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House of Commons Hansard
21 February 2018
Volume 636

    Consideration of Bill, as amended in the Public Bill Committee

    New Clause 9

    Equality impact analyses of certain provisions of this Act

    ‘(1) The Chancellor of the Exchequer must review the equality impact of the provisions of this Act specified in subsection (3) in accordance with this section and lay a report of that review before the House of Commons within six months of the passing of this Act.

    (2) A review under this section must consider—

    (a) the impact of those provisions on households at different levels of income,

    (b) the impact of those provisions on people with protected characteristics (within the meaning of the Equality Act 2010),

    (c) the impact of those provisions on the Treasury’s compliance with the public sector equality duty under section 149 of the Equality Act 2010, and

    (d) the impact of those provisions on equality in different parts of the United Kingdom and different regions of England.

    (3) The provisions specified in this subsection are—

    (a) income tax (in sections 1 and 3 to 6),

    (b) employment (in sections 7 to 10),

    (c) disguised remuneration (in sections 11 and 12 and Schedules 1 and 2),

    (d) pension schemes (in section 13 and Schedule 3),

    (e) settlements (in section 35 and Schedule 11),

    (f) air passenger duty (in section 43),

    (g) vehicle excise duty (in section 44), and

    (h) tobacco products duty (in section 45).

    (4) In this section—

    “parts of the United Kingdom” means—

    (a) England,

    (b) Scotland,

    (c) Wales, and

    (d) Northern Ireland;

    “regions of England” has the same meaning as that used by the Office for National Statistics.’—(Dawn Butler.)

    This new clause requires the Chancellor of the Exchequer to carry out and publish a review of the effects of certain provisions of the Bill on equality in relation to households with different levels of income, people with protected characteristics, the Treasury’s public sector equality duty and on a regional basis.

    Brought up, and read the First time.

  • I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

    New clause 9 stands in the name of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition and other hon. Friends.

    I thank the previous Minister for Women and Equalities, the right hon. Member for Putney (Justine Greening), for the equality impact assessment response sent to me just before Christmas. Her responses are normally quite upbeat. I found this response a little lacklustre, but it highlighted why we need to support new clause 9. Her letter highlights the weaknesses of “due regard” and goes on to make a somewhat puzzling statement:

    “All Departments carefully consider the equality impacts of individual policy decisions taken on by those sharing protected characteristics in line with our legal obligations and our clear commitment to equality issues.”

    Therein lies the problem: this Government have not shown a clear commitment to equality issues, far from it. With 86% of the cuts falling on the shoulders of women, and with black, Asian and minority ethnic people and the disabled suffering more than any other group, I find it hard to understand why the Government try to proclaim that they are committed to equalities.

  • The hon. Lady says that the Government have not made a clear commitment. Does she not agree that compelling companies in our country to publish gender pay gap information—the first time any Government have done that—is a very clear signal that is already making real change for women working in those companies?

  • I agree that it is good to get companies to publish their pay gap information, but there are no teeth if companies fail to do so. That is a real problem that needs to be addressed. We need to tackle the gender pay gap, and there needs to be punishment for companies that fail to address the pay gap—that is an unfortunate failing in the Government’s plan.

  • Does the hon. Lady recognise that voluntary publication schemes—such as on participation, as demonstrated by the Crossrail project—show that companies will comply through social pressure? There is a brand equity question, so we do not need a hard punishment. Through brand equity and reputation, there will be punishment enough if companies fail to comply.

  • Again, the problem is that very few companies have actually published, and the deadline is quickly approaching.

    The letter from the right hon. Member for Putney went on to say that the Treasury would complete a cumulative impact assessment. I have yet to receive confirmation of that cumulative impact assessment, so will the Minister confirm that it has been done and whether a copy will be placed in the Library?

    I know that it is often difficult for the Government to hear the Opposition’s views, so I urge them to listen to the voices of Conservative Members, such as the right hon. Member for Loughborough (Nicky Morgan), the Chair of the Treasury Committee. The Committee is obviously a little perplexed by the lack of commitment to equality impact assessments. The Chancellor has complained about the type of data gathered, but when he was asked whether he had asked the Office for National Statistics about the gathering of that data, he replied that he had not. That does not exactly show a commitment to equality, does it?

    The Treasury Committee went on to say:

    “The Treasury should use ONS and HMRC data to produce and publish robust equalities impact assessments of future Budgets, including the individual tax and welfare measures contained within them. A deficiency of data in respect of some protected characteristics is not a reason for failing to produce an analysis in respect of others for which data is available. Nor should the risk of misinterpretation or methodological complexity preclude the publication of an Equalities Impact Assessment.”

    In short, just do it.

    The only reference in the Budget to identified gender impact is where it disproportionately affects men. What possible reason could there be for that? I understand that the Treasury Committee would welcome an explanation of the Government’s thinking, and so would we. It just does not make sense. The Chancellor alluded to the fact that Ministers see the equality impact assessments for their Departments. That makes me wonder: if Ministers see them, read them and give proper due regard to them, why would they implement the policies they do?

    If the Government fail to support this new clause, there can be no public confidence in the Government’s commitment to protect and not punish people with protected characteristics. For the record, let me say that the nine protected characteristics are age; disability; gender reassignment; pregnancy; maternity; race; religion or belief; sex; and sexual orientation. I understand that the Prime Minister is a little pre-occupied and weak at the moment and that she is dealing with a serious ransom note, but I honestly believe she will not be pleased that her legacy will be the hindering of women and their life chances.

    More children are homeless or living in temporary accommodation now than at any time since the 2007-08 financial crash. Shelter says that homelessness is a national scandal and estimates that 140 families become homeless every day. The estimate of rough sleeping shows an increase of 134%. Every day, we see and hear the damaging effects that this Government’s policies have had on people, especially those with protected characteristics. This Government are damaging, not protecting, vulnerable groups in our society. Even when the Government conduct an equality impact assessment, they seem to ignore it. Just two weeks ago, they released an equality impact assessment that revealed more bursaries will be axed—this is for about 1,000 nurses who enter the profession each year. The assessment revealed that the latest change risks discouraging women who are ethnic minority or from poorer backgrounds, but the Government went ahead and did this in any case.

    We need a Prime Minister who cares enough to start laying foundations by which we can bring about true equality for women, diverse communities, LGBT+ communities and those with protected characteristics. A Labour Government led by my right hon. Friend the Member for Islington North (Jeremy Corbyn) would do just that. A Labour Government’s success will be measured by how they reduce inequality. The next Labour Government will ensure that we publish comprehensive equality impact assessments and conduct them before implementing policies. A Labour Government would have pre-legislative and post-legislative scrutiny to ascertain whether policies are making a situation better or worse. The Labour way will enable us to truly build an economy for the many and not the few. If the Government fail to support this very reasonable new clause, more people will question—

  • I am sorry, but I am just coming to the end of my speech. If the Government fail to support this very reasonable new clause, more and more people will begin to question why this Government are so intent on harming and hindering women and those with protected characteristics, as opposed to helping them.

  • It is a pleasure to take part in the final day of debate on this Finance Bill. We have had a lot of debate during the past few weeks. The hon. Member for Oxford East (Anneliese Dodds), the Minister and I have spent quite a lot of time together in the Committee Room, on not only this Bill, but the customs Bill. It is good to be here again to talk about this. It is a great way to start talking about equalities, particularly in respect of this new clause put forward by the Labour Front-Bench team.

    The new clause is incredibly important, because the way the Government and previous Governments at Westminster have done Budgets has not been particularly transparent and has not resulted in people knowing what the effects of all the policies will be. I have said before that this is a good new clause and I am delighted to support it on behalf of the Scottish National party. I wish to highlight a number of things in it and to make more general comments about transparency and the processes the Government use to create Budgets and make tax law. The new clause talks about various things, including an analysis of the impact on the different protected characteristics.

  • Let me focus on just one of those characteristics, as the issue of age is incredibly important. A number of decisions the Government make on tax policy have a differential impact on people of different ages. We have spoken in this Chamber on a number of occasions about the generational divide that exists. We are seeing “generation rent”, with millennials and those who are younger facing a very different housing situation from those in generations that came before. Therefore, any tax changes that happen affect that group of people differently from how they affected those in the previous generation when they were the same age. It is important that any analysis undertaken by the Government considers the generational divide and examines the impact on not only that group of millennials and younger people, but people of state pension age. It must consider the impact on them of any changes to taxes that are coming through.

    The hon. Member for Brent Central (Dawn Butler) mentioned the issues relating to women, and it is clear that a major gender pay gap remains. I recognise that the Government have ensured that companies have to publish this information. That is really important, but the publications I have seen so far from companies have caused me even more concern than the situation we were previously in. One company recently produced a gender pay report that stated that men in the organisation were paid significantly more than women and that this was not an equal pay issue because the men were overwhelmingly doing higher-paid jobs. This was a travel company and men were the pilots whereas women tended to be the cabin crew; 95% of this company’s pilots were men and 80% of its cabin crew were women. That is still a major issue, because women are finding it very difficult to become pilots and men are not finding it that easy to become cabin crew either. There is a real issue to address. Even though I welcome the fact that these data have been published, this has highlighted more structural, institutional issues that need to be solved, as well as simply those relating to equal pay. Any impact analysis that the Government carry out needs to ensure that it takes into account all these things.

    Let us look at some of the decisions the Government have taken previously, such as the changes made on the marriage allowance. I welcome the positive changes that are being made to the marriage allowance in the Bill, but the creation of the marriage allowance disproportionately has a negative impact on single female parents. That is still a major concern for the SNP. We still have real issues with the marriage allowance and do not think it has been properly thought through, because of the lack of fairness in that system.

  • My hon. Friend is making a good point on the marriage allowance, as ever. Does she agree that it creates a significant inequality, in that I, as a married woman, suddenly get this advantage over an unmarried woman? That is an injustice and an unfairness in the tax system. The Government really should not be in the business of telling people that it is financially beneficial to get married.

  • I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend that people should not feel that they should have to get into a marriage, a civil partnership or any kind of signing on a dotted line relationship, to get a tax break. People should have the choice on that. As I said, this allowance has a disproportionately positive effect on people who are married, particularly on men; it is women who tend to be disadvantaged because they cannot receive this allowance.

    Turning to other things in the new clause, I have previously talked, particularly during consideration of the customs Bill, about the differential regional impacts that Brexit will have, particularly now that the leaked Government analysis shows that there will be significantly higher negative impact on areas in the north of England, for example, than in London and the south-east of England. Therefore, when the Government make policy they should be making sure they are trying to balance that out and to put in place policies that are more beneficial to those negatively impacted areas, to counterbalance the major negative effect that Brexit will have.

    We need to provide the people in those areas, particularly those at the bottom of the pile, with a fairer system that is better for them. Were the Government to analyse that, we would be in a better position and could see more clearly what they thought the impact would be. Part of the problem is that the Government do not know the impact of some of these policies. They do not know what the differential impact will be because they have not looked at it. If they have all this analysis, it should be easy for them to publish it and to give it to Members, so that we can scrutinise it and make the best decisions.

  • The hon. Lady talks about regional disparity; does she really think that the Scottish National party policy of increasing taxes in Scotland is a good way to narrow that disparity?

  • I have expressed particular concerns about those people in England who earn under £26,000 a year and will pay more tax than they will in Scotland and about whether the Government feel it is fair—[Interruption.] I am sorry, Mr Speaker, but I am being shouted at from across the Chamber. Those people at the bottom of the pile who earn under £26,000 a year will pay more tax in England than they would in Scotland. That is not fair, because those people—

  • Will the hon. Lady give way?

  • No thanks.

    It is not fair because those are the people who most need Government support, especially given the changes to tax credits and the negative impacts we have seen, with disabled people losing £30 a week. This is a major issue for the most vulnerable people. The Conservatives shout about the fact that tax rates for those who earn a reasonable income will be slightly higher in Scotland than in England, but it is clear that they support a different system that does not involve as much fairness as the system that we are trying to support in Scotland.

    On the process of Budget scrutiny and the general process of scrutiny of Finance Bills, I have previously expressed vociferously my concerns about the fact that Finance Bill Committees do not take evidence. It would be much better if they did, and if they did, I would like to see them take evidence from organisations such as the Women’s Budget Group that can talk about the gender disparity in some of the tax decisions that are made. But I honestly do not think that that is enough. It is not enough to have scrutiny after the fact. Despite the Government moving to one fiscal event in the year, which is a change that I welcome, there is not the level of consultation that there could be before tax measures are suggested and put in place—before the Chancellor stands up and reveals his Budget.

  • In a Westminster Hall debate this morning, I outlined the benefit that the European Community brought to my constituency through the funding of vital infrastructure projects. Of course, there is a revenue follow-on from that, because road improvements lead to people being able to get to hospital quicker and other things like that. We are grateful for that. Does the hon. Lady agree that, in respect of the Bill, it would have been helpful had some consideration been given to the effect of the reduction of that money and what that will mean for the UK Exchequer? Indeed, it would have been helpful to consider what that would mean in terms of helping the Scottish Government to replace that funding, as and when.

  • I agree with the hon. Gentleman’s point. I made the point earlier about regional differences and the impact of Brexit. It is important not only in relation to the GDP reduction that areas might see because they will not be able to trade as easily with EU countries, but in respect of the money that came from the EU and was used for things like infrastructure projects. It is important that the Government counter those reductions.

    When the Chancellor stands up to give his spring statement, which we hope will be light on tax changes—that is what tax experts and the business community are asking for—and when he delivers his Budget, it is incredibly important that he has done as much consultation as possible beforehand. He should not only speak to business organisations and Conservative MPs, as I know he does, but open the net wider and consult in advance on any tax measures that he wishes to put in place. He should also take on board new clause 9, which would ensure that an impact analysis is carried out afterwards.

  • Can the hon. Lady explain the consultation that the Scottish Government undertook before they introduced higher taxes for Scottish taxpayers? Many of my constituents do not feel that it was fair and many businesses have expressed concerns. Despite the calls for consultation, the Scottish Government’s consultation before the introduction of their own plans for higher tax was not reflected in any changes.

  • Before the vote on the Scottish Government’s budget, they produced a paper on the rationale behind their proposed changes. They consulted each of the parties in the Scottish Parliament and asked them all to put forward their tax plans, so that they could be analysed. The consultation was first put forward in October or November—I am not entirely sure—and the vote is taking place today. That left a significant length of time between the production of the consultation documents and the first discussions and the actual vote in Parliament.

    Here in Westminster, we have the Budget debate and then the votes on the Ways and Means resolutions. We have votes on proposals that are being put in place from that day. That is very different from the situation in the Scottish Parliament, where a length of time is allowed for consultation because the draft budget is produced. All the parties in the Scottish Parliament are welcome to produce an Opposition budget and they are welcome to take that to the Parliament to be voted on. Some of them have chosen to do that and some have not. I suggest that those that have not chosen to do that might be struggling to balance the books, or they might have just decided that ours is clearly the best option.

    I do not wish to take up any more time. The call for equality assessments and for more transparency and information would be helpful not only for the Opposition, who scrutinise the Budget, but for the Ministers who take decisions. They would take better decisions if they could see all the impacts, particularly on people with protected characteristics.

  • I wish to make a few brief comments, particularly as I was unable to intervene on the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Brent Central (Dawn Butler). I was quite shocked by some of the accusations she made and by what I consider to be her somewhat unsubstantiated claims about a rather illusory bright future under a Corbyn Government. I felt that she somewhat ignored the legacy of the previous Labour Government, who failed to build homes, thereby contributing to the current housing challenge; who failed on jobs, leaving many thousands of families jobless when the Conservative Government took over; and who increased inequality in our society.

  • The number of home-owning households increased by 1 million under the Labour Government and has fallen under Conservative Governments. I thought it important to correct the record.

  • It may be important to correct the record and I know that the hon. Member for Oxford East (Anneliese Dodds) was led into that by the observations of the hon. Member for Faversham and Mid Kent (Helen Whately)—it is quite easy to elide into disorderly conduct—but it is important that we try to focus the exchanges on new clause 9, to which with laser-like intensity I know the hon. Member for Faversham and Mid Kent will now turn.

  • The hon. Member for Oxford East (Anneliese Dodds) made a different point from the one I made. My point stands because it was about the building of houses.

    By contrast with the previous Labour Government, the current Government have made progress on the gender pay gap. This is the Government who are requiring companies to publish data on the gender pay gap. As we well know, and as has been said this afternoon, transparency is a huge driver of change. We have seen that in many sectors, including a lot in the health sector, which is where I got most of my experience. This Government introduced and are raising the national living wage, which disproportionately benefits women; this Government have taken the lowest paid out of tax; this Government are making sure that for every £1 that the lowest-income households pay in tax, they benefit from £4-worth of public spending; and this Government have overseen a huge expansion in jobs so that millions more are in work.

    On the point that the hon. Member for Brent Central made about children, it is significant that many more children are now in households in which somebody in the family is working; far fewer are in workless households. We know that work is key to getting out of poverty.

  • My hon. Friend is making a great point about our record on job creation. Does she also recognise that it is this Government who have overseen the greatest expansion of women in work since records began?

  • My hon. Friend makes a very good point. We have put in place policies to help women. The extra free childcare for three-year-olds benefits both parents but, as women are often the main child carer, it particularly helps women who have an ambition to work.

  • Does my hon. Friend recognise that, since the last Labour Government were in power, youth unemployment has been cut in half? That generates opportunities, the dignity of work, the chance to get on and the chance for women and children to achieve their best in society?

  • I thank my hon. Friend for making such an important point. This Government have given thousands of young people the opportunity to have a job. It was not that long ago that everyone was always talking about NEETs—the big debate was about all those young people not in education, employment or training. Those numbers have now shrunk phenomenally under this Government’s leadership.

  • The hon. Lady has mentioned the power of numbers to be able to track progress. Obviously, new clause 9 is about the power of numbers to be able to track progress in tackling inequality. If she thinks that those numbers were so important in the battle to ensure that we did not leave young people behind, why does she not think the same when it comes to women and ethnic minorities?

  • I am not surprised by the hon. Lady’s intervention. The point is that there is a thorough impact analysis of the Budget. Where does it get us if we endlessly go around these things, again and again?

  • If we compare 2003 to 2006 under the Labour Government with 2013 to 2016, we will see that the number of women in business and entrepreneurship has grown by more than 40%. Does my hon. Friend agree that that shows the Government’s commitment to women in business?

  • Another very well-informed point from a colleague about the great progress that women are making in the workplace with the support of this Government.

    The headline point that I was keen to make is that this Government have a track record in reducing inequality. I am keen to ensure that we base what we say on the track record—the track record of improving the lives of people on the lowest incomes and of reducing inequality.

  • Does my hon. Friend agree that this is about not just incomes, but equality of opportunity and aspiration?

  • I agree. We should not just look at the outcomes. The outcomes are a desired end but, in order to get to a better outcome, the key is to give people opportunities to make the most of their lives. In particular, we should help those who have a difficult start, or who find themselves in a difficult situation. They may need extra help to access the opportunities but, absolutely, opportunity is the key.

    Rather than painting a picture that can mislead people into believing this illusion of a perfect world, we need to base claims on substantial policies. I know that it is controversial, but universal credit is making a difference in my constituency for people who want to work and who want to work more hours. I have heard many criticisms of the policy, but genuinely it is making a difference and giving people the opportunity to increase the work that they do. Improvements in the standard of education and the opportunities coming through thanks to the industrial strategy—these are the concrete policies that will make life better for people. That is how we reduce inequalities and that is why I am delighted to support the Government throughout this Finance Bill.

  • Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for the chance to speak on new clause 9 and more broadly.

    As I said when I intervened on the hon. Member for Brent Central (Dawn Butler), I appreciate that we should look at the distribution and at the impacts of some of the Budget provisions. That is what the Treasury already does. At every budgetary event, it does look at the impact on distribution across the United Kingdom. ONS statistics also look at distribution and the impact across different households.

    When we talk about making sure that we shine a light on these issues and target equality, for which I and many Members share the hon. Lady’s passion, we should recognise that this is the Government who put pressure on companies to produce these publications. Although there is not yet full compliance, I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury will continue to put pressure on the sector—I referred to this matter earlier—to follow other industry-leading programmes such as Crossrail, which use publication and peer review to add pressure and to show companies what best practice is in the UK and internationally.

    Let me pick up on some broader points about the pay gap, particularly the gender pay gap. I hope that Opposition Members saw the recent study quoted in the Financial Times just a month ago—I would be happy to share it with them—which looked at male and female pay rates. Those rates were actually very equal up to around middle-to-senior manager level, after which there was a big gap. The biggest disparity, and where some of the most uneven gap appears, was at the very senior roles, as in chief executive officer and chief financial officer roles. One of the key drivers for that, as stated in that study, was women taking maternity leave. So we have already identified the pay gap problem, and we should be looking at policies to increase flexible working and to help women back into the workplace after taking maternity leave. I know that colleagues on the Front Bench have been looking into that and have reflected that in the Budget.

    More broadly, let me pick up on some of the points made by the hon. Member for Aberdeen North (Kirsty Blackman) about tax and equality. Just to be clear—new clause 9 refers to every part of the United Kingdom—some of the tax increases that have just been made in Scotland are said to produce a much fairer society, but, to clarify this for the House, the tax changes mean that those on the lowest incomes in Scotland get £20 more a year—that is it. That is 38p a week. When Scottish National party Members stand in this House and lecture this Front Bench and this Government on being unfair, let us remember that the tax changes that the SNP has introduced bring in 38p a week, or £20 a year, and the tax changes that the Conservatives have introduced bring in £1,500 a year through the changes to the tax threshold. Let us leave the SNP to bicker on the sidelines while the Conservatives bring about truly transformational change.

    I was also amazed by what the hon. Member for Aberdeen North said about the marriage allowance. I am glad that she was pulled up on it, because the party has been in the papers about the marriage allowance just this weekend. The Chancellor of the Exchequer of the UK Government had to stand up and guarantee to people living in Scotland that the Government will bridge the gap created in the marriage allowance by the tax changes that have been imposed by the SNP Administration in Holyrood. Yet again, it is the UK Exchequer that is having to stump up for SNP failures in Scotland.

    When we talk about fairness, it is also important to recognise that it is this Budget that is increasing the block grants in Scotland in real terms. It was even recognised by the Finance Secretary, Derek Mackay, in the Scottish Parliament, that it is a real-terms increase. Therefore, on top of the £1,750 per head spending we get—or Union dividend we get—already, we are getting a further real-terms increase to spend on frontline services in Scotland.

    I am conscious of the time, but one important area that impacts on equality issues is tax avoidance, which has been picked up in the Budget. I am talking not only about tax avoidance generally, but about the VAT provision. The Public Accounts Committee, of which I am a member, has been specifically interested in that. The provisions that have been included to target VAT avoidance, especially for international payment platforms and for international marketplaces, give the Exchequer a good opportunity to target those who are not currently paying VAT but who should. Hopefully, that will bring more money into UK coffers and allow us to close the equality gap further still.

  • I appreciate that we are all concerned with driving equality across the country, but the Government clearly differ from the Opposition on how to achieve that. I am proud to be part of a Government who are one of the most progressive we have seen. Our record speaks for itself. It is not about slogans and words; it is about real progress and real change in people’s lives. That is what the Conservative party cares about. Labour Members would like us to introduce a review for every provision in the legislation. It is clear to Conservative Members that this already happens. The Treasury already publishes the impact analysis of these policies.

