Mr. Paul Tyler, supported by Mr. Alan Beith, Mr. Matthew Taylor, Mr. Nick Harvey, Mr. Don Foster and Mr. Simon Hughes, presented a Bill to amend the Water Act 1989 to prohibit the use by water undertakers of rateable values as a basis for charging from 31st March 1995 ; to provide for charging by water undertakers in accordance with council tax bands ; and for connected purposes : And the same was read the First time ; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 6 May, and to be printed. [Bill 94.]
That leave be given to bring in a Bill to remove any discrimination on grounds of gender in the provision of public conveniences and to place a statutory duty on local authorities to provide a minimum level of public conveniences ; and for connected purposes.
In the Bill I propose to make it a duty of local authorities to provide public conveniences at certain minimum levels. To those who would argue that these matters should be left to the discretion of individual councils, I say that the recent record of local authorities suggests that the priority that they give to this public service is very low indeed. Public conveniences have been, and are being, closed right across the country. Due to financial constraints, local authorities are cutting back drastically on this non-statutory service.
The Public Health Act 1936 states that councils "may" provide facilities for the use of the public. There is no legal duty to provide any toilets at all. At the present rate of closure, some authorities are getting near to that nil figure. Indeed, the BBC1 programme "Here and Now", which will be shown tomorrow, carried out a survey which shows that, among the 180 councils which replied to the programme's survey, 771 conveniences have been closed in the last decade.
The number of local authorities which now charge for this important public service has risen sharply. Ten years ago only 12 charged and now 57 do--a 400 per cent. increase. The survey also reveals that, in the councils canvassed, there are still more than 1,000 more sites for men than for women. Worst hit are the towns in the north-west. Manchester closed 79 toilets in the last decade, leaving just 20--which means that it has closed three-quarters of its public toilets. Sheffield has cut the number of toilets by half, causing hardship and discomfort for up to 50,000 people in the city who suffer from incontinence.
I too recently surveyed local council provision. Among the 162 local authorities taking part in my survey, I found that provision varied enormously from a low of one facility per 6,427 men and 11,248 women to a high of one facility per 35 men and 86 women. The Bill proposes a minimum provision of one facility per 550 women and one facility per 1,100 men, with a unisex facility for the disabled per 10,000 of the population. It would also require a minimum provision of nappy-changing facilities which could be used by men and women. People need public conveniences at "on street" sites. In general, a low fluid intake can increase the likelihood of kidney and bladder infections. Conversely, a high fluid intake helps prevent cystitis, renal tract infections, kidney stones and constipation. These are common disorders of the elderly and, clearly, there is a health argument for the better provision of toilets. Women in particular have an increased need for toilet facilities, especially when they are menstruating or pregnant.
Only last month, the Government facilitated National Continence Week to highlight the problem of incontinence which affects 3 million people. The British Foundation of Health Continence Care has estimated that 14 per cent. of women and 7 per cent. of men are affected. Many of these people can become housebound because of the absence or closure of public toilets. It is clear that women's needs are greater than men's and yet my survey showed that
Column 743provision is greater for men than for women. Research carried out in the United States shows that women take twice as long to urinate as men. The Bill would make provision for women at twice the level of that for men.
Groups such as the Continence Foundation and All Mod Cons examined the issue of numbers, especially when the All Mod Cons' co-ordinator worked with the British Standards Institution. They produced the figures that I have included in the Bill.
The first public toilet for women was built in London in the 1880s. It was recognised that an increasing number of women were going to work and so needed facilities near their place of work. On a public site, the toilets in Leicester square which were built in 1900 offered 27 urinals and 13 cubicles for men, with three urinettes and seven cubicles for women. The reason given for the imbalance in the provision was that women did not go out as much as men, and the belief was aired at the time that women would be too embarrassed to use a public toilet in any case. We have come a long way from the days of such ridiculous sensibilities and attitudes to women and our natural bodily functions, but it was evident to me when I surveyed local council provision that men had a better overall level of toilets and that the situation was getting worse rather than better. The Women's Design Service researched what women objected to in current WC provision. First, they objected to the queues which were the result of the lack of facilities. Secondly, they were concerned about access, with particular reference to turnstiles. Turnstiles present particular problems at stations when people are carrying heavy luggage, but they are also a problem for the disabled or for people with pushchairs or young children--usually, of course, women rather than men. They are also dangerous, impede emergency exits and are sometimes prohibitive to entry. They are currently outlawed from council facilities under the turnstiles legislation of 1968, although I notice that Westminster has one or two. The Bill would outlaw turnstiles from all toilets provided for the public.
