House of Commons portcullis
House of Commons
Session 1999-2000
Publications on the internet
Standing Committee Debates
Child Support, Pensions and Social Security Bill

Child Support, Pensions and Social Security Bill

Standing Committee F

Thursday 2 March 2000

(Morning)

[Sir David Madel in the Chair]

Child Support, Pensions and Social Security Bill

The Chairman: The Hansard report of our sitting on Tuesday afternoon has not yet been printed due to the heavy pressure on the staff of the Official Report because of Tuesday's all-night sitting in the House. As soon as it has been printed, it will be delivered to the Room.

Clause 57

Contributions in respect of benefits in kind: Great Britain

Amendment moved [29 February]: No. 330, in page 58, line 34, to leave out the word 'and'--[Mr. Pickles.]

10 am

The Chairman: I remind the Committee that with this we are taking the following amendments: No. 331, in page 58, line 38, at end add 'and

    (d) the emolument is not one to which subsection (2) applies.

    (2) the emoluments mentioned in (1)(d) above are--

    (a) any equipment or service intended primarily to protect the physical safety of the earner, which facility may include the provision of transport services where in the reasonable opinion of the person made liable by this Act to pay the Class 1A contribution the physical safety of the earner requires the provision of such service,

    (b) any facility provided at any premises occupied by the person made liable by this Act to pay the Class 1A contribution primarily for the purpose of the care of any children in the care of the earner, whether or not such facility has an educational purpose or component,

    (c) any food or drink provided to the earner for consumption either at any premises occupied by the person made liable by this Act to pay the Class 1A contribution or during any period intended for the consumption of food and drink to which the earner is entitled under his contract of employment,

    (d) any emolument consisting of the provision to the earner of medical services and entitlements, whether by the payment to a third party of insurance or other premiums or otherwise,

    (e) any entertainment provided, whether directly or by means of payment to one or more third parties, to the earner by the person made liable by this Act to pay the Class 1A contribution, unless the total value of such emolument exceeds 1,000 in any one year in which case a Class 1A contribution shall be payable in respect of the amount by which the value of the emolument exceeds that figure.'.

No. 337, in Clause 59, page 61, line 42, leave out 'and'.

No. 338, in Clause 59, page 61, line 46, at end add 'and

    (d) the emolument is not one to which subsection (2) applies

    (2) The emoluments mentioned in (1)(d) above are--

    (a) any equipment or service intended primarily to protect the physical safety of the earner, which facility may include the provision of transport services where in the reasonable opinion of the person made liable by this Act to pay the Class 1A contribution the physical safety of the earner requires the provision of such service,

    (b) any facility provided at any premises occupied by the person made liable by this Act to pay the Class 1A contribution primarily for the purpose of the care of any children in the care of the earner, whether or not such facility has an educational purpose or component,

    (c) any food or drink provided to the earner for consumption either at any premises occupied by the person made liable by this Act to pay the Class 1A contribution or during any period intended for the consumption of food and drink to which the earner is entitled under his contract of employment,

    (d) any emolument consisting of the provision to the earner of medical services and entitlements, whether by the payment to a third party of insurance or other premiums or otherwise,

    (e) any entertainment provided, whether directly or by means of payment to one or more third parties, to the earner by the person made liable by this Act to pay the Class 1A contribution, unless the total value of such emolument exceeds 1,000 in any one year in which case a Class 1A contribution shall be payable in respect of the amount by which the value of the emolument exceeds that figure.'.

Mr. Eric Pickles (Brentwood and Ongar) rose--

The Minister of State, Department of Social Security (Mr. Jeff Rooker): I thought that the hon. Gentleman had finished his speech at the end of our previous sitting.

Mr. Pickles: I was about to remind the Committee where we were at the end of our previous sitting. I am sorry that the Minister thinks that I want to engage in some sort of filibuster.

At our previous sitting, I had tabled a series of amendments and spoken principally to amendment No. 331. I was arguing that the Government were imposing additional taxation of more than 12 per cent.--although it will be considerably more in practice--on various items, ranging from the office Christmas party to rape alarms. There is no logic in that. It is simply an attempt by the Government to increase their grasp on stealth taxation--a phrase that was virtually unheard of a few years ago but is now part of the taxation language.