  • The simple fact is that the Treasury does publish the distributional analysis alongside the Budget. To the Chancellor’s credit, he brought that back in after his predecessor had decided that it was not politically convenient. The Treasury does not, however, do a breakdown of the Budget’s impact along a whole range of protected characteristics defined by the Equality Act 2010. New clause 9 would address that. The Government do not presently do this analysis, but as Conservative Members seem to be saying that the Government do already do it, they will have no trouble voting for the new clause, will they?

  • I return to the point that we are already publishing the analysis. The Treasury is working on looking at the impact of the policies across a whole range of levels.

    My main argument is that we need to look at what the Government have already delivered. As I said to my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham and Mid Kent (Helen Whately), more women are in work under this Government. That is real change. Those women have been able to get into work because of the wide variety of policies that we have introduced including childcare, help to get into work and retraining at all times of life.

    We have seen a massive change in income inequality, which, under this Government, is at its lowest level for many years. Since 2010, households across all income deciles have seen growth in their disposable income.

  • This Budget increased the national living wage by 4.4%—well above the rate of inflation—which disproportionately assists people like me, from an ethnic minority background, who often find themselves in low-paying work. Does my hon. Friend agree that this a great testament to the Government’s work?

  • My hon. Friend makes a very important point. As she says, the national living wage helps people from all sectors of society, including those with protected characteristics. Our record on these policies speaks for itself.

  • The hon. Lady is promoting the Government’s record. One reason that the Labour party wants to get explicit equality impact assessments—not the tax information and impact notes, which I think is what she has been told the Government do produce—is that the evidence is showing counter to what she suggests. For example, we know that the gender pay gap between women in their 20s and men in their 20s has actually started to grow under this Government. It is now five times what it was six years ago. I do not know where the hon. Gentleman from Scotland got his data. I got mine from the Office for National Statistics, if he wants to have a look. Can the hon. Lady account for that? Does she not understand that having the data—understanding where Government policy is either promoting or helping to deal with the situation—would help us all to make progress?

  • The hon. Lady is a passionate advocate for addressing the gender pay gap. I will come to the issues she raises shortly.

  • Is not it important to see the wood for the trees here? The wood, so to speak, is to show precisely the point that my hon. Friend has indicated—that women on lower wages now do not start paying income tax until they earn £11,500, instead of paying at £6,475 as they did under former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and they gain over £1,000 in the process. The suggestion that we need a whole load of impact assessments is rather given the lie to by the fact that a lot of data is already published by the Office for National Statistics. If the hon. Member for Walthamstow (Stella Creasy) wishes to make her point about it in the House of Commons, she is able to do so.

  • My hon. Friend really reinforces my point, which is that it is about putting pounds in the pockets of people up and down the country. That is what this Government have done, informed by fairness from the day that we came into office.

  • The hon. Member for Cheltenham (Alex Chalk), as ever, needs clarification. There is data that shows us that the gender pay gap is growing. We are asking for analyses of the impact of Government policy so that we can understand it. We are talking about two different things. I hope that clarifies, for him and for the hon. Member for Redditch (Rachel Maclean), why the new clause matters.

  • I care passionately about addressing the gender pay gap. I chair the all-party parliamentary group for women in Parliament, which does cross-party work on this issue. There is a wider remit that Members on both side of the House take extremely seriously, especially in this—the Vote 100 year. The gender pay gap has been addressed by this progressive Conservative Government, who want to see real change in our country and who want to put an end to the situation mentioned by the hon. Member for Aberdeen North (Kirsty Blackman). She was absolutely right to say that we have men in higher-paying roles and women in lower-paying roles. However, new clause 9 would not fix this situation, as it is a complex issue that requires a range of interventions and a range of changes across the board.

  • The hon. Member for Walthamstow (Stella Creasy) referred to me when she mentioned the figures. I was quoting a study referenced in the Financial Times that I would be happy to share. The study did not say that the gender pay gap was closing. It said that men and women up to a certain level of seniority earn pretty much the same amount in most sectors, and that it is the outliers at the senior C-level who skew the data and contribute to a lot of the pay gap. [Interruption.] The hon. Lady may shake her head, but she mentioned clarification of figures, asked where they were from and called out my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Alex Chalk), so I wanted to make sure that she had pure clarification. I also want to make it very clear to her that I am the Member for Ochil and South Perthshire, not all of Scotland.

  • It is clear that we all take this matter extremely seriously.

    Earlier I intervened on the hon. Member for Brent Central (Dawn Butler), who spoke from the Opposition Front Bench. She said that the Government have no teeth to act when companies do not publish the data. It is my understanding that the Government do have teeth to act. We have something called the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which can act when companies fail to publish the data. I urge Treasury Ministers to pay close attention to that.

    From the work I have done in the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, I am aware that a number of companies have published the data. That is great news because it is now in the public domain. The Conservative Government made that happen, not the Labour Government. Now many more companies are following suit, and it is making a big difference to the employees of those companies. The Equality and Human Rights Commission can issue a notice and require implementation. As my hon. Friend the Member for Ochil and South Perthshire (Luke Graham) said, this is a complex issue.

    I draw Members’ attention to the work of the 30% Club, set up by Helen Morrissey, who got a load of business leaders together and urged them to take voluntary action to put women on boards. Although there was absolutely no legal right or Government mandate, she found that the business leaders were all worried about reputational damage, culture and their image with their employees, and she saw significant changes across the board. I was an employer before I came into this House, so I know that addressing the issue is not simply a matter of passing laws in the Chamber or the Government carrying out a review. It is about a societal and cultural change. I am proud that our Government, led by our Prime Minister—the second female Conservative Prime Minister—are leading from the front on this issue, and that companies and businesses across the board are following suit.

    The Government’s record speaks for itself. It is not just about slogans. It is about enacting policies that make a big difference. I worry that requiring analyses and placing additional burdens on the Treasury at this time—when it has a massive amount of priorities to deliver in order to make our tax system fairer and to achieve the progress and outcomes that we all want—would have the opposite effect. I have certainly seen for myself the danger of unintended consequences when we regulate and put more burdens on businesses.

    I do not support new clause 9 and will not vote for it if there is a Division.

  • It is a great pleasure to be called in this debate and to follow such wonderful speeches from my colleagues. I understand that the Treasury publishes the distributional analysis of the cumulative impact of the Government’s tax, welfare and public services.

    I have never been shy about voting with the Opposition if I believe that they are right, but I do not believe they are right in this case. That is because the review that they are asking for, which focuses predominantly on households with different income levels, and issues around Treasury analysis, just provides more data and more analysis, and that is not going to help people on the lowest incomes or those from disadvantaged backgrounds to move forward in life. It seems to be very academic as opposed to actually helping people to push forward and achieve opportunities. For me, the real challenge in this country is inequality in opportunity and in life chances. At the moment, the best way of changing one’s life chances is still through getting a great education. I am proud of the Government’s record, with millions more children being educated in good or outstanding schools. We should all be proud of that on both sides of the House.

    As I say, I am not shy about voting with the Opposition if I believe they are right. I have campaigned on—

  • Does my hon. Friend agree that in Hertfordshire we have seen a lot of investment in the schools sector, which is helping to achieve the sort of results that he is talking about, with, for example, Highfield School in my constituency being completely rebuilt recently?

  • I do agree with my right hon. and learned Friend. I have another colleague from Hertfordshire here as well—my hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Bim Afolami). We have seen massive investment in our area. I am very proud of the number of primary schools that have been expanded and rebuilt in my constituency. A couple of secondary schools have also been rebuilt, creating great opportunities for the pupils. I am also very proud that all the primary schools in my constituency are rated “good” or “outstanding”. It is probably one of the few constituencies in the country where that is the case. Four of my six secondary schools are good, and the other two we are currently dealing with. I hope that by the time of the next election I will be one of the few Members of Parliament where every single child in my constituency will be in a good or outstanding school.

    I do not believe that new clause 9 provides equality of opportunity and equality of aspiration. It will do nothing to help people in my constituency from disadvantaged—

  • We are all concerned to see good schools, I think. Does the hon. Gentleman recall a former Prime Minister who argued that sunlight was the best form of disinfectant? Having the numbers to track why, disproportionately, young men from black and ethnic minority backgrounds do worse in our schools, for example, and whether Government policies are influencing that, or whether their parents’ income might be an issue, would help him to understand how he gets those better schools.

  • The hon. Lady and I agree on a lot of things and disagree on others. We have debated issues across this Chamber and in Committee Rooms. I do not think that figures will help those children. Figures are just retrospective and talk about what is possibly happening.

  • I want to clarify something. Equality impact assessment is part of the public sector equality duty. It looks at the implementation of policies, assesses them, and sees whether they have helped or hindered progress. That is all that equality impact assessment does. It is a good thing. It is not an extra burden; it makes for good decision making.

  • My difference of opinion with the Opposition is that I think that a good teacher probably makes a much bigger difference to a child’s education and chances in life than an impact assessment and something from the Treasury. With regard to forecasts from the Treasury and economists, stuff that we have seen over the past couple of years, and the nearly eight years I have been a Member of Parliament, shows that in reality those figures never seem to be right.

    This is about equality of opportunity and equality of aspiration. I would like to talk about universal credit. I campaigned on some of the issues on universal credit. I believe that universal credit, as a product, is the right thing to do. It was supported by both parties in the sense of stopping the cliff edge for people who could not take on an extra hour or two of work because they lost all their benefit. The idea behind universal credit was that the benefit would be reduced over a certain period. I know that there are still live issues with the Treasury over the size of the take. I hope that the Minister is taking note of that, because I continue to raise it with the Chancellor. I think that the withdrawal rate is still too high.

    Universal credit is doing more than new clause 9 would do to help people’s life chances—more than a document saying what has happened and people’s opinions of what could or could not have hindered the situation.

  • It is good governance to have a look at the impact of one’s policies on society.

  • The hon. Lady makes a very good point, but I cannot support the new clause because it will not do anything to help people practically. It will just allow academics and economists to argue over moot points, whereas I am interested in actually helping people from disadvantaged backgrounds who want the opportunity to go off and aspire to achieve and to be anything they want to be. It is very sad, in this day and age, that we are discussing the fact that we need to identify whether certain sections of society need more support than others. We should be aiming to get to a society—

  • Given that, for example, over 80% of the social security cuts enacted by Conservative Governments have fallen on the shoulders of women, would it not have been helpful for those women, and indeed for us as decision makers, to know about that before the decisions to implement them were taken?

  • The hon. Lady makes a very earnest point, but I cannot accept those figures.

    A huge amount of money has gone into social care. At the moment, there are people in my constituency on fixed and low incomes who are very disappointed about the 3% that is going to be levied on their council tax for social care, because that will have a negative impact on their income, although it helps other sections of society and is the right thing to do. This new clause is about academics and economists as opposed to helping real people on the ground on a day-to-day basis. Some Labour Members are shaking their heads, but they got involved in politics for the same reason that I did, which is to help people to get on in life and achieve the best that they can. That is why I am a Conservative and why most people in this Chamber are Conservatives.

    Returning briefly to the welfare system, as that is my area of expertise, we want a system that works. When we look at universal credit, the Treasury’s distributional analysis provides an analysis of the cumulative impact on welfare and public services. My view is very much about developing policies to help people get on in life. New clause 9 is just about providing some information on what has affected people in the past over a number of years, and by the time we are focused on the next Budget or other fiscal event, things have moved forward again.

  • My hon. Friend is making, as I think everybody knows, a very powerful speech. Does he agree that new clause 9 is indicative of the fundamental difference between Labour Members and Conservative Members? We care about action and doing things and improving people’s lives; they want more analysis.

  • My hon. Friend makes a very powerful point. We can see why he was selected to be the Member of Parliament for Hitchin and Harpenden. He stands up for his constituency incredibly well, as does my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for North East Hertfordshire (Sir Oliver Heald). I am proud that we have three Hertfordshire MPs who are speaking in this debate because we are interested in helping people to get on in life. As a result, we have incredibly low unemployment in our areas.

  • The hon. Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Bim Afolami) is absolutely right: this new clause does highlight the difference between the Government and the Opposition. The Government are intent on taking actions, regardless of whether they help, hinder or hurt people, whereas Labour Members want to ensure that we have policies that help society.

  • The hon. Lady makes a very powerful point that I respect, but I assure her that I only vote for policy that I believe will help people, and if I do not believe that it will help people, I do not vote for it. I have voted against the Government for that reason. I have a record of doing that and will continue to do so.

  • I am sure my hon. Friend agrees, as many would, that the Treasury produces excellent research documents, and research is an important thing, but are these further demands for research not indicative of the difference between the parties, which is that they are the researchers, and we are the doers?

  • I could never disagree with my right hon. and learned Friend. He always makes a powerful point.

    One of the biggest challenges in society is intergenerational fairness. I do not think that new clause 9 captures some of the issues we face as a society and the challenges facing different generations. There are some people living in large houses, paying high council tax rates and on very low fixed incomes. There are young people who may be considered quite affluent but still cannot afford to purchase a property in their part of the country. In a different part of the country, they could easily afford to purchase a property but may not be able to get a job, so cannot get a mortgage. Intergenerational fairness is incredibly important, and the Government have tried to spread wealth throughout the country through the northern powerhouse.

    I think that the Conservative Government have tried very hard. They have not always got it right, and I have voted against them when I believed they have got it wrong, but they have tried consistently to help people get on in life and provide a welfare system that is a safety net for those who need it in times of difficulty.

    In this country, education is still the best way out of poverty and the best opportunity people have to change their life chances. I am proud of what the Government have done to ensure that millions more children are being taught in good and outstanding schools. When it comes to the economy, we have record rates of employment, with people out there earning, paying tax and contributing to society.

  • I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. I have listened to him for some time. He seems to be making quite a lengthy speech; I do not know if that is just a thing that is happening on the Government Benches at the moment. He talks about equality and people getting on in life. I respect the fact that he has rebelled against the Government when he sees fit. He spoke about the importance of a good education and people coming out of school and university, but does he share my concern that under-25s are not included in the national living wage? What does he think about that?

  • From my point of view, there are geographic issues with the national living wage. For instance, it is much more expensive to live in Hertfordshire. One shocking challenge we have in Hertfordshire—I imagine a lot of people in the rest of the country will not understand—is that my constituency is 19 minutes from King’s Cross, and as a result, we lose a lot of our young people to London. When I became a Member of Parliament, there were fewer than 200 apprentices a year starting work in Stevenage. We now have nearly 1,000 apprentices a year starting work in Stevenage. That was the only way of holding on to our young people.

    On new clause 9 and distributional analysis of the cumulative impact, if a young person in Stevenage becomes an apprentice, the employer pays for them to get a level 4 degree. They will be earning £25,000 a year and not getting into debt in university. It is geographic.

  • I declare an interest: I began my career as a modern apprentice. The reality is that under UK law at the moment, apprentices can still be paid as little as £3.50 per hour. How does that fit with building a country that works for everyone?

  • In Hertfordshire, £3.50 an hour would not be acceptable. In Hertfordshire, employers have to pay far more than that to attract a young person, otherwise they just will not get them. That is the reality. I think I have the highest unemployment rate in Hertfordshire, at 1.6%.

  • Order. I think it is quite important that the hon. Gentleman returns to the substance of the debate—new clause 9. Just mentioning it every now and then does not do the trick.

  • You are very kind, Madam Deputy Speaker. I obviously had no intention of misleading you in trying to mention it now and again. New clause 9 and the Treasury publishing a distributional analysis of the cumulative impact of Government’s tax, welfare and public service spending is quite a wide-ranging topic. I was trying to make the point that I do not support new clause 9 because it seems academic, as opposed to helping people from different backgrounds to achieve their life chances. On that note, I shall conclude.

  • The speeches from Conservative Members have been so rousing that I have been moved to speak to take on the sheer absurdity of the arguments we have heard this afternoon. Member after Member has told us that they oppose new clause 9 because the Government already do this. If the Government already do this, why do they not support new clause 9?

    The fact is that the Government do not already do this. What the Government do is publish an impact assessment with a distributional analysis of Budget measures by households depending on income. That measure was introduced by a previous Chancellor, until the current Chancellor’s predecessor decided it was politically inconvenient and got rid of it. The present Chancellor, to his credit, decided to bring it back. That assessment is interesting and useful. It informs Ministers when they are making decisions, but it does not cover the measures that new clause 9 addresses.

    The fact is that the Government’s Budget and the Finance Bill are a reflection of their political priorities and tell the country about the problems the Government want to address and how they intend to do so through sufficient provision of resources. The simple fact is that if the Government made an equality impact assessment of their Budget measures, we may not be in a position where women in their 50s are being clobbered by changes to their state pension age at a time in their life when they have little time or opportunity to address it.

    As a result of the Government’s refusal to listen to argument, evidence and reason, I see constituents in my surgery on a Friday afternoon—women in their 50s—who tell me that they have lost their job and are not able to access their pension when they expected. They had planned for retirement, and as a result, they can no longer make ends meet. There is nothing they can do about it at that stage. Had the Government considered the evidence, they might have made a different decision.

    Had the Government assessed the equality impact of their Budget, we might not be in a position where disabled people have been consistently and repeatedly clobbered by changes to welfare and other areas of public policy. If, as local authorities do, the Government looked at the equality impact of their decision, they might seek to take steps to mitigate the impact on disabled people. Instead, nationally and locally, disabled people have too often had the books balanced on their backs, which is totally unjustifiable.

    If the Government looked at the impact of their Budget measures on black and minority ethnic people, they might well take a different approach to the provision of resources in education to address the imbalances. They might also find, through analysis and research—words that have become anathema to this Government in their approach to public policy making—some surprises, such as the fact that detrimental changes to small businesses have a disproportionate impact on BME communities. They may choose to do something about it, or they may not, but at least their policy making would be better informed.

    In the debate on this Bill, someone has to stand up and make the case for reasoned, evidence-based public policy making. It is a total disgrace that in the democratic discourse of this country, we now see the trashing of experts. We are warned that if we adopt new clause 9, academics may debate it—God forbid that people with some degree of expertise should debate the laws that we pass, because goodness knows it does not happen in this Chamber often enough. What is it about expertise and data that the Government are so afraid of? What it is about information that they find so terrifying?

  • Perhaps the hon. Member for Braintree will tell us. I look forward to hearing what he has to say.

  • I am curious. The hon. Gentleman expresses his desire for experts to have a role in the production of Finance Bills. Does he therefore not regard Treasury officials as experts?

  • Unlike Conservative Members, I have high regard for Treasury officials, and I do not trash the data produced by civil servants in the way that Ministers of the Crown do. I think civil servants are a very good example of experts, and I would like the expertise of the Treasury and the civil service to be drawn upon to produce exactly the kind of equality impact assessment that Labour is calling for in new clause 9.

    It is because I have faith in civil servants’ insight and ability to gather and garner evidence to inform Ministers that I would like to see a more evidence-based approach to public policy making. If we had such an approach, we would undoubtedly have a better quality of government—and goodness knows we need that, when we look at the current state of things. We would also have a better quality of debate in the House about what our priorities are, the challenges facing the country and how to tackle them.

  • The hon. Gentleman makes a big play of analysis. Can he inform the House of the analysis that Labour has undertaken of the distributional impact of £170 billion of extra borrowing and the interest payments on our communities?

  • I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that intervention because he makes exactly the point I have made since the general election. We put forward policies in our manifesto—by the way, they proved immensely popular across the country and led to a result that a lot of people were not expecting—and I think we should do a distributional analysis of such policies across the board to make sure that resources are properly targeted where they are needed.

    In conclusion, we should not fear such information and evidence, which would lead to better-informed government. The greatest tragedy of this Prime Minister is not the fact that she is being held hostage by the hard Brexiteers on the right of her party; it is that she has not delivered on a single one of the sentiments in the fine words she said on the steps of Downing Street about creating a more equal society and tackling injustices that are still burning injustices even in one of the richest economies in the world in the 21st century. Sentiments are all well and good, but we need policies that are backed up by evidence and reason, and we need the ability genuinely to tackle the problems that the Prime Minister set out so long ago on the steps of No. 10, but which I fear she will never be able to implement before they boot her out next year.

  • Before I plunge into new clause 9, as indeed I will at some length, may I concur wholeheartedly with the statement made by the hon. Member for Ilford North (Wes Streeting) when he praised civil servants for their impartiality, objectivity and professionalism? In my experience of the Treasury, I have always found them to be exactly that. We should all register that important point.

    We have had a fairly wide-ranging debate. I hesitate to add that, on one or two occasions, it has been marginally informative. On one occasion—I will not name the Member—it was very informative because I actually learned something I had not previously known. The reason why it has been wide-ranging is that this is of course an extremely important issue. What I hope unites Members on both sides of the House is that every Member of the House deplores unwarranted inequality. It is not that we are all entirely equal—we are, of course, different—but we have a right to be treated with equal respect and a right to equal opportunity and aspiration, as it was eloquently termed my hon. Friend the Member for Stevenage (Stephen McPartland).

    If I may, I will look at new clause 9 in a little detail. As I have suggested, it has been slightly absent from this debate, so let us bring it back to centre stage. The new clause seeks to require the Chancellor of the Exchequer to provide a

    “review before the House of Commons within six months of the passing of this Act.”

    In so doing, the Chancellor has to look at a number of aspects of the impact of the Finance Bill now going through the House. Under the new clause, the review would look at

    “the impact of those provisions on households at different levels of income”.

    As has already been pointed out at length, we have indeed brought back the household distribution analysis that looks at tax, welfare and public expenditure, and at the impact of those elements on different income levels by decile.

    Under the new clause, the review would also look at

    “the impact of those provisions on people with protected characteristics (within the meaning of the Equality Act 2010)”.

    This is perhaps a good moment for me to say something very important. Ministers of course always seek to operate within the law, and the Equality Act is very clear about our duties as Ministers when we consider various policies that come before us. Those policies are not just those before us in the context of a major fiscal event, but policies and decisions we take day in and day out, some of which never even pass through this House. We do so not just because of the law, but because we think it is the right thing to do.

    Under new clause 9, the review would also look at

    “the impact of those provisions on the Treasury’s compliance with the public sector equality duty under section 149 of the Equality Act 2010, and…the impact of those provisions on equality in different parts of the United Kingdom and different regions of England.”

    The new clause then focuses on the specific taxes covered by the assessment the Chancellor of the Exchequer would be required to present in the report. I want to make one important general point: in looking at regional aspects of spending and tax, it is far easier, for fairly obvious reasons, to consider the spending elements than the regional distribution when it comes to taxation.

  • Does the Minister agree that it would be so impractical to carry out such impact assessments that it would slow down Government business? Perhaps one of the reasons why the Opposition have tabled the new clause is to make it difficult for us to get our policies and the Finance Bill through.

  • I thank my hon. Friend very much for that intervention, because she touches on the important point that there is an element of proportionality. As I will come on to argue, one of the difficulties with accepting the new clause is that a lot of the information is not available. That is not an argument for not going out and finding the information, but some of it would be extremely difficult to generate. I would not go as far as my hon. Friend in suggesting that this is a Machiavellian plan to gum up the works of Government, but I am sure some Opposition Members might be pleased to see that happen. I take the new clause in the spirit of the wording in front of me.