Column 744This is the Year of the Family, and anyone who has children will be aware of the difficulties in finding facilities for children and will know that one cannot hang around when one's children want to go to the toilet. I found that 52 of the authorities that took part in my survey--more than a third of them--had no nappy-changing facilities whatever. My Bill would require a unisex facility for every 10,000 head of population.
I am a relatively recent father, with a three-year-old son and an eight- month-old son. As a Member of Parliament I do not often find myself out alone with them, but it has happened occasionally. When they want to go to the toilet, they really want to go, and I know how difficult it is to find somewhere to take them.
Under the Public Health Act 1936 councils are allowed to charge for cubicles but not for urinals. Clearly that is an anachronism today, and the law is sexist. My Bill would revoke that provision. The slogan "back to basics" has been derided in some quarters, but surely here we have a basic public service developed by Victorian civic leaders, yet all too often now ignored. I hope that my Bill will be supported on both sides of the House, and given Government support.
Question put and agreed to.
Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Jon Owen Jones, Mr. Nicholas Winterton, Mrs. Ann Winterton, Mr. Harry Greenway, Mr. Peter Viggers, Mr. Ian McCartney, Ms Jean Corston, Ms Mildred Gordon, Mr. Andrew Smith, Ms Marjorie Mowlam, Mr. Simon Hughes and Ms Liz Lynne.
Mr. Jon Owen Jones accordingly presented a Bill to remove any discrimination on grounds of gender in the provision of public conveniences and to place a statutory duty on local authorities to provide a minimum level of public conveniences ; and for connected purposes : And the same was read the First time ; and ordered to be read a Second time upon Friday 6 May, and to be printed. [Bill 93.]
Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 80 (Business Committee),
That the Report [13th April] from the Business Committee be now considered.-- [Mr. Patnick.]
Question agreed to.
Resolved, That this House doth agree with the Committee in its resolution.
Following is the Report of the Business Committee :
(1) the order in which proceedings on consideration shall be taken shall be new Clauses standing in the name of Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, new Schedules so standing, other new Clauses, other new Schedules, and Amendments to Clause No. 1, Schedule No. 1, Clauses Nos. 2 to 5, Schedule No. 2, Clause No. 6, Schedule No. 3, Clauses Nos. 7 to 9, Schedule No. 4, Clauses Nos. 10 to 14, Schedule No. 5, Clauses Nos. 15 to 40, Schedule No. 6, Clauses Nos. 41 to 64, Schedule No. 7, Clauses Nos. 65 to 77, Schedule No. 8, Clauses Nos. 78 to 81, Schedule No. 9, Clauses Nos. 82 and 83, Schedule No. 10, Clauses Nos. 84 to 91, Schedule No. 11, Clauses Nos. 92 to 102, Schedule No. 12, Clauses Nos. 103 to 112, Schedule No. 13, Clauses Nos. 113 to 135, Schedule No. 14, Clause No. 136, Schedule No. 15, Clauses Nos. 137 to 144, Schedule No. 16, Clauses Nos. 145 to 167, Schedule No. 17, Clauses Nos. 168 to 194, Schedule No. 18, Clauses Nos. 195 to 216, Schedule No. 19, Clauses Nos. 217 to 226, Schedule No. 20, Clauses Nos. 227 to 229, Schedule No. 21, Clauses Nos. 230 to 234, Schedule No. 22, Clauses Nos. 235 to 250, Schedule No. 23, Clause No. 251, Schedule No. 24, Clauses Nos. 252 to 254, Clause No. 256, Clause No. 255 and Schedule No. 25 ;
(2) The allotted days which under the Order [1st February] are given to the proceedings on consideration and third reading shall be allotted in the manner shown in the Table set out below and, subject to the provisions of that Order, each part of the proceedings shall, if not previously brought to a conclusion, be brought to a conclusion at the time specified in the third colum of that Table.