Mr. Desmond Swayne (New Forest, West): As my hon. Friend is aware, I am willing suspect a conspiracy anywhere, but I think that the provision is a bit of a cock-up. If it were the Government's intention to maximise the tax take, surely the free sandwiches to the entire work force would be chargeable, whereas only the sandwich given to individuals would attract national insurance contributions. [Hon. Members: "What about fruit?"]

Mr. Pickles: I thank my hon. Friend. He made that point at our previous sitting but, unfortunately, I did not have any time to elaborate on it. Such matters do not relate only to sandwiches. As has been suggested, fruit could also be affected.

Mrs. Jacqui Lait (Beckenham): And water.

Mr. Pickles: I am not sure water could be affected. I think that my hon. Friend is taking the matter too far. I must warn her that she should not give the Government ideas. If sandwiches, fruit, fish and chips or take-away curries are available in a canteen, taxation and national insurance contributions do not apply, but if they are taken to people who must stay at their desks, taxation will come into play, as will national insurance. When we consider the mixture and the grossing up, which we shall come to in a while, the burden will be considerable. Given the various categories outlined in amendment No. 331, I hope that the Government understand that we regard the clause as an extension of stealth taxation. It has nothing to do with being just or sensible, or cutting back on luxurious perks; it is simply a way to grasp more money. Given the Prime Minister's pledge not to increase taxation, it is not sensible for us to mug the public in some back alley and to introduce such stealth taxation.

Mr. Laurence Robertson (Tewkesbury): During the previous sitting, my hon. Friend the Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Mr. Pickles) gave us a detailed account of why we should not support the clause. He went through a great range of items that would become subject to national insurance. I tend to start from a slightly different position from most people in that I never use the words "tax loophole" or talk about a way of escaping tax, because I believe that tax is wrong. [Hon. Members: "Oh."] Let it be put on the record that that provoked laughter from Government Members--I suppose that they have an alternative view. I start from the position that tax is wrong. I recognise that in order to fund vital services, we have to find a way of taking money.

I am now going to make another provocative statement: the taking of money should be as painless as possible--what a terribly revolutionary thing to say. Any form of taxation is painful for the people who pay it. I am amazed that Government Members find that objectionable because it was not one of my controversial points. However, any taxation--[Interruption.]

The Chairman: Order. If conversations are loud, Hansard staff cannot hear what is going on.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Social Security (Angela Eagle): The hon. Gentleman should speak up.

Mr. Robertson: I thought that I was speaking up. I was provoking Labour Members. As my hon. Friend said, we have been as helpful as possible, but there are aspects of the Bill to which we cannot agree, and clause 57 is one such area. Taking tax is painful, so extending tax must be even more painful. We must remember the people who will pay the taxes. The people who have been hit hardest by taxation are not the rich--even under a Labour Government--although they were hit hard; it is the people who are above benefit levels, who are not wealthy, but who just qualify to pay taxation. Those vulnerable people will be hit by the measures, as my hon. Friend said.

Mr. Rooker: I do not want to keep interrupting, but people will not be affected by the measures. They will apply wholly and exclusively to employers, not employees. The whole tone and thrust of the hon. Gentleman's speech is that employees will be affected, but that is not the case.

Mr. Robertson: I am pleased that the Minister was also able to put that on the record. He seems to disregard the fact that employers might be hit hard by the measures, as they always are.

Mr. Pickles: They are not people.

Mr. Robertson: As my hon. Friend says, employers are not people. [Interruption.] I am pleased with the start that I have made, because I am drawing some good socialism from Labour Members, who seem to be saying that the fact that employers are hit hard does not affect ordinary people--we are going back to the great days of the 1970s. Where was new Labour when we really needed it? If employers are hit, employees are also affected. If an employer is put off providing rape alarms, for example, that might be detrimental to employees.

Mrs. Lait: Does my hon. Friend agree that increasing charges on employers will increase social wage costs, and that part of the problem encountered by continental Europeans is that, because of their high wage costs, they have had weak economies? They need to reduce social wage costs, while the Government are going in precisely the opposite direction.

 
Continue

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries ordering


©Parliamentary copyright 2000
Prepared 2 March 2000