  • I just want to help the Minister a bit. The Women’s Budget Group, the Runnymede Trust and lots of other organisations, as well as the ONS and HMRC, accumulate the data that would be needed, so the data necessary to carry out equality impact assessments are available. In fact, the Treasury does some assessments anyway.

  • The hon. Lady is suggesting that one particular set of analyses is an ideal set to present, and can be seen as in no way misleading, but entirely robust and entirely objective. If we are to reach such a quality of data, we will have to achieve certain specific aims, and one of the aims is to deal with the fact that a lot of the analysis to which she is referring is very selective—it does not look at the entire picture. For example, some of the analysis reflecting changes in income tax may show a benefit for one sex over another, but it may not take into account the impact of increased spending on childcare.

  • Will the Minister give way?

  • If I may finish this point, I will then certainly give way to the hon. Lady.

    A lot of these analyses simply look at the static situation, without taking into account the fact that the measures we are bringing forward will in themselves have a dynamic effect on the economy—for example, by driving up employment. Several Members have spoken very eloquently about the record level of female employment at the moment. That is benefiting women, but the interaction of our policies with that benefit would not be reflected in such an analysis. I have already mentioned that a lot of the information being sought is very difficult to verify and very difficult to obtain, particularly where it pertains to protected characteristics, such as sexuality, gender reassignment and pregnancy. It is very hard to identify those groups and the way in which they are affected, particularly in terms of all the taxes in new clause 9—I will come on to them in a moment—that the Opposition want us to address.

  • I will make a final point before I give way to the hon. Lady. It has been a long time since we have jousted, and I have missed it, so I will certainly give way to her. There is a very important point about the impact in particular on households, which is one of the major thrusts of new clause 9. It is very difficult to disentangle the effect of income that may go to one member of the household, but is of course subsequently shared across the household. The Institute for Fiscal Studies has itself highlighted that as a particular barrier to getting robust information. I will now gladly give way.

  • I am very grateful to the Minister for his generosity in giving way, and for his kind words. I want briefly to mention that the Department for Work and Pensions does produce this kind of modelling for social security changes, which may be similarly complex in looking at the interactions of different elements, so why does the Treasury take a different approach? In relation to that, would not the assumptions be spelled out, so that any ambiguity could be made clear?

  • I thank the hon. Lady for her intervention, but I bring her back to new clause 9. Whatever the DWP happens to be doing, whether it is right or wrong or whether it works, what we are facing here today and making a decision on is new clause 9. As I am working through new clause 9, I am arguing that it is not a practical way to seek to achieve that which the Opposition, quite genuinely and sincerely, are attempting to achieve.

  • I wonder if my right hon. Friend would like to say a word about the extent of research the Treasury already undertakes and publishes. It is my understanding that more than 2,500 Treasury papers have been published, so it is really a question, is it not, of where we draw the line? If a piece of research is proving very difficult, and would be very resource-intensive and so on, that will obviously make it less likely to be done than if it is a more straightforward piece.

  • Yes. My right hon. and learned Friend makes a very important point. As I have already pointed out, around major fiscal events we have household distributional analysis, which covers welfare, taxation and public expenditure. It takes a cumulative approach to that information and it is often relied upon by Government to take subsequent decisions. We also have, on substantial individual tax and national insurance contribution measures, tax impact and information notes—the so-called TIINs—which were introduced in 2010 and were not there under the previous Labour Government. We are, therefore, doing a number of things, both in the context of major fiscal events and on a tax-by-tax, national insurance-by-national insurance change basis, which look to provide just the kind of information that informs decisions around equality.

    The third part of new clause 9 relates to the taxes to which this analysis would apply. On income tax, as I have said, we are looking at impacts on households. We may raise the personal allowance, as we did in the last Budget. That is now up to £11,500. It could be argued that that disproportionately favours one sex over another, but when we look at the effect on the household, income is typically distributed within families, within households and within the family unit. That is extremely difficult—in fact, I would go as far as to say impossible—to capture.

  • The Minister made that point the last time we tried to discuss this issue. Forgive me, but he seems to be presuming that a household is a man and a woman. Has he managed to get his head around single person households and single women, because women’s incomes are disproportionately hit by Government policy? At the very least, could he manage to measure the women who are affected by his tax and policy changes who do not live with a man who might confuse him?

  • If the hon. Lady can come up with a sure-fire way of identifying women who live with men who do not confuse them, we will probably make some progress. The point I am making is that this area is riddled with huge complexity, yet new clause 9 seeks to achieve the presentation of reports and assessments that have the imprimatur of Government and the Treasury upon them. They are relied upon to take very important decisions, yet the arguments I am prosecuting suggest that we would actually end up with an incomplete picture. In fact, I would go further than that and say that they could be misleading in a way that would be unhelpful to what I know the hon. Lady is seeking to achieve and indeed what the Government are also seeking to achieve.

  • Does the Minister share the view expressed by many of us this afternoon that while those on the Opposition Benches are looking for very complicated analysis that may, unfortunately, be rather misleading, we actually have a very strong track record, if we take a step back, of reducing inequality and making things better for those on the lowest incomes?

  • Yes. My hon. Friend makes an extremely important point. We know that the gender pay gap is at its lowest level on record, for example. That is a very substantial achievement and we are making considerable headway in that particular respect.

    Some of the other taxes mentioned in new clause 9 include employment and disguised remuneration. Disguised remuneration is a highly complicated area, as the hon. Member for Oxford East (Anneliese Dodds) will know, having discussed it in some detail in Committee. The mind boggles as to how one would possibly unpack the effects on the various protected characteristics of that particular taxation. Pension schemes are also extremely complicated. Settlements and air passenger duty are perhaps a little bit easier than some of the others, but the point is that overall—and we have to look at the new clause in its entirety—new clause 9 is extremely complicated indeed.

    Finally, there should be no doubt that those of us on the Government Benches are entirely committed to ensuring that we drive the equality agenda and drive it very hard indeed. We should, as my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham and Mid Kent (Helen Whately) suggested, look to our own record in that respect. We now have more women in work than at any time in our history. In the past year, 60% of employment growth came from female employment. We have the lowest gender pay gap in full-time employment ever. Those companies employing 250 employees or more, as we have said often in this debate, are now required by law to provide a gender wage audit. Contrary to what the hon. Member for Brent Central (Dawn Butler) suggested, there are teeth. Penalties can be applied by the ECHR, and fines can follow where that is not done. For those who are disabled, we spend a record amount in excess of £50 billion a year on benefits. As has been said by a number of Government Members, the national living wage has disproportionately helped some of the most needy in our society. When we talk about equality on this side of the House, we mean it. I urge the House to reject new clause 9.

  • Having a detailed understanding of how policy choices exacerbate or eliminate inequality at every stage of policy making is key to tackling burning injustices and producing good policies. I wish to put new clause 9 to the vote.

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

  • Division 118

    21 February 2018

    The House divided:

    Ayes: 265
    Noes: 304

    Question accordingly negatived.

    View Details

    New Clause 3

    Review of operation and effectiveness of bank levy

    “(1) Schedule 19 to FA 2011 (bank levy) is amended as follows.

    (2) After paragraph 81, insert—

    “Part 10

    Review

    82 (1) Within six months of the passing of the Finance Act 2018, the Chancellor of the Exchequer shall undertake a review of the operation and effectiveness of the bank levy.

    (2) The review shall consider in particular—

    (a) the effectiveness of the levy in reflecting risks to the financial system and the wider UK economy arising from the banking sector,

    (b) the effectiveness of the levy in encouraging banks to move away from riskier funding models,

    (c) the revenue effects of the changes to the levy made in Schedule 2 to the Finance (No. 2) Act 2015,

    (d) the effectiveness of the anti-avoidance provisions in paragraphs 47 and 48 of this Schedule.

    (3) A review shall also compare the effects of the bank levy with those of the bank payroll tax (within the meaning given by Schedule 2 to the Finance Act 2010) in relation to—

    (a) revenue, and

    (b) the matters specified in sub-paragraph (2)(a) and (b).

    (4) A report of the review under this paragraph shall be laid before the House of Commons within one calendar month of its completion.””.(Peter Dowd.)

    This new clause requires the Government to carry out a review of the bank levy, including its effectiveness in relation to its stated aims, the revenue effects of the changes made in 2015 and the comparable effectiveness of the bank payroll tax.

    Brought up, and read the First time.

  • I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

  • With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

    New clause 4—Public register of entities paying the bank levy and payments made

    “(1) Schedule 19 to FA 2011 (bank levy) is amended as follows.

    (2) After paragraph 81, insert—

    “Part 11

    Public register of payments

    83 (1) It shall be the duty of the Commissioners for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs to maintain a public register of groups paying the bank levy and the amounts paid.

    (2) In relation to each group, the register shall state whether it is—

    (a) a UK banking group,

    (b) a building society group,

    (c) a foreign banking group, or

    (d) a relevant non-banking group.

    (3) In relation to each group, the register shall state the amount paid in respect of each chargeable period.

    (4) In relation to chargeable periods ending between 28 February 2011 and 31 December 2017, the Commissioners must make public the register no later than 31 October 2018.

    (5) In respect of subsequent chargeable periods, the Commissioners must make public the updated register no later than ten months after the end of the chargeable period.””

    This new clause requires HMRC to prepare a public register of banks paying the bank levy and the amount they have paid.

    New clause 5—Bank levy: Part 1 of Schedule 9: pre-commencement requirements

    “(1) Part 1 of Schedule 9 shall come into force in accordance with the provisions of this section.

    (2) No later than 31 October 2020, the Chancellor of the Exchequer shall lay before the House of Commons an account of the effects of the proposed changes in Part 1 of Schedule 9—

    (a) on the public revenue,

    (b) in reflecting risks to the financial system and the wider UK economy arising from the banking sector, and

    (c) in encouraging banks to move away from riskier funding models.

    (3) Part 1 of Schedule 9 shall have effect in relation to chargeable periods ending on or after 1 January 2021 if, no earlier than 30 November 2020, the House of Commons comes to a resolution to that effect.”

    This new clause requires the Government to provide a separate analysis of the impact of Part 1 of Schedule 9 nearer to the time of proposed implementation in 2021 and to seek the separate agreement of the House of Commons to commencement in the light of that review.

    Amendment 1, in schedule 9, page 134, line 2, at end insert—

    “34A After paragraph 81 insert—

    “Part 10

    Review of entities on which the bank levy is charged

    82 (1) Within six months of the passing of the Finance Act 2018, the Chancellor of the Exchequer shall undertake a review of the provisions in this Schedule defining which groups are covered by the bank levy.

    (2) The review shall consider in particular—

    (i) the adequacy of those provisions in applying the bank levy to groups that are—

    (a) not a group in paragraph 4(2) and

    (b) derive their income from investments in the manner of a group in paragraph 4(2),

    (ii) the adequacy of the groups in paragraph 4(2) in charging the bank levy to lending and investment entities,

    (iii) the degree to which the groups in paragraph 4(2) reflect lending and investment entities that have entered into contracts with public sector bodies,

    (iv) the adequacy of the definition of “investment group” in paragraph 12(9) in reflecting lending and investment entities that have entered into contracts with public sector bodies, and

    (v) the revenue effects of changes to include lending and investment entities that have entered into contracts with public sector bodies within groups covered by the levy.

    (3) The Chancellor of the Exchequer shall lay a report of the review under this paragraph before the House of Commons as soon as practicable after its completion.””

    This amendment requires a review about the appropriate extent of the bank levy in terms of the lending and investment entities which it covers, considering the extent to which it covers PFI finance groups and assessing the revenue effects of such an extension.

    Amendment 5, page 134, line 6, leave out from “in” to end of line 7 and insert

    “accordance with the provisions of section (bank levy: Part 1 of Schedule 9: pre-commencement requirements)”.

    This amendment is consequential on NC5.

    Amendment 2, page 134, line 10, at end insert—

    “37 The amendments made by paragraph 34A have effect from the day on this Act is passed.”

    This amendment is consequential on Amendment 1.

    New clause 6—Analysis of effectiveness of provisions of this Act on tax avoidance and evasion

    “(1) The Chancellor of the Exchequer must review the effectiveness of the provisions of this Act in accordance with this section and lay a report of that review before the House of Commons within six months of the passing of this Act.

    (2) A review under this section must consider—

    (a) the effects of the provisions in reducing levels of artificial tax avoidance,

    (b) the effects of the provisions in combating tax evasion, and

    (c) estimates of the role of the provisions of this Act in reducing the tax gap in each tax year from 2018 to 2022.”

    This new clause requires the Chancellor of the Exchequer to carry out and publish a review of the effectiveness of the provisions of the Bill in tackling artificial tax avoidance and tax evasion, and in reducing the tax gap.

    Amendment 3, in schedule 8,  page 103, line 41, at end insert—

    “21A After section 461 (counter-acting effect of avoidance arrangements) insert—

    “Chapter 11

    Review

    461A Review

    (1) Within six months of the passing of the Finance Act 2018, the Chancellor of the Exchequer shall undertake a review of the effects of amending the operation of this Part in relation to the excess profits of PFI companies.

    (2) For the purposes of the review under this section, it shall be assumed that the operation of this Part would be amended so as to—

    (a) deduct the uncompensated excess profit amount of PFI companies from the aggregate of the interest allowances of the group for periods before the current period so far as they are available in the current period for the purposes of calculating the interest capacity of a worldwide group under section 392 (the interest capacity of a worldwide group for a period of account),

    (b) provide that, for groups that contain a PFI company, the uncompensated excess profit amount for a period is equal to the group excess profit amount less the aggregate amount by which the group’s taxable profit has been reduced in prior periods as a result of such provisions,

    (c) provide that the group excess profit amount for any period will be the aggregate PFI excess profit amount for each PFI company in the group, and

    (d) provide that the PFI excess profit amount for a PFI company for a period will be the amount by which the internal rate of return on shares and related party debt in that company (from inception to the end of the previous accounting period) exceeds the internal rate of return set in the relevant PFI contract or, if no such return was specified, 10%.

    (3) For the purposes of this section, “a PFI company” means a company which has entered into a contract with a public sector body under the Private Finance Initiative or the PF2 initiative.

    (4) The Chancellor of the Exchequer shall lay a report of the review under this section before the House of Commons as soon as practicable after its completion.”

    This amendment requires a review about the effects of making provision to discount the excess profits of a PFI company for the purpose of calculating the aggregate of the interest allowance of worldwide groups in the provisions of Part 10 of the Taxation (International and Other Provisions) Act 2010.

    Amendment 4, page 105, line 17, at end insert—

    “26A The amendments made by paragraph 21A have effect from the day on this Act is passed.”

    This amendment is consequential on Amendment 3.

  • Let me start by reiterating the sentiments that I expressed in Committee when we were debating the bank levy. I said then that it served no one to

    “homogenise the people who work in the banking sector as either saints or demons.”—[Official Report, 18 December 2017; Vol. 633, c. 814.]

    Such a simplification ignores the complexity of our financial services, the individuals who work in them, and the institutional culture that informs the practices within them. About 2,000 people work in the banking sector in my constituency, particularly in Santander, and many of them are my committed constituents.

    Similarly, we cannot ignore the important role that banks play in the smooth functioning of our economy. We should avoid a “one size fits all” approach that lumps all banks together for the purpose of a bank-bashing session. The House should have a grown-up, mature discussion about issues such as the bank levy, the indisputable reasons for its introduction, its effectiveness, and why the Government are now desperate to cut it further. First, however—if I can be indulged slightly—I will say a few words about the political context of today’s debate.

    Since we last debated the Government’s proposed changes in the bank levy, there have been several developments. This has continued the long saga of what is now recognised as a divided and directionless Government, and it goes to the heart of the whole question of the Government’s finances. We have seen the resignation of the Prime Minister’s deputy, and a botched Cabinet reshuffle in which the Secretary of State for Health refused to budge, another Secretary of State returned to the Back Benches rather than moving to the Department for Work and Pensions, and the Conservative party headquarters wrongly announced that the Secretary of State for Transport would become the party’s chairman. That goes to the heart of the question of the Government’s competence, which also relates to the bank levy.

    During the recent Black and White fundraising dinner, at which the bank levy and our review of it were no doubt discussed, and which was held at the Natural History Museum—evidently live dinosaurs were visiting dead dinosaurs—the Prime Minister, addressing the Jurassic attendees, said:

    “we are on a renewed mission to fight and win the battle of ideas and to defeat socialism today”.

    How did the Government plan to defeat socialism in our modern age—the age of the fourth industrial revolution and the internet of things? The answer was that they held a raffle. While no doubt discussing the bank levy and issues relating to it, they raffled, at £100 a ticket, an eight-gun, 500-pheasant and partridge shoot donated by a millionaire hedge fund supporter who must know a great deal about the bank levy. That is how the Government will defeat socialism: by slaughtering 500 partridges and pheasants.

    To keep Tory MPs’ spirits up, the Chief Whip recently sent them all a letter telling them that their performance in Parliament had been “excellent”, and that

    “Remaining united in Parliament is a vital part of ensuring that Jeremy Corbyn remains in opposition”—

    I am not sure whether he was trying to convince his colleagues or himself. And so it goes on. It is little wonder that the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union has suggested that Ministers would have to be locked in a room for any agreement to be reached—that is, if they could all find the same room. I would agree with that suggestion, on the condition that we could throw away the key. Meanwhile, the Treasury has been briefing the press that the spring statement will be scaled back to include no Red Box, no official document, no spending increases and no tax changes—and perhaps no embarrassing U-turns either—as well as, no doubt, an inability, yet again, to talk about the bank levy, what we could do with it, and how we could make progress with it.

    Rather than the Government outlining a long-term economic plan, we have yet another Finance Bill engineered for the benefit of the few. There is little in the Bill to tackle our dreadful productivity performance, stuttering growth, high inflation and lack of investment in our infrastructure and people, but if we raised more from the banking levy, we could do something about that. In that context, the Government have come up with the bright idea of offering another tax break to the banks by further limiting the scope of the bank levy. That would ensure that, from 2020, banks will pay the levy only on their UK balance sheets, not their overseas activities.

    Our position on the bank levy has been clear: we have consistently argued for a more proportionate levy and pointed out that the levy, which would introduced in 2011, would raise substantially less than Labour’s bankers’ bonus tax. In short, we have always stood against the Government’s divisive austerity fetish.

  • I must gently point out that the Labour party’s position on the bank levy has been anything but clear. Labour Members opposed the levy when it was first introduced. They then called for it to be retained, and their amendments today propose neither retaining nor abolishing it. As the hon. Gentleman’s party’s position is entirely unclear, perhaps he could take this opportunity to clarify it.

  • We opposed the levy because it was a reduction in the taxes that the banks were paying. I know the hon. Gentleman wants to be generous to people who already have money and very ungenerous to those who do not have money, but he should give considerable thought to that before he makes such interventions, because it does not do his party’s reputation any good, as that sort of approach is mean and miserly.

    That was why we voted against the levy during our consideration of the 2011 Finance Bill, which introduced the bank levy along with cuts to corporation tax and tax giveaways for the most well-off—that is the context. It was also why we expressed concern in 2015 about the Government’s cuts to the bank levy and the introduction of the corporation tax surcharge, and it is why we will vote against this measure today. We will support my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow (Stella Creasy), who will—I suspect forlornly—call for a review of the effects of making provisions to discount excess profits of a private finance initiative company for the purpose of calculating the aggregate of the interest allowance of worldwide groups under the provisions in part 10 of the Taxation (International and other Provisions) Act 2010. We support that as a step in the right direction to tackle the whole construct and operation of PFI schemes, which was a policy announced last September by my right hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell), the shadow Chancellor.

    The bank levy was not the brainchild of a Conservative Government. It was not introduced because the previous Chancellor had been suddenly moved by public outrage about reckless decisions made by some in the banking sector who plunged us into the world’s greatest economic crisis in modern times. That is the context for this issue. The levy was not designed to ensure that banks received enormous and unprecedented bailouts from the taxpayer, such as when the Government purchased £76 billion of shares in RBS and Lloyds. It was instead designed to make banks pay their fair share, and I refer Members to the comments about schedule 9 on pages 83 to 93 of the explanatory notes, where that is laid out clearly and unambiguously.

    In fact, the very concept of a bank levy was developed at the G20 summit in Pittsburgh in 2009. It was championed by the previous Labour Government, who subsequently introduced the bankers’ bonus tax. In the austerity Budget of 2011, the coalition Government decided to dump the bankers’ bonus tax and to adopt the bank levy. At that time, Labour made it clear that the levy threshold was far too low when compared with the money that would have been raised if the Government had stuck with Labour’s bonus tax. Ministers folded under pressure from the banks and set the levy at a lower rate of £2.6 billion.

    The threshold was established—here we come to the issue of experts and taking expert advice—despite Treasury officials openly acknowledging it to be far too low. Under the original Treasury plans, the levy would have raised £3.9 billion a year, which is nearly £1.3 billion more than the £2.6 billion that has been indicated. But the then Government, lobbied by the privileged few, ensured that the threshold remained low. At 0.078% for short-term liabilities and 0.39% for long-term liabilities, the level that was set was—not to put too fine a point on it—a pretty tasteless joke compared with that of other countries that introduced a similar levy. It was less than a third of the level set in France, substantially smaller than the level in Hungary, which was set at 0.53%, and even lower than that of the United States of America. In 2015, under pressure from some of the Government’s friends in the finance sector, the then Chancellor cut the bank levy rate, and the current occupant of No. 11 has continued on that particular sojourn. In so doing, he has ensured that, by 2020, the UK’s biggest banks will have received a tax giveaway worth a whopping £4.7 billion. That £4.7 billion could been spent on our public services, and notably on children’s services, which have been cut to the bone.

  • The hon. Gentleman says that the banking sector has received a whacking tax cut. I will dispute that further in my later comments, but the figures are these: in 2009-10, the banking sector paid £17.3 billion in tax; last year, it paid £27.3 billion. That represents a 58% increase. So, far from having a tax giveaway, the banks are now paying more in taxes than they were six years ago by some margin.

  • That is not surprising: the banks returned to profitability because the taxpayer bankrolled them. That was how they got back into profitability, and they must pay their fair share of taxes as a result. The constituents of every Member of Parliament paid towards that, and when the profits came back in, the taxes went back up. We have helped the banks out, and they have to help our public services out.

    The Government claimed that their introduction of the 8% corporation tax surcharge would offset the cuts to the bank levy. If we look at the autumn’s Budget Red Book and the forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility, however, we clearly see that the surcharge will not match the fall in the bank levy. According to forecasts, the surcharge is set to increase by £300 million a year, while the receipts that the Exchequer receives from the levy will fall by £1.7 billion a year. That leaves a £1.4 billion gap. That is a fact that is printed in the Government’s Red Book and, as John Adams opined, “facts are stubborn things”.

    In 2018, we are still feeling the economic consequences of the actions of the banks. Every day, the Government tell us that there is no money for productive investment and that austerity must continue, yet they have conspired to undermine and limit any remuneration from the banks that caused this sorry state of affairs in the first place. Once again, the Opposition’s ability to amend this Bill has been hamstrung and blocked by the Government’s continued use of arcane parliamentary procedure.

  • The person who said that there was no money left was actually the occupant of the Treasury who left a note for the incoming Conservative-Liberal coalition Government in 2010. The reality is that of course there is money. We raise taxes and we spend them exceptionally wisely as a Conservative Government, particularly on infrastructure which, as the hon. Gentleman must surely agree, is now at record levels. It is just that we are still having to clear up the mess that was left by the last Labour Government.

