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Mrs. Taylor: I agree with my hon. Friend. Someone who goes into prison addicted to drugs and comes out addicted to drugs will almost inevitably get caught up in crime. I have not visited the unit at Risley, but I have seen the unit in Strangeways and heard of various prisons' success in ensuring that prisoners who are willing to take the first step to kick a drugs habit are given the support and help they need. I am sure that the Prison Service will generally welcome my hon. Friend's comment and be happy to try to move in the direction she recommends.

Fiona Mactaggart (Slough): I apologise to other hon. Members, whose questions I did not hear; I did hearthe statement. May take this opportunity to thank the Government for the £2 million in support for the anti-drugs work of the single regeneration budget partnership in Slough? May I urge that, in tackling this

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problem, we work carefully with parents of different communities and cultures? The Sikh community in Slough are extremely anxious about young people's involvement in drugs, but they feel that, in the past, many of the programmes have not been sensitive to their concerns. They would be grateful for the assurance that their needs will be clearly at the centre of the strategy.

Mrs. Taylor: I am grateful for my hon. Friend's comments. She is right to say that all parts of the community need help in this respect. She mentioned the SRB projects in Slough, which are unusual in including peer-led drugs education as well as outreach workers. It is important that we use all possible means to get the message across. She also mentioned minority communities and the Sikh community in Slough: we have to face the fact that no community is immune from the problem of drugs and that if we are to get the message across to different communities, we may have to use different ways and be sensitive to the reaction of the communities. The problem is so serious that all parts of the country and all communities must get the necessary information so that, together, everybody is as well equipped as possible to face the challenge and to equip our young people for a better future.

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Point of Order

4.53 pm

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow): On a point of order, Madam Speaker. As some of us know only too well, you are, quite rightly, very stringent about your selection of subjects for private notice questions. My point of order, on one level, might seem a bit impertinent and cheeky in relation to the Chair, but it is not meant that way.

Before accepting a subject for a private notice question, should there not be some assurance by the hon. Member asking the question, if he is not the constituency Member, that, if he is going to criticise people and an institution, he has had the courtesy at least to attempt to contact them?

It was a bit odd that this afternoon's question should come from the hon. Member for Truro and St. Austell (Mr. Taylor). I wondered whether he had consulted his right hon. Friend the Member for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross (Mr. Maclennan), because it became quite clear that he had not bothered to contact Dounreay. Do you, Madam Speaker, think that it is any part of the Speaker's duty to contact the institution involved before criticism is made, to determine whether an hon. Member has had the courtesy to hear the other side of the story before taking up the time of the House of Commons and causing great damage?

Madam Speaker: It is no duty of the Speaker to question the fact that an hon. Member, wherever he represents, has put a private notice question to me. My only concern is to ensure that it meets the criteria of urgency or emergency or, as in this case, whether I am able, by bringing a Minister to the Dispatch Box, to give what I thought the public needed in terms of reassurance. It was on that point that I determined to bring the Minister to the Dispatch Box. I have nothing further to say on that matter.

Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark, North and Bermondsey): Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker.

Madam Speaker: There can be no further point of order. I have made it quite clear what the position of the Speaker is, and I have given a reason, which is unprecedented, but I thought that it was important that the people should be reassured about the situation. I believe that they have been reassured today, and that was my reason for bringing the Minister here.

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Orders of the Day

Finance (No. 2) Bill

(Clauses 1, 7, 10, 11, 25, 27, 30, 75, 119 and 147)

Considered in Committee.

[Mr. Michael J. Martin in the Chair]


4.56 pm

Mr. Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden): I beg to move amendment No. 2, in page 15, line 25, at end insert--

'Provided that a draft of the first set of regulations made under this section shall be laid before Parliament and the regulations shall not be made until the draft has been approved by resolution of the House of Commons.'.

