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Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. I have allowed the hon. Gentleman some latitude during his introductory remarks, but he should confine his remarks to the Bill and, as I have stated on more than one occasion, to its very narrow purpose.

Mr. Ruffley: I am grateful to you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for that typically helpful guidance.

The need for a tax rewrite in capital allowances was first flagged up in a very important article in the 11 August 1986 edition of the Financial Times. That report drew attention to the provisions of the Finance Act 1986 on capital allowances--which are the subject of the Bill--and to what was regarded as vitriolic comment from accountants and solicitors, who were irritated by the 1986 Act's length and some of its capital allowances provisions.

The newspaper quoted one paragraph of schedule 13 of the 1986 Act--on capital allowances for mineral extraction, which is dealt with in the Bill--as a classic example of incomprehensible and unacceptable drafting.

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. I regret once more to have to remind the hon. Gentleman about the very narrow scope of this debate.

Mr. Ruffley: I am most grateful for your further guidance, Madam Deputy Speaker. I had hoped that the references to schedule 13 of the 1986 Act--which I

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believe is being consolidated in the Bill--would make my previous remarks, and the ones that I was about to make, in order. If that is not so, I am sure that you will correct me once again.

Mr. McWalter: Perhaps I can help the hon. Gentleman by asking simply whether he thinks that the Bill will simplify or further complicate the law on mineral extraction capital allowances--yes or no?

Mr. Ruffley: The hon. Gentleman makes an interesting point. However, we do not know whether this consolidation measure will change the substantive law on mineral extraction and on capital allowances in relation to mineral extraction. That is very much an open question which has not been answered to my satisfaction.

Mr. McWalter: We have had complaints about the Capital Allowances Bill annex, which is more than 200 pages and clearly specifies the Bill's very minor changes to mineral extraction capital allowances.

Mr. Ruffley: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for drawing the House's attention to that point. What we cannot know, however, is whether very clever silks and lawyers, in litigation and all manner of tortuous processes, will eventually take a different view on the issues from that of the annex's drafters. I am the first to admit that, on the face of it, if we are to believe the documents with which we have been provided, the changes to the capital allowances regime for mineral extraction as outlined in the 1986 Act and consolidated in the Bill may well be minor.

Litigation, however, is a marvellous thing. It is the glory of the English legal system and enables common law to be created in a living way. It also allows clever solicitors and barristers and their clients to test the law whenever and wherever they can. Therefore, it is incumbent on us to examine as closely as we can whether the changes are in fact minor.

On the hon. Gentleman's reasonable point about whether the Bill simplifies the law, the measure may achieve the objective of simplifying the capital allowances regime for mineral extraction. However, to explore whether that is correct, I shall read out the non- consolidated version of the relevant provision by parliamentary draftsmen in the Finance Act 1986. That may give the House a flavour of the sheer, unacceptable complexity of the system, which the Bill tries to rectify.

Schedule 13(12)(4) of the 1986 Act states:

That is an example not of the gobbledegook that hon. Members speak, but of that that was inflicted on the House during the passage of the 1986 Act. One marvels at the way in which some of that convoluted drafting got through in the first place. The Bill tries, and may even succeed, in simplifying the capital allowances regime for mineral rights. Its provisions may therefore receive a qualified welcome.

15 Jan 2001 : Column 138

However, I wondered whether there was a case for believing that the tax rewrite and simplification that we are considering would be more welcome as a result of self-assessment. Hon. Members may wonder about the connection between those subjects. The answer is not difficult to find. Self-assessment was announced in the March 1993 Budget by my noble Friend Lord Lamont. It was to apply in 1996-97. Self-assessment is important for tax simplification for the reasons that he gave at the time. When he was Chancellor, he argued that self-assessment should provide a reduction in bureaucracy but that, more important, it should emphasise the link between public spending and the burden--

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. Again, I remind the hon. Gentleman that he is straying into the realms of tax policy. We are dealing with a motion on the Capital Allowances Bill.