  • The right hon. Lady can believe what she wants, but who will pay any attention to the Chief Secretary to the Treasury who took over from a Labour Chief Secretary to the Treasury, but was out of that job within two weeks because of issues around his parliamentary expenses? Does she expect us to pay any attention to that whatever? [Interruption.] That was what happened. David Laws—

  • Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

  • I will not give way. I am going to move on—

  • There’s a surprise!

  • The right hon. Lady can come back later on. This is not a dialogue, as you would no doubt tell me, Madam Deputy Speaker.

    We have a timid, feckless and self-obsessed Government who are frightened of their own shadow. They continue to give more money back to the banks, notwithstanding the fact that they keep telling us that the resources coming into the Government are insufficient to support our public services.

    We are seeking three things by moving new clause 3. First, we want to require the Government to carry out a review of the bank levy, including of its effectiveness in relation to its stated aims. Secondly, we want to establish the extent of the effect of the 2015 cuts on revenues from the levy. Thirdly, we wish to calculate how much would have been raised if the Government had stuck with Labour’s bankers’ bonus tax. Such a report would put under the microscope for all to see the Government’s malpractice—that is what it amounts to—in cutting frontline services while offering tax giveaways to banks that can more than afford them. It would require the Minister to acknowledge that far more would have been raised under Labour’s bankroll tax and, just as importantly, that the Government’s current bank levy has done little to influence and mitigate the risky banking practices that remain in use in our financial services industry.

  • It is also unsurprising and indicative of this Government that they have failed to keep a record of the banks that regularly pay the levy or a full list of how much they have actually paid. We would like that information, which is why, in the name of transparency—a concept alien to the Government—the Opposition have tabled new clause 4, which would create a public register for the bank levy. Once we can see the true cost of the Government’s policies, we can grasp the extent of their choices, and how they have favoured a small privileged group over the many citizens who are in desperate need of support. That goes to the heart of the new clause.

    My concerns about the bank levy do not merely relate to how the banking sector is taxed and regulated; they speak directly to this Government’s approach. Government is the business of making choices, and in this case the Government have chosen to put in place a giveaway worth billions of pounds for the wealthy few instead of helping to end austerity for the many, or even for a few of the many. Looking at it from any angle, this is a shameful set of affairs, and it becomes even more shameful when it appears that the money foregone to banks through a cut to the levy could have been used to support our children’s services, which are in a state of atrophy as a direct result of the Government’s choices.

    Only in the past two or three days, the Government have admitted to my hon. Friend the Member for Batley and Spen (Tracy Brabin), the shadow early years Minister, that cash-strapped local authorities have been forced to close more than 500 children’s centres. Those closures are a direct result of cuts to the funding of children’s services. Research published by Barnardo’s in December found that funding for children’s centres in England had been halved since 2010 from £1.2 billion to £600 million. That is why we want a review in relation to the bank levy.

    The picture is set to worsen. Last week, Norfolk County Council approved plans to halve its £10 million budget for children’s centres to try to cope with the cuts being passed to them by the Government. On the same day, councillors in Somerset unanimously agreed to close two thirds of its children’s centres. That is why we want to look at the bank levy and why we want a review. We do not yet have an assessment of the specific impact of austerity in Northamptonshire, where the Conservative council faces meltdown as a direct result of the Government’s agenda. It is safe to say that children will no doubt be suffering as much as the wider population as public services edge closer to collapse. That is why we want a review of the banking levy.

    As services have been decimated over the past seven years, we have seen a doubling of serious child protection cases and twice the number of children put into care protection plans. We want a review so that we can compare and contrast. Last year, 70,000 children were placed into care. Support for foster care, adoption and Sure Start children’s centres has all been reduced, and we have to work out how to support such services. Youth centres are closing, and short breaks for disabled children that are provided by local councils to give parents a break are going. Is that what we want? That is why we want to examine the banking levy.

    Taken together, the cuts mean that some of the most vulnerable children in our country are paying the price for seven years of the Government’s economic strategy. Meanwhile, the bank levy is being cut, so we want to examine that and check things out. That is why we are challenging the Government to support our review. Asking children to pay the price of reducing the levy is unacceptable mismanagement. In fact, Sir Tony Hawkhead has described the “devastating cost” to children’s services, which he says have been left

    “on an unstable and dangerous footing.”

    Prevention and protection services, which are vital to the proper care of our nation’s children, could be provided for if the banking levy were not cut. That would be a welcome relief to those services.

    We demand that the Government change course on the banking levy. That might make them unpopular with some people, but children come first, not the Government’s friends. That is why we are asking for this review. A review is the right thing to do for millions of children who need Government support to have the best chance in life. Should the Minister decide to do the right thing and match Labour’s plans to invest in children’s services, he will receive our full backing.

    The anti-avoidance measures in the Bill are feeble and listless when we consider the scale of the problem at hand. Both the Panama papers and the Paradise papers revealed tax avoidance on an industrial scale being operated in British overseas territories and Crown dependencies, yet the Government have responded with feigned interest and a handful of measures. The Minister, in his effort to keep up the appearance of being seen to do something, has instead reinforced the view that this Government are on the side of the tax avoiders, not the taxpayers. [Interruption.] I can hear the Minister chatting away from a sedentary position. I am not sure whether that is because he does not agree with me, but he knows it is true. There is no question about it.

    For example, only a third of the £1 billion originally forecast from some of the measures the Government presented to the House will be raised, and the gap between the tax take originally expected from the 28 anti-tax avoidance measures introduced since 2010 and the revised forecast is £2.1 billion. That is 25% less than the Treasury previously forecast. It is a complete shambles.

  • I thank the hon. Gentleman for being generous with his time. He is trying to suggest that the Government have a bad track record on clamping down on avoidance and evasion. The key measure of that is the tax gap, which was 8% under the last Labour Government and has now fallen to 6%—that is the lowest in the world. Will he congratulate the Financial Secretary to the Treasury on that achievement and acknowledge that this Government are doing a better job in this area than the last Labour Government?

  • That does not take international profit shifting into account, as the hon. Gentleman knows. He should consider that.

    The figures I have mentioned not only add to the growing hole in our public finances but demonstrate the Government’s complete lack of interest in taking on tax avoiders. I am glad the hon. Gentleman raised the last Labour Government’s record. So what was our record on tax avoidance? It might surprise Conservative Back Benchers to hear that Labour brought in anti-tax avoidance measures in the 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010 Budgets. Most notably, in March 2004, the Labour Government introduced a disclosure scheme that required anyone marketing a tax mitigation scheme to give HMRC advance notice, giving the Revenue authorities an opportunity quickly to counter the scheme with new legislation. The Primarolo statement in December 2004 announced that the Government would introduce legislation, with retrospective effect, to counter any future scheme.

    Labour’s tax transparency and enforcement programme has outlined 16 measures that the Government could take immediately to crack down on tax avoidance, including holding a public inquiry and publishing a public register of offshore trusts. In that fashion, new clause 6 would require the Government to commission a review of the effectiveness of the Bill’s anti-avoidance provisions and their impact on reducing the tax gap. I am proud of Labour’s measures on tax avoidance, and I am proud to stand here and say that.

    Members should ponder this question: how can the Government possibly justify cuts in the banking levy while, on average, 30% of our children—it is even more in some constituencies—live in poverty? That question will not go away, however much the Government want it to.

  • As always, it is an enormous pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Bootle (Peter Dowd), whose speeches are always entertaining and occasionally informative. He spent a great deal of time talking about the bank levy and the various new clauses standing in his name on that topic. I wish to start by addressing the central thesis of his comments on the bank levy: his suggestion that banks are not paying their fair share, particularly as two of them received state money from about 2009.

    It is a matter of incontrovertible fact that banks, as organisations, are paying more tax proportionately than other kinds of corporates. It is of course right that they do, for the reason that the hon. Gentleman and my right hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Anna Soubry) mentioned: they did receive taxpayer money. They pay this extra money, compared with other businesses, in two ways. The first is through the surplus profit tax of 8%—they pay about a third more corporation tax proportionately than a non-bank corporation does. The second is through the bank levy. Although the bank levy is being reduced, it will remain in force, so banks will continue to pay proportionately more tax than non-bank businesses after the implementation of this Budget. That is a vital point to get across.

    The hon. Gentleman also tried to link funding for children’s services to the bank levy. In one of my interventions, I gave some figures on the total amount of tax that banks are paying. We can argue about why they are paying that extra tax. Clearly, it is at least in part due to the surplus profits rate and to the bank levy. It may also, in part, be due to the fact that the banks’ profits have increased. Whatever the cause, the bare fact is that they are paying £7 billion or £8 billion a year more in tax now than they were some time ago. So suggesting that children’s services have been deprived of money as a consequence of changes to bank taxation simply does not bear scrutiny, given that the financial services sector is paying significantly more tax than it was before, whatever the cause of that may be.

  • The hon. Gentleman is, as he knows, unfairly paraphrasing my hon. Friend the shadow Chief Secretary. What my hon. Friend has pointed out is that politics is about choices and that this Government have decided, through this set of proposals, to reduce the amount of tax the banks will pay, in a situation where many core services in this country—public services that are supported by Members on both sides of the House—are on their knees. So references to the background situation or attempts to paraphrase what my colleague said are not correct. He is simply making an analysis of the choices this Government have made, which do not bear scrutiny.

  • I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention but, as I say, the central, key, cold, hard fact, which will not go away, is that financial services are paying £8 billion or £9 billion more in tax now than they were before. That is money that can be spent on children’s services in his constituency or in mine, on the NHS or on schools. We should welcome the fact that the sector is producing this extra taxation, partly because it has become more successful and partly because the rate of tax has progressively been increased over the past seven or eight years.

    The hon. Gentleman made a point about choices and his intervention was unpinned by an assumption: that if we increase the rate of taxation, we invariably raise more revenue. I challenge that assertion, as the famous Laffer curve clearly does. It is clear to me that it is possible to reduce the rate of taxation and at the same time collect more tax, because we, thus, incentivise investment and growth. There is no better illustration of that than the trajectory of corporation tax, taken as a whole, over the past seven years: the rate of corporation tax has come down from 28% to 19%—it is heading down to 17% in a couple of years—yet the cash take from corporation tax over that same period has gone from about £35 billion to about £53 billion or £55 billion. That goes to show that we can cut the rate of tax and, by stimulating the economy and investment, actually collect more money. Similarly, it does not follow that putting up the rate of tax necessarily means that more money is collected, because that might disincentivise investment and job creation.

  • I feel that we have had this discussion in many of the debates on the many Finance Bills we have debated over the past 12 months. No one on the Opposition Benches denies the existence of the Laffer curve; we simply point out, as a point of fact, that the very large reductions in corporation tax that the Government have introduced have cost the country revenue. That is not in dispute. The analysis is clear that it is not the case that, had the corporation tax level remained as it was when the Conservatives came to power, more tax would not have been generated.

    On new clause 3, as the hon. Gentleman knows, the bank levy is a levy on the risk-assessed capital that is on the big banks’ balance sheets. The Laffer curve would not apply to the calculation of what the return would be if the levy remained the same.

  • Let me take each of those points in turn. The hon. Gentleman asserts that, had the corporation tax rate remained at 28%, we would now be collecting more than £53 billion. That is an assertion, and not one with which one can agree without contention. For example, because of the lower corporation tax rate, plenty of businesses have made investments that they would not have made otherwise. Several companies had located their corporate headquarters outside the UK—

  • Just a moment; let me respond to these two points.

    Those companies had located their corporate headquarters outside the UK and so paid corporation tax outside the UK, but in response to the Government’s cutting the rate of tax, they came back onshore and now pay corporation tax here. It does not follow at all that a higher corporation tax rate—28% in the case mentioned by the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Jonathan Reynolds)—would lead to a higher tax yield. The direction of travel shows that, as the rate has come down, the amount collected has gone up. I just do not agree with the suggestion that, if the corporation tax rate were 28%, we would be collecting £60 billion or £70 billion.

  • If the hon. Gentleman will let me answer his second point, I shall happily take an intervention. He suggested that, because the bank levy is a tax on a balance sheet, there is no Laffer curve effect. I dispute that. Banks are mostly international—for example, our largest bank, HSBC, is a very international bank—and they can choose where they deploy capital. Their finance director will sit and decide where to allocate capital around the world. If the taxation or regulatory regime in a particular jurisdiction leads to the returns in that jurisdiction being unattractive, they will rationally respond to that by allocating their resources—in this case, their bank equity—somewhere else. There is unquestionably a Laffer curve effect in relation to the bank levy.

    Before I take the two interventions that I promised to take, and will, let me just say that all that links to a related point mentioned by the shadow Chief Secretary, the hon. Member for Bootle: the disapplication of the bank levy to the non-UK part of a UK-headquartered bank’s balance sheet. In these international times, a bank such as HSBC can choose where it is headquartered and domiciled. HSBC was famously thinking about moving two or three years ago. HSBC is a good example because I think the majority of its balance sheet is non-UK—it has huge operations in Africa and the far east. Were we to continue to levy the bank levy on HSBC’s non-UK balance sheet, there would be a powerful, perhaps even irresistible, temptation for it to change its arrangements such that those profits and that balance sheet were booked through some other centre, such as Shanghai, or probably more likely Hong Kong, or possibly Singapore.

    It is beneficial to the UK to have those HSBC assets booked here, because, of course, we get the corporation tax, including the corporation tax surcharge, booked through London, and there are clearly jobs connected with that. If we leave the bank levy on the non-UK balance sheet—the business is done overseas but booked here—and drive the booking overseas, we will lose that corporation tax and those jobs. The change to the bank levy is a sensible measure that will protect London’s status as an international financial centre, because the relevant part of the balance sheet is very internationally mobile.

    I think there are two, or perhaps even three, interventions stacking up, so I shall happily take them all.

  • I am extremely grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. This argument is integral to the economic prosperity of the UK. On the point that he has just raised, I say clearly that we should wish to keep that substantial national asset, which is our financial services industry, in the UK, but it is Brexit that will drive it away. HSBC’s plans at the minute, in terms of relocating staff, are entirely linked to wholesale banking functions under Brexit. However, if there is one phrase that I would wish to etch on to the door of this Chamber, it is that causation and correlation are not the same thing, and that applies to his corporation tax argument. The average rate of corporation tax in OECD countries is 25%. There is a diminishing return from reducing it. When even Conservative councils are effectively going bankrupt, surely that requires greater reflection and self-analysis of the disastrous trajectory of some of the Government’s tax policies over the past eight years.

  • A number of points have been raised there. On the point about correlation and causation, of course I understand that they are not the same thing. However, in my remarks about corporation tax reductions, I did point to some of the causal links. The two causal links that I cited were, first, encouraging investment and, secondly, companies choosing to move their domicile—for example, from Switzerland back to the UK. Therefore, there are two causal explanations as to why a reduction in the rate of tax might lead to an increase in the tax yield.

  • The explanatory statement for new clause 3 says:

    “This new clause requires the Government to carry out a review of the bank levy, including its effectiveness in relation to its stated aims, the revenue effects of the changes made in 2015 and the comparable effectiveness of the bank payroll tax.”

    The stated aim, as set out in the Government’s own document, is as follows:

    “Its purpose is to ensure that banks and building societies make a fair contribution, reflecting the risks they pose”.

    We are asking for a review. If the hon. Gentleman is so sure of his facts and his case, why not have the review and see who is right in this debate?

  • The Government conduct analyses and reviews the whole time. I am not sure whether we need to put the review into primary legislation. As the hon. Gentleman refers to new clauses 3 and 4, which stand in his name, I will turn to them now.

    The new clauses call for various reviews and registers. Of course, analysis is important. That analysis, I believe, takes place in the Treasury already—I am sure that the Financial Secretary will comment on that in due course. What is interesting about the new clauses tabled by the Opposition is not so much what is in them, as what is not in them—it is the dog that did not bark, if I can borrow from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

    I mentioned in an intervention that the Labour party appears to have taken a number of different positions on the bank levy: it voted against it in 2011; it voted against the surplus tax in 2015; and then it stated in public that it wished to leave the bank levy in place, despite having voted against its introduction, which strikes me as rather confused. I was rather hoping that its new clauses and amendments might enlighten us on what its position actually is on the bank levy. This is primary legislation. This is a finance Bill soon to become, I hope, a finance Act. The Opposition had a chance here in this Chamber today to explain to the House and to the country how they think our tax system should work in relation to the bank levy. They could have tabled an amendment, had they chosen to, saying that they wanted to leave the bank levy in place as it was, or they could have tabled an amendment abolishing it altogether, yet they have done neither of those things; they have simply called for analysis. I am disappointed that their plans have not been elucidated.

  • However, if I am about to be enlightened, I will of course give way.

  • The hon. Gentleman cannot have it both ways. The Government introduced an arcane procedure, which was first used, I think, by Winston Churchill in 1929, effectively to stop us moving any substantive amendments. Does he not recognise that, whatever we wanted to do, we would not have been able to change things anyway, because the Government were not permitting us to do so?

  • I am not sure. This is a moment when my hon. Friend the Member for North East Somerset (Mr Rees-Mogg) is required to advise on such matters. I do not share his expertise in parliamentary procedure. However, the shadow Chief Secretary did not specify in his quite extensive—and, at times, amusing—remarks the official Opposition’s position on the bank levy. There is certainly no parliamentary procedure that prohibited him from doing so, so he could quite easily have chosen to specify his exact view—whether the bank levy should continue as it is, go or do something else—yet he did not do so. I am rather disappointed by the lack of clarity on that point.

    The hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde said a few moments ago in one of his many interventions that HSBC might contemplate its jurisdiction in the light of Brexit. In fact, HSBC was debating where to domicile itself well before the referendum. If anyone or anything threatens the City of London’s status as a global financial centre, it is not the matters being debated today and it is not Brexit. In fact, it is the right hon. Member for Islington North (Jeremy Corbyn) and the comments he made a day or two ago, which, in the words of one commentator, threatened to turn London into a new version of Pyongyang. That is what he said. It was in the Evening Standard—a newspaper edited by a highly reputable journalist.

    PwC has done some analysis of the tax contribution made by the financial services sector, finding that it paid £72.1 billion in taxes last year. That is about 9% of the UK’s total tax take. It is no laughing matter when misguided and populist politicians take a cheap shot at the City to get some headlines. If business is driven away, the implications will be very severe for our tax take and for employment. If we lose the tax revenue generated by the City, the people affected will of course be children and the NHS.

    I ask the shadow Chief Secretary to convey gently to his dear leader that comments such as those made a day or two ago are very unhelpful to the City. They endanger jobs and jeopardise the £72 billion of tax that the City pays. Whether it is through fiscal measures or through words, it is a very serious matter when we endanger jobs and the tax revenue from the City that funds about two thirds of the NHS’s budget. In this Bill and in our words, we should protect that tax revenue and those jobs.

  • I am more than happy to convey the hon. Gentleman’s comments to the Leader of the Opposition, although I do not accept them. Will the hon. Gentleman also pass on my comments to the Prime Minister? She is making a mess of Brexit, which is far more dangerous to this country than the comments allegedly made by the Leader of the Opposition.

  • There is no allegation; they were said publicly. I will of course convey the hon. Gentleman’s comments in a spirit of reciprocation, but I dispute the remarks about Brexit. We saw fantastic progress before Christmas and are moving on to the next stage. I look forward to the series of speeches by my Cabinet colleagues in the coming days and weeks that I appreciate are on a different topic to the one at hand.

  • I must defend the Leader of the Opposition. The comments that he made to the EEF national manufacturing conference were simply that finance must serve industry and that this country has to find ways to increase lending to businesses, to have more productive outcomes for the economy and to lower regional inequality—all things that were previously said by the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, who now finds work as the editor of the Evening Standard. I do not think that that is unreasonable in any sense. The feedback I have had from that conference is that the reception in the room was very favourable.

  • I call Chris Philp—on new clause 3.

  • Well, I am not sure whether I can respond to the hon. Gentleman’s comments while adhering to Madam Deputy Speaker’s gentle guidance, other than to say that I think that the Leader of the Opposition’s remarks went rather further than the hon. Gentleman just suggested.

    Perhaps it is time to move on to the measures relating to tax avoidance and evasion, particularly new clause 6. The shadow Chief Secretary made a series of quite serious allegations about the Government’s effectiveness over the past seven years in combating tax avoidance and evasion. I disagree quite strongly with the premise of his points. He suggested that the current Government had been slow to act—indeed, had not acted—in these areas. I gently draw his attention to the fact that in the past eight years since 2010 the Government have taken 75 different measures designed to combat tax evasion and tax avoidance that have raised, cumulatively, £160 billion.

  • Many of those measures close egregious and glaring loopholes that had been left open by the previous Labour Government. For example, under the previous Labour Government, it was possible to have permanent non-dom status, yet the Bill will end permanent non-dom status. Prior to 2010, we had the ludicrous situation of the so-called Mayfair tax loophole whereby some people in the hedge fund industry ended up paying less tax than their cleaners—a 10% rate—by having their carried interest taxed as capital gains with the benefit of entrepreneurs relief. That loophole has been closed and then progressively tightened up in successive Budgets. The diverted profits tax is raising money. Avoiding stamp duty by placing residential property into corporate wrappers has been tightened up. There is probably more we can do, but things have certainly been tightened up. We have made sure that foreign purchasers of residential property pay capital gains tax on their disposals. Under the Bill, that will shortly be applied to disposals of commercial property as well.

    I have listed five or six of the 75 measures I mentioned, all of which have been taken since 2010. That is no accident. There is a causal link, not just a correlation, between those actions and the additional amounts of tax being collected.

  • I am sorry that I was late for the beginning of the hon. Gentleman’s speech. He has given us a litany of what Conservative Governments have done over the past seven years. The Conservative Government before the previous Labour Government did not do very much about all the loopholes that he has listed.

  • The hon. Gentleman is asking me to comment on the actions of the Government of over 20 years ago. I am commenting on the actions of the Government who have been in office for the past eight years, whose record is one that I am proud of and stand behind.

    Because of these measures, our tax gap has reduced, as I said in an intervention, from 8% to 6%—the lowest in the world, and better than under the last Labour Government. When I made that intervention, I heard the shadow Chief Secretary make reference to profit shifting. Profit shifting is a serious matter. That is why I am pleased that the UK Government were at the forefront of the OECD’s BEPS—base erosion and profit shifting—initiative. Action 5 of that is specifically designed to clamp down on so-called profit shifting. I accept that this is an issue, and I am pleased that the UK Government have been taking action in that area.

  • I am delighted that my hon. Friend, from his position of expertise, is reminding us of what a great record we have of collecting tax, rightly—tax that pays for schools, hospitals and police services up and down the country, as well as in Redditch, of course, which I care about the most. Does he agree that we have collected £12.5 billion more than if we had left the tax gap in the same state that Labour left us with? That is £12.5 billion to be spent in everyone’s constituency.

  • My hon. Friend makes a very important point. The fact that the tax gap is 6% rather than the 8% bequested to us by Gordon Brown sounds like a theoretical point, but that two percentage point difference, as she rightly says, amounts to billions of pounds funding the NHS and schools. In debating these avoidance measures, we are not talking about something theoretical and of academic interest: it is precisely these measures that fund our public services, and that is why they are so important.

