireland and if that is where the economic activity that generates the profit takes place.

New clause 2 would require HMRC to conduct a review of the impact of the changes in schedule 7 on the corporation tax system, the location of companies and the levels of employment across Northern Ireland and Great Britain. A mandated formal review is not an appropriate response to a regime that has been carefully designed to be robust in relation to avoidance and abuse, and one that, as I have said, builds on tried and tested rules when doing so. As with all policies, the Government will monitor the regime closely once it is commenced to ensure that it operates as intended. I urge the Opposition not to press the new clause.

Does the Minister accept that those who espouse the peace process also want to see an economic dividend post that process? Therefore, why would anyone want to vote against something that allows that economic dividend, building upon the peace in Northern Ireland?

My hon. Friend makes a powerful point. This is about strengthening Northern Ireland’s economy, society and infrastructure, to the end that we all seek, which is a stronger and more united Northern Ireland.

In conclusion, these provisions include changes that will ensure that the regime is robust against abuse, in order to maintain the regime’s focus on encouraging genuine additional economic activity in Northern Ireland.

I thank the Financial Secretary for introducing this group. This is an important debate, not only for the future of Northern Ireland, but for this country’s overall approach to taxation and devolution.

We know—we have discussed it frequently throughout this process—that our country faces a substantial tax gap. The official estimate of the UK’s tax gap is at least £36 billion, up from £33 billion in 2010, but that is at best a conservative estimate, given that the Government’s definition of the tax gap excludes convoluted corporate structures, which we know are used by multinationals to minimise their tax liabilities. The view that the tax gap is underestimated is shared by the Institute for Fiscal Studies and the Public Accounts Committee. I think that we all agree that that £36 billion, and possibly more, is money that should be used to fund our public services, and that everybody should pay their fair share.

Corporation tax is an important part of the UK’s tax revenue. In 2016-17, HMRC collected £56 billion in corporation tax receipts. Although it is important that we keep the rate competitive, particularly in the light of the UK’s exit from the European Union, it is worth noting that we face a law of diminishing returns in this regard. At 19%, the UK’s corporation tax rate is already one of the lowest in Europe. We should be confident that we do not need to plunge the rate to rock bottom in order to encourage businesses to invest and domicile here. The UK plays host to a wealth of resources that enable it to be globally competitive, including our legal system, our language, our time zone, our infrastructure, our regulatory bodies and, most of all, our people.

It is equally important that Northern Ireland is equipped with the tools to compete in that international landscape, as has been brought to the fore recently with the punitive tariffs aimed at Bombardier in the United States. As the Financial Secretary has explained, the corporation tax rate has already been devolved to the Northern Ireland Assembly, through the Corporation Tax (Northern Ireland) Act 2015. Now that that legislation has been decided, it is for Northern Ireland’s politicians to work together and use those powers to see where the line lies between a lower tax rate and the broader appeal of Northern Ireland as a business destination. At present, the decision has been that 12.5% best achieves those ends. It is not my intention to revisit those arguments today, and nor would it be appropriate to do so, given the reasons already outlined.

What is relevant, and the reason Labour has proposed new clause 2, is the relationship between that rate and the rest of the UK. The gap between 12.5% and 19% represents a significant potential for arbitrage between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. Some businesses might base their decisions on where to domicile purely with regard to taxation, and that is a risk that we accept—indeed, we already compete with the rest of Europe on that basis. Our concern is that the Government are introducing measures that could be exploited by companies that will seek to abuse the proximity between Northern Ireland and the UK simply to divert profits and benefit from a lower tax regime, which would benefit neither the UK nor Northern Ireland.

The hon. Gentleman spoke a few moments ago about the importance of competitiveness throughout Europe. Does he agree that the argument that he is making runs counter to the attempts to make Northern Ireland’s private sector business more competitive, when we have a difficult relationship with the Irish Republic and its very low corporation tax, which he has alluded to?

I take the hon. Gentleman’s point, but I would not agree with his characterisation of the situation. We are making the case that our amendment will really benefit Northern Ireland, because if the relationship was abused and firms sought to benefit from the lower rate without investing in Northern Irish jobs or business production, that would surely defeat the purpose of having a lower corporation tax rate—that is the sole point of trying to devolve the rate to Northern Ireland. Our concern is that loosening the rules could lead to brass-plating, where UK businesses are given a loophole that allows them to domicile their businesses in lower-tax jurisdictions while they continue, in reality, to operate in the UK.