Table Allotted day |Proceedings |Time for conclusion |of proceedings ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- First day |New Clauses standing in the|6 p.m. |name of Mr. Chancellor of |the Exchequer and new |Schedules so standing. |Other new Clauses and |11 p.m. |other new Schedules. Second day |Remaining proceedings on |7 p.m. |consideration. |Third reading |10 p.m.
Not amended (in the Committee) and as amended (in the Standing Committee), considered.
.--(1) After section 203B of the Taxes Act 1988 (which is inserted by section 125 above) there shall be inserted
"PAYE : employee of non-UK employer.
203BB.--(1) This subsection applies where
(a) an employee during any period works for a person ("the relevant person") who is not his employer ;
(b) any payment of, or on account of, assessable income of the employee in respect of work done in that period is made by a person who is the employer or an intermediary of the employer ;
(c) PAYE regulations do not apply to the person making the payment or, if he makes the payment as an intermediary of the employer, the employer ; and
(d) income tax is not deducted or accounted for in accordance with the regulations by the person making the payment or, if he makes the payment as an intermediary of the employer, the employer. (2) Where subsection (1) above applies, the relevant person shall be treated, for the purposes of PAYE regulations, as making a payment of the assessable income of the employee of an amount equal to the amount determined in accordance with subsection (3) below. (3) The amount referred to is
(a) if the amount of the payment actually made is an amount to which the recipient is entitled after deduction of any income tax, the aggregate of the amount of that payment and the amount of any income tax due ; and
(b) in any other case, the amount of the payment actually made. (4) In this section and sections 203BC and 203BD "work", in relation to an employee, means the performance of any duties of the office or employment of the employee and any reference to his working shall be construed accordingly.
(5) Subsections (3) and (4) of section 203B apply for the purposes of this section as they apply for the purposes of that section. "PAYE : employee non-resident, etc.
203BC.--(1) This section applies in relation to an employee in a year of assessment only if
(a) he is not resident or, if resident, not ordinarily resident in the United Kingdom ; and
(b) he works or will work in the United Kingdom and also works or is likely to work outside the United Kingdom.
(2) Where in relation to any year of assessment it appears to an officer of the Board that
(a) some of the income of an employee to whom this section applies is assessable to income tax under Case II of Schedule E, but (b) an as yet unascertainable proportion of the income may prove not to be assessable,
the officer may, on an application made by the appropriate person, give a direction for determining a proportion of any payment made in that year of, or on account of, income of the employee which shall be treated for the purposes of PAYE regulations as a payment of assessable income of the employee.
(3) In this section "the appropriate person" means
(a) the person designated by the employer for the purposes of this section ; or
Column 747(b) if no person is so designated, the employer.
(4) An application for a direction under subsection (2) above shall provide such information as is available and is relevant to the giving of the direction.
(5) A direction under subsection (2) above
(a) shall specify the employee to whom and the year of assessment to which it relates ;
(b) shall be given by notice to the appropriate person ; and (c) may be withdrawn by notice to the appropriate person from a date specified in the notice.
(6) The date so specified may not be earlier than thirty days from the date on which the notice of the withdrawal is given.
(a) a direction under subsection (2) above has effect in relation to an employee to whom this section applies, and
(b) a payment of, or on account of, the income of the employee is made in the year of assessment to which the direction relates, the proportion of the payment determined in accordance with the direction shall be treated for the purposes of PAYE regulations as a payment of assessable income of the employee.
(8) Where in any year of assessment
(a) no direction under subsection (2) above has effect in relation to an employee to whom this section applies, and
(b) any payment is made of, or on account of, the income of the employee,
the entire payment shall be treated for the purposes of PAYE regulations as a payment of assessable income of the employee. (9) Subsections (7) and (8) above are without prejudice to (a) any assessment in respect of the income of the employee in question ; and
(b) any right to repayment of income tax overpaid and any obligation to pay income tax underpaid.
"PAYE : mobile UK workforce.