    Turning to the Opposition’s amendments and new clauses, I was rather surprised, on looking at the amendment paper earlier today, to see that new clause 6 once again calls for a review and analysis—analysis which, I am sure, is already conducted by the Treasury, as the Financial Secretary will no doubt point out. But there was an absence—a silence and a desert; tumbleweed was rolling across the amendment paper—where I would have expected to see an abundance of ideas that we might have adopted from the fertile mind of the shadow Chief Secretary. If he could not have proposed ideas in an amendment for some arcane parliamentary procedural reason, he might at least have done so in his speech.

    The Financial Secretary to the Treasury is an extremely attentive and receptive Minister. Had the shadow Chief Secretary proposed some constructive ideas, I am sure that the Financial Secretary would have listened carefully. I am very disappointed that after all the noise and, I dare say, bluster—I hope that is not unparliamentary—that we heard in the shadow Chief Secretary’s speech, we did not hear any concrete ideas. We cry out for and are open to new ideas, yet we did not hear any in what was otherwise an amusing and entertaining speech. I am disappointed.

    If the Financial Secretary is in the market for new ideas on avoidance, as I am sure he is, one idea that we could give some thought to ensuring that the Land Registry records the ultimate beneficial ownership of property and land. We discussed that yesterday in our debate on sanctions, and it was suggested by David Cameron a couple of years ago. When the ultimate beneficial ownership of those properties changed, we might then levy stamp duty on that change as though the physical property had been transferred. A lot of high-end residential property is held in non-UK corporate wrappers, and when the property is transferred, rather than selling it, as we would sell our properties, ownership of the company is transferred. There is no record of that in the UK and therefore no stamp duty is paid. That idea might well raise some more stamp duty. I could hardly criticise the shadow Chief Secretary for his lack of ideas without proposing at least one myself. I hope that Ministers will give some thought to that idea in due course.

    In conclusion—[Hon. Members: “Hear, hear!”] I am glad I have said something that finds favour among Opposition Members. I must have set a record for the number of interventions taken, though there was only one from my own side. The action on the bank levy contemplated in the Bill is the right one. We are taxing banks more heavily than non-banks. We are raising more money than ever before, but we must be mindful of the risk of driving these companies or part of them overseas at a time when they contribute 9% of our total income.

    On avoidance and evasion, I am proud that this Government have delivered the lowest tax gap in the world and improved by a quarter the position that they inherited. That pays for public services, as pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for Redditch (Rachel Maclean). It is a good record, and I am proud of it. I look forward to supporting the Bill.

  • I rise to support the amendments tabled by the Opposition and to speak to my amendments 1 to 4.

    I was into PFI before all the cool kids were. These amendments speak to a long-held concern of mine, which is that it is not enough for us as politicians to identify when something has gone wrong and to shrug our shoulders and say, “It’s complicated.” The consequences for the communities we represent and for this country’s public finances are so toxic that it is vital we act.

    George Bernard Shaw said:

    “Political necessities sometimes turn out to be political mistakes.”

    Let me be clear that I am not seeking to blame anyone. Governments of all colours used PFI. It started in 1992 and has gone on to the present day. Absolutely, the last Labour Government used PFI to fund things, and it was not an ideological decision; it was a very simple one about keeping borrowing off the books.

    However, we know now just how costly these decisions have been for this country. Every single school, hospital, street lighting system and motorway built was needed, but we know now that the consequence of these costs is that we may not be able to build such things in the future. I am in the Chamber today to propose a way in which Parliament can now act to get money back for our public services, because everyone of us has one of these projects in our constituencies.

    We can talk about the numbers involved: £60 billion of capital building, on which we will pay back £200 billion. These companies are truly the legal loan sharks of the public sector, charging an excessive rate of interest in comparison with public sector borrowing for building and running services for us. Conservative Members may say that the cost I am talking about includes services, so it is worth breaking down the charges. Last year alone, this country paid out £10 billion in PFI repayments, over half of which was for interest and charges. The money we are paying for PFI is not paying for schools and hospitals to be run; it is paying the profits of the companies we borrowed from to be able to build them in the first place.

    The National Audit Office has done absolutely sterling work uncovering just how bad a value-for-money calculation it was to go for PFI. On average, these projects are 2% to 4% more expensive than Government borrowing at the time. In total, with charges and fees included, they are now, on average, 40% more expensive than having worked with the public sector.

    The interest rate matters because the costs are not necessarily about the management of a project; they are about the profits being made. Every single MP who is being lobbied about their schools and hospitals needs to recognise that 20% of the extra money the Government say they are giving to schools and hospitals will not touch the sides of emergency wards or go into the budgets of teachers to pay for the books and classes our schoolchildren need. It will go straight out of our public sector into pure profit for these companies.

    The Centre for Health and the Public Interest has gone through the accounts of the few hundred companies running schools and hospitals to identify just how much money is involved. It found that they will get £1 billion in the form of pre-tax profit from NHS deals alone, which total just 125 of the 700 PFI projects. For example, the company holding the contract for University College London has, alone, made £190 million in the past decade out of the £725 million the NHS has paid out. In short, it has made enough in profits to build and run an entire hospital.

    We have to talk about the human cost. I became interested in PFI when I saw the damage it was doing to my local hospital, Whipps Cross in Walthamstow, and to schools such as Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow. Its headteacher is now desperately struggling to balance her budget in the face of this Government’s swingeing cuts to the schools budget, but the one repayment she cannot cut is the PFI one. Barts, the biggest PFI in our NHS—with a £1 billion capital build, and £7 billion repaid—is paying £150 million a year, of which £74 million is interest alone. It is no wonder that the hospital is in such persistent financial difficulty.

  • My hon. Friend is making a powerful case. Whipps Cross University Hospital also serves my constituents. To the east, the cost of PFI at Queen’s Hospital in Romford is such that it is creating enormous financial pressures on the Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust. Does she agree with me that that underpins the urgency of the need to tackle this issue? We should not stick to the ideological dogma of the past, but look at what has really happened and claw back some of that excessive greed to better fund our public services.

  • My hon. Friend—my next-door neighbour MP—pre-empts my argument. My amendments relate specifically to the 700 existing contracts, because I believe—I am glad my Front Benchers support this—that we can and must do something urgently about the damage these 700 contracts are doing every single day in schools where headteachers are having to consider sacking people but cannot cut the repayments, and in hospitals that are having to cancel operations but cannot reduce the repayments to their lenders.

    There is a sixth-form college in Haywards Heath with no sixth form, because nobody will take on the school’s PFI debt. We keep talking about Northamptonshire Council, which is selling its own buildings because it is going bankrupt. It will owe £240 million to just five PFI deals in the next two to five years, of which £77 million is interest payment. Surrey Council is also in financial difficulties. It has £386 million of PFI commitments that it will not be able to reduce, of which £51 million alone is interest.

  • We now know, from Carillion and the problems at Interserve, that the idea that working with the private sector would somehow transfer the risk of construction and management projects to the private sector has been thoroughly debunked. It is very, very simple: we do not let schools and hospitals go bust, because we know that that would mean that kids would not get taught and patients would not get treated. So why we have got into deals, and why we continue to get into deals that presume we can somehow get out of them if contractors do not deliver, is a mystery to me. Certainly, a debate for another time in this place would be on a better way to borrow when there is so little competition for our business. I believe that that is where the answer lies. When we look at the industry and at what amendments 1 to 4 would do, we are not talking about an industry of hundreds of companies. The work by the Centre for Health and Public Interest found that 92% of all the PFI deals in the NHS were owned or appeared to have equity stakes from just eight companies. This small number of companies have captured a market and are therefore setting a price. We and the public sector are paying the consequences.

    I looked at one of the companies, Innisfree, which owns my local hospital, Whipps Cross. It has just 25 members of staff. It is not doing the day-to-day running of Whipps Cross: booking the operations, organising the blood tests or feeding back to patients. It stands to make £18 billion from PFI deals and it has its property based over in Guernsey. Those eight companies—Balfour Beatty, Barclays, Dalmore Capital, Equitix, Innisfree, Interserve, Semperian and Veolia—are making millions of pounds in profit as we watch our councils go bust, our schools close down and our hospitals struggle. Yes, it has got harder under this Government because of the cuts they have made, but under any Government asking our public services to pay back at such excessive rates of interest would be untenable. Let us look at what we could actually do and where my amendments have come from.

    I hear and understand the calls from people to cancel these contracts outright: to rip them up and say, “We are not going to pay.” But we know that these contracts are just as expensive to cancel as they are to carry on. They have been drafted specifically to require full-cost recovery to lenders to make sure that their interests are always protected. As the NAO highlighted, it is not just about repayment charges and covering those costs. We would have to cover the interest rate swaps that were built into the contracts to make sure that they are almost always profitable. It would cost £220 billion to tear up the contracts. Indeed, the Lithgow judgment from the Council of Europe in the 1980s clarifies explicitly the law around nationalisation and the compensation that would be required to be paid to companies were we to cancel the contracts.

    Contract law might be on the side of the legal loan sharks to the public sector, but tax law is not. Yes, I have been through the 400 pages of the standard contracts. I have seen those clauses, but I have also seen the clauses that clarify that tax rates can change. Indeed, I know the Government agree, because when I have asked them about the tax rates and the taxes the companies are paying, they seem to think that the benefits from the changes to the tax regime are “to the victors the spoils”. That is why I have tabled my amendments. I believe that Parliament and MPs struggling in their constituencies with these loans would take a very different view. Taxation rates and corporation tax matters. When the value-for-money assessment on using PFI was done, there was an explicit calculation included on how much corporation tax the companies would pay. Most of the 700 existing deals were signed at rates of 30% or more.

    I am sure that the hon. Member for Croydon South (Chris Philp), in his advocacy of cutting corporation tax, would not agree that when these companies face rates of 17% and his local schools and hospitals—I know that many south London hospitals are affected by PFI—are not getting the public investment they desperately need to keep going, the companies should benefit in that way. That was the amount of money that they agreed to pay at the point at which the contracts were signed.

    We have been through the accounts. The numbers the Centre for Health and the Public Interest can give are small-c conservative, because we cannot be clear about when companies might have deferred their tax liabilities, but already, in the NHS alone, the companies have had a windfall of £190 million through the reductions in corporation tax, and in our school system they will have had a windfall of £60 million by 2020. That is money we expected for our public services. In addition, we did not expect to pay excessive rates of interest, but the evidence is there. The question for all of us is: what can we do? What action can we take?

    Amendments 1 to 4 speak to what we could do now—this year, within months—to send a clear message to the PFI companies that time is up; we are no longer going to accept that kind of contract and the damage they do to our public services. If that small group of companies will not come forward with a proposal to reduce repayments, I gently urge the Minister, whose Department has resisted some of my questions about how often he has met these eight companies, to agree to getting them around the table, examining their loan portfolios and reducing the costs; then, we can start to generate some real savings. Asking individual hospitals and schools to renegotiate, against the companies’ expensive lawyers, will save very little, but if the Government take the lead—I hope the Minister will explain today how he intends to do that—in negotiating with the companies, we could get money back now. If we cannot get these eight companies to negotiate—if they continue stubbornly to resist any change in the contracts—then yes, let us use a windfall tax to make sure we get cash back for our public services.

    Amendment 1 asks for a review. I hope that the hon. Member for Croydon South enjoys as much as I do reading the founding resolutions of legislation such as this Bill and understanding what it is possible to do as a Back-Bencher, or as an Opposition Member. The amendment simply asks for a review of how much would be raised were we to apply the bank levy to these financing companies.

    If amendment 1 does not tempt the hon. Gentleman, perhaps he could look at amendment 3, which is more explicitly about calculating a windfall tax on the companies. It is designed to enable us to work out how much extra they have made from the original deals, and to claw that back by adjusting their tax allowances. At this point, we are simply trying to clarify how much the measure would raise, to give the Government the negotiating tactic they need to get the companies to do what is right—to get round the table and see how to consolidate their loans, just as we would with people who come to our constituency surgeries having got themselves into debt.

    The amendment is about sending a clear message to the industry that Parliament will act—that we will not tolerate another year of listening to headteachers and hospital managers telling us that they cannot cope with these loans. We will do something about it. The Government will claim that the companies are entitled to the bonus because they took on the risk of the buildings, but it is clearly an unexpected bonus, and clearly an opportunity to look at the contracts and make progress. If the Minister will not accept the amendment—if he will not, today, commit to negotiating with the companies to get back the money that hospitals, schools and councils throughout the country that are going bust urgently need—he has to explain how he will get us a better deal on the existing contracts.

    I put the Minister on notice. It may be that that we cannot tear up the contracts, but a Labour Government would get those companies around the table and make sure that they paid their dues. We would make sure that the excessive profits are brought back, so that teachers in our constituencies do not have to fund raise to pay for books and pencils for students while the companies report millions, if not billions, of pounds of profit at our expense. George Bernard Shaw was right: sometimes political necessity becomes a political mistake. The necessity here, now, is to act, and I urge the Minister to listen.

  • I will keep my comments focused on the bank levy, PFI and tax evasion. Results speak far more than rhetoric, and it is important to put on record that in 2016-17, the banking sector paid £27.3 billion in taxes, which was up 58% from the £17.3 billion that it paid in 2009-10. I understand that under the current proposals, the bank surcharge is expected to raise an additional £1.8 billion for the Exchequer.

    I would like to talk briefly about PFI. I have a lot of sympathy for the comments made by the hon. Member for Walthamstow (Stella Creasy), but a one-size-fits-all approach is not appropriate. I have a lot of experience of PFI. In 2012, I launched a campaign because the last Labour Health Secretary signed a PFI deal for the Surgicentre in Stevenage to be built and operated by Carillion. As a result of the deal, when the centre was fully operational, 8,500 records were lost, leading to damaged eyesight for a large number of patients, and three people died. It was a complete nightmare.

    As a result, I ran a long, hard campaign and persuaded the Health Secretary in 2013 to nationalise the facility and return it to my local hospital trust. A Conservative Member of Parliament therefore had a piece of the NHS nationalised that had been privatised by the last Labour Health Secretary, so if there is a specific issue, local Members of Parliament can go in there and create a change. I took Carillion on in 2012 and I won. As a result, I then worked with the GMB union. We launched a campaign to stop blacklisting among construction workers and we won again. It is important that individual Members of Parliament identify problems with PFI in their areas, so we can then work on and tackle those problems as individuals.

    Turning to tax evasion, it is very important for people to look at what they can do as individuals. Again, back in 2012—I was obviously incredibly active at the time—I launched a campaign on tax transparency, before it was fashionable. In association with Christian Aid, I wrote to all FTSE 100 chief executives to ask whether they would commit to greater tax transparency and help developing countries around the world. In the drive towards globalisation, the situation is incredibly difficult—it is almost a race to the bottom in some areas—with regard to what each country will offer to allow large multinationals to move around.

    I published all those results in The Daily Telegraph and on a website. This was all before tax evasion and tax transparency became far more fashionable. The Government got involved and I am very pleased that as a result, £160 billion has been raised since 2010 in additional tax revenue, tackling avoidance, evasion and non-compliance. For me, that is an additional £160 billion that has been invested in my local and national health service, and in my hospital that has been rebuilt and paid for by the Government, not by outside organisations or PFI. That money is being invested in children’s futures in my constituency. Individual Members of Parliament have a great opportunity to go out and create change in their areas, if there are specific issues that they can tackle, and it is possible to win on those issues.

  • I think that I was as surprised as you were, Madam Deputy Speaker, by the brevity of the speech by the hon. Member for Stevenage (Stephen McPartland). I very much appreciate it—it is great. I was willing the hon. Member for Croydon South (Chris Philp) to keep going for an extra 30 seconds to hit the half-hour mark. He was close, but did not quite get there.

    I want to talk specifically about the bank levy, tax avoidance and evasion, and, briefly, PFI. We will support the amendments tabled by the hon. Member for Walthamstow (Stella Creasy). I will not expand on that because she covered the issue broadly. On the bank levy, the position in our 2017 manifesto was that we did not support the reductions in the bank levy; we supported the reversal of those reductions. What the Labour party has proposed is a good way to tackle this, given, as has been said in exchanges across the House, that there is not an amendment of the law resolution, nor are we able to move some of the more exciting, more interesting things that we would have liked to move. I hope that the next time there is a Finance Bill, the Government choose to do that, and if we end up with the Labour party in charge, I hope that it will make that change and ensure that an amendment of the law resolution comes through in any Budget process and Finance Bill. That is the only way in which we can have a reasonable level of discussion on this issue.

  • As I said, we oppose the reductions in the bank levy. New clause 3, which would tackle this, is the most sensible approach for the Opposition, constrained as we are in this debate. It is about looking at the effectiveness of the bank levy, how much money it brings in and whether there are opportunities to do different things that could bring in more money for the Treasury. We are in a strange position. It was funny to hear people talking about the City. When I speak to people in the City, it seems to me, as a fairly left-wing person in the SNP, that my views accord pretty closely with those of some in the City right now, whereas most of them are incredibly upset about Brexit. I feel that I have more in common with them than ever before, whereas the Conservatives have less in common with them at the moment, given how upset the City is about the issues thrown up by Brexit. It is a very strange dystopian situation right now.

    On tax avoidance and evasion, following on from the work of my colleague Roger Mullin, I have mentioned before, and will not stop mentioning, the issue of Scottish limited partnerships. It was welcome that the Government took action and carried out a review of SLPs, but we have yet to see any solid action coming out of that. It would be useful to know when the SLPs will be clamped down on and that loophole closed so that people cannot abuse the SLPs. It would be useful to see that coming forward.

    On more creative solutions, the SNP has consistently called for rules around tax avoidance and evasion to be devolved to Scotland. We think we would do it better—we think we would do everything better, if it were devolved to Scotland. Specifically on this, however, our Government have been recognised for the action they have taken through their general anti-avoidance rule, which is stronger than that which is in place down here. We feel we would be in a better position to tackle tax avoidance and evasion were it devolved to Scotland, and we will not stop calling for that.

    On the reduction in the tax gap, the hon. Member for Croydon South talked about fairness and how the situation was perhaps fairer than ever, but the point we will continue to make is that, if there is any tax gap, the system is not fair. If, for example, we do not have enough customs officers to make all the necessary checks, people will be able to avoid tax just because there are not enough customs checks. Going forward, this will be a problem. Any tax gap, no matter how it compares with other countries, is a problem. On the issue of comparisons with other countries, a Credit Suisse report in 2014 showed that smaller countries tended to have smaller tax gaps because they were better able to crack down on tax avoidance and to police things coming in and out and so prevent tax avoidance and evasion. That is just another point in the case for Scottish independence.

    On that basis, if the Labour party presses new clause 3, we will support it. As I said, we will also support the hon. Member for Walthamstow. I will not speak for much longer, as my points have been made in previous debates, except to say that we support making more changes to crack down on tax avoidance and evasion and to undo the changes to the bank levy.

  • It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Aberdeen North (Kirsty Blackman) and the other contributors.

    I will keep my remarks short as many of my points I wish to make have already been made by colleagues. I want to bust the myth that we on the Conservative Benches are friends of nefarious bankers and bad people trying to swindle money out of the honest taxpayer. Nothing could be further from the truth. We on these Benches want a healthy financial system underpinned by banks, and we want those banks to contribute fairly, as they can and must, and as they have been doing under this Government. The facts speak for themselves, as my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon South (Chris Philp) set out.

    We have set out a plan to raise an additional £9 billion by 2022—a significant contribution to the Exchequer that will help to fund the public services on which people rely. The banks are making money out of businesses in this country. They need to make a return—they need to contribute fairly—and the Bill will ensure that that happens.

    When Labour Members start to attack us and our policies, they need to look at themselves in the mirror. They need to bear in mind the number of times they voted against the introduction of corporation tax and bank levy measures which, as we have seen, have raised money from the banks. Theirs was the party that allowed the Mayfair loophole to develop, so that hedge fund managers were getting away with not paying tax while their cleaners were paying it. I remind the House that it was this Chancellor, in this Budget, who imposed a tax on private jets. Could any measure indicate more strongly that the Conservatives believe in fairness and taxing the proceeds of profit in the right way to fund our public services?

    The hon. Member for Bootle (Peter Dowd) said that the banks were not making a fair contribution. I completely disagree with that narrative and that agenda. The banks are making a fair contribution.

  • When I have made statements and I have been wrong, I do not mind people bringing that to my attention, but I did not say that the banks were not making a fair contribution. We were talking about a fairer contribution in the context of the Government’s own definition of what they should be doing. That is the point. The hon. Lady should have a look at the work. She should have a look at the book. She should do her research, and then make an accusation.

  • I am not making an accusation at all. I apologise if I have misrepresented the hon. Gentleman. I merely wish to make the point that I believe that banks must make a fair contribution, and that the Bill will enable them to do so. Through measures that we have introduced since we have been in government, £160 billion has been raised for the Exchequer.

  • My hon. Friend is making an important point. Conservative Members do not just obsess about some punitive rate for party-political purposes. The key is to grow the economy and maximise the tax take, so that we can then spend our money on public services. It is important to recognise the increased revenues from tax overall, rather than being obsessed with a particular rate.

  • My hon. Friend is right. The spectre of the Laffer curve raises its head yet again, but it is a fact that lowering the tax rate increases the tax take. That is a fact that we have observed time and time again, and it has benefited our economy.

  • Will the hon. Lady give way?

  • I am sorry, but I cannot take any more interventions, because time is short.

    I hope that, when he winds up the debate, the Minister will touch on the important issues of cryptocurrencies and bitcoin which, I believe, are not currently covered by regulation. I think we would all like to be assured that the Treasury is ensuring that no loopholes can develop that might allow tax evasion and avoidance. There are some alarming reports of people being arrested for money-laundering billions of pounds by that means.

    The hon. Member for Walthamstow (Stella Creasy) is very well informed. I recognise the hard work that she has done, and I share a number of her concerns about the private finance initiative. A hospital in Worcester serves my constituents in Redditch. It is in special measures, and it has a financial issue. All of us in Redditch are very worried about that. I do not think that the new clause is the right way of dealing with the situation, but I should like to know what action the Minister will take to reassure my constituents that no one is reaping profits that they should not be reaping.

    May I ask the hon. Member for Walthamstow to clarify the position of Labour Front Benchers? Do they not intend to take all the PFI contracts back into public ownership? She said that it would cost £220 billion, but I believe that that is the official position of the Labour party. It is a little confusing. It is difficult to know what the Labour party supports—whether it is the proposals of the hon. Lady or those of the Leader of the Opposition—so some clarity would be welcome.

    Coming to my final point, Brexit was mentioned earlier, and we heard remarks about Brexit and the Labour party’s position, with claims that somehow Brexit is damaging our economy. [Interruption.] Well, Brexit was mentioned in a sedentary intervention. In my experience, businesses fear the spectre of a Labour Government more than Brexit, as a Labour Government would damage jobs and business investment. That is what businesses are worried about.

  • There must be an objective assessment, given the strength of the economic risk that we face from Brexit. In terms of financial services, Brexit could diminish market access; it could take it away and make a situation where there is not a legal right to do the kind of business that currently takes place within the United Kingdom. There is no comparison between that and differences of political opinion over policies, and the Government and Conservative Back Benchers must take the economic risks of Brexit seriously.

  • I can see that Madam Deputy Speaker is quite cross that we have moved off the point, so I return to the point that I do not support the new clause because I believe what the Government have put forward is already tackling the issues of tax avoidance and evasion, and those measures will ultimately benefit our economy and our constituents.