This is a tax-raising Bill: it adds to the taxes raised by the previous Finance Bill introduced last July, and the bulk of those taxes fall on business and on the savings available to businesses to finance their investment. Before the election, the Chancellor repeatedly promised that, apart from the windfall tax, the Labour party's programme would not require any extra taxation at all. The Labour party went out of its way to claim that it would be friendly to business in particular, to try to allay the fear business rightly had of a Labour Government.

Labour gave us a test to judge its tax policies. Labour's manifesto stated:

That is the test that we can use to establish, on the basis of their tax record so far, what activities the Labour Government wish to discourage and what values they wish to oppose in society. What is clear is that business has been singled out for extra taxation; almost all the extra taxation introduced so far falls either directly on companies or on savings that will finance business and investment. We want confirmation from the Government today that it is their intention deliberately to send clear signals that the economic activities they believe should be discouraged are the activities of business and of saving for the purpose of financing investment, because it is on those activities that they have loaded all their taxes.

Mr. Barry Gardiner (Brent, North): If the Government are seeking to punish businesses, why do we now have the lowest ever rate of corporation tax for small businesses?

Mr. Lilley: Because the Government have raised taxes massively with their right hand and given back a small amount with their left hand. Perhaps I should say it the other way round; it is, of course, the left hand that raises taxes, and a very small amount is being given back in the form of a lower corporation tax rate.

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In total, nearly £20 billion is being raised from the business sector as a result of the extra taxes introduced in the Government's two Budgets--and that is after allowing for the reduction in corporation tax rates announced in both Budgets. That is why we say that there is an extra load on business. We should like the governing party to be more frank and honest about what it is doing. That£20 billion burden on business means that business has £20 billion less to invest, £20 billion less with which to generate jobs and £20 billion less with which to enhance the growth potential of the British economy.

5 pm

Clause 30 introduces a quarterly payment system for corporation tax. It is an unplanned baby, conceived by accident in July 1997. Its progenitors were thinking of other things when they brought it about. They had not thought what, nine months later, would flow from their actions. They thought that they were simply abolishing tax credits--an enjoyable activity for socialists, because it was a stealthy way in which to raise a huge amount of tax from savers and companies--but one thing leads to another.

Abolishing credits in July 1997 meant that foreign income dividends had to go in the Finance Act 1997. That meant that advance corporation tax ceased to be tenable, and, during the summer, the Government decided that that, too, had to go. Then they realised that they had to replace that with a quarterly payment system on corporation tax, which they announced in November 1997; and because they got that wrong, too, they had to revise it in March 1998.

We welcome the mitigation of the measures announced by the Government in November 1997, and the improvements for small companies that were introduced when they finally brought this child to birth in March. However, like the Confederation of British Industry, we condemn the overall impact of the Government's changes on the cash flow of the company sector, and of major companies in particular.

According to the Government's figures, clause 30 will raise £6.8 billion from companies this Parliament. The accompanying 1p rate cut in corporation tax will return to companies just £1.7 billion of that £6.8 billion. The net impact of the clause on corporate sector cash flow will be £5.1 billion. I should be grateful if the Paymaster General would confirm that figure now, or when he gets back to the Dispatch Box. He may not be listening, but can he confirm that the net effect of the clause is to lift £5 billion from the cash flow of the corporate sector and take it to the Treasury, as a result of bringing forward payments that companies would have to make, through the advance system of corporation tax payments, on all their profits?

Let us have no more from the Labour party about the supposed reductions in corporation tax because of changes in the corporation tax rate, such as those that the hon. Member for Brent, North (Mr. Gardiner) just mentioned. Let us have a clear statement today that, when the Prime Minister denied that there was any increase in corporate taxation, he was misinformed and was, therefore, misinforming the House. Let us have a clear admission that the Government are adding further to the burden of business, on top of the previously announced taxes, on top of the high interest rates that have been introduced in this Parliament and on top of the crippling exchange rate,

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all of which are already precipitating manufacturing into recession. These burdens of taxation will make it spread all the more rapidly to the rest of the business sector.

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