The hon. Gentleman recognises that the one sector in which the proposals might be abused, the financial services sector, is specifically precluded from taking advantage of them. Could he provide the House with an example of a sector that he thinks would abuse the rules?

I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman’s assertion that only the financial services sector will seek to do that. We are proposing a very reasonable review of the measure after one year, and he has nothing to fear from such an amendment.

Labour, more than any other party in this House, has consistently made the case for a level playing field between larger and smaller businesses, but a level playing field cannot be simply an equal race to the bottom in which smaller businesses are given the same tax avoidance opportunities as larger ones. That is not to say that the rule changes will necessarily lead to a flight of small and medium-sized enterprises rushing to domicile in Northern Ireland. We note that the majority of enterprises operating in the UK are honest and committed to paying their fair share. We should be vocal in praise of that contribution and its role in making the UK economy a success. However, opening what could become a loophole is significant, and it is critical that we protect against unforeseen consequences.

At this stage we have little indication of the potential impact of this measure, because behavioural effects are notoriously unpredictable to model. For that reason, we have tabled an amendment that calls on the Government to review the measure as soon as is practicable after the completion of the first financial year in which it has been fully in force. The report of that review would be presented to the House within one month. That would allow us to understand fully the impact of chargeability, see how companies are responding and react accordingly if the measure is being treated as a loophole. In turn, if evidence shows that the measure is forging stronger business links between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, and that the impact to the Exchequer is minimal, at least a proper assessment will have been made.

We are at a critical time when the UK economy simply cannot afford to lose revenue to tax avoidance. We have heard in the Chamber many times the arguments about why it makes little sense to drop corporation tax rates to below European averages. To do so betrays a lack of confidence in the many attractions of the UK as a domicile for ambitious companies that seek to grow their businesses. We should not be compounding revenue loss by opening a back door to even lower corporation tax rates without a framework in place to assess the impact properly.

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman agrees that one of the biggest economic challenges that we face is the huge and gross geographical wealth inequality within the British state. Is the Labour position that fiscal devolution has no part to play in the strategy for dealing with geographical wealth inequalities?

The hon. Gentleman is not correct in that assessment. I certainly agree with him that regional disparity in the UK is one of the principal economic challenges that we face, but I do not agree that the solution is a race to the bottom in corporation tax rates between different parts of the UK. That would be neither effective nor the right way forward, and it would almost certainly fail to address the problems that he raises.

I put it to the House that new clause 2 is a sensible, pragmatic and effective proposal to deliver objectives that are widely shared by Members from all parts of the House: a prosperous Northern Ireland, an effective partnership across the nations of this country and a competitive UK with strong public finances supporting quality public services.

First, I welcome the proposal in the Finance Bill, which adds to the previous decision about devolving corporation tax to Northern Ireland and giving us autonomy to make decisions about what the appropriate level may be.

I am a bit bemused by new clause 2. The argument is that devolving corporation tax to Northern Ireland and our having a different rate will somehow or other open the door to abuse. That objection could of course have been made, and more appropriately made, when the decision was made to devolve the tax in the first place. If it is open to abuse, it will create the kind of problems described by the shadow Minister, but if that were the case, I cannot understand why these issues were not raised at the time we voted on the principle of devolution. I suspect this is more to do with the fact that the Labour party is opposed to any reduction in corporation tax.

Let me address a couple of the points that have been made about extending this to small and medium-sized enterprises. The Minister made it quite clear that the criteria are, first, that they have to have a physical presence in Northern Ireland; and, secondly, that they have to register profits commensurate with the activities they engage in in Northern Ireland. That of course will have to be shown—by accounts, by employment, by the physical infrastructure that such a business would have in Northern Ireland—so there are already safeguards anyway. It can be measured whether an SME is simply moving paper money to register profits in Northern Ireland, or whether it is creating genuine jobs.

