Finance Bill (Except Clauses 1, 15, 17 and 19)

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Mr. Clifton-Brown: And before lunch.

Mr. Green: Indeed, as my hon. Friend points out, before lunch. That may be a record, and we look forward to welcoming back the hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton after lunch.

Mr. Gibb: Would my hon. Friend agree that it is odd to see Liberal Democrat Members on the Opposition Benches? Given the new stance of the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown), perhaps the hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton should be sitting on the Government Benches.

The Chairman: Order. I suggest that the hon. Member for Ashford does not follow the hon. Member for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton down that road.

Mr. Green: Indeed, under your guidance, Mr. McWilliam, I shall not--not least because, to be fair, when Liberal Democrat Members have been here, they have by and large voted with us. For all the problems that the right hon. Member for Yeovil has in mistakenly supporting the Government on some policies, on the Finance Bill, even Liberal Democrats have realised during our proceedings that most clauses are badly drafted, ill thought out and actively damaging. That is why Liberal Democrats have often joined us in voting against Government proposals. The broad thrust of the amendment would improve the clause. Anyone who reads a Finance Bill carefully can distinguish between clauses that relate to Government policy and those which relate to Treasury and Revenue policy. Clause 44 is one of the latter. The Clause serves no purpose for the Government as far as the budget is concerned. I suspect that many of the Government's friends and associates would find its provisions actively damaging.

I received the letter from the South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive--as did the hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton and, I am sure, all other members of the Committee--complaining about the extremely damaging effects that the clause's provisions would have on the supertram project. When I found out that that letter had been sent to every member of the Committee, I thought that at last we might hear contributions from Government members because Labour seats and Labour district councils would be most affected by the proposal. When we reach the stage where Labour controlled authorities have to appeal to Conservative and Liberal Democrat Committee Members to protect them from the depredations of the Labour Government, the conspiracy of silence, which has been imposed on the Government Back Benches throughout our debate, is damaging the wider interests of the Labour party.

Mr. Geraint Davies: May I ask the hon. Gentleman, who keeps saying that Labour Committee members are mute, whether he is deaf?

Mr. Green: Yesterday I said that no Labour Members had made a contribution. I enjoyed greatly, however, the hon. Gentleman's contribution this morning, although I would welcome another contribution from him later on this specific point. If he is prepared to defend the clause to the South Yorkshire passenger transport executive and the Labour district councils that are involved in that project, I am sure that they--and the Government Front Bench--would be grateful to hear his remarks.

The amendment is expecially welcome because, as the hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton has said--

It being One o'clock, The Chairman adjourned the Committee without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned till this day at half-past Four o'clock.

The following Members attended the Committee:

McWilliam, Mr. John (Chairman)
Ainsworth, Mr. Robert
Atkins, Charlotte
Blackman, Mrs.
Boswell, Mr.
Caplin, Mr.
Clifton-Brown, Mr.
Cooper, Yvette
Cranston, Mr.
Darling, Mr.
Davey, Mr. Edward
Davies, Mr. Geraint
Davies, Mr. Quentin
Fitzsimons, Lorna
Gerrard, Mr.
Gibb, Mr.
Green, Mr.
Hanson, Mr.
Heathcoat-Amory, Mr.
Loughton, Mr.
Mountford, Kali
Murphy, Mr. Jim
Pearson, Mr.
Primarolo, Ms
Robinson, Mr. Geoffrey
Smith, Jacqui
Stringer, Mr.
Touhig, Mr.
Twigg, Mr. Derek
Whittingdale, Mr.
Woodward, Mr.

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Prepared 23 July 1997