My Lords, in moving the Motion that this Bill do now pass, I take the opportunity to thank noble Lords from all sides of the House for their interest and contributions to the progress of the Bill. In particular, my thanks go to the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, and the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, for their constructive engagement, thoughtful contributions and thorough consideration of this piece of legislation.
As ever, I am grateful to the House authorities and parliamentary staff for their hard work behind the scenes. I acknowledge the work of the officials who have worked so hard on the Bill for many months: the Bill team; the policy teams at HMRC and Her Majesty’s Treasury; the lawyers in both departments; the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel; the clerks in this place; and, finally, my noble friend Lady Scott.
I take this opportunity very briefly to recap the importance of this Bill. It introduces new measures to unleash the potential of our ports and regenerate left-behind communities by encouraging businesses from around the world to invest in our regions, spreading jobs and investment opportunities across the country. Specifically, it introduces two employer national insurance reliefs for workers in free ports and organisations that recruit Armed Forces veterans. In doing so, it supports the delivery of the Government’s free ports programme and boosts regional growth and the employment prospects of our extraordinary veterans. The Bill also provides an exemption from self-employed NICs for test and trace support payments, which will apply retrospectively from the 2020-21 tax year. Finally, the Bill introduces changes to the disclosure of tax avoidance schemes regime. I beg to move.
My Lords, I join the Minister in his thanks, particularly to the Minister himself and his team. I commend their availability to interested parties and the many interesting Zoom meetings we have had. I also thank all Members who were involved in this Bill, particularly the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer. Between us, I think we produced an excellent speed-through and we have done the Bill a total service. Finally on the thanks side, I thank my team, which is one half of Dan Stevens, without whom I could not have carried this burden.
On the substance of the Bill, I note what the Minister has said. I hope that he shows equal enthusiasm for the two rather gentler amendments that we are sending to the Commons, and I hope that we see this Bill no more.
My Lords, I have participated in the progress of this Bill and I have always appreciated the stated objectives. I know that I have disappointed the Minister with my pessimism about its likely effects, but I thank him for his unfailing courtesy during the Bill’s progress.
My Lords, it is very nice to have an opportunity to say thank you, and I really want to say thank you to the Minister and his office. Not only were his staff always courteous, but their willingness to meet us, to answer questions and provide a great deal of detail, was very helpful—certainly for me, but also for anyone not sitting on the Government Benches. We really appreciated that flow of information.
For my part I thank Sarah Pughe and Katherine Ginty, who gave me a great deal of support—and were sitting alone on my Benches for most of this Bill. It is always excellent, too, to work with the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe. We found a good way, I think, to pursue the primary interest of the Official Opposition while also giving space to the views coming from these Benches, and often to find common ground.
I particularly appreciated the amendments that the Minister brought forward which reflected the concerns of the Delegated Powers Committee. From a constitutional perspective, it is important that he took those on board and made change that is exceedingly sensible and constructive. I thank him very much for that.
The two gentle amendments—as the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, described them—are actually rather important. One was on veterans. I hope that it will be well received when it heads back to the Commons. Our amendment, on a public—rather than non-public—register of beneficial ownership of businesses in the free ports, could hardly be more pertinent today, as we look to bring in economic sanctions against henchmen of Putin. Once again, the Prime Minister has talked very publicly about the importance of the public nature of registers, so it would have been sad not to ensure that this register started life in that way. So I hope that that amendment, too, will be very warmly received by the Commons.
It often feels as if there is an inner circle of three from across our three Benches on some of the less dramatic finance and economy-related Bills, and it has been very good to work with everyone again. I thank also the staff of the House, who are always so supportive.
Bill passed and returned to the Commons with amendments.