203BD.--(1) This subsection applies where it appears to the Board that
(a) a person ("the relevant person") has entered into or is likely to enter into an agreement that employees of another person ("the contractor") shall in any period work for, but not as employees of, the relevant person ;
(b) payments of, or on account of, assessable income of the employees in respect of work done in that period are likely to be made by or on behalf of the contractor ; and
(c) PAYE regulations would apply on the making of such payments but it is likely that income tax will not be deducted or accounted for in accordance with the regulations.
(2) Where subsection (1) above applies, the Board may give a direction that, if
(a) any employees of the contractor work in any period for, but not as employees of, the relevant person, and
(b) any payment is made by the relevant person in respect of work done by the employees in that period,
income tax shall be deducted in accordance with the provisions of this section by the relevant person on making that payment. (3) A direction under subsection (2) above
(a) shall specify the relevant person and the contractor to whom it relates ;
(b) shall be given by notice to the relevant person ; and (c) may at any time be withdrawn by notice to the relevant person. (4) The Board shall take such steps as are reasonably practicable to ensure that the contractor is supplied with a copy of any notice given under subsection (3) above which relates to him.
(a) a direction under subsection (2) above has effect, and (b) any employees of the contractor specified in the direction work for, but not as employees of, the relevant person so specified, income tax shall, subject to and in accordance with PAYE regulations, be deducted by the relevant person on making any payment in respect of that work as if so much of the
Column 748payment as is attributable to work done by each employee were a payment of assessable income of that employee.".'-- [Mr. Dorrell.] Brought up, and read the First time .
Mr. Dorrell : The clause creates no new liabilities to tax. It contains provisions that will remove doubts that had arisen about the Inland Revenue's ability to collect tax under PAYE in certain circumstances.
The objective of new clause 9 is to put beyond any doubt the legal basis of the operation of PAYE in those circumstances in past years, following a recent court decision in the House of Lords.
New clause 8 has three objectives. First, it has been suggested that employers do not need to operate PAYE on the emoluments of employees or directors who come to work in the United Kingdom from overseas, if the exact proportion of their salaries and other payments that will be taxable is uncertain at the moment at which they are paid. The argument is that, when a payment of salary is made, the taxable proportion of it cannot always be ascertained precisely until later, usually after the end of the tax year, when the overall proportion of overseas and United Kingdom duties can be determined. It has been suggested that in such circumstances PAYE should not be operated on any part of the employee's salary, but that tax should be collected direct from the employee after the end of the tax year. Clearly that would have unacceptable cash flow consequences for the Exchequer, possibly running into hundreds of millions of pounds, as well as a potential long-term loss of tax where the individual concerned has returned to his home abroad.
Mr. Geoffrey Hoon (Ashfield) : Will the Financial Secretary be explaining to the House the precise circumstances which have caused the new clause to be necessary ? Will he be giving an explanation of the implication of the House of Lords decision so that we may all understand why the Government must bring forward the new clause at this stage ?
Mr. Dorrell : As I told the House, the House of Lords, in the case of the Commissioners of Inland Revenue v. Herd, ruled that there was doubt about the right of the Inland Revenue to collect tax under PAYE where the proportion of an individual's remuneration taxable under United Kingdom law and the proportion taxable under foreign law was uncertain at the moment at which the payment was made. That state of affairs removed the power of the Inland Revenue to collect tax under PAYE. The House will recognise that that is not a sensible basis on which to proceed, and the purpose of new clause 8 is to remedy that situation and to put the law, in the classic phrase, back in the position in which it was always thought to have been.
The effect of new clause 8 is therefore to provide in the new section 203BC of the Income and Corporation Taxes
Column 749Act 1988 that PAYE may continue to be applied in future to the emoluments of employees and directors who are either not resident or not ordinarily resident in the UK. New clause 8 also provides two further provisions : the new sections 203BB and 203BD, which replace an anti-avoidance provision currently provided in secondary legislation and which applies where an employee or a director is paid by someone other than the person for whom he or she works on a day-to-day basis. In such circumstances, the current PAYE regulations require the person for whom the employee works, rather than the person who pays them, to account for tax under PAYE.
The validity of the current regulation has never been formally challenged, but when the operation of PAYE on the emoluments of employees and others coming from overseas to work in the UK was being considered, and in the light of the recent court case to which I referred, we thought that it would be sensible to put beyond doubt the power of the Revenue to collect PAYE in the respect of those individuals. That is the effect of the new sections 203BB and BD provided in the rest of new clause 8.