The biggest safeguard will be the decisions made by the Executive in Northern Ireland—if, indeed, an Executive is ever up and running again in Northern Ireland. We hope there will be, but that is one of the problems at the moment. It is not in the interests of the Northern Ireland Government to allow the situation that has been described by the Labour spokesman, for the simple reason that the payment for the devolution of corporation tax comes from the block grant. If we allow companies simply to migrate their business to Northern Ireland, register their accounts in Northern Ireland and declare their profits in Northern Ireland, but they do not actually create any physical activity in Northern Ireland, we will have to pay the amount of tax lost from the block grant. There will be no better policeman or policewoman of this than the Northern Ireland Executive themselves.

The review asked for—if there is any point in a review after a year—is therefore superfluous. First, there is the evidence that the company has to produce, and then there will be the scrutiny of HMRC. When we negotiated the devolution of corporation tax, compliance costs were built in, because of the additional scrutiny. It will also be in the interests of the Northern Ireland Executive to ensure that the system is not abused. For all those reasons, I believe that the new clause is superfluous. It is not needed, and we will therefore vote against it.

I want to raise one additional point. My hon. Friend the Member for East Antrim (Sammy Wilson) has set out very well a number of our concerns about the proposed new clause. We have looked at this issue in the Northern Ireland Assembly, and I had the privilege of being the Chairperson of the Finance Committee when we considered the detail of it. We listened to concerns from small business and to those outlined by the Opposition spokesperson, but the key objective is to attract new business and jobs to the UK. We do not necessarily want movement from the rest of the UK to Northern Ireland. This is about foreign direct investment, trying to create new jobs and contributing positively to the economy of Northern Ireland and of the UK.

In Northern Ireland, we have looked at this issue for many years. It has been scrutinised by committees. We have had a range of consultants and others look at the detail of the proposal because we want it to work. As my hon. Friend the Member for East Antrim said, we do not want it to be simply an exercise in brass-plating or anything like that. We want jobs, employment and further investment in Northern Ireland.

One of the big issues in terms of the movement and type of jobs we want is certainty. Certainty is essential if we are to get commitment from companies—hopefully, big companies—to move into the UK for the first time and to invest in plant and staff recruitment. The proposal in new clause 2 to have a review after 12 months will create uncertainty. What international business would look at the UK and invest in plant, employees and recruitment when one of the big incentives to moving—the lower corporation tax rate—could be removed following a review after just 12 months? It is essential that we remain positive about the measure and have certainty about it. I reiterate: we want new jobs for the UK, and we want them in Northern Ireland.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 25 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

New Clause 2

Review of changes to chargeability of trading profits to corporation tax at Northern Ireland rate

‘(1) CTA 2010 is amended as follows.

(2) After section 357WH (Allocation of Northern Ireland profits etc of firm to company), insert—

“357WI  Review of changes to chargeability of trading profits to corporation tax at Northern Ireland rate

(1) As soon as practicable after the completion of the first financial year in respect of which the Northern Ireland rate is set by the Northern Ireland Assembly in accordance with the provisions of section 357IA, the Commissioners for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs shall complete a review of the effects of the changes to chargeability of trading profits to corporation tax at the Northern Ireland rate made in Schedule 7 to the Finance (No. 2) Act 2017.

(2) A review under this section shall consider in particular the effect of those changes on the extent to which companies are based in—

(a) Northern Ireland, and

(b) Great Britain.

(3) A review under this section shall also consider the effect of those changes on the extent to which the profits or losses of companies and firms are Northern Ireland profits or losses.

(4) A review under this section shall also consider the effect on employment in—

(a) Northern Ireland, and

(b) Great Britain.

(5) A report of the review under this section shall be laid before the House of Commons within one calendar month of its completion.”” —(Jonathan Reynolds.)

This new clause requires HMRC to carry out a review after the first year of operation of the Northern Ireland rate of the effect of the changes in Schedule 7 on the location of companies in Northern Ireland and in Great Britain, the extent to which trading profits and losses are treated as subject to the Northern Ireland rate and on employment in Northern Ireland and in Great Britain.

Brought up, and read the First time.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time.

The Deputy Speaker resumed the Chair.

Bill (Clauses 5, 15 and 25) reported, without amendment, and ordered to lie on the Table.