  • It is an honour to follow the hon. Member for Redditch (Rachel Maclean), and I shall speak in support of amendments 1, 2, 3 and 4.

    The PFI system is, as admirably demonstrated by the hon. Member for Walthamstow (Stella Creasy), not working and we need to change it. It is not right that half of the cost for PFI schemes are interest repayments and charges for local services, which are under desperate pressure at the moment

    In April 2016, 17 schools across Edinburgh were closed due to fears that the buildings were structurally unsafe. They included three primary and secondary schools in my constituency. All 17 schools were constructed under PPP and PFI initiatives. In Edinburgh West, Craigroyston Primary School, Craigmount High School and Royal High School all closed. Parents were left worried and frustrated. It is clear to me from what I have heard today and witnessed myself that there is now compelling evidence that the payday loan approach to building is costing us all dearly.

    For years, councils in Scotland and across the UK had no choice but to use PPP or PFI agreements to fund capital projects. They now find themselves in the position that interest repayments and charges are detracting from service provision when they are already strapped for cash. This morning at an all-party group meeting I heard evidence of how palliative and end-of-life care for children is being affected by the lack of council funding, and how the integration of health and social care is being restricted. That is outrageous.

    In Scotland, PPP and PFI contracts are largely the responsibility of the Scottish Government under devolved competences, but I cannot agree with the hon. Member for Aberdeen North (Kirsty Blackman) that if the Scottish Government took over it would automatically be better; the evidence we have in Scotland counters that argument.

    While it would be illegitimate to forcibly take contracts back in-house, it is important that we redress the windfall profits handed to these companies by Tory corporation tax cuts. It is both legitimate and fair for a windfall tax to be imposed on those profits, because, as we have heard, that would hit these corporations where it would get their attention—in their profits.

    I ask all Members to put the benefits that we need, and the cash injection we need for our local services across the UK, first on the list of priorities, and find whatever way possible either to get money back or impose a windfall tax on these corporations.

  • Very little that I have heard from the other side in this debate has convinced me that we should withdraw our new clause—

  • Order. I beg the hon. Gentleman’s pardon. I have made a mistake, in that I thought the Minister had already addressed the House on this group. I also beg the Minister’s pardon.

  • There was a ripple of dissatisfaction when you failed to call me to speak, Madam Deputy Speaker, but it was almost imperceptible. Thank you for correcting your error.

    In this debate we have heard about a range of issues, including the changes the Finance Bill makes to the bank levy, the taxation of private finance initiatives, and tax avoidance and evasion. I will respond to each in turn, starting with the bank levy. Opposition Members have raised a number of objections to the changes to the levy made by the Finance Bill and to the Government’s broader approach to bank taxation. These are unjustified. This Government remain committed to ensuring that banks make an appropriate additional tax contribution, beyond that paid by other businesses, that reflects the unique risks they pose to the UK financial system and to the wider economy.

    I shall address some of the arguments put forward by the shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, the hon. Member for Bootle (Peter Dowd), which I felt focused far too much on the bank levy. It is indeed declining, but there is good reason for that. In 2015, when we took the relevant decisions on this, we recognised that the risks presented by our banks had eased quite considerably. Indeed, the Bank of England has recently carried out rigorous stress testing on the banks, and that was the first occasion on which not a single bank failed its stress test. That is indicative of the fact that one of the raisons d’être for the bank levy has started to recede. That is to say that the banks are less of a risk than they were before, and the charges on the assets and liabilities that they hold are therefore becoming less relevant. The hon. Gentleman did not focus so much on the surcharge to the banking tax, which came in from 1 January 2016 and which represents an additional 8% on the profitability of banks at the present time. Whereas corporations are paying 19%, we are now looking at a total rate of around 27% for banks.

  • I am grateful to the Minister for that explanation, but as we have said before, when we take both those measures together, we see that the reduction in the levy along with the surcharge results in a lower overall contribution over time. We have spelled out clearly in our previous debates that the overall amount coming from the banks is receding over time, even with the surcharge.

  • That is not the case. I will explain some of the figures in a moment, but there are other elements that are not being taken into account. One is that the banks are not permitted to offset against their profits the PPI compensation payments. Also, they are now working to a more restrictive corporate interest restriction regime, under which they are allowed to roll forward only 25% of their interest chargeable to offset against profits. Taking all those measures together, we have raised some £44 billion more from the banks since 2010 than we would have done if we had treated them simply as any other corporate business.

    Opposition Members have cited changes in revenue from the bank levy. They argue that this is declining, but it is misleading to consider bank levy changes in isolation when they form part of a set of wider changes to bank taxes announced in 2015 and 2016, including introducing the 8% surcharge. Overall, rather than reducing revenue, these tax changes are expected to raise £4.6 billion over the current forecast period. I think that the hon. Lady will be interested to hear that figure.

  • We have just looked at the projections up to 2022-23. For the current year, we see £3 billion coming in from the levy and £1.6 billion coming in from the surcharge. The projection for 2022-23 is £1.3 billion from the levy and £1.1 billion from the surcharge. That appears to be a significant reduction; in fact, it is almost half.

  • Taking into account the respective changes, we will raise £4.6 billion over the forecast period as a consequence. My point is that it is simply not right to focus only on the declining part of the equation—the reduction in the banking levy charge—and not on the fact that we are raising more as a consequence of the 8% surcharge and the increased profitability of banks on our watch.

  • Perhaps we can get into the nitty-gritty of this offline.

    The average revenue from the bank levy between its introduction in 2011 and 2015-16 was around £2.6 billion. As a result of this package, however, yield from the surcharge and the levy in 2022-23 is forecast to be £3.2 billion. By 2023, as I have said, we will have raised around £44 billion in additional bank taxes since the 2010 election.

    Opposition Members have also suggested that our bank levy is set at a low level compared with other countries. In fact, not all financial centres have a bank levy. The USA, for example, chose not to introduce one at all, and while several EU countries introduced bank levies following the financial crisis, it is not possible to make direct comparisons between these levies as the rules for each are different.

    We have heard the argument this afternoon that we should reintroduce a tax on bankers’ pay. One of the aims of the changes to bank taxation announced in 2015 and 2016 is to ensure a sustainable long-term basis for taxing banks, based on taxing bank profits and the bank levy. By contrast, the bank payroll tax referred to in new clause 3 was always intended as a one-off tax. Reintroducing it would be ineffective and unsustainable compared with the package of banking tax measures that we have introduced. Even the last Labour Chancellor pointed out that it could not be repeated without significant tax avoidance.

    Opposition Members also propose that HMRC should publish a register of tax paid by individual banks under the levy. Taxpayer confidentiality is rightly a core principle for trust in our tax system and HMRC does not publish details of the amount of tax paid by any individual business. While the Government continue to consider measures to support transparency over businesses’ tax affairs, we must balance that with maintaining taxpayer confidentiality in order to maintain public confidence in our tax system.

  • Does the Minister accept that the transparency that is being sought is down to the public demanding it? After all these years of difficulty, and at a time when so many communities face council tax increases of 5%, there seems to be an inherent unfairness in the tax system.

  • I just do not accept that. This goes back to my point about the balance of measures that we are taking. The Opposition are understandably focusing on the bank levy, which is indeed declining over time, but I point to the additional 8% surcharge, which is 8% more on corporation tax than other non-banking businesses are expected to pay. As I have said, the banks are also not permitted to carry forward interest rate charges to the same degree as other businesses, and they are not allowed to offset against tax the compensation payments that they have been making. All those things add up to additional tax and by 2023 will have raised an extra £44 billion since 2010 compared with what would have been raised from non-banking businesses.

  • At the same time as corporation tax is being reduced overall—I accept the point about the bank surcharge—does the Minister not accept that we are seeing a significant increase in council tax for the public?

  • As my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon South (Chris Philp) pointed out, as we have reduced the overall level of corporation tax from 28% to 19%—corporation tax, of course, applies to banks as it does to non-banking businesses—we have seen the tax take increase by some 50%. We have actually been raising more revenue as a consequence of those changes.

    Finally, new clause 5 would require the Government to publish further analysis of the impact of the Bill’s bank levy re-scope. The Government have already published a detailed tax information and impact note on the proposed changes, and we have published information, certified by the OBR, on the overall Exchequer impact of the 2015 package of measures for banks. It is important to legislate for such changes now in order to give UK banks certainty on their tax position so that they can plan effectively for the future.

    The changes in clause 33 and schedule 9 complete a package of measures that raises additional revenue from banks in a way that delivers a tax regime that is more sustainable, more aligned with regulation and more supportive of the competitiveness of UK financial services. We should pass them without amendment.

    In her amendments, the hon. Member for Walthamstow (Stella Creasy) calls for a windfall tax on private finance initiative companies. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Stevenage (Stephen McPartland), who outlined his vigorous work in this area in support of his constituents.

    There are approximately 700 operational projects that originated under the initial PFI, representing £60 billion in capital investment. The vast majority of those projects were signed between 1997 and the 2010—620, or 86%, of all PFI projects in the UK were signed under the last Labour Government.

    This Government have taken action to ensure that PFI contracts deliver better value for money for the taxpayer. That is why in 2011 we introduced the operational public-private partnership efficiency programme, which has reported £2 billion of savings. Even where it is not possible to find savings in a project, we are working with Departments and procuring authorities to improve day-to-day effectiveness and management of contracts. We have also made improvements through PF2 to offer taxpayers better value for money on new projects.

    The hon. Member for Walthamstow argues that a windfall tax on what she sees as the excess profits of PFI companies would help to fund public services; I am clear that it would not. A retrospective windfall tax would instead do damage to any private investment in public services and would tax local authorities and NHS trusts rather than the providers it is intended to target. Even aside from those flaws, her amendments would not work as she intends, and I will set out why in more detail.

    First, a windfall tax would cost this and future Governments who try to sign contracts with businesses, whether in PFI or in another area. This country has a hard-won reputation for tax certainty, and that important principle would be undermined by a retrospective tax targeting businesses that have legitimately entered into a contract with the Government. There would be extra cost for the taxpayer whenever the Government next needed to engage the private sector.

    Secondly, as the hon. Lady knows, PFI contracts—she said that she has read many—are long-term agreements that typically include anti-discriminatory clauses. This means that when legislation is passed that targets PFI companies without applying to similar projects undertaken by other companies, the tax owed can be recovered from the procuring authorities. A windfall tax would therefore only be a tax on local authorities, NHS trusts and Government Departments that hold such contracts, which I am sure is not the outcome she seeks.

    Amendments 1 and 2 propose that the bank levy could be extended to PFI groups, but PFI groups are not banks. Instead, they borrow money to finance projects and earn a return on them, in exactly the same way that many other businesses do. It is simply not possible to bring PFI groups within the scope of the bank levy. Most of the design of the tax could not be applied to such groups.

    The changes proposed by amendments 3 and 4 also would not work as a windfall tax. The last Finance Act introduced corporate interest restriction rules to limit the amount of interest expense that a corporate group can deduct against its taxable profits. The amendments propose modifying those rules by limiting the ability of corporate groups to carry forward and offset their unused interest allowance against future profits. The limitation would apply only where the group contains a PFI company that has previously made profits that are deemed to be “excessive,” by reference to a statutory test. The changes proposed in the amendments are convoluted. As I have said, it would fall to the public bodies holding the PFI contracts to pay the extra tax resulting from these changes. But even if one could impose additional tax liabilities on PFI providers, this would not be a sensible way to proceed. It would be unlikely to change the tax paid by the PFI company, but would instead sometimes penalise other companies in the same corporate group. More likely, groups would simply restructure to avoid the tax.

  • Turning to new clause 6 and the points raised about tax avoidance and evasion, I have little to add to what I have set out in our extensive debates on these issues at earlier stages of the Bill. A public review is not necessary. This Government have an extremely strong record on tackling tax avoidance, evasion and non-compliance, both domestically and internationally. Since 2010, HMRC has secured and protected £175 billion that would have gone unpaid. The UK is the only country to measure and publish a tax gap covering direct and indirect taxes every year. Our tax gap is, as other Members have pointed out, one of the lowest in the world, at 6%—that has come down from 7.9% under Labour in 2005-06. Despite our demonstrable successes, the Government cannot and will not be complacent. We will continue to keep the tax system under review at all times, and I urge the House to reject the new clauses and amendments.

  • That response from the Minister had complacency running through it like a line through a stick of rock. It contained self-congratulation and a rejection of any suggestion of a review, in any area. Not only have the Government not allowed us to make any significant changes, but they are not even prepared to listen to our asking for reviews, such as that requested by my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow (Stella Creasy). It is unacceptable if the Government are not prepared even to go that far, having shackled us this much. That is disgraceful. The Government, in this Parliament, should be ashamed of themselves for shackling the Opposition to this degree. We will push the new clause to a vote.

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

  • Division 119

    21 February 2018

    The House divided:

    Ayes: 267
    Noes: 306

    Question accordingly negatived.

    View Details

    More than three and a half hours having elapsed since the commencement of proceedings on the programme motion, the proceedings were interrupted (Programme Order, this day).

    The Deputy Speaker put forthwith the Question necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded at that time (Standing Order No. 83E).

    Schedule 8

    Corporate interest restriction

    Amendment proposed: 3, page 103, line 41, at end insert—

    “21A After section 461 (counter-acting effect of avoidance arrangements) insert—

    “Chapter 11

    Review

    461A Review

    (1) Within six months of the passing of the Finance Act 2018, the Chancellor of the Exchequer shall undertake a review of the effects of amending the operation of this Part in relation to the excess profits of PFI companies.

    (2) For the purposes of the review under this section, it shall be assumed that the operation of this Part would be amended so as to—

    (a) deduct the uncompensated excess profit amount of PFI companies from the aggregate of the interest allowances of the group for periods before the current period so far as they are available in the current period for the purposes of calculating the interest capacity of a worldwide group under section 392 (the interest capacity of a worldwide group for a period of account),

    (b) provide that, for groups that contain a PFI company, the uncompensated excess profit amount for a period is equal to the group excess profit amount less the aggregate amount by which the group’s taxable profit has been reduced in prior periods as a result of such provisions,

    (c) provide that the group excess profit amount for any period will be the aggregate PFI excess profit amount for each PFI company in the group, and

    (d) provide that the PFI excess profit amount for a PFI company for a period will be the amount by which the internal rate of return on shares and related party debt in that company (from inception to the end of the previous accounting period) exceeds the internal rate of return set in the relevant PFI contract or, if no such return was specified, 10%.

    (3) For the purposes of this section, “a PFI company” means a company which has entered into a contract with a public sector body under the Private Finance Initiative or the PF2 initiative.

    (4) The Chancellor of the Exchequer shall lay a report of the review under this section before the House of Commons as soon as practicable after its completion.””—(Stella Creasy.)

    This amendment requires a review about the effects of making provision to discount the excess profits of a PFI company for the purpose of calculating the aggregate of the interest allowance of worldwide groups in the provisions of Part 10 of the Taxation (International and Other Provisions) Act 2010.

    Question put, That the amendment be made.

    Division 120

    21 February 2018

    The House divided:

    Ayes: 265
    Noes: 305

    Question accordingly negatived.

    View Details

    New Clause 7

    Review of relief for first-time buyers

    “(1) The Commissioners of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs shall undertake a review of the impact of the relief for first-time buyers introduced in Schedule 6ZA to FA 2003.

    (2) The review shall consider, in particular, the effects of the relief on—

    (a) the public revenue,

    (b) house prices, and

    (c) the supply of housing.

    (3) The Chancellor of the Exchequer must lay a copy of a report of the review under this section before the House of Commons no later than one calendar week prior to the date which he has set for his Autumn 2018 Budget Statement.”—(Anneliese Dodds.)

    This new clause requires a review to be published prior to the Autumn 2018 Budget on the impact of the relief for first-time buyers, including its effects on house prices and on the supply of housing.

    Brought up, and read the First time.

  • I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

  • With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

    New clause 8—Annual report on relief for first-time buyers

    “(1) The Chancellor of the Exchequer must prepare and lay before the House of Commons a report for each relevant period on the operation of the relief for first-time buyers introduced in Schedule 6ZA to FA 2003 not less than three months after the end of the relevant period.

    (2) The report shall include, in particular, information in respect of the relevant period on—

    (a) the number of first-time buyers benefiting from the relief,

    (b) the number of purchases benefiting from the relief,

    (c) the average age of first-time buyers benefiting from the relief,

    (d) the effects on the operation of the private rented sector,

    (e) the effects on council housing and other social housing,

    (f) the effects on the supply of affordable housing, and

    (g) the effects on the operation of collective investment schemes under Part 17 of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000.

    (3) For the purposes of this section, ‘relevant period’ means—

    (a) the period from 22 November 2017 to 5 April 2018,

    (b) each period of 12 months beginning on 6 April during which the relief is in effect, and

    (c) the period beginning on 6 April and ending with the day on which the relief ceases to have effect.”

    This new clause requires an annual report on the operation of the relief for first-time buyers, including information on the beneficiaries and effects on different aspects of housing supply.

    New clause 2—Review of income tax revenue

    “(1) The Office for Budget Responsibility must review the revenue raised by the rates of income tax within six months of the passing of this Act.

    (2) A review under this section must consider revenue raised by the rates of income tax specified in sections 3 and 4.

    (3) A review under this section must also consider the effect on revenue of raising each of the rates of income tax specified in sections 3 and 4 by one percentage point.

    (4) The Chancellor of the Exchequer must lay before the House of Commons the report of the review under this section as soon as practicable after its completion.”

    This new clause provides for a review of the revenue raised at the rates of income tax specified by Clauses 3 and 4 of the Bill and the effect on revenue of raising each of those rates by one percentage point.

    New clause 10—Review of retrospective VAT refunds for the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and the Scottish Police Authority

    “(1) Within one month of this Act receiving Royal Assent, the Chancellor of the Exchequer shall commission a review of the potential consequences of allowing the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and the Scottish Police Authority to claim VAT refunds under section 33 of VATA 1994 retrospective to the date of their establishment.

    (2) The review shall consider—

    (a) the administrative consequences of allowing retrospective claims, and

    (b) the impact on revenue of allowing retrospective claims.

    (3) The Chancellor of the Exchequer shall lay the report of this review before the House of Commons within six months of this Act receiving Royal Assent.”

    This new clause would require the Chancellor of the Exchequer to commission a review into what the potential consequences of allowing the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and the Scottish Police Authority to make retrospective claims for VAT refunds would be.

    New clause 11—Analysis of effect of income tax rates on incentives into employment—

    “(1) The Office for Budget Responsibility must review the impact of the rates of income tax specified in sections 3 and 4 in accordance with this section within six months of the passing of this Act.

    (2) A review under this section must consider the impact of the rates of income tax specified in sections 3 and 4 on the incentives for individuals to seek employment, including—

    (a) whether those rates create, or detract from, an incentive for those not employed to enter into employment,

    (b) whether those rates create, or detract from, an incentive for those currently in employment entering into new employment at a different level of income, and

    (c) to what degree those rates create, or detract from, any such incentive.

    (3) A review under this section must also consider those rates in the context of—

    (a) National Insurance contributions,

    (b) tax credits, and

    (c) social security benefits.

    (4) A review under this section must give separate analyses in relation to the impact of the rates of income tax specified in sections 3 and 4 in different parts of the United Kingdom.

    (5) In this section—

    ‘parts of the United Kingdom’ means—

    (a) England,

    (b) Scotland,

    (c) Wales, and

    (d) Northern Ireland.

    (6) The Chancellor of the Exchequer must lay before the House of Commons the report of the review under this section as soon as practicable after its completion.”

    Government amendments 6 to 8.

    Amendment 10, in clause 44, page 38, line 30, at end insert—

    “(4A) In paragraph 1GE (higher rates of duty) after paragraph (3)(c) insert—

    ‘(d) the vehicle is not a taxi.

    (3A) For the purposes of this paragraph, ‘taxi’ has the same meaning as in section 64 of the Transport Act 1980.’”

    Amendment 11, page 39, line 1, after “section”, insert

    “(other than those made by subsection (4A)”.

    Amendment 12, page 39, line 2, at end insert—

    “(8) The amendments made by subsection (4A) have effect in relation to licences taken out on or after the day on which this Act is passed.”

    Amendment 13, in schedule 3, page 65, line 32, leave out from “and” to “or” in line 36 and insert

    “each of the conditions in subsection (1A) is met”.

    This amendment, together with Amendment 14, provides that a pension scheme cannot be de-registered on grounds of the dormancy of a single company within the scheme, but only if conditions are met in relation to the date of first registration and the trading status of participating companies.

    Amendment 14, page 65, line 37, at end insert—

    “(4A) In section 158 (grounds for de-registration), after subsection (1), insert—

    (1A) The conditions in this subsection are that—

    (a) the scheme was registered in the current tax year or in the six preceding tax years,

    (b) no sponsoring employer in relation to the scheme is a body corporate that is actively trading at the time that withdrawal is being considered, and

    (c) no sponsoring employer in relation to the scheme is a body corporate that was actively trading for a period of at least twenty four months.”

    See explanatory statement for Amendment 13.

    Government amendment 9.

  • With permission, Madam Deputy Speaker, I will speak briefly to the SNP’s new clause 10 and to amendment 12, which was tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford North (Wes Streeting), both of which the Opposition support. I will then speak in more detail about our new clauses 7 and 8.

    On new clause 10, Labour Members welcome the Government’s decision to allow the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and the Scottish Police Authority to claim retrospective VAT refunds. The measures in the new clause follow the Scottish Government’s decision in 2012 to establish a nationwide fire and rescue service for Scotland. The then Treasury Minister, who is now the Justice Secretary, wrote:

    “Based on the information currently available it seems that, following the Scottish government’s planned reforms, neither the new police authority nor the fire and rescue service will be eligible for VAT refunds under Section 33 of the VAT Act 1994.”

    As colleagues will know, that Government decision meant that the Scottish police and fire services lost out on VAT refunds worth more than £30 million, with the Scottish police losing out on about £26 million. To some extent, I would argue it was a sign of recklessness that, at a time of austerity, the Government effectively left Scottish firefighters and police officers to fend for themselves. While Labour Members welcome the Government’s change of heart, we recognise the need for a proper process covering retrospective claims for VAT refunds.

    The review proposed by the hon. Member for Aberdeen North (Kirsty Blackman) would ensure that the process for VAT refunds was transparent, and that the VAT claims of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and the Scottish Police Authority were properly refunded by the Government. The review would also ensure that such an ill-informed decision, backed up by insubstantial reasoning, would not be allowed to happen again. That is why we support the new clause.

    Amendment 12 focuses on an issue that I raised in Committee: the fact that taxi drivers with a zero-emission capable vehicle will not be exempt from vehicle excise duty until next year. As we discussed in Committee—I am sure that the Minister remembers this—taxi drivers need to purchase their car over a long period due to its relatively high cost. In many areas of the country, taxi drivers are shifting to lower or zero-emission capable taxis. I asked the Minister whether further changes were needed to the Bill so that the take-up of zero-emission capable taxis would not be choked off. I was grateful to the Minister for stating that there would be a consultation on the new measures in the spring, but I do not know whether that consultation has yet begun, so perhaps the Minister will enlighten us on that point. In the meantime, it seems sensible, as my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford North proposes, to prevent taxi drivers from taking a hit when they have taken an environmentally friendly choice, which has considerable financial consequences for them because the vehicles are more expensive than standard taxis.