New clause 9, as I have already said, confirmed the past year's validity of the regulation and the new sections which replace that regulation and ensure that the tax that has been collected through PAYE for years past was legitimately collected.
Mr. Nicholas Brown (Newcastle upon Tyne, East) : The Government clearly have a duty to protect the interests of the Inland Revenue and, for our part, Labour Members do not quarrel with that. As I understand the position as the Financial Secretary has stated it to the House, although the new clauses may seem complex, their purpose is to state the law as it was always understood to be.
It is not unusual in Finance Bills for Labour Members, even on Report, to make either a pre-emptive strike on future decisions of the courts or to clarify for the courts the Government's original intention in legislating. I understand that the threat of loss of revenue could be quite substantial, so I am sure that the Government are right to act in that way.
As the Financial Secretary has explained to the House, the principal concern seems to be with those who are either foreign nationals or who receive some substantial proportion of their total earnings from sources abroad. Therefore, there is some doubt as to the employers' liability to deduct PAYE from their earnings in Britain. It is certainly my view that there should be no such doubt and that the Government are proceeding in the right way.
However, I wish to raise a separate concern with the Financial Secretary that has been put to me and some of my hon. and right hon. Friends by the National Farmers Union of Scotland. It is worried that the enactment that we are considering will affect its responsibility to administer payments and remunerations to gang labour employed on estates in Scotland. My understanding of the situation--frankly, I am not a specialist in the area- -is that, at the moment, the gang master is responsible for the deduction of tax and national insurance, not the farmer. The NFU's fear is that responsibility is being transferred to it. It does not necessarily follow from the Financial Secretary's explanation that that is the position. I hope that he will be
Column 750able to tell the House what the position is as it pertains to gangs working on agricultural projects, especially as the law applies in Scotland.
Mr. James Paice (Cambridgeshire, South-East) : As the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, East (Mr. Brown) has said, this is not a matter for Scotland alone. The role of gang masters in agriculture, and especially in large-scale horticulture, is well known, particularly in the area of the fens in East Anglia up into Lincolnshire. In my constituency, and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire, North-East (Mr. Moss), many growers use gang masters as a means of harvesting and packaging their crops. Only three years ago there was a voluntary agreement between the Inland Revenue and the industry to try to overcome the problems that are caused by a few gang masters who have not been presenting the necessary payments to the Revenue.
The great majority of gang masters are respectable individuals who run their businesses in all the ways in which we would wish them to do so. In so doing they fulfil their obligations. A few of them have been failing to do that and the voluntary agreement was targeted at them.
It was with considerable concern that growers in my constituency, and the NFU, found the new clause on the amendment paper. They saw it as a sledgehammer to crack a nut--in other words, a large piece of extra legislation to deal with a small problem. No one is pretending that there is not a problem in a few instances, but I am concerned that the Inland Revenue should not now seek to make all farmers and growers who use gang masters responsible for the tax and insurance liabilities of the people who happen to work on their premises, carrying out work related to their businesses.
It must be emphasised that farmers and growers do not employ the people who are brought to their premises by gang masters. They are not in charge of their day-to-day immediate work. They have no control over their terms and conditions. Such matters are decided by the gang master, who enters into a contract with the farmer to have a particular job of work carried out on the farm or the holding. My hon. Friend the Financial Secretary said that the clause does not contain any new powers. He implied that the provision would not be used extremely rigorously. I note that "may" is used in terms of the proposed powers. I should like my hon. Friend's assurance that the Revenue will not turn to every farmer and grower who uses gang masters and tell them that they must be responsible for all the PAYE paperwork for every person who works on their land.
We are not talking about two or three people. In my constituency, there are growers who, through gang masters, may have several hundred people working on their land at any one time. To make the individual farmer or grower responsible would be a mammoth imposition, especially at this time of year, which is the beginning of the growing and harvesting season. To introduce such a burden now on farmers and growers would be something that they could well do without, particularly when they are facing immense competition from Spain in respect of several horticultural crops.
I urge my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to assure me and those of my hon. Friends who have considerable constituency interests in this context that he will not allow the Inland Revenue to use the powers in the clause to bear