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Mr. Ruffley: In that context, is my right hon. Friend aware that many City partners who practise tax law at the high levels to which he refers charge about £500 an hour or more?

Mr. Redwood: I am sure that that is true and that, in some cases, they are worth every penny of their fee, given the complexity of the law and the way in which they can legally arrange their clients' affairs to ensure that they pay what is necessary without paying too much toward the funds which the Government wastefully disburse around the country and spend on all sorts of things. That is a real concern, so the Paymaster General should tell the House what sort of budget she has in mind to back up the motion and how long she thinks it might be necessary for the Committee to examine a Bill of the complexity of the one that is shortly to come before us. In that way, we can get a feel for how much the exercise might cost and how long it might take.

Mr. Bercow: As my right hon. Friend will be aware, I always favour specificity over ambiguity. I am, therefore,

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genuinely troubled by the reference to the scope for "minor changes". Is it his understanding that, in that context, each minor change will ordinarily be considered independently of every other such minor change, or is the consideration to be of the cumulative impact of all of the minor changes, which might be to bring about a major change?

Mr. Redwood: My hon. Friend makes another good point. I fear that, if the Committee is to discharge its duties fully and to the letter, it will have to examine both every clause and every phrase that is changed separately, and the collective impact of the changes. The two might differ because of changes in the way in which phrases are juxtaposed or placed in relation to each other, as well as changes in the phrases and clauses themselves. That is why the process will be so complicated and time- consuming.

Those who sit on the Committee will deserve a medal for the work they have to do. Although, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst says, the work is important, it will not attract the headlines or glamour that is sometimes sought by Members of Parliament. Although the work will be of great importance, it will tend to be hidden from the light of day, so colleagues will need encouragement to engage in it. They will have to make a substantial commitment of time if they are to fulfil the remit which is in some ways fairly exacting and in others rather loosely drafted.

On the question of the quorum, I am relieved to hear that the wishes of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst have been fulfilled to some degree. He thought that four was better than two and I entirely agree with him. I understand his concern that four in the form of two plus two, from the different Houses of Parliament, is not as strong or as good as it might have been, but it marks a clear improvement on the original draft as he and I understood it: we thought that the quorum was two out of a Committee of 13 members, seven drawn from the Commons and six from the other place.

However, I continue to share my right hon. Friend's fears and I hope that the Paymaster General will deal with them in full. I believe that it would be better to have a quorum that required three Members of the House of Commons, given the combination of hon. Members on the Committee that might result from the next motion on the Order Paper. The House would be reassured by having a larger quorum of Members of the House of Commons. It would reinforce the message, which I am sure the Paymaster General wants to send, that the House of Commons is in charge of taxation matters and members of the Committee drawn from the House of Commons will be important in relation to voting and forming a quorum, even if Members of the other place have expertise on which the Committee wishes to draw.

I am intrigued by the fact that each member of the Committee

That would not give a Committee selected shortly very long, if we correctly understand the Prime Minister's intentions. However, if the condition applied from the beginning of a new Parliament, members of the Committee would be asked to take on a commitment of

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extremely long duration. Does the Paymaster General have a reason for imposing that condition, other than a desire for continuity? The nature of the work is technical and, if one was interested and amused by such work, it would be satisfying to see through at least one complete Bill.

Mr. Forth: Given that two Parliamentary Private Secretaries have been proposed for membership of the Committee and that they might expect promotion in the lifetime of this Parliament or the next, were the Government to be re-elected, might we not expect a considerable number of what might be called by-elections to the Committee? Continuity is by no means guaranteed under the current proposals.

Mr. Redwood: My right hon. Friend has foreseen an issue that might arise later. I am concerned about pursuing his point, but I understand it.

I believe that membership of the Committee should be related to tasks, rather than to the duration of a Parliament, which is subject to the vagaries of prime ministerial will and electoral balance. It might be better--perhaps working through the usual channels--to ensure that a member of the Committee is selected to carry out the review of one, two or even three Bills, depending on that person's wishes, availability and inclinations and the time needed to scrutinise and consider pieces of legislation that are long and complex. A task-related duration of membership might be better than making it continue for the remainder of a Parliament, which is a variable feast, depending on the point reached in the lifetime of a Parliament and which Parliament is involved. We are considering a procedure that will not only apply to the tail end of the current Parliament, but flourish and move forward into the next. That is why my right hon. and hon. Friends and I are keen to get it right and why we are worried about the loose drafting with which we have been presented.

I also have concerns about the chairmanship. I am glad that my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst has urged that the Committee should elect the Chairman from among its members. I think that that is a democratic and sensible procedure, and I am glad that the Minister came to the same conclusion--perhaps for her own independent reasons, or perhaps she has an inkling of what my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst would have wished to move this evening, had he been given leave to do so. However, that degree of agreement is welcome.

Now that the Minister has adopted the proposal, I hope that she will deal with the question of whether there should be any limitations on the proposal. Should the Committee be able to elect a different Chairman every time it meets, to reflect its different membership? More than one person may wish to be Chairman. Will the chairmanship change, depending on when the Committee meets and who turns up? My right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst was generous in saying that it would be wonderful if the Minister herself was on the Committee and chaired it.

Mr. Forth: I am a big fan.

Mr. Redwood: I am glad that my right hon. Friend is such a fan of the Paymaster General. There are many

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worse Ministers in the Government, and I have never had to criticise her in the way that I have her boss, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whose sins are obviously much greater.

Mr. Ruffley: That is not saying much.

Mr. Redwood: There we are: praise indeed across the Floor of the House just before an election.

I am worried, not about the personality of the Paymaster General, but about the principle of a Minister chairing the Committee. Given the worries of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst that minor changes could become major changes, and given my worries that an inadvertent change could trigger a court case which then extended the tax to persons or companies who were not then paying it--or vice versa--it seems invidious for the Paymaster General to chair the Committee, as that would place her in a rather difficult position. It is better if the Paymaster General is in the Committee on behalf of the Treasury and the Government, but there should be a more independent Chairman. I should like the Chairman to come from the Back Benches, rather than the Government Front Bench.

Dawn Primarolo indicated assent.

Mr. Redwood: I see the Paymaster General nodding in agreement, and I am delighted that what I suggested is true. As we seem to agree on this point, is there a way of embedding it in the resolution or the procedure to be followed? It would be better for the House if we had the reassurance that someone dedicated to the task, who had more time than the Minister and came to it with a more independent mind, could be Chairman on a continuing basis.

I would prefer a Chairman from this House, rather than the other place, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst suggested. It would be good if some kind of arrangement on that could be reached. I hasten to add that I do not seek to be on the Committee: I do not seek that honour. However, one of my Back Bench colleagues who is interested and expert in that area could discharge that honour extremely well.

In summary, my worry is that the proposal has been hastily cobbled together, and has not tackled the underlying difficulty of all tax simplification measures: how does one simplify without inadvertently--or, sometimes, deliberately--making changes that impact on who pays the tax and how much they pay. Not for one moment do I think that any changes from the review Committee and the Joint Committee would mean a change in tax rates. Of course not: such matters would come before the House in a Finance Bill. However, it is possible that changes could be made affecting who had to pay a tax, and which category they fell into. Such things can turn on wording, and Members are trying to change the wording through the procedure.

I therefore urge the Minister to give us more information on how much advice will be given and what quality it will be. Will it equal the weight of advice of those who are trying to prove that the proposal has changed things in a way that favours them? I should like a little more information on the quorum and whether, to reassure people, it can be rather larger. I should also like

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to hear something on the independence of the Chairman of the Committee. Having received those assurances, I believe that the proposal may be rather better.

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