    I now come on to Labour’s new clauses 7 and 8, which would require a review of the proposed relief on stamp duty for first-time buyers, followed by an annual report on the policy’s effectiveness. The review and the report would consider the impact of the new measure on house prices and housing supply, and cover who benefits from the policy. The need for such reviews is very clear. The Office for Budget Responsibility’s assessment of the measure is set out in black and white: it is likely to increase prices by 0.3% and benefit a very small number of people. In its words, the main gainers from the new stamp duty policy are people who already own property, not first-time buyers. It added that some potential first-time buyers with smaller deposits might now be able to borrow a little more, therefore allowing them to buy properties that they otherwise could not afford, but that the process would be more expensive. That is in the context in which the average price of a home in England for first-time buyers has gone up by almost £40,000 since 2010. In fact, only about 3,500 additional homes are predicted to be sold as a result of the new incentive.

  • Has the hon. Lady spotted that house prices are now falling, notwithstanding the change?

  • I do not believe that that is uniform across the country. Of course there would be implications if there were very rapid changes. That would concern many people, but we feel that in this area, when it comes to the cost for first-time buyers, there has not been a significant change. If the right hon. Gentleman has evidence that there has been a change for first-time buyers, I would certainly like to see it. There might have been a change across the whole piece, but it certainly has not had an impact on first-time buyers who are trying to buy the lowest cost houses, as many are struggling more than ever before.

    Labour Members say that the situation might be different if the measure was accompanied by others that promoted the production of genuinely affordable homes. As it stands, however, any additional homes—at least those promoted by any Government policy—will not be in place before the stamp duty cut takes place. The funding allocated in this regard is woefully inadequate. Our most recent debate about this matter in this Chamber revealed that the Government’s new housing infrastructure fund moneys, such as they are, will not start to come forward until 2019-20, which means that the £585 million cost of stamp duty cuts in 2018-19 will not be accompanied by housing infrastructure measures, and the same will be the case the following year. It is only two years later that extra money for the infrastructure fund will be forthcoming. In any case, that will amount to less than half of what the public purse will have renounced that year because of the cut in stamp duty. It is extremely disturbing that the Government have chosen to plough ahead with this approach in the absence of measures to significantly boost supply.

    I repeat the calls we made in previous debates on the Bill for the Government to come clean on the advice they received about this measure. What do the economists in the Treasury say about this approach in the absence of measures to substantially increase supply? Ministers can claim—we have heard this from the Chancellor—that the OBR has not taken the small clutch of housing measures in the Budget into account in its analysis, but most experts who have taken those very small changes into account concur with the OBR’s original assessment. Was that also the case with Treasury officials? We in this House deserve to know, as do our constituents, particularly if they are faced with any rise in house prices for first-time buyers, as anticipated by the OBR. I point out that the Government’s own assessment of a previous stamp duty cut, again in the absence of measures to boost substantially the supply of affordable housing, indicated that

    “the tax relief has not had a significant impact on improving affordability for first-time buyers.”

    We also need to know the regional impact of the measure. As colleagues mentioned in our previous debate on this matter, the upper limit of £500,000 in high-cost areas and £300,000 elsewhere means that the change will not have a positive impact in huge swathes of the country, aside from reducing the revenue pot overall, with the result that other taxes on individuals and companies have to take up the slack, unless public services are to be cut further. For many people, home ownership is a distant dream when there is no way they can afford the necessary deposit. Today’s figures showing that real wages have fallen for the seventh month in a row should give us all pause for thought about whether the proposed measure is appropriate.

  • It is difficult for first-time buyers in my area to afford a deposit and they welcome the help the Government are giving to increase their opportunities when they are competing against people who are selling properties and are therefore more able to afford a deposit. This sort of policy is therefore very welcome, and it goes hand in hand with measures to increase housing supply. We are seeing significant—and not necessarily popular—increases in the housing targets for areas such as my constituency, coupled with work to make sure that houses are built when planning permission has been granted. I therefore contest the hon. Lady’s remarks on that point.

  • In practice, most of the commentary that I have seen from experts and those working in the housing sector suggests that in areas where there is extreme competition between different types of buyer—for example, first-time buyers, those buying additional properties, investors, and those moving to a second or third property—such a measure may help initially, but the overall cost increase will also affect first-time buyers. They will therefore be buying at a higher price, so most of the impact of the measure—as with previous stamp duty changes without a boost in supply—will help sellers, not buyers. That was the Conservative Government’s own assessment of the impact of their previous cut to stamp duty in the absence of additional measures to boost supply.

  • The hon. Lady gave us a tour de force in the Public Bill Committee, but on the narrow point about the proposed changes’ impact on prices, the director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, Paul Johnson, said that although there may be an increase in the price faced by first-time buyers,

    “this does not mean first-time buyers are worse off as a result. They are in general better off. Instead of paying, say, £100,000 for £98,000 worth of house plus £2,000 of tax they might be paying £102,000 for £102,000 worth of house.”

    What is her response to that point?

  • I am aware of what Mr Johnson said, but I think he has fallen into the trap of looking only at the impact of the change on an individual buyer and forgetting that it will have an impact on the housing market, particularly in areas where there is strong supply and strong demand, and where such a change is likely to push up prices. I agree with Mr Johnson on many things, but in this case, unfortunately, the context has been missed, and it is important that we bear it in mind.

  • The evidence suggests that house prices are not increasing—in fact, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors has echoed the point, saying that although there was scaremongering, the evidence suggests that prices are not rising.

  • I am sure the hon. Lady is well versed in the subject, but when it comes to the cost for first-time buyers, there has been an increase. That assertion is supported by the evidence, and that is exactly what we are concerned about. We need to take action. The Government often say they want to help first-time buyers, and I think it is important that we take them at their word. We should also look at what the OBR said in its assessment of the policy. Again, I go back to whether the Government received any advice about the likely impact of their policy. It is disappointing that we have not had any clarity on that matter.

  • I am struggling with the concept that a price that is available to a first-time buyer differs from the prices paid by anyone else. I can accept that there are segmented markets in which there might be a difference, but if prices are falling marginally, that will be to the benefit of all buyers, whether it is the first or the seventh time that they have bought a property.

  • I am always delighted to hear from the right hon. Gentleman. It might be instructive for us to look at the shape of the market, and at which elements may be reducing in price and which may not. I have seen media coverage suggesting that any reduction seems to have been reversed recently. In any case, it appears that there might have been a price reduction in the highest-cost areas with the most expensive properties, but are those the properties that first-time buyers are likely to be considering unless they are incredibly well off? Some may well be, but most first-time buyers in this country are not looking to move into properties worth multiples of a million pounds. They are looking to move into properties that are much more affordable, so the lack of Government action to help them is enormously disturbing. That is why we do not support this measure; others would have been more effective. In particular, we do not support the measure in the absence of action to boost the supply of affordable housing.

    I should mention that the Government’s definition of affordable housing enables a home worth £400,000 to be classified as affordable. I am sure that Members on both sides of the House would not appreciate that definition of affordability.

  • My hon. Friend the Member for Faversham and Mid Kent (Helen Whately) talked about constraints on supply, and she specifically mentioned dealing with land banking by property developers. They are often given planning permission but, because of their financial models, choose not to build for long periods of time. As the hon. Member for Oxford East (Anneliese Dodds) will know, we have proposals to punish developers that continue to work in such a way. What is Labour’s view about them?

  • I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for mentioning that. For some time, Labour has proposed changes in this area, but they were dismissed as “Venezuelan-style socialism,” which I think was the phrase that we heard from Government Members. We are concerned about this issue, but we are also concerned about matters in the planning system that the Government have not touched, such as the fact that the rules on viability put all the cards in the developers’ pockets. That means that, if someone wants to develop any social supply, there are pressures on the affordability of the rest of that development. We are very aware of that and have worked on it consistently. Sadly, we have not always been supported in that, but I am happy that the right hon. Gentleman has come on board with Labour policy, and that the Government have as well.

    There is a general lack of measures and lack of action on other elements of the housing crisis, which is so problematic—the stamp duty change seems to be the only real, significant change in relation to housing policy. Sadly, all of us as Members are seeing the impact of the housing crisis in our postbag, in our surgeries and, very sadly, on many of our streets. Rough sleeping has more than doubled under the Conservatives. It is the No. 1 issue that is mentioned to me on the doorstep in my constituency. I am sure that is the case for many other urban MPs. Even those who do not see it in their constituency probably see it, sadly, when they come to work here. Of course, we had a terrible tragedy in that regard recently.

  • Housing stress is a major driver of homelessness, the causes of which are very complex. Does the hon. Lady accept that the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 is major step in unlocking the resource that is required and in getting people to focus, crucially, on getting into a home, as the first step towards making a more lasting move forward in their lives?

  • I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that intervention. I will come later to some of the other contributors to this problem, which are not dealt with in the Bill or the rest of the Budget. I would just say that, although we supported many of the principles in the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017, again the problem is that, while we can place new requirements and duties on local authorities, if we do not fund them or provide the supply of accommodation to discharge them, local authorities will end up having to make invidious choices between individuals, as my own local authority has discovered. There is support for the principle of the Act, but without the means to deliver it there is considerable concern.

    I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, however, for focusing on that issue. His focus is not reflected, sadly, in the Budget or the Bill. We have only had mention of three small-scale pilots to help to deal with rough sleeping, which is woefully inadequate and no match for Labour’s commitment to a proper rough-sleeping strategy. Under Labour Governments, we had one of those and we got rough sleeping down and virtually eliminated it in many areas. We have also said that we would reserve 8,000 units for people with a history of rough sleeping.

    The Government have a commitment to halving rough sleeping by 2022, but to do this they have to change their policies. There is huge uncertainty about the funding of supported housing, which has led to a reduction in investment in that area—unnecessarily—particularly following the negative lessons of the Supporting People funding: there was initially a ring fence, but then it was taken away. We hope that that will not happen with supported housing. We have also seen swingeing cuts to council budgets in this area, which has meant that the county council in my area and many others will not be supporting any homelessness places, at least initially. Coupled with reductions in social security and mental health support, this has led to burgeoning numbers of people sleeping on our streets.

    This is not just about rough sleeping, of course; it is also about homelessness generally. On housing provision, recent research from the Institute for Fiscal Studies has shown that the Government are still failing to tackle the fundamental problems in our broken housing market, and it does not conclude that the stamp duty change will deal with those fundamental problems. For example, the Government promised to build 200,000 new cut-price starter homes in 2015. Three years on, not a single one has been built. Before Christmas Ministers said they would be working out the definition of “starter home”, so they do not even know what their policy is going to deliver. They have not even decided on their definitions, let alone delivered those starter homes. In contrast, Labour would commit to building 100,000 social and affordable homes a year, focus Help to Buy funding on first-time buyers on ordinary incomes and build 100,000 discounted first-buy homes.

    Overall, the Government’s own figures speak for themselves. The number of home-owning households rose by 1 million under the last Labour Government but has fallen under the Conservatives.

  • Will the hon. Lady acknowledge that the fall in home ownership began under Labour in 2003?

  • I would accept that there have been changes from year to year in the overall level of home ownership, but the cumulative reduction in home ownership under Conservative Governments has been far more substantial. Across the piece, we saw that increase of 1 million—

  • No, I will not give way, because I think I have answered the point. As I say, it is very clear; the figures speak for themselves, very obviously, on this point. The point is particularly and disturbingly clear in relation to home ownership among under-45 households—so for younger people—where the number of homeowners has fallen by 1 million since 2010.

    We had a debate earlier about home ownership, and the hon. Member for Faversham and Mid Kent (Helen Whately) stated, “It’s not just about home ownership. We need to think about other areas as well”. That is absolutely right. We have 1.3 million additional private renters in this country. Many on the Opposition Benches would not necessarily see that as a terrific thing; we would see it as lots of people stuck in private rented accommodation who do not want to be there, and we do not see measures in the Budget or Bill to deal with that problem.

  • Ah, I was about to draw to the hon. Lady’s attention the fact that we only have an hour for this debate, but she has already counted that.

  • Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. I do beg your pardon.

    Let me end by quoting, very briefly, what I think was a devastating assessment of this policy by my hon. Friend the Member for Wirral South (Alison McGovern), because not every Member who is present now was present then. She said:

    “what is really unpopular in our country is having to step over rough sleepers while walking home. What is really unpopular in our country is having to watch other parents taking paper into schools because our schools cannot even afford the basic necessities. And what is deeply unpopular in our country is watching the number of food banks grow because jobs do not pay enough.

    People will remember that while all that was going on, the Tories were busy cutting stamp duty for people who could afford to buy houses. I do not think they will ever forget that.”—[Official Report, 18 December 2017; Vol. 633, c. 867.]

  • The autumn Budget was a triumph for Scotland, and a vindication of the constructive approach of the Scottish Conservatives. I hope that members of the Scottish National party, and other Scottish MPs, will feel able to welcome and embrace it. Unfortunately, however, SNP Members appear to have learnt little. They created the mess over VAT for the police and fire services, and this Conservative Government have had to clear it up. New clause 10 seeks to point the finger, but the mess in the first place was of the SNP’s own creation. That is disappointing.

    The SNP Scottish Government messed up. They knew that they were messing up even as they did so, not least because they had been warned. Indeed, when they were estimating the budgetary effects of these centralisation plans, they specifically factored in the great multi-million-pound VAT giveaway. They pressed on regardless. It is extraordinary that Labour Front Benchers are supporting new clause 10.

  • Whatever argument the hon. Gentleman may present about what happened in the past, is he saying that he does not believe that more money should be given to the Scottish police and fire services?

  • That is exactly what we are doing, and, as the hon. Gentleman well knows, that is exactly what the Scottish Conservative MPs pressed for from the Treasury.

  • If this was all the work of the Scottish Tory MPs, why is it that, when I have asked parliamentary questions to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Treasury has been unable to confirm that any meetings have taken place with any of the hon. Gentleman’s colleagues to formally discuss the VAT measure?

  • I am afraid that there is photographic evidence, which my good friends Twittered at the time—not that I do Twitter—[Hon. Members: “Tweet!”] I mean tweet. There is photographic evidence that we most certainly did meet the Chancellor to discuss the measure.

  • Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

  • No. The hon. Gentleman has had his go.

    The nationalists made a conscious decision. They were not short-changed, they were not unaware, and the money was not “stolen”. They must accept that culpability for the lost millions lies squarely with them. If they want to raise the money, they should take the responsibility and raise it themselves. I only hope that they do not do so by inflicting further punishment on Scottish taxpayers.

    The poorly judged centralisation of Police Scotland is never far from the headlines, but the resignation of the chief constable and the delay in the pointless merger with the British Transport Police have brought it under a fresh spotlight in recent weeks. Surely now is the time for SNP Members, both here and in Holyrood, to stop manufacturing grievances from their own mistakes and join us in working constructively to make Scotland a better place. And they should start that process with a review of the structure of Police Scotland.

  • Amendments 10, 11 and 12 stand in my name and those of a number of Members on both sides of the House. They deal with the vehicle excise duty supplement, and, in particular, with how it applies to the new electric zero-emission taxis. I should probably declare an interest, as chair of the all-party parliamentary group on taxis. I am delighted that the amendment carries not only cross-party support but support throughout the country: in inner and outer London, Brighton, Sheffield, Bradford, Exeter, Huddersfield, Cambridge, Stoke-on-Trent, Bedford, Cardiff, Chesterfield, Sunderland, Leeds and Rotherham. Sterling work has also been done by my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford East (Anneliese Dodds), not just in Committee but in presenting the same powerful case this afternoon. I hope that this is an issue on which we can find common cause with those on the Treasury Bench.

    During the debate on the Budget and subsequently the Finance Bill, I welcomed the Chancellor’s announcement in the Budget to exempt zero emission-capable taxis from the vehicle excise duty supplement, but I also cautioned that that exemption would not kick in until mid-2019. Zero emission-capable taxis are already available for sale and have already hit the streets of this city and others. This new generation of the iconic black taxi not only provides passengers with a new degree of comfort and great surroundings, including the ability to see the sights of London through the roof while driving around but, most significantly and pertinently for the purposes of this debate, it is environmentally friendly. Members on both sides of the House are increasingly aware of how difficult taxi drivers in this city and across the country are finding their trade in the face of aggressive, and in many cases unfair, competitive practices. The Government need to do all they can to stop that great iconic taxi being driven off the streets of this city and others.

  • The Government announced significant changes to the VED banding structure in the emergency Budget of 2015, which came into force on 1 April 2017. Under those changes, drivers of the new electric taxi would not have to pay the standard rate of VED based on the vehicle’s CO2 emissions. However, they would pay a supplement for expensive cars of £310 per year for the first five years as the taxi costs over £40,000. This means that drivers of the new zero emission-capable taxi will be stung for the supplement, to the tune of £1,550.

    Grants from both the Government through the Office for Low Emission Vehicles and from Transport for London recognise the high costs of the zero emission-capable taxi and the risk that that stops drivers taking up this environmentally friendly vehicle. They have done so by offering grants of up to £7,500 off the taxi for the first 9,000 taxi drivers to buy it. The Government will claim back one fifth of these grants through the VED supplement change.

    That reform was counterintuitive and clearly at odds with the Government’s intention to make VED fairer for motorists and to reflect improvements in new car CO2 emissions. I welcome the fact that the Treasury has acknowledged that this was an “unintended consequence” of the VED reforms. In recognition of that, the Chancellor announced the change in the autumn Budget that I have mentioned, but it will not kick in until 2019. That is where these amendments come in.

    Amendments 10, 11 and 12 are designed to bring forward the exemption for the new electric taxi to the day that this Bill is passed as an Act. That would show taxi drivers in this city and across the country a clear determination on the part of the Government to help them to drive more environmentally friendly vehicles, but also recognise the significant pressures that the taxi trade is under.

    My amendments perhaps go further than the Chancellor’s statement in the Budget intended, in that they would apply to all taxis over the value of £40,000. I am happy to debate the merits of that position with the Minister, but I gently say to him, in the hope that we get movement from Ministers, that I have raised this point on the Floor of the House, it was raised in the Bill Committee, and I have raised it formally and informally with Ministers, and I hope the Minister will stand at the Dispatch Box today and give taxi drivers in my constituency and across the country the good news that the Government recognise the issues and are determined to make sure that that exemption kicks in earlier than April 2019. Otherwise, the Government will have created a perverse incentive for drivers to delay taking up a new environmentally friendly taxi because they know they will get better value from 2019. None of us wants that, which is why so many Members from across the House and the country have signed this amendment.

    I will conclude by making a political point. I hope that the Minister and other Conservative Members will take it in the spirit in which it is intended. There are many taxi drivers in my constituency, across London and the country who are not natural Labour voters. In fact, they have in many cases been dyed-in-the-wool Conservative voters. They cannot understand why the Conservative party has seemingly turned its back on a group of people who are arguably the best example of the small business, entrepreneurial spirit that this country embodies. Many of them have looked to the Conservative party as their champion, but they are now feeling badly left behind, not only because of issues relating to tax but because of the way in which the Conservative party has actively lobbied for a company that is destroying the taxi trade not through fair competition but through artificially low fares created by aggressive tax avoidance, low wages and a reckless and irresponsible approach to the management of data. The Conservative party has actively lobbied for Uber. Ministers have an opportunity today to show that they are listening to taxi drivers in London and across the country by making a simple change that would bring forward the Chancellor’s intended policy to a point in time that would make a difference to taxi drivers. In so doing, they might be able to rebuild a bit of trust in the Conservative party among taxi drivers.

    It is clearly in my interests if the Government do not listen to a word I have said and continue to give taxi drivers in my constituency and across the country the impression that the Conservative party simply does not care. However, I know from talking to taxi drivers in my constituency and their families, and many others across the country, that unless we get this exemption through, they will not be able to afford to take up the zero emission-capable taxis. In fact, it is arguable that many of them will not be able to afford to do that anyway. I am less interested in the party politics of this debate, and far more interested in ensuring that the taxi drivers in my constituency, across my city and across the country get a fair hearing and a fair deal from this Government.

  • Several hon. Members rose—

  • Order. Can I just try to be helpful? I want to get as many speakers in as possible, and I also need to hear from the Scottish National party spokesperson, so I ask Members to try to keep it short, as at least six more people want to speak.

  • I am pleased to speak in favour of the reforms to stamp duty for first-time buyers and to speak against the Opposition’s new clause. The changes to stamp duty mean that 95% of first-time buyers will pay less tax; in fact, 80% will pay no tax at all. First-time buyers will be getting a tax reduction of up to £5,000, which will be hugely welcomed by younger people in my constituency.

    I support this reform for three reasons. The first is that it is part of a wider rebalancing of the tax system towards younger people and people who do not own a home of their own. In that context, it is worth thinking about these measures alongside the measures that we took in 2015 to reform the tax treatment of buy-to-let and second homes. Those reforms increased stamp duty on the purchase of additional properties. So we have this reform, which supports first-time buyers, and we also have a set of reforms that improve fairness and reduce the demand for housing as an investment asset. Together, these reforms tilt the balance of the system towards younger people and first-time buyers. Dare I say that they are redistributive measures, and I am surprised that the Opposition are opposing them? Given that younger people are the most affected by our failure over a generation to build enough houses in this country, it is right that we should tilt the tax system towards them.

    Earlier in this debate, my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon South (Chris Philp) offered the Minister a suggestion for a revenue raiser, and I wonder whether I could do the same thing. Perhaps we should go even further in rebalancing the tax system towards young people and consider further reform of the private residence relief. The Minister will recall that, in 2013, we changed the way in which the exemption worked to make the system fairer and to end some of the abuses that happened under Labour, and I encourage him to look again at this issue, particularly given that a number of other countries have tighter restrictions on that important exemption. Such a move would complement the 75 anti-tax avoidance measures that we have already taken, which have raised £160 billion for public services.

    The second reason that I support these measures is that, as the Mirrlees review and many other economists have pointed out, stamp duty is fundamentally a bad tax that reduces mobility. Obviously, the Chancellor is unable to abolish it at this stage, given that we are still in the process of cleaning up the biggest deficit in this country’s entire peacetime history and the situation in which, disgracefully, the Government were borrowing a quarter of all the money being spent. None the less, we are making important progress on ending this bad tax. These changes follow the ending of the absurd slab system that Gordon Brown had built up and the £300 million tax cut that accompanied that. This further reduction in stamp duty land tax, this time for younger people, is hugely welcome, and I hope that the Treasury will continue to chop away at this bad tax.

    The third reason why I support the measures is that, even as we bring about longer-term reforms to increase supply, they can provide immediate support for younger people and those who do not own their own property. I agree with the hon. Member for Oxford East (Anneliese Dodds) that we must have higher supply. France has been building roughly twice as many houses as this country since 1970, so its house prices have gone up half as fast.

  • I am pleased to hear what the hon. Gentleman says, but why are so many of the housing measures, including support for local authorities, being delayed for a year before being properly implemented?

  • I am afraid that I am not entirely sure what the hon. Gentleman is driving at, and I am conscious of the time.

    I support the measures before us because they will provide immediate benefit, and they form part of a wider strategy to support first-time buyers, including Help to Buy, which has helped 230,000 people to get a home of their own, the lifetime ISA, which gives people a 25% bonus as they save for a deposit, the huge support for shared ownership and new supply measures, such as the housing infrastructure fund and the huge increase in funding for affordable housing in the 2015 spending review. My younger constituents will warmly welcome the end of stamp duty for first-time buyers, as will many older constituents—parents and grandparents.