Mr. Ruffley: I am grateful for your unfailing assiduity in ensuring that I keep in order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I was merely attempting to show a clear link between a self-assessment regime, which requires greater transparency and simplicity to operate effectively, and the measure that we are considering. Many of my constituents are small and medium business men and women. They have occasion to calculate their tax liability because of self-assessment.

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. I do not believe that there is any relation between that and the motion. I ask the hon. Gentleman to concentrate on the motion.

Mr. Lilley: Am I correct in suggesting that my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Ruffley), who knows much more about self-assessment--and probably the tax system--than me, believes that individuals making their self-assessment will need to refer to the Bill to make the proper assessment? If so, wonderfully lucid though the measure is in comparison with existing law, it remains a terrifying thought that people will have to master the Bill to get their taxes right.

Mr. Ruffley: My right hon. Friend has it. That was the point I was trying to make--inelegantly, as it turned out, because I attracted the strictures of Madam Deputy Speaker, which I did not wish to do. Those who have to pay and who must make calculations about the capital allowance regime and its availability to their businesses do, under self-assessment, have a bigger vested interest in simplified legislation on capital allowances than before. That is why the Bill is so terribly important in the context of self-assessment to so many business men and women who have to calculate their capital allowances. The Bill will not assist them.

Dawn Primarolo: Why did the previous Government decide--I refer to the report on the legislative procedure for tax simplification Bills--that the direct tax law simplification project was to

The previous Government also introduced self- assessment. What point is the hon. Gentleman trying to make?

Mr. Ruffley: The Paymaster General is being uncharacteristically obtuse. The second point is perfectly

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obvious; self-assessment puts greater burdens on individual taxpayers, whether corporate or not. The Bill proposes to make life easier for them by having a simpler capital allowance regime. As to the first point, I was not a member of the last Conservative Government and I would not even venture to suggest what was going through the minds of those who were.

Mr. Keith Bradley (Treasurer of Her Majesty's Household) rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question put, That the Question be now put:--

The House divided: Ayes 264, Noes 14.