    The hon. Member for Oxford East rather made the case against her own measures by drawing on the huge amount of published detail about and analysis of our proposals. I have in my hand the OBR’s estimate of residential SDLT elasticities, and it notes the significant degrees of uncertainty. The creation of the OBR was a welcome reform, because it makes things more transparent, and it is right that the OBR is cautious in its forecasts. We created the OBR because Gordon Brown fiddled the figures and changed the economic cycle and led us to disaster by doing so. It is also right to stress the uncertainty around such measures, because it is fundamentally difficult to model things in the housing market.

    When we introduced the annual tax on unoccupied dwellings, which I am sure the hon. Lady supports, we raised four times more money than predicted, so things are difficult to predict. However, my hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland (Mr Clarke) has already made the important point that even if we believe that the £5,000 would be entirely capitalised into the price of a house, my young constituents would be £5,000 better off as a result. In Harborough, Oadby and Wigston, that is still a significant sum of money, so I am hugely glad to be able to support these important reforms today and to oppose the Opposition’s amendments.

  • I rise to discuss new clause 10, tabled in my name and those of my SNP colleagues. Given that we are tight for time, I was tempted to make an incredibly short speech and just say, “Can you give us our money back, please? Thanks,” and then sit down, but I will expand on that a little.

  • Like other parties, the Liberal Democrats supported the SNP’s call for an exemption from VAT for emergency services. However, the SNP Scottish Government was warned that this would happen and chose to go ahead anyway, and we now have a police force that the public, many politicians and many members of the police are unhappy with. Would it not be better for the hon. Lady to plead with her colleagues in Holyrood to fix the problem, rather than try to divert attention on to something—

  • Order. Time is short, and Members should not be taking advantage. I want to get the leader of the hon. Lady’s party in, but I will not be able to if we have interventions that are speeches.

  • I am actually going to talk about why we should be given the rebate and why what happened makes sense.

    Scotland’s police and fire departments have been paying an annual charge of about £35 million a year in VAT, and we have repeatedly asked for those services to be excluded. The SNP has asked for it 140 times, and several other people have asked for it, too, and we have been given so many excuses why it could not be done. Murdo Fraser said that there was

    “no justification for a VAT refund.”—[Scottish Parliament Official Report, 31 October 2017; c. 77.]

    The Chancellor himself said that they would not be able to recover the VAT under EU law. However, the fair thing for the Government to do has always been to give police and fire services access to the VAT rebate. Highways England and the London Legacy Development Corporation have access to the rebate, and both are national organisations. Now, suddenly, the welcome decision has been taken to give us the rebate, but nothing has changed to cause that to happen. The situation is no different from what it was three years ago. The police and fire services are structured exactly the same as they were three years ago, yet somehow the Government have decided that we are now eligible for the rebate when previously we were not.

  • The only fair thing to do—I encourage the hon. Member for Gordon (Colin Clark) actually to read the amendment, because it would not do what he suggests—is to have a review. The amendment asks the Government to look at the implications of giving us back the money that our police and fire services have claimed. This is absolutely a matter of fairness. The rebate should always have been available to the Scottish police and fire services. The money should always have been available, so that we could ensure that we had the best possible services and so that we could do things such as tackling the public sector pay cap within those services.

    We are asking the Government to consider the consequence that would occur if the money were available to be claimed back retrospectively, and I contend that the consequences would be that we could spend more money on police and fire services in Scotland, we could counter this Government’s reduction in the block grant and things would be better for the police and fire services in Scotland. This is a matter of fairness. Nothing has changed except the Government’s position, and they should give us back the money that they have always owed us.

  • I rise to speak to new clause 7. There has been a failure of successive Governments to tackle the issues with our housing stock. Since the 1970s we have, on average, built 160,000 new homes a year in England, and the consensus is that we need to build between 225,000 and 275,000 homes a year to keep up with population growth, to keep up with an ageing population and to tackle years of under-supply. That is why I am pleased the Government are taking steps to address the situation through accelerated house building, resulting in an increase in supply of 217,000 houses in the past year.

    Increased demand and an historic lack of supply have inevitably pushed prices up. On average, house prices have risen by 7% a year since 1980, but the rise is not uniform. Areas such as the south-east have suffered more than others, with a 369% increase in prices since 2005. I see that in my own family, with many of my young cousins in Knowsley buying a home in their 20s on average salaries, as their parents did before them, but that is not the case in the south-east and other parts of the country.

    Large price hikes obviously affect young people more, as they are typically on lower incomes and struggle to raise the capital needed to save for a deposit. When I bought my first home in the mid-1990s, around 65% of my friends were doing the same, and we just earned average incomes. Now, less than 27% of 25 to 34-year-olds are home owners, and I would be willing to bet that not many of them are in Chichester, where the average house price is more than £365,000 and the average salary is just £25,000.

    The point was highlighted to me by a young couple living in my constituency, whose high rental costs mean they are unable to make any substantial savings towards a deposit. They are grateful for the schemes introduced by the Government to help them save for a deposit. Changes to stamp duty will also help first-time buyers such as my constituents to reduce the savings needed to cover the cost of purchasing a home. They will no longer pay stamp duty on properties up to the threshold of £300,000, and only 5% of the cost over £300,000 on properties up to £500,000, so 80% of first-time buyers should pay no stamp duty at all. This policy removes one of the barriers to the housing market, and it will help to give people the opportunity to reach a dream that many of us achieved in our 20s and 30s.

  • I rise to speak to new clause 2 in my name and in the name of my right hon. Friend the Member for North Norfolk (Norman Lamb), and I will say a few words about amendments 13 and 14 to schedule 3 that address a technical point of some importance raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr Carmichael), who regrets that he cannot be here to speak to the amendments himself.

    New clause 2 would ask the Office for Budget Responsibility to produce an independent, verifiable, non-political estimate of the yield that could be obtained by adding 1p in the £1—a 1% increase—to the standard, higher and additional rates of income tax. We are doing this not to give the Treasury computer some exercise—I am sure that it gets plenty—but to produce an estimate that we can all subscribe to of the revenue base that would exist for an earmarked tax to finance the NHS. This Report stage is clearly not the place to debate the NHS, but I want to raise the basic principle of how the Treasury might finance it.

    In the middle of last year, the chief executive of NHS England produced an estimate that about £6 billion was required to keep the NHS on a sustainable footing and to avoid a serious winter crisis—this was about £4 billion for the NHS itself and £2 billion for social care through local councils. In the event, the Treasury, in its November Budget came up with about £2 billion—we can argue about how much of that was real, but let us say it was £2 billion—but we had the winter crisis in any case, and it has been discussed here on many occasions. We have heard about the long trolley waits, the elderly people waiting in hospital for placements and the stress on staff. We hope the winter is now over, although we cannot be absolutely certain of that. The issue I want to raise is how we prevent this situation from happening in the next financial year.

    The proposal that we have an earmarked allocation of revenue from a small increase in income tax comes from a commission that my party set up, consisting of not just supporters but a lot of independent people with authority in the NHS. It includes the former chief executives of NHS England, of the Patients Association and of the Royal College of Nursing, and the former chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, among others of similar status. They argue that the only sensible, practical way now to prevent this endlessly recurring financial and then real crisis in the health service is to have a dedicated source of tax revenue.

    There have traditionally been two objections to such a proposal, one of which was public opinion—the public do not like higher taxes—but the survey evidence from a big Sky poll some months ago suggested that if people were absolutely confident that the money would be allocated to the health service, about 70% of them would support such an income tax increase; other polls have suggested the same.

    The second objection was a traditional Treasury one, which was that such an approach makes public spending and taxation more difficult to manage. I would cite as a counter to that the recent comments of the former head of the Treasury, Lord Macpherson, who presided over it in the five years when I was in the coalition Government. He is a massively impressive man. I confess that we did not always agree—he tended to regard public spending as some kind of disease—but none the less, he is a very authoritative source, and he appears to have been converted to the idea that such a measure is the only way in which the NHS can be put on a properly sustainable footing.

    Looking ahead to the next financial year, which is what we are asking the Government to do, the question is: how are we going to avoid the kind of problems we have had this year? The first way is by the Government simply muddling through on their current spending assumptions, and probably in the next Budget, in the autumn, the Chancellor will come up with another rabbit out of the hat, which will be inadequate and too late.

    The other alternative is to hope that there is some kind of advance payment of the “Brexit dividend”. I think that we are all familiar with these arguments about the £300 million a week that was supposed to come back—I think we have been promised £18 billion a year. We now know that this is almost entirely phoney and cannot be relied upon. Of course it was a gross, not a net, estimate, and we now know that we are going to pay out at least £40 billion. There will be continued annual payments through the transition period and possibly additional ad hoc payments on top of that.

    Even on a fairly charitable view, we would be talking about five to six years before there is any dividend, and even that depends on a continued constant rate of growth. If growth slows down, as it almost certainly will post Brexit, this dividend may never appear. So if we cannot rely on a Brexit dividend and we are going to get past ad hoc financing, some new mechanism needs to be found, and the purpose of our new clause is to open up that discussion. I do not propose to press the new clause to a Division, but I am interested to hear how the Treasury currently regards earmarked taxation and whether its thinking has advanced in any way.

    Finally, I wish to say a few words in support of the amendments tabled by my right hon. Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland, one of whose constituents has raised a substantial point about an HMRC proposal in the Bill that relates to dormant companies and their pension funds. The proposal is that such schemes should be de-registered when the companies have become dormant. The reasoning behind it is perfectly sensible: some such funds have been used for scams, to the cost of the public and HMRC, so HMRC proposes to de-register them when such things happen.

    My right hon. Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland’s constituent has pointed out some unintended consequences of this apparently sensible proposal, one of which is that there are quite a lot of cases in which the pension funds of dormant companies have been taken over by other companies. There are other cases in which a sponsoring company may be dormant but the trustees have kept it going on a pay-in basis, and it is perfectly sustainable.

    The other aspect of the proposal that potentially causes a problem is that de-registration could happen after a closure of one month. A good recent example would be Monarch airlines. As we all know, it takes a lot more than a month to wind up a pension scheme, so it is a bit pre-emptory. I do recognise, as does my right hon. Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland’s constituent, that the power for HMRC would be discretionary. The Minister may say that we should trust HMRC always to get these things right, but it may be more sensible, as amendments 13 and 14 suggest, to have a carve-out to deal with cases that clearly do not fall within its remit.

    The purpose of the amendments is to suggest that the de-registration activities should be restricted to the most recent six years, because that is when the scams have occurred and we do not need to go back into history. There should be a specific carve-out for cases in which there may well have been a pension fund succession. The provision would be that there should be at least one dormant employer and that a two-year period should be allowed for pension funds that have been maintained for a substantial time and are therefore clearly viable. Neither I nor my right hon. Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland would pretend that those are necessarily the perfect solutions to the problem, but I hope the Minister will acknowledge that there is an issue and get the Treasury to reflect on it and perhaps come up with a superior solution.

  • Given the limited time remaining, I intend to focus most of my remarks on the amendments and new clauses that have been spoken to in this debate.

    I shall begin with new clauses 7 and 8, which seek reviews of the operation of the SDLT exemption for first-time buyers. As we know, housing is one of the great challenges of our age. We all recognise—we certainly have done in this debate—the importance of the supply side, which is why my right hon. Friend the Chancellor, whom I am delighted to see on the Treasury Bench, made such important announcements about funding for more housing. We can now look at hitting 300,000 new build homes in the next decade. The point was made that the OBR suggested that prices may increase by 0.3% as a result of our SDLT measure, but that observation is based on that measure alone and does not take into account the supply-side measures we are introducing.

    Amendments 10, 11 and 12 relate to taxis and the vehicle excise duty supplement.

  • I wonder whether I might make a suggestion on the amendments to which my right hon. Friend just referred. Cabbies in my constituency have raised legitimate concerns about vehicle excise duty. If I have read them correctly, it seems that the amendments that have been tabled to clause 44 would make all taxis exempt from certain vehicle excise duty rates this year, rather than just the new, electric-capable vehicles. As my right hon. Friend knows from our discussions about taxis, I and other London Conservative MPs have serious concerns about air quality in the capital, so I would appreciate his view on whether it would instead be better if we brought forward by a year—

  • Order. Sit, please. In fairness to the Minister, he has a very short time in which to speak. By all means make an intervention to get on the record, but please do not try to make a speech on an intervention.

  • Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. In response to my hon. Friend—

  • Will my right hon. Friend give way?

  • I will give way very quickly to my hon. Friend.

  • On behalf of 1,000 skilled workers at the London Electric Vehicle plant in my constituency, will my right hon. Friend look very carefully at the proposals to bring forward the exemption on electric vehicles?

  • If we look at bringing forward this exemption, the important thing is that we should look solely at that element that relates to low-emission vehicles, rather than applying it to all taxis, as indeed amendments 10, 11 and 12 do, as tabled by the hon. Member for Ilford North (Wes Streeting). However, having listened to the representations from my hon. Friends the Members for Hornchurch and Upminster (Julia Lopez) and for Rugby (Mark Pawsey) and indeed from the hon. Gentleman who has tabled the amendments, we are minded to look sympathetically at bringing forward the exemption by a year for those taxis that have low emissions, albeit that they cost £40,000 or more. I know that my hon. Friend the Exchequer Secretary will shortly be meeting representatives from the London Taxi Company and that he will be furthering those discussions with them.

    In the one minute remaining, perhaps I could turn to new clause 10, which calls for a review of the consequences of not backdating the refund of VAT in respect of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service. The Chancellor made it clear in the Budget that, after lobbying from our Conservative colleagues in particular, we would allow such refunds going forward. In 2012, when the Scottish Government entered into those arrangements, they did so knowing what the VAT consequences would be, but we are taking action going forward.

    Finally, I understand the desire of the right hon. Member for Twickenham (Sir Vince Cable) to have information on the effects of increases of income tax by 1%. However, there is no need for that now, as information is available on that. Time does not allow me to explain what that is, but I will speak to him after this debate, and on that basis, I hope that he will not press his amendment. I also take on board his comments about dormant companies and pension fund arrangements, but we do have to look to HMRC to make those judgments so that we ensure that these scams are prevented.

  • We have no time left, so I will press new clause 7 to a Division.

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

  • Division 121

    21 February 2018

    The House divided:

    Ayes: 228
    Noes: 305

    Question accordingly negatived.

    View Details

    More than five hours having elapsed since the commencement of proceedings on the programme motion, the proceedings were interrupted (Programme Order, this day).

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

    New Clause 10

    Review of retrospective VAT refunds for the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and the Scottish Police Authority

    ‘(1) Within one month of this Act receiving Royal Assent, the Chancellor of the Exchequer shall commission a review of the potential consequences of allowing the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and the Scottish Police Authority to claim VAT refunds under section 33 of VATA 1994 retrospective to the date of their establishment.

    (2) The review shall consider—

    (a) the administrative consequences of allowing retrospective claims, and

    (b) the impact on revenue of allowing retrospective claims.

    (3) The Chancellor of the Exchequer shall lay the report of this review before the House of Commons within six months of this Act receiving Royal Assent.”

    This new clause would require the Chancellor of the Exchequer to commission a review into what the potential consequences of allowing the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and the Scottish Police Authority to make retrospective claims for VAT refunds would be.(Kirsty Blackman.)

    Brought up.

    Question put, That the clause be added to the Bill.

    Division 122

    21 February 2018

    The House divided:

    Ayes: 252
    Noes: 305

    Question accordingly negatived.

    View Details

    Clause 9

    Benefits in kind: diesel cars

    Amendments made: 6, page 4, line 30, leave out from beginning to end of line 32 and insert

    “it does not meet the Euro 6d emissions standard.”

    Amendment 7, page 4, line 38, leave out from “(2A)” to end of line 6 on page 5 and insert—

    “A vehicle meets the Euro 6d emissions standard only if it is first registered on the basis of an EC certificate of conformity which indicates that the exhaust emission level is Euro 6d (and it does not meet that standard if it is first registered on the basis of an EC certificate of conformity which indicates that that level is Euro 6d-TEMP).”—(Chris Heaton-Harris.)

    Clause 44

    VED: rates for light passenger vehicles, light goods vehicles, motorcycles etc

    Amendment made: 8, page 38, line 17, leave out from beginning to end of line 28 and insert “it does not meet the Euro 6d emissions standard.

    ‘(5) A vehicle meets the Euro 6d emissions standard only if it is first registered on the basis of an EU certificate of conformity which indicates that the exhaust emission level is Euro 6d (and it does not meet that standard if it is first registered on the basis of an EU certificate of conformity which indicates that that level is Euro 6d-TEMP).”—(Chris Heaton-Harris.)

    Amendment proposed: 10, page 38, line 30, at end insert—

    ‘(4A) In paragraph 1GE (higher rates of duty) after paragraph (3)(c) insert—

    “(d) the vehicle is not a taxi.

    (3A) For the purposes of this paragraph, “taxi” has the same meaning as in section 64 of the Transport Act 1980.”’—(Wes Streeting.)

    Question put, That the amendment be made.

    Division 123

    21 February 2018

    The House divided:

    Ayes: 225
    Noes: 304

    Question accordingly negatived.

    View Details

    Schedule 3

    Safety regulations: further provision

    Amendment made: 9, page 67, line 2, leave out “(1)” and insert “(1)(a)”—(Chris Heaton-Harris.)

  • Consideration being completed, I will now suspend the House briefly in order to make a decision about certification. The Division bells will be rung for two minutes before the House resumes.

  • On resuming—

  • I can now inform the House that I have completed certification of the Bill, as required by the Standing Order. I have confirmed the view expressed in the Speaker’s provisional certificate issued on 20 February. Copies of my final certificate will be made available in the Vote Office and on the parliamentary website.

    Under Standing Order No. 83M, a consent motion is therefore required for the Bill to proceed. Copies of the motion are now available.

    Does a Minister intend to move the consent motion?

  • indicated assent.

    The House forthwith resolved itself into the Legislative Grand Committee (England, Wales and Northern Ireland) (Standing Order No. 83M).

  • I remind Members that if there is a Division, only Members representing constituencies in England, Wales and Northern Ireland may vote. As the knife has fallen, there can be no debate.

    Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 83M(5)),

    That the Committee consents to the following certified clauses of, and schedules to, the Finance (No. 2) Bill:

    Clauses and Schedules certified under Standing Order No. 83L(2) (as modified in its application by Standing Order No. 83S(4)) as relating exclusively to England, Wales and Northern Ireland and being within devolved legislative competence

    Clauses 3, 40 and 41 of, and Schedule 11 to, the Bill as amended in Public Bill Committee (Bill 151).(Mel Stride.)

    Question agreed to.

    The occupant of the Chair left the Chair to report the decision of the Committee (Standing Order No. 83M(6)).

    The Deputy Speaker resumed the Chair; decision reported.

    Third Reading

  • I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

    The Bill makes a number of vital changes to our tax system, helping people to buy their first homes, working towards improving productivity in our country, and making our tax system fairer and more sustainable. This Government believe in

    “a nation-wide property-owning democracy.”

    That conviction is as strong now as it was when Anthony Eden first said those words in 1946, but it is obvious to all of us in the House that the ideal has been eroded, and that the next generation of potential homeowners are being shut out. In London, prices are nearly 13 times the average wage, and in the rest of England they are eight times the average wage. Home ownership has decreased by 20 percentage points among young people in just the last 15 years. This Government know that the most sustainable way to improve affordability is by increasing supply. That is why at the autumn Budget we took steps to address this. We announced the Letwin review to look at why planning permissions are not turning into homes, and we increased Government funding for new housing to £44 billion over the next five years.

    But there are also things we can do in the short term to help young people in particular to get a foot on to the ladder, so this Bill provides for a stamp duty cut for first-time buyers. First-time buyers tend to be more cash-constrained than others, with stamp duty representing a key financial obstacle, on top of a deposit and conveyancing fees for purchases over £125,000. This Bill will help more people to negotiate these challenges and exempts first-time buyers from stamp duty for houses worth up to £300,000, and it provides discounts for houses worth up to £500,000. This will save homebuyers up to £5,000 and will mean 80% of first-time buyers will not pay any stamp duty.

    This Government have presided over 20 successive quarters of economic growth, record levels of employment and a significant decrease in the Budget deficit, as well as among the lowest levels of unemployment in over 40 years. This has been achieved only because of fair and sustainable fiscal and economic policy, but Britain’s productivity growth is subdued and has been since 2008, and I hardly need to tell the House why this should concern us, for productivity is intimately linked to real incomes and to living standards. That is why in this Bill we are increasing the research and development expenditure credit from 11% to 12%, thereby increasing incentives to businesses to invest in R&D. We also need to encourage our entrepreneurs and help their bright ideas to become productive business, but, as Sir Damon Buffini pointed out in the “Patient Capital Review”, it is often those companies at the forefront of technological and knowledge-based development with the most productive potential that struggle for necessary capital. In this Bill we are therefore increasing the lifetime investment limit for knowledge-intensive companies through our venture capital schemes from £5 million to £10 million, and we are doubling the yearly amount an investor can put into these schemes to £2 million, provided that everything over £1 million is invested in knowledge-intensive businesses. Building an economy fit for the future relies on our harnessing technology, new ideas, and the expertise we already have; these changes will help to make that happen.

    The Government will continue to work relentlessly to make our tax system fairer and more sustainable, and this Bill continues the Government’s work on tax avoidance and evasion, making sure that people pay their fair share. Since 2010 the Government have introduced over 100 avoidance and evasion measures, which have helped to secure and protect over £175 billion of additional tax revenues to go towards our vital public services. But the work is not done, and this Bill furthers that agenda, cracking down on online VAT evasion, making online marketplaces joint and severally liable for the unpaid VAT of their sellers, and preventing companies from claiming unfair tax relief on their intellectual property. Taken together, the measures in the Bill to tackle avoidance and evasion raise further vital funds for our public services.

    I thank Members for the quality of the debate during the passage of this Bill, and I thank in particular the Bill Committee and those on the Opposition Front Benches, both Labour and Scottish National parties, for their professional scrutiny and the fair and effective way in which they conducted themselves.

    This Bill is one of which this Government can be proud. It gives first-time buyers renewed hope of a place on the housing ladder, puts measures in place to boost productivity, and takes another step along the path towards an equitable and sustainable tax system. I commend the Bill to the House.

  • The only thing I agree with the Minister about is that I too thank everyone who has taken part in the proceedings. The Bill is not up to the challenge. It contains nothing of substance on public services, on the productive investment that we need, on housing, on tax avoidance or on the scandal of private finance investments. It is an insubstantial Bill from an insubstantial Government, with more tax cuts for the richest. I shall sum up by saying that the Tory party is financially bankrupt in Northamptonshire and morally bankrupt in Westminster. That sums up this Bill, and we will vote against it.

    Question put, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

  • Division 124

    21 February 2018

    The House divided:

    Ayes: 301
    Noes: 218

    Question accordingly agreed to.

    View Details

    Bill read the Third time and passed.

    Business of the House

    Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Orders Nos. 15 and 41A(3)),

    That, at this day’s sitting, the Motion in the name of Secretary Chris Grayling relating to the Space Industry Bill [Lords], may be proceeded with, though opposed, until any hour; and Standing Order No. 41A (Deferred divisions) will not apply.—(Amanda Milling.)

    Question agreed to.