Division No. 53
[11.17 pm


Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N)
Ainger, Nick
Allen, Graham
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)
Atherton, Ms Candy
Atkins, Charlotte
Bailey, Adrian
Ballard, Jackie
Banks, Tony
Barnes, Harry
Barron, Kevin
Battle, John
Bayley, Hugh
Beard, Nigel
Begg, Miss Anne
Benn, Hilary (Leeds C)
Bennett, Andrew F
Benton, Joe
Berry, Roger
Best, Harold
Betts, Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blears, Ms Hazel
Blizzard, Bob
Borrow, David
Bradley, Keith (Withington)
Bradshaw, Ben
Brinton, Mrs Helen
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Browne, Desmond
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Burnett, John
Butler, Mrs Christine
Caborn, Rt Hon Richard
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Campbell, Rt Hon Menzies
(NE Fife)
Campbell-Savours, Dale
Cann, Jamie
Casale, Roger
Cawsey, Ian
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Chaytor, David
Clapham, Michael
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)
Clark, Dr Lynda
(Edinburgh Pentlands)
Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Clelland, David
Clwyd, Ann
Coaker, Vernon
Coffey, Ms Ann
Cohen, Harry
Coleman, Iain
Colman, Tony
Corbyn, Jeremy
Corston, Jean
Cotter, Brian
Cousins, Jim
Crausby, David
Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Dalyell, Tam
Darvill, Keith
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Dawson, Hilton
Dean, Mrs Janet
Denham, John
Dobbin, Jim
Donohoe, Brian H
Doran, Frank
Dowd, Jim
Drew, David
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Etherington, Bill
Fearn, Ronnie
Field, Rt Hon Frank
Fisher, Mark
Flynn, Paul
Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Foulkes, George
Gapes, Mike
Gardiner, Barry
George, Rt Hon Bruce (Walsall S)
Gerrard, Neil
Gibson, Dr Ian
Gidley, Sandra
Gilroy, Mrs Linda
Godsiff, Roger
Goggins, Paul
Golding, Mrs Llin
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Hanson, David
Harvey, Nick
Healey, John
Hendrick, Mark
Hepburn, Stephen
Heppell, John
Hinchliffe, David
Hodge, Ms Margaret
Home Robertson, John
Hoon, Rt Hon Geoffrey
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howells, Dr Kim
Hoyle, Lindsay
Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Humble, Mrs Joan
Hurst, Alan
Iddon, Dr Brian
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Jamieson, David
Jenkins, Brian
Jones, Rt Hon Barry (Alyn)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Joyce, Eric
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)
Kemp, Fraser
Khabra, Piara S
Kilfoyle, Peter
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
Kumar, Dr Ashok
Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Lawrence, Mrs Jackie
Laxton, Bob
Lepper, David
Leslie, Christopher
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Liddell, Rt Hon Mrs Helen
Linton, Martin
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Lock, David
Love, Andrew
McAvoy, Thomas
McCafferty, Ms Chris
McDonagh, Siobhain
Macdonald, Calum
McDonnell, John
McFall, John
McGuire, Mrs Anne
McKenna, Mrs Rosemary
Mackinlay, Andrew
McNamara, Kevin
McNulty, Tony
Mactaggart, Fiona
McWalter, Tony
McWilliam, John
Mallaber, Judy
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Meacher, Rt Hon Michael
Merron, Gillian
Michael, Rt Hon Alun
Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)
Miller, Andrew
Mitchell, Austin
Moffatt, Laura
Moonie, Dr Lewis
Moran, Ms Margaret
Morgan, Alasdair (Galloway)
Morley, Elliot
Morris, Rt Hon Ms Estelle
(B'ham Yardley)
Mountford, Kali
Mullin, Chris
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Naysmith, Dr Doug
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
Öpik, Lembit
Organ, Mrs Diana
Osborne, Ms Sandra
Pearson, Ian
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter L
Pollard, Kerry
Pond, Chris
Pope, Greg
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Primarolo, Dawn
Purchase, Ken
Quinn, Lawrie
Rammell, Bill
Rapson, Syd
Raynsford, Nick
Reid, Rt Hon Dr John (Hamilton N)
Rendel, David
Robertson, John
(Glasgow Anniesland)
Roche, Mrs Barbara
Rooney, Terry
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Roy, Frank
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Ryan, Ms Joan
Salter, Martin
Sanders, Adrian
Sarwar, Mohammad
Savidge, Malcolm
Sedgemore, Brian
Sheerman, Barry
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Singh, Marsha
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)
Smith, Miss Geraldine
(Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Soley, Clive
Spellar, John
Squire, Ms Rachel
Steinberg, Gerry
Stewart, David (Inverness E)
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Stoate, Dr Howard
Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Stunell, Andrew
Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann
Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Temple-Morris, Peter
Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Timms, Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mark
Touhig, Don
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Tyler, Paul
Tynan, Bill
Walley, Ms Joan
Ward, Ms Claire
Wareing, Robert N
Watts, David
Webb, Steve
White, Brian
Whitehead, Dr Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Winnick, David
Woolas, Phil
Worthington, Tony
Wray, James
Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)

Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. Gerry Sutcliffe and
Mr. Robert Ainsworth.


Cran, James
Day, Stephen
Forth, Rt Hon Eric
Gray, James
Grieve, Dominic
Gummer, Rt Hon John
Hayes, John
Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
McIntosh, Miss Anne
Ottaway, Richard
Redwood, Rt Hon John
Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)
Thomas, Simon (Ceredigion)

Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. Christopher Chope and
Mr. David Ruffley.

Question accordingly agreed to.

15 Jan 2001 : Column 141

Question put accordingly, That the Bill be now read a Second time:--

The House divided: Ayes 274, Noes 0.

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